ICIS Newsletter

ICIS News, Volume 7:3 (December 2009)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Message from the Chair
  • Articles
    • Intercultural Communication Through Online Web Site Collaboration
    • Working Together: Bringing Muslim Students Into the ESL Classroom
    • The Need for Intercultural Approaches to ELT
  • Community News
    • Your Thoughts
    • Naming Our ICIS Newsletter & Preconvention Issue Submission Deadline

Leadership Updates Message from the Chair

Dear ICIS members and friends,

Greetings from London! Everything is progressing smoothly for the upcoming convention in Boston; please allow me to give you a quick summary of some of ICIS’s activities:

PRESENTER NOTIFICATION

The final line-up of ICIS-sponsored presentations has been released and notifications have been sent to everyone who submitted proposals for TESOL 2010. We have a fantastic group of sessions planned for the convention! Though each accepted abstract was clearly a gem, as someone who read many of the abstracts and was involved in the selection process, it is my duty to mention that there were many other abstracts of extremely high quality that we would have loved to accept but ultimately could not because of the very limited number of spaces available. Thanks to everyone who submitted an abstract and thanks to our wonderful team of reviewers!

INTERSECTIONS

ICIS is working with several other interest sections to explore overlapping issues concerning IC and other focus areas. Among the series of panel discussions that we are contributing to, we are hosting an InterSection called “Writing for Intercultural Communicative Competence: Preparing Students for Communication in a Globalized World.”TheMaterial Writers Interest Section and Applied Linguistics Interest Section are working with us on this InterSection. (A full list of ICIS InterSections will be published in the next issue of this newsletter.)

ACADEMIC SESSION

ICIS will explore the effect and implications of culture on World Englishes in our Academic Session, “World Englishes: (Multi)Cultural Implications Toward English Language Learning and Teaching.”We are lucky to have an all star group of scholars on the panel of what promises to be an exciting and cutting-edge discussion.

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone to make full use of our e-list; it’s a great way to reach a large global community of people with shared interests. Please feel free to post any IC-related questions or event announcements, or share any news that you think might be of interest to our members. To send a message to our e-list, simply address the message to icis-l@lists.tesol.org. You are also welcome to write to me (or other members of the ICIS Steering Committee) directly; we will be happy to help in any way we can!

Sincerely,
Joshua Borden



Articles Intercultural Communication Through Online Web Site Collaboration

John McGaughey

Corbett (2003) stated that

intercultural communicative competence includes the ability to understand the language and behaviour of the target community, and explain it to members of the “home” community—and vice versa. In other words, an intercultural approach trains learners to be “diplomats,” able to view different cultures from a perspective of informed understanding. ( p. 2)

The implications for an ESL class are that learners from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds will be aware of their own language and culture and the target language and culture, as well as those of their peers. In the eyes of ESL teachers this may appear to be a daunting if not impossible task should their class reflect a multitude of cultures and first language(s) that they are not familiar with or do not know at all. However, incorporating identity texts (Cummins, 2006) into the ESL classroom can increase students’ cultural and linguistic awareness, which in turn helps to develop intercultural communicative competence.

I begin this article by discussing identity texts; then I discuss a final project from a graduate linguistics course that was used to showcase a group of seven adult second language learners’ diverse cultures and languages through the creation of a collaborative Web site. This is followed by a discussion of the implications of using an identity text Web site in the ESL classroom as it relates to intercultural communication.

IDENTITY TEXTS

Cummins et al. (2005) described identity texts as “products, which can be written, spoken, visual, musical, dramatic, or multimodal combinations, [that] are positive statements that students make about themselves” (p.40). The dual-language textbooks that were created by grade 1 students at Thornwood Public School, a school representing over 40 different languages and cultures, best illustrate the concept. These texts, as described in Cummins and Chow (2003)and including more recent additions, may be viewed on the Thornwood Public School Dual Language Showcase Web site. In the case of Cummins and Chow (2003) the students wrote their texts first in English; the texts were then translated by their parents or siblings into their home language. In other instances, students created texts in either English or their home language, whichever language they felt comfortable with, and then with the help of a more capable peer or parent, the students translated the text into the other language (Cummins et al., 2005). The result is then a text that validates and reflects the students’ identity, including their home languages and cultures.

