ELTs in Cultural Sociology

My interest in sojourning ELTs is a multi-disciplinary interest. It seems obvious that the fields of TESOL and applied linguistics are at the center of this interest. Broadly speaking, TESOL (or TEFL) focuses the practices of ELTs and applied linguistics focuses on the knowledge of ELTs. Of course, most TESOL and applied linguistics programs focus on a mix of these areas. However, I find that these areas do not help provide me with theoretical frameworks when studying adjustment processes and the culture learning of ELTs. For these, I need to look into the fields of psychology and sociocultural anthropology, the latter of which was my cognate area in my doctoral studies. Recently, I have been revisiting cultural sociology. More specifically, I have started reading Routledge International’s Handbook of Cultural Sociology, edited by John R. Hall, Laura Grindstaff, and Ming-Cheng Lo (2010).


The introduction is helping me develop a new perspective on ELT research, specifically one paragraph on page 5.

Most basically, a cultural sociology ought to be grounded in the analysis of everyday social life. As Georg Simmel recognized a century ago–and Charles Tilley (1984) reminded us more recently–“society” is not a thing. Instead, the social consists of networked relationships that develop through face-to-face and mediated interactions. All people live in the lifeworld–or, more accurately, in lifeworlds (plural)–where we enact our lives socially, episodically, in relation to other people.

As a novice in this field, these statements seems quite obvious but the framing helps me look at ELTs in a new light. I believe that ELTs, specifically those who teach far from home, enact their lives differently than most other people. The authors of this introduction, indicate this point has two implications.

First, whatever the ways in which culture exists outside lifeworlds (an important topic in itself), culture that has any specifically sociological bearing would have to come into play within lifeworlds, that is where “society happens.”

How does culture exist outside lifeworlds? Perhaps this is the inner working of ELTs’ minds. This helped me to revisit the concept of “imagined communities,” in which we assume that everyone in our community shares similar values and beliefs. They are imagined because they are not true. So here’s what I believe are the shared values and beliefs of the ELT community, specifically the sojourning ELT community:

  • We believe that immersing ourselves in another culture improves our understanding of humanity
  • We have a strong commitment to improving communication and relations between peoples of different cultures and backgrounds
  • Our strong interest in languages drives our interest in cultures, or (vice-versa) our strong interest in cultures drives our interest in languages
  • Although financial security is important, satisfying our linguistic and/or cultural curiosity is often more important; hence, we are lifelong learners

For some of us, these values and beliefs may only represent a phase of our lives. But for others, they may be the driving force of our lives. Additionally, perhaps it is just one culture that we seek to understand and integrate into, such as the case for some sojourning ELTs. As I’m spending more time in my own country now, I see ELTs here with an equal commitment to a diverse group of cultures.

Second, given the diversity of social phenomena that manifest in lifeworlds (work, leisure activities, bureaucracy, religion, markets, war, social movements, and so on), Simmel’s (and our) concept of the social warrants the shift we have already described, to a cultural sociology concerned with all venues, processes, and meaningful activities in social life.

This last statement illustrates why I believe ELTs deserve more focus in the field of cultural sociology. We are one of the unique areas where we observe social change immediately in our classrooms. Let’s take the recent election of Donald Trump as an example and apply it to the social phenomena listed in the above quote:

  • Work – Our work depends on students’ interest in learning English and the society’s needs for more English language speakers. With a sudden increase in hostility towards immigrants, perhaps many students are not interested in coming to the United States for their (English language) education.
  • Leisure activities – Many ELTs love to travel. With new travel restrictions emerging as actions and reactions to Trump’s policies, travel may become less appealing.
  • Bureaucracy – Visa rules and regulations as well as education systems in many countries. Keeping up with the requirements for both can sometimes overwhelm ELTs.
  • Religion – Muslim ELTs and ELTs of Muslim students are the most obviously affected by recent events
  • Markets – The trend towards privatizing public schools and the ease of teaching and learning English through technology is making the market more competitive. Job security is shrinking, but learning opportunities are expanding. At this point, it’s also hard to determine if the growing supply of ELTs is faster than the growing need of English language skills.
  • War – Compassion for refugees is diminishing in governments that used to provide English language education as part of their services. War also increases mobility of some ELTs while decreasing mobility of others.
  • Social movements – The ELT field is becoming more politicized to defend our beliefs and values as professionals and to advocate for our students

This is what I got out of one paragraph of this 690 page book. At this rate, I may retire before I finish the book.

