Who teaches English best: those with one language or many?
On Monday, Associate Professor Elizabeth Ellis of the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences launched a lengthy enquiry into that question, in the form of the book “The Plurilingual TESOL Teacher”, published by linguistics specialist De Gruyter Mouton.
Why, Dr Ellis asks, are most Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) themselves only trained in English? And what changes when the teacher is plurilingual?
“Learners are in the process of becoming plurilingual, and this book argues that they are best served by a teacher who has experience of plurilingualism,” she says.
On the other hand, “Those teachers who identify as monolingual almost invariably have some language learning experience, but it was low-level, short-lived and unsuccessful.”
The book draws on Dr Ellis’s extensive work in the area, including on her three studies involving 115 TESOL teachers from eight countries, including Australia.
She writes that plurilingual experiences are largely ignored in the teaching of English, but exposure to other languages strongly informs individual knowledge and beliefs about language learning and teaching that underpin good practice.