As the students’ diverse cultures are represented in the texts, through language as well as through explicit references in stories, it leads to an increase in intercultural communicative competence. Cummins (2006) described how grade 4 students at Coppard Glen Elementary School, who created bilingual and trilingual stories, realized “the legitimacy of their languages and became aware of the rich culture expressed through these languages” (p. 62). The students shared their languages with each other and showed visitors their story wall and discussed not only their languages but also the languages of the other students in the class. The students’ awareness of their own language and those of their peers clearly provides evidence of the development of their intercultural communicative competence. Though the identity texts have here been shown to work successfully with elementary school children, the same concept may be applied to adult learners, which I discuss in the following section.

ONLINE IDENTITY TEXTS

The goal of the project was to have seven second language learners use freely available Internet resources to develop a collaborative Web site that would encourage multilingualism and multiculturalism. For the project, Wetpaint (an online company that provides free wiki-based Web sites) was used because the Web site could be set to private, which would restrict viewing and editing to invited members only. Privacy was an important feature as the participants could potentially post personal information that they would not want made visible to the rest of the online world. The Web site was designed so that each person would have his or her own identity page, to which he or she could link additional personally created pages. This design was particularly helpful when students wrote one page entirely in their first language and then duplicated that page, translated the text, and then linked the new page to the original.

Identity Pages

The identity pages were multimodal where the participants would use video, images, text, and slideshows to present themselves, their culture, and their languages. In one example, Zoey (all names are pseudonyms) used pictures of her family and friends and textual descriptions in Korean and English to describe herself and how her identity has been influenced by Korean and Canadian culture. In another example, Janice’s trilingual page (English, Italian, and Slovak) used pictures of pottery representing her Italian and Slovak heritage and wrote Italian and Slovak recipes describing the characteristics that she feels she inherited from each of those cultures. Though a description of each individual page is beyond the scope of this article, each identity page was unique, which allowed the participants the opportunity to explore and showcase their diverse identities, languages, and cultures.

Story Pages

The goal was to create a collaborative story that would still allow each participant to express his or her own language and culture. To achieve this goal, each participant was asked to create a micro-story that incorporated parts of their culture(s) and language(s). The stories were created sequentially with one participant beginning by writing his or her story; the next participant would continue where the prior had left off and would incorporate aspects from the prior stories into his or her story while at the same time moving the plot forward. The end result was a collaborative story in which the main character, Beauty, had numerous adventures around the world and through time.

The stories were linguistically diverse with some participants using a combination of first and second languages through codeswitching, though typically an English translation would be provided, or in other cases the story would be written in the first language and then translated into the second language. The stories tended to be humorous and imaginative ,with the participants incorporating historical cultural figures and legends into the stories. Steve’s story had Beauty in Korea with Korea’s famed Admiral Yi where amusing adventures ensued when Beauty could not communicate in Korean. Yet the stories could also take a more serious political turn such as in David’s story. In David’s story, Beauty learned about the tragic banana massacre in Colombia in 1928, when an unknown number of civilians were killed by the Colombian military. The individual micro-stories gave the students the opportunity to share their own cultural experiences and languages with the group. Yet, the incorporation of the micro-stories into a unified whole led to a sense of group ownership, with the participants taking pride in their combined efforts visible when they would refer to “our story.”

ONLINE IDENTITY TEXTS FOR THE ESL CLASSROOM

A similar project may be created for ESL classes where the students have access to the Internet. Teachers may want to put students from the same linguistic and cultural backgrounds in pairs or small groups so that learners with different language proficiencies can help each other. The joint construction of such a Web site will allow students to express themselves in whichever language they feel comfortable. Then through the assistance of peers or the teacher they will be able to make revisions to their texts. By producing texts in the home language and English, students will be able to actively participate in the Web site construction. This involvement helps validate students’ identities, home language(s), and culture(s), and builds intercultural communicative competence, resulting from a deepening awareness of their peers’ cultures and languages while creating language learning opportunities at the same time.

REFERENCES

Corbett, J. (2003). An intercultural approach to English language teaching. Clevedon, England; Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2006). Identity texts: The imaginative construction of self through multiliteracies pedagogy. In O. Garcia (Ed.), Imagining multilingual schools: Languages in education and glocalization (pp. 51-68). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J., Bismilla, V., Chow, P., Cohen, S., Giampapa, F., Leoni, L., et al. (2005). Affirming identity in multilingual classrooms. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 38-43.