Practical Applications

So what? The field of TESOL is only marginally interested in this area of study. Knowing teachers doesn’t necessarily improve pedagogy. It also doesn’t add much to the discourse of applied linguistics. Because this is about teachers, I’m sure some teachers are interested, but what about students and administrators?

Since I’m only on page 5 of the handbook, I’ll look into seeing if the fields associated with cultural sociology will benefit from study. As I stated above, I believe ELTs are worthwhile because we are at the crossroads of global social phenomena.

Transnational English Language Teachers?

Up until this posting, the subtitle for this blog has been “Global Citizens, Migrant Workers, Transnationals.” I included the word “transnationals” because it was a buzzword that appealed to me at the time, but what does it actually mean?

I have found that “transnational” is most often used to describe organizations or corporations rather than people, but I’ve been finding the term more in the social science and humanities. I’m currently reading through a fascinating overview of the term being used in the study of history in the book below.


However it does not give me a clear definition of the term, especially to describe people. The purpose of the book is to give example of how “transnational” is used to describe history and studies of history.

So far, the best I could find is from the book Transnational Competence: Empowering Professional Curricula for Horizon-Rising Challenges, which presents the model of transnational competence to higher education institutions as a model for 21st century learning. (Some of us ELTs are quite aware of how “21st century learning” is used to promote certain types of agendas and/or technology in our schools.) Here’s how the book attempts to define transnational in its second chapter:

Transnational phenomena and dynamics “cross, alter, transcend, and even transform borders and boundaries”

“Transnational” directs attention to activities that traverse and interlink levels (urban, rural, national, regional) at the same time that it recognizes the permeable status of physical borders and intangible boundaries that have not disappeared.

“Transnational” also galvanizes change and transforms curricular visions by explicitly integrating and building on the efforts and advances contributed by advocates of internationalizing higher education and of multicultural education.

“Transnational” captures the diversity and multiplicity of contemporary domestic-foreign boundary exchanges without requiring global reach.

Koehn & Rosenau (2010), pp. 5-6

None of these describe people, but the first sentence indicates that it describes phenomena and dynamics. So if ELTs cannot be transnational, then how about our profession? This book suggests that all higher education learning outcomes should be transnational because we will be living transnational lives in the near future if not now.

English in Transnational History

The previous section points out that English language teaching is an act of transnational education as ELTs are preparing students to “cross, alter, transcend, and even transform borders and boundaries.” But the book that failed to provide a definition of “transnational,” provides an example of the role of English in transnational history.

What would cultural globalization do to indigenous cultural traditions?

…globalization has seemed to promote, and to be promoted by, the near universal use of English as the language of communication. It has become the language not only of diplomatic negotiations and transnational business transactions but also of cultural activities.

Above all, English has become the chief medium of scholarly production and communication. Academic conferences of scientists as well as humanities scholars, regardless of where they are held, are usually conducted in English. Universities are ranked by the number of English-speaking publications by their faculty and courses are frequently taught in countries such as China, Korea, and Turkey in English–even by instructors whose native language is something else.

Iriye (2013), p.49

Through this point of view, these are major reasons for our students to learn English. Higher education or English for Academic Purposes is means to these ends, so could we propose English for Transnational Purposes?

A Transcultural Historical Perspective on English Language Teaching

In the last chapter of the book, Iriye writes that he expects non-national identities and groups will continue to attract the attention of historians. He provides youth groups and “the transnational coming together of individuals and groups of people pursuing their shared avocations, be they scholarship, music, and other cultural activities, sport, or traveling” as examples of these non-national groups (p.73). I believe English language learners and teachers fit into this category as many of us are at the epicenter of scholarship and cultural activities.

