24.4754, Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Hadzantonis (2012)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-4754. Tue Nov 26 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.4754, Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Hadzantonis (2012)

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Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2013 09:49:21
From: Clay Williams [williams at aiu.ac.jp]
Subject: English Language Pedagogies for a Northeast Asian Context

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-1938.html

AUTHOR: Michael  Hadzantonis
TITLE: English Language Pedagogies for a Northeast Asian Context
SUBTITLE: Developing and Contextually Framing the Transition Theory
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Studies in Sociolinguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Clay Hunter Williams, Akita International University

Dimitrios Michael Hadzantonis makes the case for a paradigm shift in
pedagogical models for language acquisition and development, principally for
the Northeast Asia region -- especially Korea -- but he also lays claim to
broader, global applications of the proposed model. The book employs a
step-by-step approach to bringing the full scope of the problem to light, by
introducing the push-pull dynamic in the struggle to implement new pedagogical
norms without denigrating or rejecting traditional methods; discussing at
length the social, cultural, and pedagogical identities of his target
population, South Korea; describing issues, innovations, and shortfalls
specific to language acquisition pedagogy in South Korea; and giving a
holistic primer/review of Sociocultural Theory grounded in modern theory. Only
after this comprehensive background on learning English in the South Korean
context has been covered does the author move on to arguing for his proposal
-- The Transitional Model and Theory. He begins with a thorough review of the
theoretical background for Transition Theory, followed by the model itself and
some concluding remarks on the desired results of implementation in the South
Korean educational context.

The foreword retells the story of a verbal incident witnessed by the author,
which he expounds upon in the introduction (Chapter 1) and alludes to
frequently throughout the monograph as an example of “two people… express[ing]
conflicting perspectives toward semiotic tools, texts, and textual modes, as
elements for learning and development, and more so, for language development”
(p. 1). The author draws a parallel between the issues of enculturation,
methodology, conceptualization, agency, culture and ecology in this example to
the larger goal of exploring how influences of identity in South Korea affect
the development of L2 English competence and their negotiation of social
identities and L2 pedagogies. The author then lays out his approach for the
monograph -- postmodern, cross-disciplinary, and heavily grounded in
Sociocultural Theory -- with the end goal of demonstrating a model capable of
assisting South Korean (as well as other NE Asian) students of English to
increase their ability to negotiate membership in global communities. He
begins by asking himself and the reader two key questions: 1) whether or not
the ability to successfully negotiate social identity would help students to
find membership in such global communities; and 2) how to design an approach
which would enable students to negotiate language identities.

Chapter 2 presents a detailed evaluation of language and identity issues in
the modern South Korean context. Arguing that South Korean education must be
seen from “within the context of its social and political situation, coupled
with significant Western influence” (p.15), Hadzantonis provides a broad
overview of the shaping forces on South Korean identity formulation,
concentrating mostly on historical factors, government policies, and
international/global aspirations. He begins with a brief overview of
Confucianism, noting that the Confucianism in modern South Korea varies
greatly from that in other regions, having been modified to better fit the
Korean social context. This Neo-Confucianism is presented as an oppressive
discourse due to its emphases on hierarchy, consensus, and authority through
rank. The tendency to define oneself in terms of relation to others weakens
individual identity and can lead to pedagogical confrontation when students
are negotiating identity through L2. From there, the author moves to issues of
nationalization and nationalism. Reviewing Korean history, he notes that the
relatively recent emergence of a unified Korean political/cultural state
coincided with an introduction of new historical, nationalistic narratives
emphasizing “ethnic homogeneity, strongly grounding nation and national
identity, thus conflating nation with ethnicity and race” (p. 22).
Furthermore, historical forces colluded to produce strongly authoritarian
political forces which have permeated the society, including education. The
Korean educational system’s seeming main goal has been to promote nationalism
and feelings of national unity, leading to a racialized idea of nationhood.
The growing importance of the English language is therefore frequently
conceived of as a threat, and has reinforced the South Korean mindset of
nationalism and resistance to foreign ‘invasion.’ This sets up a paradox as
South Korea has clearly stated transnational ambitions. While transnationalism
would naturally suggest willingness to cross both national and personal
boundaries, “[n]ational identity in South Korea has inhibited the crossing of
transnational boundaries by South Koreans and their attempts to engage in the
multiple orientations of global discourses” (p. 32). Appeals for globalization
have been stymied by appeals to nationalism which disempower individuals, and
reduce agency. Distorted and idealized images of the West also work to dim the
prospects of successful L2 acquisition by potentially introducing envy or
disappointment (when the reality fails to match the image), both of which can
reinforce nationalism. The Korean government’s appeals for globalization
actually explicitly aim “to appropriate globalization for nationalist goals”
(p. 42). The author argues that while Koreans have a voracious appetite for
English-language pedagogy, these pedagogies and texts have been
misappropriated and distorted by filtering such through the lenses of
nationalism, Confucianism, etc., resulting in reduced benefit, and ultimately
in greater segregation from the world.