Cummins, J., & Chow, P. (2003). Valuing multilingual and multicultural approaches to learning. In S. R. Schecter & J. Cummins (Eds.), Multilingual education in practice: Using diversity as a resource (pp. 32-55). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

John McGaughey is a doctoral student in linguistics and applied linguistics at York University, Toronto, Canada. Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, he spent 5 years teaching English at a university in South Korea.


Working Together: Bringing Muslim Students Into the ESL Classroom

T. Leo Schmitt

In this article I first situate the value of cultural analysis and review why looking at Muslim culture can be informative. I then address the challenge of looking at Muslims as a single group and generalities that might be applied. I conclude by looking at how some issues impact the classroom. Recognizing and understanding the role of culture for Muslim students can improve the overall classroom experience for all concerned.

HOW IMPORTANT IS CULTURE, REALLY?

Readers of this newsletter will likely realize the importance of intercultural communication and learning about different cultures. However, I believe it vital that we remember two facts.

First, there are universal attributes human beings share. Everyone shares certain desires and understandings regardless of who they are. Everyone wants to feel validated. Everyone understands pain and joy for themselves and for others. All students (and teachers), regardless of their culture, are human beings with fears, talents, and aspirations.

Second, each student is an individual. Individuals vary enormously. Some cleave to their culture; others reject it; most adopt varying relations to it. The various cultural, social, religious, and life experiences all people undergo differ and make everyone unique. Linguistic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds can reveal some things about people, but they are never the whole picture. Individuals also interact with their culture and the world around them differently. Understanding a culture is just one part of understanding each of the individual students in class. An individual can understand his or her own culture, but that does not mean he or she understands every individual in it; rather, it means merely that he or she has an idea of the cultural systems. Thus, culture is but one very illuminating factor in helping us understand our students. Culture affects, but does not dictate, most aspects of life, from what people eat to how they interact with others to how they conceptualize the world around them.

WHY TALK ABOUT MUSLIMS?

About 20 percent of the world’s population is Muslim. In the United States, there has been significant growth in refugees from conflict areas such as Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. A growing number of Muslims, such as Saudis in intensive English programs, have entered as students. Combined with this are tensions seen in the media and highlighted by President Obama in his speech at Cairo University (2009), noting issues such as terrorism, Islamophobia, freedom of religion, nuclear weapons, and Israel/Palestine.

As Rich and Troudi (2006) remind us, values and politics cannot be entirely excluded from the classroom. If Islamophobia, terrorism, and other issues from the media impact us or our students, they can form a lingering backdrop in the ESL classroom. It behooves teachers to understand how this can be managed to best serve learners.

CAN WE REALLY TALK ABOUT MUSLIMS AS ONE GROUP?

Like other cultural communities, the Muslim community is not monolithic. From Saudi Arabia to Suriname and Fiji to Canada, Muslims have varying histories, languages, and cultures. Just as individuals vary, so do subcultures.

At both the individual level and the subculture level, we must avoid painting with a broad brush. As Fuller and Lesser (1995) warned,

A sweeping “civilizational” approach can even be harmful over the longer run, not so much because it is false in all cases but because that kind of emotive characterization leads to simplistic and damaging views by both sides, a recipe for self-fulfilling prophecies. (p. 5)

In addition to differences between Muslim cultures, there are also differences in the impact of modernism. Just as modern society and its benefits and ills have penetrated the rest of the world unevenly, so too in the Muslim world. Students may arrive fully familiar with many of the latest social and technological developments, or they may bring experiences that have changed little in generations. Although this differing impact can shape linguistic and cultural patterns, there are still some important shared aspects of Muslim culture.

WHAT ARE SOME COMMONALITIES?

Bearing the previous caveat in mind, we can look at some generalizations.

The very fact that one can talk about Muslims, rather than Arabs, Turks, or Africans, indicates that religion plays a significant role in society. Religion in the Muslim world is widely viewed as a positive thing, integral to social harmony and supportive of stability and unity. It is often also viewed as more public than it is in the secular West or in East Asia. This leads to an emphasis on both a relationship with God and morality. Thus questions of both day-to-day living and more general philosophical issues are heavily influenced by religious thought. For example, any visitor to a Muslim nation is reminded of this by the azan, or call to prayer, five times a day, and even secular Muslim nations generally have more legal restrictions on issues viewed as personal moral issues in the West, such as pornography, homosexuality, and abortion.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE CLASSROOM?

