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Language Ideologies and TESOL Educators

by Mariana Alvayero Ricklefs |

This blog is part of the TESOL Research Professional Council (RPC) Blog Series.

Language ideologies, as a field of inquiry, have been useful to TESOL educators for understanding the complex interplay of linguistic issues (e.g., nonnative speaker accents, bilingualism, plurilingualism) and social structures (e.g., the family, classrooms, a school community). I use a question-answer format in this blog to briefly discuss language ideologies in TESOL.

What Are Language Ideologies?

In various English teaching and learning contexts, language ideologies are views and beliefs about language and speakers that influence how educators teach and interact with students (see Ricklefs, 2023 for a thorough literature review). For example, dominant language ideologies sustain monolingual pedagogical practices in several English as a second language (ESL) classrooms in the United States and also influence English as an additional language (EAL) teaching in other countries that still experience the effects of postcolonialism.

How Can I Explore Language Ideologies in My Teaching Context?

TESOL educators can use different methods and research instruments to investigate their students’ language ideologies. For instance, teachers can use critical discourse analysis (see my previous blog on CDA), questionnaires, or surveys. As a teacher educator, I was interested in learning about my ESL teacher candidates’ language ideologies and what demographic and experiential factors might influence their ideologies (see Ricklefs, 2023). For that reason, I employed a survey with items that presented ideological statements about language (Fitzsimmons-Doolan, 2011).

The survey findings yielded relevant clusters of language ideologies. The findings also demonstrated that the most influential factors were primary/native language and ESL courses taken. The least influential factor was gender. A few examples of the survey items with their corresponding findings are found in the following table.

Clusters of Language Ideologies

Language Survey Items

Language use as a marker of competence

Languages are ruled-based.

Plurilingualism as an asset

Different forms of language are appropriate for different contexts.

Bilingualism is a complex set of skills

One should be patient with people learning a second language.

What Are Other Examples of Research on Language Ideologies?

Following, I provide examples of research conducted at different levels of schooling in different countries. I invite you to consider your particular TESOL context and how you would conduct research about the language ideologies of students, teachers, school administrators, and community stakeholders. Post a question/comment here if you would like more information.

Elementary School Level

Rickert, M. (2023). ‘You don’t know how to say cow in Polish’: Co-creating and navigating language ideological assemblages in a linguistically diverse kindergarten in Germany. International Journal of Multilingualism.

Secondary School Level

Chang-Bacon, K., & Kim, S. Y. (2018). “English is my only person”: Neoliberal language ideologies and youth metadiscourse in South Korea. Linguistics and Education, 48, 10–21.

University Level

Gillen, J., Ahereza, N., & Nyarko, M. (2020). An exploration of language ideologies across English literacy and sign languages in multiple modes in Uganda and Ghana. In A. Kusters, M. Green, E., Moriarty, & K. Snoddon (Eds.), Sign language ideologies in practice (pp. 185–200). De Gruyter Mouton-Ishara Press.


Fitzsimmons-Doolan, S. (2011). Language ideology dimensions of politically active Arizona voters: An exploratory study. Language Awareness, 20(4), 295–314.

Ricklefs, M. A. (2023). Variables influencing ESL teacher candidates’ language ideologies. Language and Education, 37(2), 229–243.

About the author

Mariana Alvayero Ricklefs

Dr. Mariana Alvayero Ricklefs is an assistant professor in ESL and bilingual education at Northern Illinois University, USA. She has worked with English learners with/out learning disabilities in various settings for several years. Her research interests include raciolinguistic ideologies, identity positioning, critical language awareness, and teacher education. She is a former Fulbright scholar.

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