‘I didn't speak for the first year’: silence, self-study and student stories of English language learning in mainstream education

Safford, Kimberly and Costley, Tracy (2008). ‘I didn't speak for the first year’: silence, self-study and student stories of English language learning in mainstream education. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 2(2) 136 -151.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17501220802158875

Abstract

The paper draws on interviews with 17- and 18-year-old students learning English as an Additional Language (EAL) in mainstream secondary schools in the UK, where the students describe their experiences as new arrivals and their resources and strategies for accessing and learning English in multiple social and academic contexts. Silence and self-study emerge as key survival strategies for these students, whilst multilingual family and friendship networks play key roles in supporting their day-to-day schoolwork and future ambitions. In these student narratives, school policies and practices do not appear to take account of the multilayered nature of learning English for a wide range of purposes which demand the integration of discrete linguistic skills with culturally situated registers and practices. Although the UK daily grows more, not less, multilingual, interviews over several years with different cohorts of students learning EAL seem to suggest that their experiences and strategies have not changed. The paper reflects on how the mainstream classroom looks and sounds to such students, and how their voices might effectively influence pedagogy and practice in these contexts.

See also:

Safford, K. and Costley, T. (2006) 'I try to open my ears': experiences and strategies of students learning English as an Additional Language and studying for higher education Luton: NALDIC occasional paper 20 Luton: NALDIC


Leung, C. and Safford, K. (2005) Non-traditional students in higher education: EAL and Literacies in Literacies Across Educational Contexts: mediating learning and teaching (ed. Brian Street) Philadelphia: Caslon Chapter 15 pp 303-324 ISBN 0-9727507

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