CHAPTER FIVE: PRESENTATION OF FINDINGS
In this chapter, results of the interviews and data analysis are presented. They are distilled here from over forty hours of spoken text that could not possibly be included for reasons of space and coherence. However, a representative selection of direct citations can be found in Appendix C (AC) and can be read in conjunction with this summary of findings. Further data can be supplied on request. Results are given in categories according to the three research questions posed, with only a narrow analytical interpretation. A more theory-driven discussion of these findings is left until Chapter Six.
5.1 Research Question One: What is EML in the experience of teachers and learners in Bolivia?
5.1.1 Some General Features of the Sample
EML is an informal teaching activity, with few requirements in terms of teacher qualifications and little attention to placing learners at the correct level or preparation for formal examinations. Teachers are invariably native speakers of English who express a divine call to mission in Bolivia, though not necessarily to ELT as mission. It normally takes place in a church or para-church building, or in neutral premises such as private accommodation, café and plazas. There is usually no cost to students, but a few teachers have introduced a nominal fee in order to bolster commitment from learners and make them feel like they themselves have invested something.
Some Christian symbols appear verbally and visually within the lesson. These include crosses and religious posters on the wall in church-owned premises, and pieces of liturgy such as blessings and prayers. Most teachers also explain the meanings of some new vocabulary items and other new language points using religious allusions. Christian learners tend to stress the importance of such symbols, claiming that they remember things better when they have spiritual significance.
Learners come from a variety of social classes and nearly all are urban residents. The upper-middle classes are noticeably absent from EML activities, but others are represented. Many learners aspire to an urban professional class, coming from campesino (peasant) and cholo (newly urbanized) backgrounds. Teachers are generally aware that they are dealing with ambivalent student attitudes to the English language, and learners express antipathy as well as interest towards English and the values attached to it.
The missionary motive in EML varies according to category listed below, but most EML teachers see evangelism as a form of liberation compatible with language teaching. Many view the religious significance as a form of resistance against the “prevalent emptiness of meaning” in “industry-led” communicative language teaching that often “ignores huge, important issues” faced by Bolivians. Proselytizing is an aim of most EML teachers:
“Of course it is. It would be important if I were a missionary bricklayer or a
missionary doctor. It’s always on your mind. You have to decide yourself
how to go about it, how to not compromise your faith and not compromise the
quality of your teaching either.”
5.1.2 A Model of Stable TEML Practices
The two most stable forms of EML are as a Puerta (door, gate) or Puente (bridge) and as an Herramienta (tool), categories derived from the data. A third form exists, EML as a Gancho (hook, peg), but it differs so significantly from the other two that it is not included in the following model. Rather it is described later (5.1.5). Most individual teachers interviewed belong clearly to one category, while a few share properties of EML-P and EML-H. Of the sixteen teachers interviewed, roughly equal numbers belonged to each of the three categories. The following model summarizes how EML-P and EML-H are diametrically opposed, revealing two distinct enterprises with different missionary purposes.
EML as a Puerta or Puente EML as an Herramienta
Written and unwritten curricula are acknowledged Only a written curriculum is acknowledged
High level of learner knowledge acknowledged Low level of learner knowledge acknowledged
Culture is addressed Culture is addressed only superficially
Critical of Western values Accepting of Western values
Offers learners an additional layer of identity Modifies learners’ identities
Aims to develop people holistically Aims to develop skills practically
Recognizes political implications Viewed as apolitical
Teacher compensates for conflicting Centre discourse Teacher does not compensate but explains Centre
Learners are encouraged to talk and write back Learners are encouraged to follow procedures and
Table 5.1 Comparing EML-P and EML-H
5.1.3 EML as a Puerta or Puente
EML-P is process-oriented, with emphasis on learners discovering and experiencing the language for themselves. Learner-centred approaches are highly regarded by teachers in this group, many of whom have backgrounds in primary teaching. Humanistic techniques, drama, art, literature and a variety of other activities are used, with aims of learner internalisation through experience and familiarity. Learners are encouraged to develop holistically in such classes and the teacher assumes a pastoral role (AC.1).