Furthermore, Iriye is also interested in the most obvious aspect of our profession, traveling across borders to either teach English language learners abroad to learn English in an immersive experience abroad. This transnational phenomenon has been rapidly increasing since the 1990s, however he hasn’t seen many studies in this area:

…few scholars seem to have examined this quintessentially transnational phenomenon in historical perspective. Students of global history would be particularly interested in this topic inasmuch as an increasing number of cross-border travelers began to originate in non-Western parts of the world such as the Middle-East and East Asia in the last decades of the twentieth century. What such transnational experiences do to individual tourists’ view of themselves, of others, and of the world is a fascinating to explore, the more so since the tourism industry in all countries has assumed a position of great significance in their economic affairs. Economic globalization in a sense goes together with social globalization.

Iriye (2013), p.75

I believe we can extend this to the education industry, which is becoming more internationalized in many countries all over the world. A certain degree of English language education still acts as a key to enter the broader world of higher education at the international level.

Teaching English for Transnational Purposes

Now let’s turn from taking an outward look at our profession and toward an inward look at our profession. How can we integrated transnationalism into our curriculum? Our profession has a myriad of purposes and approaches to teaching and learning the English language. I assume there is room for one more, here is my proposal with a model to work from, the transnational competence model from Koehn & Rosenau (2010).

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 3.26.58 PM.png

How could we adopt this model to English language teaching practices? I don’t think it would be too hard to demonstrate how one’s current EAP curriculum already is an ETP curriculum. Perhaps it would be better to contextualize this question in classrooms that provide opportunities for English language learners to interact with the community.

Perhaps I bit off more than I can chew with this last question, but I think English language teachers and programs should reflect on how they can contribute to the needs, if any, for transnational competence. I am unsure of how many universities are transforming their mission statements to develop this type of competence, but I am more sure that many English language teachers have the skills to help universities and other schools reach these goals.

So, back to the title question, “Are English language teachers transnational?” No, but are teaching objectives can be and the lifestyles for many of us are. To secure our way of life in the future, if the future continues to be both more globalized and more localized, I argue that we should market ourselves as leaders or models in transnational competence.


Iriye, A. (2013). Global and Transnational History: The Past, Present, and Future. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Koehn, P.H. & Rosenau, J.N. (2010). Transnational Competence: Empowering Professional Curricula for Horizon-Rising Challenges. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Who’s Still Blogging?


Every January I go through my list of sojourning ELTs who blog or bloggers who teach English abroad. I started this list in 2010 as part of my doctoral dissertation research project. You can view a part of it in the tab above, Active Bloggers. On that page, I divide the active bloggers into three subgroups: well-established blogs, current and relevant blogs, and other topics. Today I revisited the blogs of the first two subgroups.

Well-Established & Still Blogging

Four of the six sojourning ELTs with well-established blogs are still blogging.

Busan Kevin is still blogging and moved his Just Japan podcast materials to a different site. The last time I explored, his Just Japan podcast dominated the site and I couldn’t tell how frequently he was still blogging.

Michael Griffin’s ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections blog is still going strong. It’s one of my favorites because we have similar views on the ELT profession and experience teaching in Korea.

English Teacher X is still raunchy.

Baye McNeil’s Loco in Yokohama is also still doing very well. I’m also a fan of this blog because of Baye’s engaging writing style and he’s not afraid of addressing issues of race in an informed and respectful manner. Many ELTs get tripped up when addressing race and ethnicity in a country they are not from, but not Baye for the most part.

Current, Relevant, & Still Blogging

Fifteen of the twenty-eight blogs that I considered current and relevant last year are still current, relevant, and active this year. Because there’s a higher number of those, I will just list them below.

  1. Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.
  2. Christina Sky Box
  3. Reflections of a Teacher and Learner – now in Bahrain
  4. Don’s ESL Adventure!
  5. EFL Notes – less active now, now contributing to ELT Research Bites
  6. Japanese Rule of 7
  7. JimmyESL – functions more like a website now
  8. Evidence Based EFL
  9. Nashboroguy3
  10. Sandy Millin
  11. sendaiben
  12. Shea in Japan
  13. The Japan Guy – functions more like a website now
  14. The Teacher James – less active now
  15. Throwing Back Tokens – less active now

What makes these not well-established? I’m asking myself the same question. My criteria is outdated because I have less time exploring how well connected the bloggers were to the sojourning ELT community. If appearances were the determining factor, a few of these blogs seem more well-established than the well-established blogs. I may merge these two subgroups into one category.

