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TESOL Connections (June 2010)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011


  • Grammatically Speaking
  • NNEST Interview: Lisya Seloni

    Association News

  • Got Resolutions?
  • TESOL Quarterly Seeks Proposals for 2012 Special Topic Issue
  • TESOL Submits ESEA Reauthorization Recommendations to U.S. Senate

  • TESOL & AZ-TESOL Issue Joint Statement on Arizona Teacher Fluency Initiative

  • Remembering Tina B. Carver: A longtime TESOL member memorialized through the Carver Fund


  • TRC Featured Resource: Recorded session from 2010 TESOL convention:Activities for Teaching Key Grammar Points (Keith Folse)
  • Brief: Professional Development for Experienced Teachers Working With Adult ELLs
  • Brief: Improving the Validity of English Language Learner Assessment Systems
  • U.S. Department of Education Releases Evaluation Reports on Title III
  • Research: Language of instruction not most important for English learners

    TESOL Connections Archives (members only)

    Grammatically Speaking

    Richard Firsten explores English grammar

    and answers your grammar quandaries.

    download to PDF

    Dear Mr. Firsten:

    I teach English in Upshur County, West Virginia. In these parts, it’s very common for people to say things like I’m waiting on you and The dog just drug our braided rug outside instead of I’m waiting for you and The dog justdragged our braided rug outside. I don’t accept those usages. Am I right in not accepting them even though they’re commonly used? Please advise.


    Buckhannon, West Virginia USA

    Dear Confused:

    Although the standard meaning of wait on is “serve” or “care for” while wait for is synonymous with “await,” it’s now considered an acceptable variation to use wait on instead of wait for. Many people, however, still consider this use of wait on to be colloquial or informal. I would tell your students that using wait on is okay, but that they should use wait for as a more formal or standard usage.

    As for drug being the past tense of drag, that’s a different story. The verb drag is regular, so its past tense is dragged. Even though there are people in the Midwestern and Southern areas of the United States who use drug as the past tense and even past participle, it isn’t considered an acceptable variation at this point in time and is still considered substandard. But who knows? There may come a time when it becomes an acceptable variation or nonstandard—only that time hasn’t arrived yet.

    And while we’re on the subject, Confused, another verb that people are mistaken about is bite. Many consider that the only acceptable past participle for this verb is bitten, but the truth is that bit is considered an acceptable variation. That may come as a surprise to some, but saying I was bit actually works just as well as I was bitten.

    Thanks for sending in those interesting usages, Confused. I hope you won’t be confused anymore!


    Dear Richard,

    I teach a high-intermediate EFL grammar class. Recently two sentences came under my scrutiny, and I have to admit that they made me somewhat insecure about my knowledge of grammar. Please let me know if both of these sentences are all right. My intuition tells me that they are, but the first sentence, which uses the present perfect twice, seems to go against how I teach the present perfect.

    • It’s been years since we’ve eaten Korean food.
    • It’s been years since we ate Korean food.

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this issue.

    Mary Wodnicki

    Warsaw, Poland

    Dear Mary,

    Your intuition is correct; both sentences are fine, although their meanings are different. There’s nothing wrong with using the present perfect twice in one sentence. This occurs when the verb in question, e.g., eat, is an action that can happen again and again or can happen only once.

    If the present perfect is used (we’ve eaten), the speaker probably means that they ate Korean food on several occasions and/or may do so again at some point in the future.

    If the simple past is used (we ate), the speaker is referring to one specific event in the past, one time when they ate Korean food, and there’s no implication that this will happen again. The long and short of it is that both the present perfect and simple past can be used when an action can logically be repeated or only happen once.

    But let’s take a look at these two sentences:

    1. It’s been 25 years since they’ve left their homeland.

    2. It’s been 25 years since they left their homeland.

    Of these two sentences, only no. 2 is correct. The reason is that this kind of action, leaving one’s homeland or emigrating, is not something that can either take place many times or only once. This kind of action can only happen once for all intents and purposes, so it’s necessary to employ the simple past for such an action.

