University of Gdańsk, POLAND; https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2463-393X
Bibliographic citation: (ISSN 2657-9774) Educational Role of Language Journal. Volume 2020-1(3). Examining Learner and Teacher Language Identity, Introduction, pp. 4-5
Language takes to us spaces we have never “visited” before. The learning (with comprehension) of a new word or phrase opens a gate to an entirely new experience, expanded awareness of the surrounding reality, and greater appreciation of the human limitations and possibilities at the same time. This novel experience is thoroughly personal in that each of us, with a different mental structure, incorporates the new items in a fully unprecedented way, and at every stage of the individual intralanguage, each of us arrives at a unique whole. Hence, the process of incorporating any particular language items reaches beyond the concept of construction, and appears more reminiscent of COMPOSING (as in music) in that it consistently implies unknown combinations and constructions which cut across not only different semantic fields, but also multiple disciplines and reality dimensions.
This process of language composing underlies entire education, retains a HIGHLY PERSONAL character, and drives the formation of learners’ and teachers’ identities altogether. Its significance becomes straightforward once we come to realize how much our idea of other people, their personalities and knowledge, rests on their understanding and use of – first/native or second/foreign – language. Their language identity – understood by us as a highly personalized four-dimensional hybrid encompassing their language views, language activity, language affect, and language matrices – largely shapes all learning and teaching environments and it also determines all learners’ educational (and frequently also later professional) success. Needless to say, this applies to all educational levels and settings, with the linguistic functioning of learners and teachers invariably occurring in the foreground of their work and studies. The process is, naturally, socially- and culturally-conditioned, which in ERL Journal is consistently reflected through its authorship cutting well across country and continent borders.
It is due to the fact that this key position of language across the educational board remains underrated that this volume continues ERL Journal’s sequence – after we have focused on the concepts of experiencing of language in Volume 1 and enhancing multiculturalism in Volume 2 – with the notion of language identity. This volume’s eponymous concept has recently given rise to the ERL ONLINE SESSIONS held by ERL Association, with the first event of this type being organized in the wake of COVID pandemic, during which learners’ and teachers’ identities have been put to a kind of test they had never undergone before. The first session thus concentrated on ‘learner and teacher language identities’, understood wider than ‘language learner identities’ in that whilst the latter (narrower) concept can be paraphrased as ‘the identity of language learners’ and relates to how students situate themselves in the world as language learners only, the former one encompasses entire education (and life altogether) and pertains to how students situate themselves in the world on the level of language, not necessarily with reference to (L1 and/or L2) language education only.
The volume addresses LEARNER AND TEACHER LANGUAGE IDENTITY on several levels, that is on the strata on individuals’ awareness, official documents, educational texts, and didactic practices. In each of these four dimensions the facet of learners’ and teachers’ language identity can be argued to be systematically taken for granted and thus substantially – and detrimentally to all educational stakeholders – essentially neglected. With 9 papers scattered across the four levels named, Volume 3 constitutes an appeal for placing ‘learner and teacher language identity’ in the centre of educational discourse. Its message chimes in with a joint publication issued recently under the ERL Framework under the title ‘In the Search for A Language Pedagogical Paradigm’, “aimed at cohesion and coherence across multiple approaches to how language is and should be implemented into education” (ibidem: 9), in which the concept of same understood language identity of teachers and learners plays a major role. The volume closes with a review of another ERL-oriented publication concerning the ‘educational role of (four) language skills’ across education, followed by a brief report on the aforementioned ERL online Session. We hope that the readers of Volume 3 will share our belief that the notion of ‘learner and teacher language identity’ opens lots of spaces worth exploring.
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