Who Stopped Blogging?

Of the two well-established blogs, one of them stopped because she left Korea. I’m unsure if she’s continuing to teach English or not. The others, Evan and Rachel, stopped blogging and now communicate with their audience through Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. They also left Korea and are now Peace Corps volunteers in Indonesia.

This brings me to the rest of my list of sojourning ELT bloggers. On my Active Bloggers pages, I have one more subgroup, Other Topics. Additionally, I have two more categories: inactive blogs and abandoned/expired blogs.

  • Other topics blog – the blogger used to blog about teaching English in their host country but now writes about travel, another hobby of theirs, or tips to live and/or work in the host country
  • Inactive blog – the blogger hasn’t published a new post for 6-12 months and hasn’t signaled that he or she is leaving the country, leaving the profession, or ending the blog
  • Abandoned blog – the same as inactive but the blogger hasn’t published a new post for over a year. Or the blogger announces that they are leaving the country or ending the blog but they leave the blog up on the web. This is the case for Smiling Seoul. Once in a while some bloggers will return to their abandoned blog.
  • Expired blog – the URL doesn’t work, the server is down for an extended period of time, and/or the blogger shut it down or deleted it

From blog to website

Evan and Rachel‘s blog is an example of a growing trend of blogs changing their format to function more like websites. A couple other bloggers in the current & relevant subgroup did the same: JimmyESL and The Japan Guy. The Japan Guy’s site moved away from the blog format over a year ago, but it wasn’t a trend yet. Both JimmyESL and The Japan Guy’s site now function like many of the other topics blogs, so I will likely place them there.

Other topics

There were three other blogs that used to be current and relevant that also fit into the category of other topics for other reasons.

  1. Gordsellar.com – writes about his hobbies and fiction writing
  2. Kanadajin3 – writes about living in Japan but not about ELT as she left the profession
  3. Lonna Lisa Williams – has left China and is now back in the United States, not teaching at the moment

Relevant but not current (inactive)

  1. Kimmy on a Quest – last posted in May 2016
  2. The Lives of Teachers – last posted in February 2016 (a very good blog)
  3. Roboseyo – last posted in August 2016 (16 years of blogging!)
  4. TEFL Reflections – last posted in September 2016

Abandoned blogs (ended in 2015)

  1. Search for Dead Memory
  2. The Fellow in Lombok
  3. Warmoth_Strat

Expired blogs

  1. A Geek in Korea – the server is down today but it could come back up. I know he’s still active because I follow him on Twitter.
  2. Teach Them English – the server is down today but it could come back up
  3. Waegook Tom – blank page

Life Happens

Why do people stop blogging? As one of my dissertation committee members said flatly, “Life happens.” I understand most of the reasons to stop blogging. I wasn’t able to blog much since October 2016 because my life got filled up with other responsibilities.

I’m more interested in why ELTs leave their host country, but I’m even more interested in why ELTs leave the profession. My belief is that the strength of our profession is measured in the demand for our work and the well-being of teachers. My concern is that many good teachers leave because of undesirable working conditions abroad and at home. When good teachers leave, the profession is left with mediocre and poor teachers, and that is detrimental to the students. Where do the good teachers go? I am noticing that very few go on to be successful bloggers and writers. I myself am heading down the researcher/administrator path, but I still have opportunities to teach.

New Bloggers

After this stage of catching up on sojourning ELT bloggers, I go look for more. I was able to find more new bloggers in 2016 than 2015 and 2014. I hope to report on the new bloggers I find plus inactive and abandoned blogs that have come back to life. Let me know if I missed any well-established or active blogs about teaching English abroad. Maybe you’re one of them?

2016 JALT Presentation & Learning


Culture Learning

On Monday, November 28th, I gave a presentation summarizing my doctoral dissertation. You can view the full Prezi here. It’s basically the same Prezi I used during my dissertation defense with a few modifications, the biggest one being the change of title to Culture Learning of Sojourning ELTs from the Adjustment Process of Sojourning ELTs in order to better frame it in terms of professional development instead of psychological adjustment.

