The Politics of English

Avery Lussier

Hampshire College TESOL Certificate Course


Teaching TESOL requires a critical awareness of the power structures, institutional expectations, and societal norms that shape perceptions of the English language. These perceptions often envision English as a monolithic, dominant language that can be assessed based on how authentic the speaker sounds.  Particularly in the field of TESOL, this expectation privileges NES and marginalizes NNES because it values “authentic sound” over intelligibility and comprehensibility, promotes the facade that being a NES implies proficiency in the English language, and it “gives the impression…that there is linguistic unity in the world” (Celce-Murcia ,Brinton, and Snow, 2014, p. 587).  By recognizing how these perceptions about the English language shape institutional practices, educators can work to facilitate students in negotiating between their identity and intelligibility. Specifically when teaching English as an international language, “teachers must be taught to think globally but act locally”, meaning that teachers need to be aware of how English operates both in the world at large and within the country or city that they are teaching (Celce-Murcia, Brinton, and Snow, 2014, p. 67).  For example, if I, a NES, were teaching English in India, I would need to acknowledge not only how English functions within the inner circle (i.e. USA, UK) but more specifically recognize the history and varieties of use of English in India. It is also important to understand how these perceptions shape assessments of English language learners and teachers. If the institutional expectation is to sound like an authentic NES speaker, what does that suggest about the “ownership” of the English language?  How do these expectations discriminate against NNES learners and teachers?  How NNES perceive themselves in terms of linguistic proficiency is often reflective in their instructional practices, meaning that if a NNES teacher does not believe they are proficient in English (based on the normative standards) they will be less likely to use English in the classroom. 

To help NES understand their privilege and NNES to understand their identity as English speakers, it is necessary to view the constructs of “NES” and “NNES” as non-discrete and on a continuum.  Instead of promoting English as the dominant language in which proficiency is assessed based on the authentic sound of the speaker, it is necessary to critique “the relationship between power and language” and bring recognition to the advantages of being a NNES, such as the ability to negotiate between multiple languages and contextual meanings (593). Considering the issues of the politics of English is critical when teaching TESOL, both in relation to NES and NNES.  Without this awareness, teachers will continue to employ instructional practices that preserve mono-centric perceptions about the English language, perpetuating an educational system that discriminates against NNES and falsely promotes English as the dominant language.  As Moore (2011) articulates, “Words don’t just convey meaning: they are a force”. Therefore, particularly in the field of TESOL, it is necessary to hold space for and gain an awareness of the power of language.



Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., Snow, M. (2014). Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. Boston, MA: National Geographic Learning.

Moore, T. (2011). The Power of Language. Resurgence and Ecologist, 264. Retrieved from:

Pyo, L. [online image]. Retrieved on July 27, 2017, from 




Gamification in Language Learning

Just got this in my inbox today. Although this is about gamification of Foreign Language Learning, there may be something those of us who teach high school and up can take from this September 9 seminar. Best yet, it’s free!

We are pleased to announce our first Gamified Intercultural Telecollaboration for Foreign Language Learning Seminar, aimed at secondary school and further education modern languages teachers. The event is organized by the Erasmus + TeCoLa project members. Below you can find more detailed information about the project and the workshop. Best regards, Begoña Clavel Arroitia Principal researcher for the TeCoLa project in Spain TeCoLa project The project (… technologies to enhance foreign language teaching and learning. Virtual world interaction, video communication and online games are deployed to support online pedagogical exchanges between secondary school students throughout Europe.

Special attention is given to

  • Authentic communication practice in the foreign language,
  • Intercultural experience, awareness raising and competence development,
  • Collaborative knowledge discovery in contexts of content and language integrated learning,
  • Learning diversity and differentiated pedagogical practices.

Conference details

The conference/workshop will take place at University of Roehampton on Saturday 9th September from 10.30 to 14.30 CETand the event will also be live streamed, so those of you who cannot travel to Roehampton on that date will also be able to follow the conference through our YouTube channel (… webpage); the hands-on workshop will only run for the face-to-face conference and will be replaced with additional presentations for the audience following us online.

Face-to-face seminar and Streaming programme:… You can register (for free) for both modes of attendance here We would like to encourage those of you attending face- to-face to register as soon as possible, as there are limited spaces.