    I hope I’ve shed some light on this issue for you, Mary. Thanks for sending in this very interesting question.


    Dear Richard,

    Without getting into it, I’d just like to present you with this two-line dialogue and ask you if you think it’s okay. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

    A: Would you mind giving me a hand moving this steamer trunk? It’s pretty heavy.

    B: Sure. Where do you want to put it?

    Sorry if my request sounds a little curt. I just want to get your reaction without saying anything more. Thanks for taking my question.

    Gil Robles

    Dallas, Texas USA

    Dear Gil,

    I bet I’ve figured out exactly why you sent this to me. It’s got to do with Speaker B’s response, “Sure.” This is something I, too, have noticed about how people respond to a request that begins with Do you mind …? or Would you mind …?

    The proper reply should be in the negative even though the meaning is affirmative, something that ESOL students find very peculiar until they understand what the verb mind means in this context. Mind means “object to” in this idea, so Speaker A is really asking, “Would you object to giving me a hand moving this steamer trunk?” If Speaker B is willing to help out, he should say something like, “No” or “Not at all.” In other words, he’s saying “No, I don’t object to giving you a hand.”

    And that’s what’s so odd about saying something like Sure. The speaker is really saying, “Sure (I object to helping you),” but people who respond to Would you mind …? by saying things like Sure don’t realize the true meaning of the verb mind in this context. They consider it to be synonymous with a request like Can you …? or Could you …? in which case it would be appropriate to say Sure if the person is willing to help.

    It seems that over the past couple of decades, the true meaning of Do/Would you mind …? has gotten muddied, and only time will tell if responding to such a phrase in the affirmative becomes acceptable. I, for one, find it very strange, knowing as I do what mind really means in this context.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic, Gil. It’s another one of those bugaboos of the language that can drive some people nuts!


    Now let’s get to the Brain Teaser from my last column. The question was: Which choice in bold is correct in the following sentence?

    Send a memo about the upcoming budget meeting

    to whoever/whomever is working on the project.


    The first correct response was sent in by Enid Cocke of Manhattan, Kansas USA.

    Thank you for fashioning a question about an issue that I wish more speakers of English understood. They feel the urge to use whom after the preposition when they should be looking at the role the pronoun is playing in its own clause. Thus, the wording should be to whoever [subject] is working on the project. In informal spoken English, we have come to accept who as an object in questions such as Who did you meet? or Who is the call for? but if the preposition is next to the pronoun we know to use whom as in To whom am I speaking? or For whom the bell tolls. This instinct leads us to make the error in question.

    Absolutely correct, Enid! Years ago I was given an easy way to know whether we need to use the subject form of these pronouns (who, whoever) or the object form (whom, whomever) in a formal statement: If a verb follows the pronoun in question, use the subject form (You can choose whoever seems the most qualified). If what follows the pronoun in question isn’t a verb, use the object form (You can choose whomever you think is the most qualified). This easy way of deciding on the subject or object form is foolproof, I believe.

    Thanks for a concise explanation, Enid. I’m glad you liked my choice of “Brain Teaser” for the last column.

    And now here’s a new Brain Teaser: Is the grammar in the following sentences acceptable?

    1. This is a relatively new phenomena.

    2. We haven’t seen this bacteria before in our water supply.

    3. It’s now thought that red algae was responsible for the Nile River turning red in the Old Testament story of the Exodus.

    4. The data you have isn’t enough to allow us to make any final conclusions.

    If the grammar isn’t acceptable, why isn’t it? And if it is, why is that?

    Please e-mail your responses to

    When writing to Grammatically Speaking, please include your name and location (city and state, province, or country). If your question or response is selected for publication, your name and location will be printed unless you specify otherwise.