Though there remains considerable debate about cultural and linguistic imperialism, there is a strong indication that negotiation and exchange of views on topics ranging from the banal to the controversial can produce excellent results in a class (e.g., Ernst, 1994). Muslim students come with differing expectations, and so do non-Muslim students and faculty, but an open and realistic dialog can offer learners an opportunity for language use as well as a better understanding of viewpoints of both Muslim and non-Muslim students.

In my experience and through conversations with colleagues, numerous areas may cause concern in the ESL classroom. The most frequent seem to include gender relations, the role of religion in society, and views on science.

Each of these could be the subject of a much longer article. What is important is that instructors try to gain at least a minimal understanding of the culture and viewpoints of their Muslim students and approach controversial topics with tact and consideration.

Religion in general, Islam in particular, is respected in Muslim cultures. Views on organized religion naturally vary considerably, but there remains an underlying respect for the divine. Mocking, disparaging, or even sidelining the spiritual side of life is much less common than in the secular West and can be met with shock, dismay, or even anger. Challenging dialog is certainly possible, but the likelihood of alienating students can be diminished if teachers approach spiritual issues with respect for the sensitivities of students in whose lives religion and spirituality play a central role.

Science and religion have an exceedingly complex relationship far beyond the scope of this brief overview. What is germane is that the historical interplay of faith and reason has been different in the Muslim world than in the West. Consequently, Muslims tend to have fewer problems seeing religion playing a role in science and general discourse.

The traditional views of gender division are common in Muslim societies. Men and women are often seen as having differing roles and in some cultures genders are separated, intersecting at the family and rarely outside. Because of this, some Muslims may feel uncomfortable around members of the opposite sex. Most students can quickly adjust to coeducational settings, but—as with most cultural changes—a gentle, supportive introduction can be far more effective than a sudden shock. Starting students off in larger mixed-gender groups in the classroom rather than in pairs can be one way to gently introduce the idea of working with others.

CONCLUSION

If teachers truly want to include their Muslim students along with all their other students, they need to follow the advice of Canagarajah (2006) and move from an us/them to a we perspective that recognizes the universal and the individual along with the cultural (p. 27).

As teachers interact with students, they also interact with themselves. In a true learner-centered approach, Muslim and non-Muslim teachers and students can benefit from each other’s perspectives, building on the strengths each individual brings to the class. If we listen to students, elicit their voices, and learn together, we as well as our students can benefit.

REFERENCES

Canagarajah, S. (2006). TESOL at 40: What are the issues? TESOL Quarterly, 40, 9-34.

Ernst, G. (1994). “Talking Circle”: Conversation and negotiation in the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 293-322.

Fuller, G., & Lesser, I. (1995). A sense of siege: The geopolitics of Islam and the West. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Obama, B. (2009). Obama’s Middle East speech in full [Online video]. Retrieved August 30, 2009, fromhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8083250.stm

Rich, S., & Troudi, S. (2006). Hard times: Arab TESOL students’ experiences of racialization and othering in the United Kingdom. TESOL Quarterly, 40, 615-627.

Leo Schmitt is assistant director at the Intensive English Communication Program at Penn State University. He has been teaching for more than 20 years and has spent almost 10 years in the Middle East.


The Need for Intercultural Approaches to ELT

Heejin Song

Culture can be understood as a pattern of ideas, beliefs, and behaviors socially constructed through communication in social communities (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999; Thompson, 1990). The relationship between language and culture is “one of realization: that is, culture and language co-evolve in the same relationship as that in which, within language, meaning and expression co-evolve” (Halliday, 1993, p. 11) and in this relationship, “it is inevitable that language will take on an ideological role” (p. 11). If the goal of the target language learning is for communication, cultural and intercultural understanding is necessary since “culture is part of most contexts and communication is rarely culture-free” (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999, p. 197). Cortazzi and Jin argued that intercultural competence should be added to the communicative competences, which contain four aspects: grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse, and strategic competences (Canale & Swain, 1980). Meyer (1991) defined intercultural competence as “the ability of a person to behave adequately and in a flexible manner when confronted with actions, attitudes and expectations of representatives of foreign cultures” (p. 137).