Our upcoming conference/workshop will be the perfect opportunity to meet the whole TeCoLa team and to learn more about how gamified telecollaboration can be used for intercultural language learning. We look forward to seeing you in September, either face to face or remotely!

Barry Pennock-Speck
Universitat de València

In case you’re looking…

Hey, all.

Apologies for cross-posting. This just showed up on the NH ESL listserv, and for those of you scrambling for a job this summer, it might be just what you’re looking for:


The Manchester School District currently has four positions open in our English learners (EL) program. Two of the positions are new for the 2017-18 academic year. In Manchester, we continue to see increasing enrollment of English learners in our school community. In the spring, we ended the school year with approximately 1,800 students identified as active English learners. We are a department of 52 full-time EL teachers, 13 paraprofessionals, 1 program director, and a team of 6 full-time multilingual home/school liaisons.
As a refugee resettlement community, we are proud to serve the state’s most diverse group of students, representing 75 countries, and bringing with them the multilingual assets of 60+ languages.
To learn more about our program, students and team, please visit our website:
To learn more about the open EL positions in our department or to apply, please follow this link:
Please pass on this email to anyone within your circles who may be interested.

Acceptance emails are out!

Eventbrite - 2017 NNETESOL Fall Conference--UVM, Burlington

Hey, all. If you submitted a proposal for NNETESOL’s fall conference in November, you should have gotten notification in early July. If you didn’t, please check your spam.

Eventbrite is open and ready for registration; a draft of the full schedule will be posted at the end of August. We’re so excited to see you in November!

Power & Language

Tetsu Zhao

Hampshire College TESOL Certificate Course








There lies a tremendous amount of power associated with language, especially with English. Celce-Murcia, Brinton, Snow, & Bohlke (2013), note that English has quickly become a world language and is the most commonly taught language today. Native-like pronunciation has usually been the goal of many ESL students, as this has formerly been associated with being proficient in English. However, as the use of the language spreads further into outer and expanding circle populations, English has become as a lingua franca of the world. Now there exist several different forms of World Englishes, varying in pronunciation and grammatical tendencies (Celce-Murcia et al., 2013, p. 66). The term non-native speaker had typically identified those spoke English ‘with an accent,’ but the appearance of these forms of English has caused a shift in the paradigm of teaching, where the focus no longer lies on accuracy, but fluency and intelligibility. Teachers should be trained to be aware of the different Englishes that exist in the world, as well as making the presence of these discrepancies transparent to their students. Being confident in your ability to use a second language can greatly affect how one perceives themselves, how other see them, as well as how a student learns the language itself. The false notion that non-native speakers are working to achieve a level that is higher than them (equaling that of a Native speaker) should be eradicated, as both, all speakers have the same potential to be effective communicators in English.

How do you perceive yourself (as a native speaker, a non-native speaker, a multilingual speaker, or some other category)? Does the label affect how you position yourself in the field of TESOL?

Although English is my second language (my first being Japanese), I would still consider myself a Native speaker; I would even go as far as saying my functional knowledge of the English language has long surpassed my Japanese language skills. However, I would support the argument Pasternak and Bailey (2004) present “that being a native speaker of a language is not the same thing as being proficient in that language” (Celce-Murcia et al., 2013, p.588) as suggested by (at least) my poor grammar.

The text also discusses how my nativeness may be challenged due to the fact that I am not visibly a native English speaker. Although this is discouraging information, I think that I should be proud of the fact that I was able to achieve fluency in more than one language while living in the U.S. and push that as a strength of mine.

English can empower one in that they can take part in greater fields of study, allow them to find jobs in a much larger market, and it has the ability to bring together cultures and peoples who previously had no relation. My role as an instructor, I believe, is to be aware of how intelligible English can empower people. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help others with something they wish to learn, something that is a tangible skill they can eventually use to achieve their goals in life.


Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Bohlke, D. (2013). Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 4th edition (4 edition). Boston, Mass.: Heinle ELT.



Grad student? Consider the forum!

WIDA provides Q & A time on August 1

I just got the notice below on the WIDA newsletter. If you’re wondering about WIDA 2.0 or even the ACCESS online screener, this might be a good way to find out what you need to know before school starts.