    NNEST Interview:

    Lisya Seloni download to PDF

    Dr. Seloni talks about her background

    as a nonnative English speaker, effective schooling

    for minority students, balancing work and family,

    and dealing with burn-out in academia.

    Ana Wu: Could you tell us your background and why you decided to be an educator?

    Dr. Seloni: I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Growing up in Istanbul, I was surrounded by various languages: Turkish, my native language, and Ladino and Hebrew, my heritage languages. Due to my ethnic background, I was exposed to, and acquired some receptive knowledge of Ladino (Ladino is a Romance language used among the Sephardic Jews in the Balkans and Turkey), also called Judeo-Spanish (djudeoespanyol), while I was growing up in Istanbul. It is mostly the elderly members of families who spoke Ladino, and my generation was usually kept distance from this language due to various political and sociocultural reasons. During my primary and secondary education, I learned some Hebrew at school. And, of course, while I was growing up, there was always this dominant narrative that English was the language that one needs to master to be able to get ahead in life. So, I attended an English language institute on weekends while I was in high school. Being a member of various overlapping communities, one of the things that I vividly remember was the variety and richness of the kinds of literacy practices that my peers and I were carrying out within and beyond the school contexts. Although I lost most of my heritage languages due to not being able to use them on a daily basis, being part of a minority group raised my awareness on various social, political, and linguistic issues that became much more significant in my adult life later on. And, what I now find interesting is that I didn’t realize the richness and importance of my heritage languages while growing up in a multilingual context In Istanbul until I pursued my graduate studies where I grew a deep interest in how people use spoken and written language to create communities and certain identity categories. My current scholarship and teaching always bring back these early literacy experiences.

    As the first generation college graduate student in my family, reading and writing has always been a central part of me growing up. Although my parents did not receive college education, they have always emphasized the importance of reading and writing by sharing with me various anecdotes and stories during my childhood. Sharing and interacting with people to construct knowledge and experiences have always excited me, so striving to become and be an educator has been my life passion. Due to having come to a decision about pursuing language education, I majored in English language education as an undergraduate in Istanbul University where I specialized in sociolinguistics and teaching English using drama.

    Before moving to the United States in late 2001 to pursue my graduate degree, I worked in various capacities in Turkey teaching English as a foreign language. I was especially passionate about working with the economically disadvantaged population in Istanbul. My most memorable experiences include teaching in a small language institute for more than 3 years where I taught English to kids from shantytowns. I recall having students from various age levels and sociocultural backgrounds, and this always made my classes so very interesting. While I was in Turkey, I was also a part of an organization called Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (CYDD). CYDD, which is a nonprofit association in support of contemporary living, is one of the largest organizations in Turkey that harbors various educational projects aiming to promote equality in education in Turkey. There, I taught reading, writing and speaking in English to adult medical students from different parts of Turkey who did not have the economic and material access to English education in their colleges.

    I came to the United States at the end of 2001 to pursue my graduate degree. I remember how tough it was to get acclimated in a new culture and a new institution while the country was in turmoil. Having completed my MA degree in TESOL at University of Central Missouri in 2003, I moved to Columbus, Ohio to pursue my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University and completed my degree in August, 2008. During my doctoral education and beyond, I have been very fortunate to have had an opportunity to interact with so many inspirational scholars such as Alan Hivela, Keiko Samimy, David Bloome, and Shelly Wong who did make a big impact on how I view schooling, learning, and teaching.

    After completing my degree at the OSU, I was hired to as a tenure-track faculty in the graduate studies in Composition & TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I feel fortunate to be able to do what I love doing: teaching and writing. It’s a true privilege to get paid for thinking and creating scholarly work.

    Ana Wu: With Marcia Farr and Juyoung Song, you co-edited the book Ethnolinguistic Diversity and Education Language, Literacy and Culture, first published in 2009.

    a) Tell us about the making of this book. Why is this topic important to you? Where did the idea come from? How long did you work on it? How was the experience of working with 18 renowned authors?