EML-P teachers acknowledge written and unwritten curricula. As a puerta, there are aims of inter- and intra-personal development. Non-linguistic development, including aesthetic and social objectives, is part of the programme, although not tracked in an organized way like language objectives. Key concerns in the unwritten curriculum are building self-confidence, developing critical thought, empathy and cultural appreciation (AC.2).
Cross-cultural exchange and understanding is the object of EML when participants replace the icon puerta with puente. The classroom becomes a meeting place for at least two cultures, with opportunities for dialogue, discussion and appropriation. The aim is sometimes to help Bolivians prepare for dealings with foreign missionaries, development workers and others, and at other times the aim is to allow Bolivians to express their own culture through English. High levels of learner knowledge are recognized, with the teacher often involving Bolivian culture, openly asking about the Spanish language and how to go about day-to-day transactions in appropriate ways. Both teacher and learner develop new cultural understanding, not by striking a compromise, but by developing sensitively to cultural differences and mutually finding how to cope with differences (AC.3).
Learners are encouraged to understand Anglophone culture, but teachers often distance themselves from it. Teachers oppose certain elements of Centre discourse in materials such as consumerism, and compensate for a lack of more important social issues. Learners attending EML-P classes report that their identity has not changed, and explain new language and cultural acquisition as an extra layer of identity rather than a change. Some claim that their national and regional identities are stronger for their language studies and cross-cultural perspectives in the classroom (AC.4).
EML-P teachers are often critical of Western models of education, with many bemoaning the current state of ELT as “an industry.” Teachers in this category recognize political implications of learning English and deal with them by compensation, using Bolivian themes and materials, and by encouraging learners to write or speak back (AC.5).
5.1.4 EML as an Herramienta
EML-H is considered by teachers and learners as a great help in developing Bolivia as a country, with special reference to the fields of nursing, medicine, agriculture and business. It is also mentioned frequently in connection with Christian resources and knowledge, including a great many books, recordings and training courses in the medium of English. The aim here may be general, or it may involve training Bolivians to work on international teams and agencies, a kind of ESP for missionaries. This might be seen as a new alternative to previously orientalist language policies, more suited to a globalized world (AC.6).
The focus on developing skills makes EML-H very different in nature from EML-P. Some teachers see it as less human and devoid of the personal development, values and care of the EML-P classroom, claiming that it more similarly reflects “the private sector TEFL industry” (AC.7).
EML-H is more product-oriented than EML-P. Lessons centre on intended learning outcomes or texts, and teachers often present material deductively. Only this written curriculum is officially acknowledged. Although teachers realize that personal touches are also required, they are used to support scheduled learning outcomes. Learning objectives consist of micro-skills and pieces of language production, with aims of practical skills development, requiring little pre-existing learner knowledge or contribution to the direction or content of the lesson (AC.8).
To a high degree, EML-H teachers represent modernity and their own country, its values and ideals. Western models of learning and development are idealized and accepted quite uncritically. The teacher does not question Western ideas and values inherent to the methods and materials used, and views EML-H as apolitical. There is little attempt to compensate for Centre discourse in materials (AC.9).
There is a strong emphasis on business-like, efficient learning, with a great deal of imitation and the following of procedures like stages of a PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) lesson or syllabus completion. The aim is to reproduce target language or to understand factual information, and there is little talking or speaking back element. Learners in this category claim that their identity is somewhat changed, some explaining that they feel like actors when speaking English (AC.10).
5.1.5 EML as a Gancho
The icon gancho (hook, peg) recurred consistently during interviews, with respondents concurring that English lessons can be an efficient way of foreign missionaries making contacts with Bolivians. Used in this way, teachers prioritize personal contacts over ELT. In fact, ELT is not the real aim of this contact, but rather spiritual conversations are (AC.11). However, EML as a gancho (EML-G) is in no way covert. Learners are informed in advance of the nature of classes (AC.12).