Join WIDA on Facebook Live August 1st at 4:00 pm Eastern/3:00 pm Central. This “Welcome Back” session will give you a chance to interact with WIDA Staff and ask any questions you may have. It’s a great way for new teachers to learn more about WIDA, and experienced teachers may find new insights. Please join us!

Check in on Sustainable Development

The NGO Committee on Sustainable Development is hosting World Youth Skills Day 2017 for STEM: Achieving Peace and Positive Social Change for All. You can watch it live from 9-10:30on July 14th at

WIDA’s giving stuff away…

Teach K-12? Try this conference on for size…

As things heat up this summer, WIDA invites you to participate in the Sizzling Summer Sweepstakes. We’re giving away three half-price conference registration certificates! The certificates can be used to reduce registration costs for this year’s conference in Tampa, or they can be applied to the WIDA 2018 Annual Conference in Detroit. Here’s how it works.

  1. Register for the WIDA 2017 Annual Conference online before August 15, 2017.
  2. WIDA will select three sweepstakes winners* and ask how they want to apply the certificate.
  3. Winners will be announced via WIDA News in August.
That’s all there is to it. Register today to enter into the sweepstakes and good luck!
* Winners will be selected from registrations between June 1, 2017 and August 15, 2017

See you at the conference!

Yadda, yadda, yadda: Repetition as Humor in Seinfeld

Title: Yadda, yadda, yadda: Repetition as Humor in Seinfeld

Andrew Flanagan

Hampshire College TESOL Certificate Course

Understanding the subtleties of humor can be a large part of navigating a new language. Being able to see the humor in the tone of an L2, can help a new speaker in various personal interactions. This listening activity uses the sitcom Seinfeld to illustrate the use of comedic tone in an otherwise traditional exchange between a car rental employee and a customer. 

The clip, as well as the activity, would best be suited for an advanced beginner class. They would have enough vocabulary to be able to understand the directions, but they still might need a lot of repetition to understand natural language, and if there is one thing that Seinfeld excels at, it is repetition and the semantics of the language. This particular clip compares two similar concepts through Jerry’s emphasis on word choice: the difference between taking a reservation and holding a reservation. It is here that the use of linguistical comedy serves a second purpose for ELLs — understanding the subtle difference between these two concepts.



At the start, give the class a bit of background to the scene, and some context. First, explain that this is from a TV show called Seinfeld and the scene we are about to listen to is meant to be funny. Then explain that in this scene, Jerry is going to talk to a woman at the desk of a rental car place.

From that prompt, the class can discuss renting vehicles and understand the procedures required to do so. As a group, the class would brainstorm not just the renting process but what kind of conflicts that could arise from this situation.

Once the students have a firm grasp on the concept, begin the first play-through of the clip.


First Listening

While listening to the audio for the first time, the students can take notes to see what words the recognize.


After the clip is played, give the students these questions to prompt discussion:

What word do they think is said most often?

What is the tone of the scene?

What are the character’s feeling in this scene?

Students can use these questions to consider the main conflict of this scene.


Second Listening

In the second play-through, the students listen for the answers to their prompts and concentrate on the more difficult parts of the scene.


After the clip has been played again, ask the students:

What is Jerry is angry about?

What are some polite or apologetic words the characters are saying?

Why might this be a funny scene?


Third Listening

For the last play-though of the scene, give the students a transcript of the scene to read along with. 

After listening, discuss the kind language used in the scene. Reinforce the difference between “taking” and “holding” a reservation. Help identify any colloquial language they are getting stuck on. Use prompts like, “are these people actually being polite to each other?”


Evaluation & Planning

After the listening is over, students write about what they got out of the clip. They will describe the situation in the scene, and identify the conflict, the humor and the vocabulary they might have learned, which can them be opened up for class discussion.

In this short clip, there is plenty to talk about for class discussion: polite vs condescending tone, passive aggressive behavior, humor, and the subtle differences in language. Seinfeld relies on repetition of specific words as a source of comedy. Often Jerry and his friends will debate a subject from all directions using the same word over and over. When implemented well by the teacher, this feature of the show can make an entertaining language tool for new learners. 

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