>From here, the author bridges into a basic review of sociolinguistic
scholarship, defining and explaining concepts of social identity, negotiating
identities, and fluidity and rheosis (which the author defines as facility in
switching identities, discourses, etc., and the ability to negotiate social
capital, as well as the skills used to develop and employ fluid identities,
respectively). He then discusses issues of native vs. nonnative speaker
educators, exposing the racial and imperial assumptions behind the English
language industry preferences in South Korea for native speaker “models,” and
proposes that “‘native’ speaker teachers without effective professional
development have qualifications insufficient to develop language competence in
South Korean students” (p. 72). The inequalities in language education are
discussed in terms of power relationships between speakers (native and non)
and the notion that the English competence that South Koreans seek is actually
that of White, upper-class Americans, thus privileging certain learners and
instructors over others. The chapter ends with notes on the transfer of
sociocultural frameworks and identity negotiation during communication, paying
special attention to the impact of cross-cultural classroom behaviors which
will impact interaction and identity management.

Chapter 3 surveys how language teaching is conducted currently in the
Northeast Asian educational context. The author starts with the
sociolinguistic context, noting the effects of the U.S. occupation and
globalist policies which have raised the profile of the English language, and
has created a large demand for its instruction, and English ability has become
a type of class marker in South Korea. The author presents the traditional
language pedagogies of South Korea; much like in the rest of Northeast Asia,
rote memorization, drilling, and grammar-translation are the rule. He then
presents the outside influences on language education, and why modern, Western
pedagogies have largely failed to be adapted. He details, step-by-step, the
learning styles and strategies of East Asian students before detailing the
struggles more specific to Korean students of English. He argues that the
primacy of transmission approaches, combined with the inefficiencies of
materials designed for different educational milieus, as well as other factors
act to limit students’ abilities to form communities of practice. Turning to
educators in South Korea, he reiterates the common complaints that many
educators simply lack the requisite skills, and will often fall back on
traditional pedagogies in order mask shortfalls in language competency. The
perceived inefficiencies of the public education system has sparked a massive
private instruction and testing industry, described in detail, which has
exacerbated the role of English ability as a class marker in modern South
Korean society. The author describes the counterproductive effects as language
testing has become a de facto goal in and of itself, and also how the private
market has responded to demand by importing Western instructors en masse. This
has had questionable effects on students’ progress for, while these teachers
often have a full command of the language, they are, more often than not,
wholly ignorant of the socio-educational dynamics in South Korea which can
make their attempts to employ modern (Western) pedagogies exercises in
frustration. The author suggests that “providing appropriate pedagogical
education for these foreign educators to acculturate to and incorporate local
styles: all stake holders would greatly benefit from this” (p. 120). Thus the
author has set up the problem in South Korean language education: modern
interactive pedagogies seem to be at odds with South Korean educational
culture, and thus are met with strong resistance. As such, he sets up the need
for the socio-educational culture to make a directed transition to a point
wherein students can productively employ modern pedagogies.

Chapter 4 presents a quick but broad overview of Sociocultural Theory to
establish the foundation and define the terms employed when presenting the
author’s own theoretical framework. The chapter defines such concepts as
imitation, lower/higher-order mental functions, genetic development,
artifacts/tools/signs, mediation, scaffolding, the zone of proximal
development (ZPD), and social constructionism.

The author begins to delve into the specifics of his proposal in chapter 5,
however he is still focused on giving the background necessary to ground the
proposed Transition Theory in theory. As such, the chapter is enormous, and
largely covers review of theory. He reviews the critical concepts of
competences; communicative strategies, including cognitive strategies, input,
output, repetition, inculcation, and imitation; social strategies, delving
into issues such as ecological approaches, student agency and autonomy,
teacher roles, and group dynamics; affective strategies with the related
factors of motivation, anxiety, self-esteem, and communicative willingness;
and pedagogical strategies, examining a broad range of pedagogical theories,
from task-based to form-based to content and context-based. Throughout, he
presents relevant examples from the South Korean student population to build
the case that (most) South Korean students are unable to effectively employ
learning strategies in L2 acquisition. They are often stymied by cultural
factors which perceive the L2 as a threat to L1 identity, raising anxiety and
lowering willingness to learn, as well as by foreign pedagogical methodologies
which do not consider the students’ educational context, and thus their de
facto default learning strategies, and are often rejected for their lack of
relevancy. The author then argues for both teaching through Sociocultural
Theory and for using sociocultural theories as content, and he thereby sets up
the need for pedagogical theory which will help the students to bridge from
their traditional pedagogies to that which would help them to better leverage
their competencies toward the task of learning English.

