Editors of the Month: James Simpson and Anne Whiteside

Routledge English Language and Linguistics is proud to present James Simpson of the University of Leeds and Anne Whiteside of San Francisco State University as our Editors of the Month! They are co-editors of the innovative Adult Language Education and Migration, published earlier this year. 

The editors spoke with us about how Adult Language Education and Migration came together, what prompted its creation, key takeaways, and what makes this project unique. 

What prompted you to write Adult Language Education and Migration: Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice?

James: I have been researching adult ESOL in the UK since 2003. My concern was originally with pedagogy: in an earlier life I‘d was a teacher of ESOL - English for Speakers of Other Languages, adult migrants who are new arrivals in English-dominant countries. In time I developed an interest in the political and social dimensions of language learning in migration contexts, and in language and migration generally. My first efforts to bring these strands of interest together was in a book with Melanie Cooke that stemmed from our early research into ESOL in Yorkshire and London (ESOL: A Critical Guide, OUP, 2008). It was clear to me then that this was a fruitful and useful area of study. At the same time I began to be aware that the same issues experienced by adult migrants faced with learning English in the UK - for example the tightening of the relationship between language learning, immigration and the processes of naturalisation and citizenship - were also felt by new arrivals in other countries. I began turning the idea of a survey volume around in my mind. 

Anne: I began my teaching career working with migrant farmworkers in Salinas, California; for many years I taught adults with little or no formal schooling at a Community College. When I started teaching at the University level, I felt frustrated by how poorly these populations were represented in Second Language Acquisition theory and research, and by the disproportionate interest in academic learners, who were often in the minority in these immigrant language classes. My doctoral research on the extraordinarily multilingual experiences of immigrant restaurant workers led to two articles, written with Claire Kramsch, on the inadequacy of Second Language Acquisition models in multilingual contexts. For a 2009 Fulbright project, I worked with a team of Mexican teachers developing the first test of Yucatec Maya competency for the bilingual school system. That work taught me the critical importance for multilingual and post-colonial contexts of having access to language education models other than the standard Eurocentric one. More recently, working in Ireland, France and Algeria, I found teachers thirsty for international perspectives on migration and language learning. But I didn’t have a book in mind until I met James.

How did you both come together on this project?

James: We can identify the day. We were invited by Ben Rampton to lead a seminar at King's College London, back in November 2011, on policy and practice in English language education in the UK and the US, and found that our experiences intersected at many points. In our joint paper based on that seminar I wrote about the UK and Anne wrote a response based on her US experience. A productive partnership was born! I had recently finished work as editor of The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (2011), and as I say, was already thinking about another book about ESOL around the world. I proposed to Anne that she might like to co-edit it with me. To my delight she agreed. 

Anne: James had already conceived of the broad contours of the book, including the idea of policy and practice chapter pairings, which I thought was inspired, and had done a lot of the heavy lifting, particularly on the European context, which made the proposition very tempting. I had so enjoyed our Skype/email-based working methods – James is the best of collaborators. Fortunately I had no idea how much work it would entail!

Why did you select these nine countries in particular to focus on?

James: I had originally thought about restricting the scope to the English-dominant world- that is, ESOL in the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Anne's first major contribution was to suggest encompassing other countries which, although not necessarily English dominant, were probably having parallel and relate-able experiences.

Anne: We were also hoping to avoid focusing exclusively on countries in the developed West, and cast a wide net in our call for papers. Proposals came in from Egypt, Nigeria, Brazil and China, and we were enthusiastic about the contrasts these contexts would provide. But for reasons of length, for overall coherence, and to avoid an encyclopedia-sized volume, we limited ourselves to the nine countries we cover.

James: Also, an organising principle of the book, which we still regard as a major strength, was to develop chapters in pairs. That is, each country represented in the book would have two complementary chapters, one focusing on a critical examination of policy on adult migrant language education and one on an aspect of practice, preferably also with a critical or participatory flavour. Difficult editorial decisions lay behind the final choice of countries: these were based on our insistence that we had to have two good chapters from each country. Also, 18 chapters, plus a substantial introduction, as well as a brilliant afterword by Marilyn Martin-Jones, was already rather a lot for our long-suffering editors at Routledge.

What is the key take-away from this book?

James: That the sometimes damaging and negligent policy approaches to language education for new arrivals are at odds with the realities of multilingualism on the ground, and that this disjuncture is a common experience around the world. This is one of the challenging agendas of the book’s subtitle, and indeed is one of the agendas which must be challenged. At some point governments are going to have to take notice of this and cater for it. As yet, though, they tend not to. Bilingual and multilingual education programmes for adult migrants are few and far between, for example, as are the kinds of critical and participatory practices espoused by the authors of many of the ‘practice’ chapters in our book. Hopefully the word will spread!

Anne: The book also highlights the diverse the needs of these adults, who include those needing job training, stay-at-home mothers, academic learners, those coming to formal schooling for the first time, transnational sojourners and immigrants of all ages and economic and social classes.

What makes Adult Language Education and Migration different from other books on the market that cover the same subject area? 

James: We don't think there are any other books quite like ours. We have gathered together chapters on policy and practice in adult migrant language education by talented authors from Australia, Canada, Catalonia, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, the UK and the US to take a critical and quizzical stance on an overlooked area of applied linguistics. We await though with interest a collection on language education and migration in other parts of the world, outside the developed West. Such a book is long over-due, and would make a very good companion volume to our own work. 

Find out more about Adult Language Education and Migrationlook inside, and request a complimentary e-Inspection copy

Featured Books

  • Adult Language Education and Migration

    Challenging agendas in policy and practice

    Edited by James Simpson, Anne Whiteside

    Adult Language Education and Migration: Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice provides a lively and critical examination of policy and practice in language education for adult migrants around the world, showing how opportunities for learning the language of a new country both shape and are…

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  • The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics

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