A feature of EML-G is its short-term nature. These teachers generally admit to being ill prepared and initially unaware of the preparation and knowledge required to teach a lesson. Indeed, they view ELT as a temporary stepping-stone on the route to a more evangelism-focussed ministry, and tend not to view their language teaching itself as missionary work. They admit to be in the process of becoming disenchanted after a spell of ELT and many look forward to giving up (AC.13).
Learners realize that EML-G teachers are often unqualified and inexperienced. Their response is to maximize their own benefit from the lessons by turning them into conversation practice, something that comes as a relief to teachers in this category. Words are written on the board as they come up, with no effort to formally teach them, while functions and grammar points are rarely taught. There are no specific linguistic objectives, but lessons provide practice of what learners bring from previous learning (AC.14).
Lessons also tend to be topic-based, with a clear agenda of presenting Christian perspectives. Responses are mixed as to the appropriateness of this approach. One respondent stresses the lively enquiry and fierce nationalism of Bolivian youths, which enable her and her classmates to talk back when they experience foreign values in conflict with their own (AC.15). Other learners stress that Bolivians are not only Latins, known for their passionate love of discussion, but also Quechuas and Aymaras with very different discourse preferences and cultural expectations of a teacher (AC.16).
This is the one type of EML where there is overt evangelism in the classroom. These missionary teachers feel pressure or responsibility to openly preach in order to satisfy sponsors and agencies in the home country. Christian students and some non-Christian students enjoy the religious focus of classes, claiming that by discussing something of personal value to them or something intellectually or personally challenging, they have more to communicate and they enjoy classes more. Other non-Christian learners feel like they are outsiders, but say that they know what the purpose of the class is and are prepared to hear a message that excludes them because the classes are free (AC.17).
5.2 Research Question Two: What Dialectics are Experienced in the EML Class?
5.2.1 A Cultural Dialectic
Learners perceive Anglo-American culture as part of their language teaching. They experience the classroom as a cross-cultural meeting place where they negotiate cultural values in tension with their own. Commonly mentioned cultural values which generate learner antipathy include individualism, efficiency, materialism and hedonism (AC.18).
EML-P teachers recognize the cross-cultural negotiation of values and admit to being in the same “cultural tug-of-war” themselves, confronting inner cultural conflicts. They see their lessons as opportunities to discuss, challenge and defend cultural values from Bolivia and from the West. They prioritise the opportunity for students to express their feelings and talk back to texts laden with cultural values they find disturbing (AC.19).
Mostly, EML-H teachers minimize the role of culture in the classroom, maintaining that their focus is the language. Culture is seen in terms of festivals and food rather than deeper thought patterns and values. Language is viewed apart from culture except in occasional culture lessons. Their students seem more aware of cultural tensions (AC.20).
5.2.2 A Political Dialectic
Data reveal that political events might occasionally be referenced out of necessity, when classes are affected by riots, road blocks or when students feel a need to comment on other pressing events, but teachers have little overt political agenda. Teachers often struggle with perceptions that all missionary English teachers are conservative, right-wing supporters of U.S. foreign policy. Some are keen to point out that Biblical Christianity is Eastern in origin and contains values very different to capitalism, and that their values as English language teachers are far removed from current political ideologies (AC.21).
A less overt political undercurrent is obvious from EML-H teachers and learners, with acceptance of globalization, the place of the U.S. in the world and the need for development in Bolivia along Western lines. Learners sometimes struggle with English language learning, wondering if by learning English they are condoning or joining a U.S. led movement of global conformity. The political distribution of wealth associated with speaking English is another common concern (AC.22).
At the same time, many EML-P teachers question the usefulness of English and attachment to the English-speaking community. They have deep-seated questions about how English will serve their students and provide room in lessons to consider issues such as emigration, the development of a tourist industry, privatisation and national and international news. Some teachers see ELT as inherently political, invoking political and economic terms like “free-market,” “Thatcherite” and “commodity” to disparage what they perceive as “the industry of TEFL”. They are generally keen to react against such a “bastardization of education” and cast doubt on its usefulness and intentions (AC.23).
