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Aaron Backlin FL 663 Fall 2012 R&R #2 Reynolds-Case, A. (2012).

. Exploring how non-native teachers can use commonalities with students to teach the target language. Hispania, 95(3), 523-537. This timely article seeks to further demonstrate the effect of an instructors status as native or non-native on the learning of students. To this point, some research had been done, but largely on ESL teachers and students, pointing to the idea that shared background and struggle as learners helped non-native English speakers that had learned to speak English to teach other nonnative English speakers to speak English. Reynolds-Case seeks to apply that same concept to L2 learning and has published here a study that aims to do just that. This qualitative study was undertaken in six collegiate-level intermediate Spanish courses, three of which were instructed by non-native speakers with a variety of academic pedigrees and time in the classroom, and three of which were instructed by native speakers of Spanish. Of the native speakers, one instructor was from Mexico, another from Spain, and the third from Nicaragua. The classes ranged in size from 20 to 25 students, all of whom were nonnative speakers of Spanish. Care was taken to collect sample dialogue that was not a product of Labovs Observer Effect with a specific eye to instructor empathy, identification, and anticipation of difficulties. In the introduction, the author notes an important and oft-overlooked reality; namely that There are many aspects involved in teaching a foreign language, including a teachers ability to relate to students... (Reynolds-Case, 2012, p.523) This relational ability, though understood and advocated by most if not all professional educators, is still something that is difficult to quantify

and/or prescribe, and is thus often left out of most pedagogical works and training. This study, then, seeks to underscore the importance of this important pedagogical tool. Reynolds-Case describes in the introduction how many native-speaking instructors will tend to ...fail to connect with students, but rather distance themselves from students through the use of personal pronouns that imply differences between the students and the instructor. (Reynolds-Case, 2012, p.524) She further notes that native-speaking instructors ... were unable to offer a personal account of how the acquired the target language, given that it was their native language. (Reynolds-Case, 2012, p.524) The author proceeds to define her terms regarding what constitutes a native or non-native speaker and provides a brief review of the literature already in existence on the subject. Most of this extant literature, as noted above, pertains to ESL, ELL, or TESOL programs. The author notes the relative dearth of research in the area of L2 effectiveness of native (NS) and non-native (NNS) speakers. She then proceeds to describe methodology and provide results. Reynolds-Case spent a good deal of time noting the usage of (and inferring selfidentification from) the personal pronouns used in the samples obtained during the observation of the six classes. She gives several examples of NNS instructors using the pronoun we in explanations of grammatical features to identify themselves with L2 learners and pronouns such as they to refer to Spanish speakers. NS instructors, on the other hand, identified students as you and to Spanish speakers as we. While the author notes that this is only to be expected by someone instructing others in his or her native tongue, the practice of identifying ones self as other in the eyes of the students could serve to establish an affective filter that serves as a barrier to student learning. Reynolds-Case further describes the ability for instructors of both NS and NNS stock to anticipate student errors or difficulties. While these results were mixed (they

also depend on other variables such as teacher effectiveness or time spent in instruction), there seemed to be a better ability in this arena within the NNS ranks. The author closes the article with discussion, again noting that the instructors ability to relate to the how of the students learning serves a greater purpose, though that purpose is often ignored in pedagogical and professional literature. The author postulates that the fact that a NNS instructor also once learned the language as L2, this experience better suits students who are duplicating the experience. This idea seems to buck the trend in public schools, where increasingly more NS instructors are being hired, their own language function being seen as desirable in an instructor. Therefore, this article is of very strong interest to many L2 instructors in the nations high schools who, like me, are not native speakers of our target language. As the author notes, there will certainly be discernable differences in our own language proficiencies when compared to native speakers. This may include general linguistic awareness, grammatical acuity, or even a noticeable foreign accent, which one study cited in this article estimated to effect 60% of the NNS instructors in the nation. I have experienced in my own time as an L2 instructor times of very strong doubt in my abilities and knowledge. Having spoken to many colleagues on the subject, this seems to be a very common part of being a NNS L2 instructor in the modern language-learning environment. With more and more emphasis being placed on an end goal of student fluency (I will not discuss here whether that expectation has any basis in the reality of todays classroom), many districts are seeking to employ only native speakers to staff their L2 classrooms. This article may serve as the proverbial shot in the arm to many NNS instructors, as well as an eye-opener to school administration and board members. Sometimes our greatest strengths emerge from our greatest

weaknesses. From experience as a continuing learner of Spanish, it is refreshing to read something that affirms the struggles Ive had and highlights something that Ive felt to be the case for some time, but havent been quite able to articulate.

References: Reynolds-Case, A. (2012). Exploring how non-native teachers can use commonalities with students to teach the target language. Hispania, 95(3), 523-537.