The Linguist

The Linguist 59,4 - Aug/Sept 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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22 The Linguist Vol/59 No/4 2020 FEATURES Maria Luisa Perez Cavana considers whether teachers take on fictitious identities at work M any teachers would agree that teaching involves a sort of mise en scène: teachers have to project their voice, as actors do; they have to keep the interest of the pupils, tell a story, maybe change their face to appear stricter and so on. While this experience might be considered by many teachers as a classroom management strategy with no further consequences, for language teachers it seems to be closely related with their identity, or rather with their (multiple) identities. Teaching a language presents specific challenges to teachers. This ranges from the physical, required by pronunciation for example, to the emotional, relating to their feelings around the language or culture, or their response to students' expectations about their language competence. So being a language teacher is grounded in being able to 'personify' (enact and embody) a language that often is not the mother tongue. In this context, one of the possible questions that arises is: How does this embodiment of different languages coexist in language teachers? I was intrigued to find out from language teachers themselves how they experienced their own involvement with the language they teach. I wanted to shed some light on the following questions: What is it like to teach a language that is not your mother tongue? How is your sense of self when teaching a foreign language? How does your 'language teacher' self relate with your 'normal' self? For my study, I carried out in-depth interviews with two British language teachers and used a phenomenological approach to analyse them. Some revealing themes emerged from our conversations. CREATING A FICTITIOUS IDENTITY One topic that defined the context and background of the lived experiences of the teachers was the debate around native speakers versus non-native speakers. The established view is that the native speaker is the norm which language learners – and of course language teachers – should strive to emulate. This view seems to have reached a wide consensus among scholars, language learners and even (non-native) language teachers themselves, although there are more and more critical views regarding it. A TEACHING PERSONA © SHUTTERSTOCK

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