The Multilingual Instructor concerns the meaning that teachers give to their professional lives and how they deal with their multilingual experiences in the classroom. The many oral testimonies around which most chapters are based, beginning with that of co-author Lihua Zhang, have a curious history: they were each collected over several years, during monthly pot-luck dinners organised by faculty members of a university in the US.
Initially disappointed at being unable to find a position teaching German in the US, Zhang relates her excitement at being able to tell her students in a Chinese class there about China’s cultural revolution and Mao’s call to settle in the countryside. But such critical incidents are not always value free, and might possibly lead to the teacher being called to the Director’s office for a quiet
Chapter two illustrates points from the quantitative data gathered through two electronic surveys of seventy-eight multilingual native and non-native instructors carrying out their language teaching in the US, and who have remained in contact with their native or target country via the media, visits or professional contacts.
The following chapter focuses on challenges to an instructor’s legitimacy caused by, for example, gaps between their personal biographies and their professional lives. Using transcripts from recordings, the next two chapters illustrate how and why instructors at times tend to engage in self-censorship in the form of ‘narrative erasure’ so as to deal with what they perceive to be sensitive historical events for their American students. Examples provided include the (alleged) Armenian genocide, Korean comfort women, and the Japanese whaling industry.
Later chapters discuss possibilities for change by analysing the ethical responsibility of the multilingual educator and the potential they have for transforming foreign language education. Of particular interest are chapters involving each of the co-authors engaging in self-analysis of what happens in their lessons when they attempt to bridge historical and educational gaps.
As the authors adopt what they term ‘an ecological approach’ and use a ‘complexity thought model’ to examine identities, The Multilingual Instructor is at times rather a technical read. It’s worth the effort, though, as it shows us the challenges facing instructors proficient in two or more languages, along with the importance of understanding their experiences.
Apart from the general reader of applied linguistics, this title would be of most value to those pursuing research in auto-ethnography or cultural studies.
Wayne Trotman is a teacher educator at Izmir Katip Çelebi University, Izmir, Turkey.