After thoroughly covering theory, the author finally in chapter 6 lays out the
framework for the proposed Transition Model and Theory. The theory is designed
to leverage the learning styles which students have already mastered, and via
a step-by-step incremental process, enable students to stretch their skills
until they can participate in and benefit from alternative/foreign pedagogies,
and ultimately to be able to facilely negotiate their L2 identities. As the
author states, this transition “constitutes a gradual paradigm shift within
the individual … through transition, individuals develop knowledge of, and
increasingly accept, their own enculturations, for without drawing from their
own enculturations, negotiation becomes problematic at some points” (p. 250).
The Transition Model can be briefly delineated as a set of 11 step-ordered
strategies composed of types of transition. These steps are: 1) task hierarchy
transition; 2) group hierarchy transition; 3) affective transition; 4)
pedagogical transition; 5) societal and cultural transition; 6) transition
through teacher pivoting; 7) top-down transition; 8) transition through
multiple texts; 9) transitional modernities; 10) ecological modernity; 11)
transition of self. Each of these strategies is fully explained in its own
section. The author asserts the model as having potential global application
in its ability to facilitate development of language competence, especially in
areas where social, cultural, or educational factors can inhibit students’
productive negotiation of identity and membership in the language communities.
“The model and theory thus respond to a highly significant need for resolution
to a problem not only pertinent to South Korea, but globally. South Korea is
only one of the many (countless) regions requiring transition…” (p. 300).

Chapter 7, the final chapter, briefly revisits the ideas of the Transition
Theory and gives the author the opportunity to make a final appeal to the
potential effect of the theory in allowing students to get beyond traditional
pedagogies which effectively preclude interaction during English classes. In
the author’s words, the model “bridges and integrates a series of
sociocultural factors, through which groups such as South Koreans can develop
a facility with and adroitness in identity selection, giving themselves
stronger leverage to move into more powerful communities” (pp. 302-303).

English-Language Pedagogies for a Northeast Asian Context was written as a
scholarly monograph for fellow scholars involved in research on language
pedagogy in East Asia. The prose is extremely dense and scholarly in tone, and
as such, would be of no real interest to anyone outside of academia, but the
thorough theoretical grounding and review of up-to-date literature on the
topic would make this text to be of considerable interest to any sociolinguist
and especially to adherents of Sociocultural Theory.

In general, I found the proposed model entirely convincing. The basic idea of
achieving a practical transition to increase L2 pedagogical relevance to East
Asian students is not new by any means. Full disclosure: I’ve advocated
similar ideas myself, and I’ve heard the like from other theorists for many
years. Where the author is, I believe, breaking new ground, however, is the
extent to which he takes the idea of transition. Most of calls for
bridging/stretching strategies for East Asian students I have seen (and made)
over the years have been focused purely on issues of specific pedagogical
methodologies. Hadzantonis takes this concept and expands it into an
over-arching model which accomplishes far more than simply enabling students
to better understand and to participate in Western-model classroom activities.
The model proposed engages students at both the societal and personal level to
actively engage in identity negotiation which will enable higher levels of
student agency and autonomy and ultimately allow them to achieve full
membership in the L2 community. The comprehensive way in which Hadzantonis
also manages to tie the proposal in to relevant sociocultural theories also
serves to differentiate this monograph as offering something new, relevant,
and useful to the field.

While the premise of the text is sound and the sourcing so abundant and solid
that it is nigh impossible to criticize the theory itself, I am not without a
couple of minor critiques. First, the title and the claims of application to a
broader Northeast Asian educational context are only in the narrowest sense
supported by the text, as it relies almost entirely on evidence from the South
Korean context. While this is a minor quibble and I suspect the proposed model
would still prove largely valid in Japanese or Chinese contexts, still much of
the evidence marshaled in building the theoretical case was specific to South
Korean historical and cultural matters. It would be tenuous at best to
uncritically apply the lessons of the ethnology reported to other regions
without a similar intensive look at the social, cultural, and educational
forces which have shaped those milieus, and thus armed to be able to make
adaptations to the model as needed. It is my hope that regional scholars will
take the ideas proffered in this monograph and seek to apply the model to
other regions and cultures. My second critique is simply a question of
dissemination. The value of the Transition Model will only be realized upon
implementation, but given the dense prose and the intended audience of this
text, the monograph itself cannot act as a vehicle for changing educational
practices in South Korea. Simply put, general educational practitioners are
unlikely to ever come across, let alone read, this book, even though they
would derive the most benefit from the ideas therein. I would thus implore the
author (or other interested academics) to consider distilling concepts within
the Transition Model to be presented in a more general audience teaching
methodology primer (such as those used in undergraduate teacher education

In summary, if you are interested in sociocultural theories or second language
pedagogy issues in East Asia, English-Language Pedagogies for a Northeast
Asian Context will give you a lot of new ideas to consider. I look forward to
this model entering into discussions about language education in East Asia.

Clay Williams is an assistant professor in the graduate English Language
Teaching Practices department of Akita International University. His primary
areas of research include cross-script effects on L2 literacy development,
lexical access in non-alphabetic script reading, and adapting L2 teaching
methodologies to East Asian classroom contexts.

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