Infusing critical intercultural learning into English language teaching programs can help learners negotiate meaning in intercultural interactions across English cultures and the learner’s own culture. In this light, understanding English cultural systems is crucial for English learners to become successful in English communication; however, defining aspects of English target culture may not be simple. When considering English as a global language (Crystal, 2003), one realizes that English culture embodies more than just Anglophone culture. English language culture contains multicultural aspects when English is used transnationally as a global linguistic medium for communication. Thus, English culture can be a flexible term contingent on the sociopolitical role of English in intercultural or transcultural interactions in the given communities. However, many studies indicate the phenomenon of cultural homogenization triggered by the hegemony of English in ELT (cf. Pennycook, 2001; Phillipson, 1992; Tsui & Tollefson, 2007).

In this sense, intercultural communication, which is a political practice in ELT, needs to be complemented with critical practices because they help develop critical intercultural awareness for ELT professionals and English learners to uncover the social reality and cultural biases represented in the linguistic and cultural representations in all domains of ELT practices. For instance, with regard to language texts in the ELT classroom, critical intercultural communication can be facilitated by building on activities, such as comparing and contrasting different cultures, with follow-up discussions on cultural biases in race, class, and gender embedded in the textual representations. This discussion can lead to the recognition of social inequalities in ELT and further help to promote the inclusion of minority cultures in intercultural education. Thus, critical intercultural practices can provide opportunities to not just appreciate cultural similarities and respect cultural differences but also increase awareness of asymmetrical structures across different cultures and languages. This increased awareness may help to empower linguistic and cultural minorities, leading to social equality.

NEED FOR CRITICAL PRACTICES FOR MORE INCLUSIVE INTERCULTURAL ELT EDUCATION

Critical practices in ELT may help teachers to view the coexistence of both the bright and dark sides of cross-cultural phenomena, rather than focus on only positive cultural aspects. For instance, learners can explore different cultural attitudes and behaviors through comparing and contrasting cross-cultural and linguistic elements in intercultural interactions that will enhance the understanding of the target culture and language. However, students can also analyze and discuss conflicting and biased aspects in relation to different languages and cultures in their own sociocultural context—that is, the dominance of White American middle-class representations in English textbooks (Yim, 2007). Corbett (2003) argued that “the teaching of English language itself comes into any discussion of hegemonic practices that threaten non-Anglophone cultures and non-English modes of expression” (p. 14). In light of this, critical perspectives and practices in intercultural ELT education can help address cross-cultural conflicts and unequal power relations in languages and cultures. The realization of conflicts and inequality in cultures and languages will lead to social change toward equality.

Critical practices in intercultural ELT education can be complemented with critical methodological tools such as critical language awareness (CLA) and critical discourse analysis (CDA). Those tools can provide insights into cultural biases and social inequality in ELT practices (cf. Fairclough, 1995, 2003; Pennycook, 2001). These critical approaches are necessary additional pedagogical tools for intercultural approaches in ELT, as “an intercultural approach should not simply provide information about the target culture” (Corbett, 2003, p. 13). It should also include a set of skills such as CDA, which “allows the learner to evaluate critically products of the target culture, and, where relevant, the home culture” (p. 13). In addition, critical practices may provide more opportunities for students and teachers to engage in culture learning. It is also important to note that inclusive intercultural education can be constructed by language learners using critical practices. Individual learners are important intercultural resources in a cooperative educational environment because every individual has his or her own cultural experiences, whether the experiences are direct or indirect and whether they are positive or negative. More practically, giving opportunities for individual learners to contribute to the construction of intercultural ELT texts/resources and share their cultural ideas and experiences in class can be effective methods. This can also promote the empowerment of learners, which leads to autonomous, cooperative, and responsible language learning. More crucially, in order to develop less biased ELT practices and more inclusive intercultural education, ELT professionals need to develop critical intercultural awareness in language education and become conscious of the power relations in intercultural communication. When ELT professionals have critical language awareness and transform the critical consciousness in their teaching, language learners can benefit from the critical educational environment by developing critical and less biased world views.

CONCLUSION

Intercultural communication is a necessary addition in English language teaching today, particularly in ESL and EFL contexts where English is considered an international or global language. For better understanding of different cultures and the learners’ home culture and for more inclusive intercultural education, critical practices are needed to develop teachers’ and learners’ critical language and culture awareness. This can then help address linguistic and cultural imbalances. Critical practices in ELT may not solve the problem of social inequality but instead offer a way to look at the problems, which can promote social change toward social equality, linguistic, and human rights (Fairclough, 1995; van Dijk, 1993).

REFERENCES

Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied linguistics, 1(1), 1-47.