It was over five years since my last visit to Japan, when I taught at the International University of Japan’s summer intensive English program. Many of the faculty there were generous enough to allow me to present an early draft of my dissertation proposal, and I was happy to receive feedback from people similar to the participants in my study during both times. The best advice I received during my JALT presentation was to seek out dispatching companies, such as Interac, for future participants and possible collaboration. Those companies may share a similar interest in the culture learning of their clients.

Professional Learning

Although giving my presentation in Japan was rewarding, I found the spontaneous discussion that developed around an absent presenter’s topic very insightful. The day before, I was looking forward to attending Daniel Parsons’ presentation on “Migrant Teachers in Japan,” a topic very similar to mine. In his description, he posed the question, “What does it mean to be a foreigner, professional educator, and settled in Japan?” He used post-structuralist theory from Julia Kristeva to ask new questions about cosmopolitan, migrant, and transnational professional identities. I’m not familiar with Kristeva’s work, so I will check that out soon.

Daniel had a larger turnout than my presentation, and our audience seized the opportunity to hold an impromptu discussion based on his presentation’s discussion. I co-lead the discussion because of my background on the topic, and I found it completely rewarding and wished I could have recorded it with everyone’s permission. I did not record it, but I want to share what I learned based on my jet-lagged memory:

  • “When are you going back home?” was a common question that many of the participants heard when many of them did not plan on going “back home” any time soon. I completely forgot about this phenomenon until this discussion. It reminded me of when I returned to Japan in 2011 and my ex-landlord was surprised that I was still teaching English. Can you make a career out of that?
  • We wondered why the term “migrant” was chosen. I told them I decided against using the term migrant because it was closely linked to economics and that the word suggests that migrants work abroad because they cannot find work (that pays enough) in their home country.
  • I learned that many of the participants represented many at the conference in that they wouldn’t fit my classification as “sojourners” because they did not intend on returning to their home country any time soon.  Before this conference, I had assumed there were only a few ELTs in Japan with 15+ years there. I felt mildly judged when they learned that I “traveled the world” teaching English. I was more intrigued than hurt by this feeling as it raises an invisible barrier between types of teachers.
  • We briefly discussed being marginalized as “migrant” teachers, but I could sense that this was a sensitive issue that only a couple participants wanted to discuss more deeply. I agree that it borders on complaining, which can lead to negative unprofessional talk. I felt equipped with the skills to keep the talk professional, but I could not convey this to them.

I wonder if anyone left the room feeling as good as I did. I’m afraid the discussion may have made some of them feel worse, but uncertainty is the nature of our field.

Participant-Driven Learning

I also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet many of the ELTs that I have been following on social media, primarily Twitter. I especially enjoyed attending the presentations by Anna Loseva and Michael Griffin. I didn’t get a chance to tell them this but I believe their efforts towards participant-driven learning online and through social media have probably made them better, more confident presenters at traditional professional development conferences like JALT. I also learn a lot more from them online than in one of their presentations. Is that just me?

I would like to explore more on how we can help transform conferences like JALT and TESOL to bridge the gap between sage-on-the-stage and participant-driven learning. Both are valuable and do not have to be mutually exclusive. Now that I am back in the United States, it’s mostly the English language teachers in Japan (and other countries) who use social media that I continue to learn from.

What’s Next?

My presentation at JALT represented the end of this part of my career, talking about my dissertation research findings. I am now ready to move beyond my dissertation to the next stages of my research agenda, hints of which are given in previous posts. After earning my PhD two years ago, I have a better idea of what directions I can go towards and what directions to avoid. My experience at JALT put a great punctuation mark on this realization, and I’m looking forward to the next stages of my career in research.

YouTube Comments for Sojourning ELTs, Part 2

I finally read through and analyzed all of the comments on kanadajin3’s video above. As I stated in my previous post, her video had 1,408 comments as of August 20, 2016 whereas the video with the second highest number of comments was Regan the Vegan’s with 215 comments. I wanted to see to what extent the types of comments in kanadajin3’s video differed from the other 3 videos.

How did the comments compare?

The most common type of comment was questions: 33% for Regan, 30% for Shea Roberts, and 52% for Gina Bear. Shea also received a very high proportion of compliments (29%) compared to Regan (17%) and Gina (14%). All three of these videos were upbeat with comments about their positive perspectives. Most of the questions for these three videos were about visa requirements for people wanting to work in Japan, part-time in Regan’s case.