5.2.3 An Evangelical Dialectic
EML-G teachers are broadly the clearest about evangelistic aims in class. These range from inviting students to discuss spiritual matters after class or to religious meetings, using Bible verses and other Christian materials in lessons, to activities based more on moral and personal values. They express few concerns about using Evangelical doctrine as content in the language classroom (AC.24).
EML-P teachers are normally more careful about preaching in lessons, viewing their mission as more holistic than saving souls. Rather, they aim to give pastoral support to learners and develop them as people. EML-H teachers see their mission similarly as a holistic one, serving as missionaries in a capacity other than direct evangelism, but with an emphasis on practical service like personal development or reading skills aimed at development in medical, agricultural and other fields. Both categories of teachers feel a tension between the value of ELT in itself and other missionary goals such as evangelism and discipling, but consciously decide to value their language teaching as holistic mission (AC.25).
Whether Christians or not, most learners frequently question anything of a religious nature said by the teacher. Since missionary teachers are open about their missionary intents, learners generally view such disagreements positively as an opportunity to negotiate meaning and enjoy a debate. Most students attending EML lessons have an interest in religion or at least decide to put up with religious content when they sign up (AC.26). Some learners who view their identity as indigenous Aymara have a different view. They view themselves as shier than mestizo (mixed-race Bolivians with European blood) classmates and find it harder to speak up when they feel uncomfortable about religious content (AC.27).
5.3 Research Question Three: What Critical Concerns are there of EML?
5.3.1 A One-Way Flow of Knowledge
In EML-H there is a clear pattern of the teacher giving information to learners. This is taught as value-free and non-negotiable. There is no room for learners to re-create rather than simply copy and imitate. Learners are not taught special courses in reading between the lines, challenging the text or talking back (AC.28).
There is no questioning of whether or not materials in English are appropriate to Bolivian contexts. Rather, teachers and learners presume that techniques and information in Western academia will translate directly to Bolivia, legitimising the teaching of English as a way of opening access to such knowledge (AC.29). With such an emphasis on what English can do for or give Bolivian learners, there is a subtext that Bolivian knowledge in Spanish, Quechua, Aymará or other languages is inferior and less modern. Such a message gives the impression that if it is written in English, it must be correct, modern and universal. The flow of knowledge is one-way, with expectations that Bolivians will read Western research and few expectations of Bolivian contribution to a global body of knowledge.
5.3.2 A False Promise
This category in fact is derived from what respondents failed to say during interviews. There is a lack of any evidence that a missionary contribution to ELT serves to develop medicine, agriculture, business, etc. This is despite the almost universal belief among EML-H teachers and learners that English language skills are an answer to centuries of poverty and present underdevelopment. However, when asked for specific examples of people known to them using English to access wealth or knowledge, no respondent was able to offer examples of this happening. Given the length of time some EML ministries have been in operation, this may indicate a failure to deliver on promises of material and knowledge benefits of learning English (AC.30).
5.3.3 Normative ‘Critical’ Pedagogy
There is space in EML-P lessons for learners to reflect on their stance towards cultural and political ideologies in materials used. However, EML-P teachers often ascribe to left-wing or liberal values and oppose values associated with globalization, cultural imperialism and English language spread. Of course, this does not signify a critical pedagogy. EML-P learners realize they are asked to consider alternatives to Western ideologies, but know what the teacher wants to hear (AC.31).
A true critical pedagogy is not a normative anti-globalization or anti-Western education. Rather, it allows learners to relate English to their own needs and situation, looking at all the options and making informed decisions to suit themselves. Some data suggest that EML-P teachers have their own views on education and language, which are known to learners to be the teacher’s preferred answers. Other data suggest that the choice educational approach employed by a teacher has to do with his or her cultural and political views and not the needs or informed decisions of learners (AC.32).