    Dr. Seloni: With this book, our primary goal was to explore crucial issues that emerge at the intersection of language diversity and literacy education in the United States. I am very excited about this book mainly because the collection of articles not only provides a very recent overview on sociolinguistic research but this collection also discusses important pedagogical application on how we should fight against the monolingual ideology and standardization movements in many educational contexts. In this project, my main responsibilities were to collect the manuscripts, edit the chapters with Marcia and Juyoung, and co-author an introductory chapter. I am delighted and extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to work with some stellar scholars such as Marcia Far, Walt Wolfram, Samy Alim, Ofelia Garcia , Alan Hirvela, Teresa McCarty, and Terence Wiley. I believe that this book will be a great contribution to our understanding of ethnolinguisitic diversity in the 21st century throughout the U.S. educational contexts.

    The idea of this book derived from the New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) conference that we hosted in 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. Marcia Farr, with whom I was working at that time, suggested that we work on an edited collection where we collect manuscripts that specifically explore the dominant language ideologies and how these enact in different educational contexts in the United States. We invited the presenters of NWAV conference, worked on the proposal of the book and began collecting manuscripts. So, it took about 3 years to compile the manuscripts, revise the drafts and publish the whole book. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Marcia; her vast publishing experience in the areas of sociolinguistics and teaching of writing really helped me to expand my knowledge base on what goes on in compiling and editing a book. As an emerging scholar, I learned a great deal about the process of editing the book. The process was a long and arduous one, but my overall experience was a very positive one, especially since Marcia and Juyoung were extremely easy to work with. Because of these reasons, editing process was easier than I had imagined.

    b. What advice would you give to our members who want to publish a book or edit an anthology? How does one start?

    Dr. Seloni: I’m still learning the practices that go in editing or publishing a book. In my opinion, it is important to read widely and identify areas in which one wants to make a contribution. One’s knowledge in the field is an important asset and factor when it is time to write about the focus of the collection and the audience the volume aims to address. Finding contributors who have important things to say regarding the topic in question is crucial. You want to make sure that the sections of the book are consistent in terms of their quality, and length; and of course, choosing the right publisher is another important step. The book proposal you submit to the publishers receives feedback from external reviewers, and you need to make sure that you sufficiently address their feedback. As far as I remember, modifying our proposal was the part that took the longest. We worked hard to thoroughly address the publisher’s questions about the potential contribution of this book and the questions that were raised by the reviewers. Editing a book can take a long time, but it’s a very good learning experience, especially for emerging scholars.

    Ana Wu: You have been the NNEST IS editorial assistant since the end of 2005.

    a) In this position, what are the challenges and what do you enjoy the most?

    Dr. Seloni: My work as an editorial assistant was one of the most fruitful international service during my graduate school. As a member of the editorial team, I had the opportunity to work with Sandra Zappa Hollman and Kyung-Hee Bae. The collegiality and the vast writing experiences of my co-editors brought with them certainly helped raise the quality of our work. Reading the manuscripts and taking an important role in proving feedback have been most enjoyable aspects of this position. There is something very empowering in reading contributors’ first drafts, negotiating and working as a team to improve a manuscript. One can learn so much through such interactions. I also witnessed how professionals can get to know one another in the digital environments, and do quality work via online interactions.

    To me, the hardest part as an editor was handling the feedback process. Asking the contributors to make substantial revisions in their manuscript, whether the revisions are related to stylistic issues or issues of organization, is not an easy task. I have been too conscious about not changing the authors’ authentic voice, but I also could not help but ask myself “what does changing one’s voice mean in the context of editing?” Does asking the contributors to change their lexicon choices or the way they write organize the paper mean that I am interfering with their voice and their writerly identity? When we offer substantial changes to the manuscript, I try hard to be faithful to the gist of the paper, but again this is not an easy thing to do. I think this was the question that popped up quite often in our discussions in the editorial team. I am still struggling with this question as I respond to my students writing, or serve as a manuscript reviewer for multiple journals.

    b) What would you say to our members who are interested in applying for an editor or assistant editor position, but do not have enough self-confidence or experience?