For kanadajin3’s video, just a bit over 25% of the comments were questions, a lower proportion than the other three.But for a video with 617 direct comments, that’s 158 questions. 23 of those questions were about visa requirements, 9 about language requirements, and 3 about education requirements to work (mostly as ELTs) in Japan. Additionally, 33 questions were about the types of jobs (mostly not ELT jobs) available to foreigners in Japan.

The proportion of complimentary comments were similar to Regan’s and Gina’s at about 15%. The majority (22) of these compliments were general or non-specific, such as “I love this video.” For specific compliments, 20 found her video funny or hilarious, 15 provided compliments on her physical appearance, and another 15 provided compliments on the video’s content, such as it being “the truth.”

Although kanadajin3’s video comments did not differ from the others in terms of the most common types of comments, she had a few other categories that had slightly fewer comments than compliments. Just under 15% of the comments were categorized as additional statements (87 comments), concerns (90 comments), and comments (92) of YouTubers relating their experiences to her video and situation. With the exception of Gina Bear’s comments categorized as additional statements (16%), kanadajin3’s video had a higher proportion of these categories, and thus a greater variation in types of comments. It is in these next three categories that the negative tone of kanadajin3’s video affects the type of comments.

Additional Statements

The majority (23%) of additional statements were YouTubers providing their two cents about pedagogy. Some were genuinely trying to help or explain kanadajin3’s struggles with teaching English, such as being patient with teaching kids and accepting that repetition is a necessary requirement for teachers and learners of language. Other YouTubers were adding information to demonstrate that her experiences are not unique and that her issues are commonplace in other teaching contexts.

The next subcategory (16%) were YouTubers explaining English language teaching contexts through their experiences and observations. A smaller subset (4%) of YouTubers provided additional information regarding their experiences as assistant language teachers in Japan. A larger subset (10%) provided additional information about why offering private English lessons in Japan can be dangerous.


The sentiment about dangerous private English lessons carry over into this category with 9% of this subset of YouTubers sharing their concerns about kanadajin3’s safety and the safety of other ELTs. Unfortunately for kanadajin3, the largest majority of concerns (21%) were about her attitude towards the English language teaching profession and her students, but this should not be surprising given the title of her video.

More sympathetic concerns (18%) were about her cold, apparently made evident in a video she made prior to this one. At least 16 YouTubers expressed their happiness to see that she had recovered. On the flip side of sympathy, 11% of concerns were about her language skills, with YouTubers pointing out the grammar mistakes she made on the video. And 9% of concerns were about her teaching skills, echoing the concern about her attitude. YouTubers here made the assumption that her negative attitude made her a bad teacher.

Relating Experiences

Many comments were of YouTubers relating to kanadajin3’s experience, especially English language teaching experience (28% of the subset). Many of these relating experiences are other (former) ELTs in Japan whereas others were positive reactions to her experiences, in which they found her descriptions of teaching English in Japan “fun” or “awesome” regardless of the video’s title.

9% of the subset compared her ELT experience to their language teaching experiences in other countries (such as Brazil and Mexico) or periods of time in Japan. Another 9% found her descriptions of Japanese culture similar to theirs or their friends’ descriptions. As suggested by the title of her video, most of these were negative descriptions.

Wait…There’s More!

While writing this blog post, I’m realizing that I could probably write a 10-20 page paper on the 617 comments of just this one YouTube video, and there are hundreds if not thousands of videos on teaching English in Japan.

One of my favorite subcategories, which is found in the categories of concern and relating experiences is a theme which I coded as “difficult.” This is where the YouTubers either come to the conclusion or use her video as evidence that teaching is hard. I would like to share screenshots of these comments as well as other comments above, but searching through the 617 comments for them is difficult too.

Actually it’s not that difficult, it’s just tedious. As part of my data collection process, I recorded in reverse chronological order where each comment appeared. Research like this is time-consuming to track, log, code, and describe each comment. It took me about 6 weeks for this one video, and I know there must be a faster way of collecting YouTube comment data. In my next post, I will share specific examples of some of these categories plus more.