Corbett, J. (2003). An intercultural approach to English language teaching. Clevedon, England; Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Cortazzi, M., & Jin, L. (1999). Cultural mirrors: Materials and methods in the EFL classroom. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Culture in second language teaching and learning (pp. 196-220). Cambridge, England; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical discourse analysis. London: Longman.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London; New York: Routledge.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1993). The act of meaning. In J. Alatis (Ed.), Language, communication and social meaning (pp. 7-21). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Meyer, M. (1991). Developing transcultural competence: Case studies of advanced language learners. In D. Buttjes & M. Byram (Eds.), Mediating languages and cultures: Towards an intercultural theory of foreign language education (pp. 136-158). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical applied linguistics : A critical introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, J. (1990). Ideology and modern culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Tsui, A. B. M., & Tollefson, J. W. (2007). Language policy and the construction of national cultural identity. In A. B. M. Tsui & J. W. Tollefson (Eds.), Language policy, culture, and identity in Asian contexts (pp. 1-21). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

van Dijk, T. A. (1993). Principles of critical discourse analysis. Discourse & Society, 4, 249-283.

Yim, S. (2007). Globalization and language policy in South Korea. In A. B. M. Tsui & J. W. Tollefson (Eds.), Language policy, culture, and identity in Asian contexts (pp. 37-53). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Heejin Song is currently completing a master’s degree in applied linguistics at York University in Toronto, Canada.



Community News Your Thoughts

Below are the results of an ICIS member poll.

Q: As ESOL teachers, what are the biggest challenges you have in teaching culture/intercultural communication to your students?

The most difficult thing seems to be to make students aware of the fact that culture/intercultural communication is an important issue. They tend to think it is not worth the trouble and when they realize it is they do not know how to cope with the diversity.

—Jasmina Djordjevic, Serbia

The main difficulty I’ve found hindering intercultural communication among my students is a difference in register (formality distinctions, informal vs. formalyou, emotional emphasis) between the English and Spanish languages. English lacks the informal and formal distinctions and overall common English usage tends to be more reserved and less emotive than Spanish. When English or its structure is used, this risks leaving the Spanish speaker feeling disliked or rebuffed. Even when an English-speaking Spanish language learner uses Spanish, English discourse patterns tend to be used, rendering the communication abrupt or (worst case) cold, unfeeling, or detached. Racial and class tensions in the surrounding region can intensify these issues.

My only solution thus far is to continually explain to my students that the languages are used differently and that English usage is not uncaring but just much more reserved in its expression than Spanish, that English speakers mean nothing personal.

—Hillary Smith, Florida

In my past experience I’ve had rival ethnic groups in my class. I have had to address the issue outright, explaining to each ethnicity the other’s perspective. Once, I had a majority of Hmong students from the mountains of Laos and they hated the Vietnamese in my class. I had to explain to my Hmong students, using pictures on the board, that the Vietnamese students who were in my class were from South Vietnam, not North Vietnam, [the country that] they had been fighting in the war. I told them that the South Vietnamese fought the North Vietnamese, just like the Hmong did. It seemed to make somewhat of a difference because after that they tolerated them.

Another instance was addressing the hatred between the Hmong and the Blacks in the community. I wrote a story about a gang fight between the rival gangs. In the story the two sides heard each other’s story, about Blacks being abducted from Africa to be slaves and the Hmong having to fight for their existence in Laos.

—Arla Moy, Minnesota

If you would like to suggest a poll question for a future issue, please e-mail Geoff Lawrence, newsletter editor.


Naming Our ICIS Newsletter & Preconvention Issue Submission Deadline

We’re interested in naming our newsletter to brand its uniqueness in the world of TESOL publications. Below are some names that have been proposed. Please e-mail Geoff Lawrence, newsletter editor, with your preferred name or any further suggestions by January 10, 2010, so that we can use our new name for the next issue—the preconvention issue.

1) The Intercom

2) Intercultural Communiqués

3) Intercultural Communication Interest Section Newsletter

4) Other: _____________________________

And by the way, our next submission deadline for the preconvention issue is January 10, 2010, so please consider submitting an article. We’re particularly encouraging those of you who submitted a proposal to TESOL 2010 and didn’t get accepted to submit an article discussing your work.

Feel free to e-mail me any questions at gpjlawrence@gmail.com.

Thanks and enjoy the holidays!

Geoff