    Dr. Seloni: This is certainly a great place to gain experience with editing and revising scholarly work in the field. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. No one is born as a confident teacher, scholar or an editor, you become one. I believe that such roles require performative actions that we learn by doing and by interacting with more experienced peers, and by being engaged in various discourse communities. So, my advice would be to go for it and take a leadership role and not wait too long to be a part of an academic community. Graduate school teaches us many important skills to navigate our way in academia, but I do believe it’s not the only place. Since I became a member of TESOL in 2005, I have been learning so much regarding what it takes to be a contributing scholar by attending the meetings, interacting fellow educators in conferences, and participating the NNEST newsletter work.

    Ana Wu: As an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, your research areas include Social Justice issues in Language Education, among Second Language Literacy, Educational Ethnography, and Applied Linguistics. In terms of educational inequalities (class, race, gender, etc.) in the TESOL field,

    a) what do you think ESL/EFL instructors can do to make schooling more effective to minority students and to those who speak vernacular varieties of English?

    Dr. Seloni: We need to remember that with the movements of globalization, the field of TESOL has gone through various methodological and theoretical shifts in terms of its conceptualization of language, culture, literacy, learning, and identity. I am glad to witness that the field is gradually gaining a more interdisciplinary nature, opening itself to various sociocultural, political, and institutional issues, and more importantly, it is orienting itself to students’ various needs and expectations and taking into account their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Today, it is almost impossible to have totally homogeneous classrooms wherever we teach. I think even the word homogeneous does not reflect the make-up of any class in any society today.

    If we are talking about teaching minority students in the United States, one of the things that I learnt from my reading and research experience is to make sure that we not only understand the ethnolinguisitc richness they bring but legitimize those by incorporating the rich “funds of knowledge” (Pratt, 1991) students bring into the classroom discourse. Critical Pedagogy teaches us the importance of student participation and incorporating their backgrounds meaningfully. For instance, Ira Shor (1992) says “ the goals of [critical] pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change” (p. 15). To create an optimum space for democratic and dialogic community for minority students, we need to start with participatory classrooms. In other words, it is important to go beyond the banking concept of education (Freire, 1970) and create collaborative and participatory classroom activities that will legitimize and recognize nonstandard variations, whether it is linguistic, social, or cultural. It is also important to establish a community in the classroom where there is multiple spaces for socialization and wide range of ways of doings. To create this community, just like many scholars in our field emphasize, we need to start from the student and what they bring to the classroom. Hence, we need to carefully analyze how our classroom practices (activities we promote, languages we use, texts we bring for students to read, constructing the seating arrangement etc.) marginalize, promote, affirm students who come from nondominant cultures and languages. Our students’ identities and lives, just like ours, are constantly in flux and changing in relation to their context. Therefore, we need to redefine and reconceptualize how we view schooling, learning and teaching. It is my firm belief that if we, as language educators, do spend considerable amount of time on multiplicity of voices that students bring in to class and strive to create alternative spaces for them to express themselves and, meanwhile teach them, as Lisa Delpit always says “the culture of power,” we will be closer to creating a democratic society in which each individual is valued and seen as a contributing member of their personal, academic and cultural lives.

    b) which seminal paper(s) inspired you? Which ones would you recommend graduate students in applied linguistics or TESOL programs read?