Another thing that I did not do was collect and code the responses to some of the comments. In my collection process, I highlighted the comments that received at least one response. I noticed that some responses had at least 10 responses, and a few had more than 30 responses. It would be interesting to also investigate them and analyze the discourse of those responses, some of which may behave more like conversations.

Finally, I’d like to add that as of this posting her video has had 1,430 comments, which is 22 more since I started collecting data 6 weeks ago. I did not include those 22 new comments in this collection process. I wanted my data set to represent the number of comments for each video in mid-August 2016. I realize, however, that kanadajin3 can also delete comments as well, and I believe she may have deleted at least one that I collected and coded. The YouTuber’s control of comments is another interesting aspect of this research process.

Do you think videos like these help the English language teaching profession in general? .Stay tuned for more analyses and discussions on this topic, and let me know if you’d like more. 

YouTube Comments for Sojourning ELTs, Part 1

What sort of comments do YouTubers who are sojourning ELTs get? I’m interested in this question to see if and how YouTube helps the English language teaching profession in general. I’ve noticed that YouTube seems to be used more now than blogs, Twitter, and reddit for sojourning ELTs to communicate to the general public.

I’m just dipping my toe in the vast ocean of YouTube video and comments about teaching English overseas. I decided to start by searching the way I started my career, so I did a YouTube video search for “Teaching English in Japan.”  The top four results are below. If you’re interested in how I collected the data, scroll below.

As of today (August 19, 2016), this video had 215 comments with 118 direct comments. The majority (33%) of his comments were questions, split between questions about English language teaching and personal questions about the vlogger, Regan the Vegan. He also received a large proportion of compliments (17%) about the video content and his personal appearance. Many questions and concerns were about his situation, teaching part-time through a working holiday visa, which is an opportunity for Australians but not Americans.

Shea Roberts’ video had 110 comments with 76 of them commenting directly about the video and not other comments. Like Regan’s video, the majority of his comments were questions (30%) and compliments (29%). Most of his questions were about English language teaching in Japan, such as degree requirements and native speaker and non-native speaker issues. There were more compliments about the quality and content of the video, but he still received a fair share of compliments on his appearance.

kanadajin3’s video received 1,408 comments, which is more than these other videos combined. I decided to postpone analyzing her comments, but I’m interested in the reason for such a high number of comments. The most logical assumption is that her video has been on YouTube longer than the other three, but I’m also wondering if the tone of her title also attracted more comments. I’m interested in exploring the difference between positive and negative videos. The other three videos are more on the positive or objective side, but I haven’t watched her video yet. So maybe her title is a misnomer? Also, because I have been following sojourning ELTs on social media for nearly six years now, I’m familiar with kanadajin through the J-vlogging/Japan YouTubers community.

Gina Bear’s video has been online for the shortest period of time, which may contribute to the lower number in comments, 124 (50 direct comments). However, she had more recent comments than the others. She also seemed to be a lot more interactive with her YouTube followers and/or comments. Many of the 74 comments not directed at the video were her replies. She also received a high proportion of questions (52%), but her proportion of compliments was lower (14%). Unlike the first two videos, Gina Bear had a higher proportion of comments (16%) with people adding more information or their “two cents” as commentary.


Right now, I’m more interested in finding similarities across the videos to see if there are any patterns worth investigating. Like I mentioned earlier, my main interest is to see if and how these videos benefit the English language teaching profession. I was happy to see many comments with questions, concerns, or additional information regarding ELT. Many of these were country-specific. Many questions and concerns were about the qualifications to become an ELT, specifically about visa, language, and education requirements. Although pedagogy was mentioned, most comments were not about teaching approaches. On the plus side, each video had at least one well-informed and insightful comment about English language teaching.

I’ve only looked at three threads of comments, so I’m interested in finding more patterns as I analyze more. I also need to analyze these comments more in depth. I’m not interested in differences between the comment threads right now because the sample size is so small (3).

The Nitty-Gritty

If you’re easily bored by research data analysis, please skip this section. I’d also like to say that this is preliminary research. This is an exercise to determine if this is something worth my time to investigate. I have two other research projects going on right now, but this one is closest to my research agenda I planned out a few years ago.

