University of Gdańsk, POLAND; https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2463-393X
Bibliographic citation: (ISSN 2657-9774) Educational Role of Language Journal. Special Volume 1 (2023) LSD EDUCATION SERVING CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION, Introduction, pp. 4-7
As the graphic representing ERLA’s fundamental premises shows, language is scattered all over education, with the impact of language starting at the lowest (deepest) level of our understanding or the world, which justifies linguistic education being put at the very top of learning-oriented human activity. And yet – despite the extensive contemporary knowledge on the subject – most paradoxically, surprisingly, and detrimentally, language still passes largely unnoticed in different educational systems across the globe. Although all teachers apply language when, first, mastering their disciplines and, later, teaching and discussing issues with their students, they tend to take language and its educational role for granted to such an extent that all terminology is seen as “belonging to” their fields of expertise rather than have a predominantly linguistic “origin” and be governed by phenomena characteristic of language. As a result, language, be it first or native, second or foreign, retains the status of – just – one of many school subjects. Even language teachers, whom we would expect to appreciate the central and omnipresent position of language, have proved to relate the term “educational role of language” essentially with its global communicative function and the importance of knowing languages for reasons pertaining to travelling, working, or making friends in different countries of the world. In ERLA we, quite obviously, do not question these purposes and gains, but see them as secondary to what language truly means throughout our life and overall development.
At the level of an individual student, the fundamental role of language can be recognised in four dimensions – a student’s beliefs, actions, affect, and cognition. Hence, in ERLA we have been trying to address four respective questions – What do we think of language?, What can we do with language?, How do we feel about language?, and How do we understand the world through language? We see the link between language and the four components named as bilateral (which is partially not reflected by these questions as language is, grammatically speaking, their object rather than the subject), with the two directions of impact being complementary to each other. In other words, how, for example, we feel about language is viewed in the ERL framework as complementary to what role language plays in how we feel. This examples relates to students’ affect, which is ERLA’s yearly focus in 2023 and which these days is gaining scientific importance owing to how feelings and emotions determine our overall functioning. Therefore, we can say that in 2023 ERLA is becoming more emotional, which is a partially jocular and partially serious statement about where we are now after ERLA’s first (2019-2022) cycle. Similarly to the systematically diminished role of language in education, the affective side of learning and teaching seems to be underestimated, too. Putting these two underrated aspects together, we can infer that the extent to which the affective side of language learning and use remains neglected is comparable to the degree in which it should be prioritised – not only in the teaching of languages, but in general education altogether, so that students can learn how their emotions and feelings matter in how their (spoken and written) language operates. These aspects (partially analogically to axiological ones) remain more “hidden” than psychomotor (actions) and cognitive ones, which by no means justifies them being neglected but, quite on the contrary, calls for a far more attentive and inquisitive approach to them.
Basing on thus understood fundamental role of language and the four language-elevating premises mentioned in the first paragraph, in ERLA we have been re-discovering language in education, although many would probably say that its position is so clear that there is nothing to be discovered. Underestimating its role and the degree in which it affects educational (and professional) success altogether is so commonplace that even university professors working in the world of language itself fail to comprehend the linguistic conditioning of learning and teaching processes. On the most general level we can distinguish two categories of education-related fields where such a re-discovery appears essential, first, those in which language as a component is explicitly present and in which the examination of its role consists mostly in studying the link between language and another discipline; and, second, those, in which language remains unnamed (implicit) in the wording of disciplines, which adds to the said unveiling of language in it another source of difficulty and methodological complications. We open ERL Journal’s sequence of special issues with an area representing the former case, which already involves an intersection of disciplines, but of a lower degree. The issue of interdisciplinarity comes to the fore in all publications and initiatives undertaken under the ERL framework, which is a direct consequence of the simple reasoning: if we set ourselves the task of constructing such educational systems that (a) squarely and sufficiently observe the basic facts concerning the position of language in education, and (b) take into account the interplay between language and students’ beliefs, actions, affect, and thinking, the fulfilment of such a far- and widely-reaching aspiration implies by definition engagement of specialists of different fields.
This special issue, which is our first extra “venue’ on ERL Journal’s overall trajectory of regular volumes, undertakes the issue of the educational role of language in the field of language for special purposes (LSP). By encompassing three sections on science, translanguaging, and language skills in LSP contexts, the volume constitutes a solid representation of the range of problems lying on the intersection of language and professional facets. Throughout the volume we observe the exemplification of the rationale outlined by the graphic with ERLA premises, that is language “driving” vocational development and learning, teachers engaged in technical education becoming language instructors, and, consequently, the linguistic component being emphasised and elevated. What adds to the attractiveness of the volume co-edited by our Guest Editors is that the papers and reviews relate to the cross-cultural dimension, too, thus highlighting the communicative and linguistic themes even more strongly and systematically. Additionally, exploring how language matters and operates in the field of LSP provides ERL Journal with a valuable practical component – which is clearly a benefit stemming from our Guest Editors’ linguistic and technical expertise. We, as the journal’s entire editorial board, are grateful to them for proposing and undertaking the challenge of compiling a volume representing their interdisciplinary field. As a result of this cooperation, we have developed a special issue which – on top of all the merits already named – upholds the sense of ERL Journal and the ERL framework altogether: since their inception they have been intended to explore avenues where language “meets” various forms, modes, and varieties of education, our Guest Editors and the authors’ joint work constitutes a highly valuable and representative contribution as well. We welcome other proposals of ERL Journals’ special issues so that other similar “meetings” and their (educational and professional) implications can be examined, too. It is our sincere belief that it is only thanks to widely interdisciplinary and international cooperation that the educational role of language can be convincingly, credibly and adequately studied.