    Dr. Seloni: There are so many scholarship areas that have inspired and continue to inspire me that it’s really hard to pick a few to recommend. The scholarship and teaching of my own mentors that I mentioned above have certainly influenced how I view language teaching. Since my interests have mostly lied in the intersection of second language literacy, critical pedagogy, discourse analysis and educational ethnography, there are various important scholars who inspire me. Alastair Pennycook, Suresh Canagarajah, Ryuko Kubota, Ulla Connor, B. Kumaravadivelu, Cynthia Nelson, Brian Morgan, and many more in the field of TESOL and applied linguistics. I recently taught a course on Intro to TESOL and my text choice was Kumaravadivelu’s Cultural Globalization and Language Education. I also used parts of his Beyond Methods and Canagarajah’s Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching. I think both of these texts aim to move the TESOL field beyond the transmission model of education and promote localized and context sensitive by carefully problematizing some of the standard ideologies that permeate in the field.

    Ana Wu: Congratulations on being the symposium organizer of the Academic Literacies Symposium in February, 2010. Being so involved and committed in your teaching career, how do you balance work with family? What do you do to avoid being burned-out?

    Dr. Seloni: Thank you, Ana. The conference was a wonderful experience. It was great to be able to talk about various issues related to academic literacies with so many wonderful scholars.

    Balancing work and family is, as many will agree, never an easy thing. While juggling so many balls, learning how to prioritize is something that I, as a multilingual junior faculty, am striving to learn. One thing that I have been observing is that many graduate students and junior faculty members have the fear of being criticized and compared to, which, I think one of the many reasons people in the academy, especially women scholars, are burned-out. We live in a society where we always compare ourselves with the “other” whether it is the other junior colleague or a seasoned teacher in the field. This is an exhausting feeling if it takes you in. It becomes all about how you perceive yourself as a scholar and how you think you are being positioned by others. To avoid being burnt-out, I am trying to teach myself that as long as I strive for progress (not for perfection, as the saying goes) and do what I do because I am passionate about it, not because of some tenure requirement, I will establish a healthy relationship with my colleagues, with my work and stop fighting with my different “selves” who do not always collaborate with one another. I know it is an idealistic outlook, but the feeling of making a contribution to the field instead of my tenure box is what keeps me going.

    It is also important to recognize that many scholars, especially international scholars, have nomadic lives. It’s the same in my situation. I am always on the go, traveling to various places to participate in academic and social communities, especially in the lives of my family. As a multilingual woman scholar who is trying to carve her own space in academia, it has never been easy to build and maintain a community in which one can grow as a scholar. People have segmented lives and once you are out of graduate school you are pretty much by yourself in terms of building that community. This is another type of a burn-out for me (i.e, trying to build a community), and one of the best ways to deal with this has been going to conferences and engaging in discussions with mentors and peers who have been going through the same challenges.

    Traveling between states and even countries to see my family has been tough. However, as odd as it may sound, there is always something refreshing in not belonging to anywhere, living in between various cultures and worlds. Traveling to see my family in Istanbul is a way for me to travel throughout time and history. In one year, many things change. People change; history changes. As a returning person, you are never totally at the center of this change nor are you at the periphery. Oddly enough, this middle space gives you some sort of privilege to claim a “learner” identity who can act critically. It is also funny but I get a lot of writing done when I travel by plane or train. I wish I can always travel so that I can produce more. I think traveling and passing through and interacting with so many lives and spaces have a magical power that inspires me to reflect critically and write more passionately.

    Ana Wu: Thank you for this inspiring interview and good luck in your next project!



    Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum. (M.B. Rabos, Trans.)

    Pratt, L. (1992). Arts of the contact zone. Profession 91, 33–40.

    Shor, I. (1992). Empowering education. Critical Teaching for social change. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


    The Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL (NNEST) of the Month Blog: Find nonnative and native speakers who share interests in NNEST, teaching, and world Englishes issues. Our guests are just like you: graduate students, novice instructors or experienced teachers with sound reputations in the fields of teaching ESL/EFL or applied linguistics. You may leave your impressions under "comments." visit our professional organization at

    This article originally appeared in the Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL {NNEST} of the Month Blog, May 2010. It is reprinted with permission. To view the NNEST blog, go to