Video Selection – Simple. I went to YouTube and searched for “Teaching English in Japan” and selected the top videos to appear. I am quite aware that this search process may change depending on the day and the account. I used my YouTube account that I created for research purposes only, so Google may have used an algorithm to select videos to match my profile/interests/search history.

Comment Data Collection – For each comment thread, I selected the option “newest first” as shown below to collect the data in reverse chronological order.

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I am aware that YouTubers can delete comments, so I know I am not seeing all of them. I interpret this as comments that the YouTubers deem appropriate for their audience. Because of Gina Bear’s high level of interaction, I assume she manages her comment thread very well. I did not record any comments made by trolls. The other two YouTubers had a few troll comments.

Comment Data Coding – I created an Excel spreadsheet to record the following information: the name (YouTube ID) of the commentator, the main purpose of the comment, and a short description of the comment. I only recorded comments directly about the video and not the responses to comments. Those that had responses were highlighted in yellow. See below the example from Regan the Vegan’s video commentary:

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Initial Analysis – This is where I am now, far from being a completed study. You’re looking at it. If you like quantitative data more, here’s what I can give you now. I can explain more when I get more data.



This investigative process has created more questions than answered, so I’m still motivated to continue this investigative process. But I’m also interested in the bigger picture, the field of English language teaching, TEFL, and TESOL.

So who is interested in learning more about how YouTube can help the English language teaching profession in terms of professional and cultural learning? Is there something that you would like me to turn more attention to? Is there something important that I missed in my preliminary data? Do you think this would be useful for other English language teachers, their supervisors, teacher educators, etc.?

In my next post, I will answer your questions and have kanadajin3’s video analyzed perhaps with some others. Stay tuned.

To What Extent is Intercultural Competence Necessary?

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After reviewing some literature on intercultural competence, I’ve been asking myself to what extent is intercultural competence necessary for sojourning English language teachers? The figure above comes from a study by Darla K. Deardorff entitled, “Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence as a Student Outcome of Internationalization” published 10 years ago in the Journal of Studies in International Education. It starts with the premise that the development of interculturally competent students is one meaningful outcome of internationalization. But what about interculturally competent teachers? Do you need them to develop the same type of students? How do you hire or develop interculturally competent teachers?

Do administrators and hiring committees overseas have the same concerns when hiring international faculty for their internationalized university? And this brings me to my question concerning the field of English language education specifically. For the schools that seek “native speakers,” how important is their intercultural competence compared to their linguistic competence or their teaching abilities? Do many assume that most competent English language teachers are also interculturally competent?

I bring up “native speakers” because of the central issues raised by my colleagues at https://teflequityadvocates.com/. It is known that many “native speakers” are hired for their image as a native speaker, which is often Anglo-American-centric and even racist. Because some employers prefer image over teaching ability and experience, do they also disregard or care less about intercultural competence of the “native speaker?”

I assume even the least interculturally competent “native speaker” would develop some competence while living and teaching overseas, but is there any incentive for this type of person to further develop their intercultural competence? If they want to keep their job, they probably need to get to know their students better, so this brings up another question about sojourning ELTs: Does learning about one’s students overseas automatically develop one’s intercultural competence?

My experience as an intercultural communication trainer in my previous job tells me, “No.” This is because teachers can select what they want to learn about their students, which can be very narrow and superficial like what their favorite movies are. Are employers satisfied with their teachers having a superficial understanding of their students? I assume most employers don’t even know what type of understanding their teachers have of their students.

What about “non-native speakers?” If they share the same cultural and/or linguistic background as their students, they may know their students better, but does that make them more interculturally competent. To what extent does speaking and teaching in another language help develop one’s intercultural competence? I’m sure it contributes, but is it the intercultural competence that employers want more than their language and teaching abilities?

Why all these questions?


I am seeking out to know the extent to which employers and/or school administrators value the intercultural competence of their English language teachers. I’m interested to learn if they believe a high degree of intercultural competence is the positive side effect of teaching English to students of other languages and cultures. If I am a supervisor with a teacher that has excellent rapport with their students, do I care how interculturally competent they are? Furthermore, if I have a teacher with terrible rapport, would I invest in training to develop their intercultural competence or would it be easier to fire that teacher?

I strongly believe in culturally responsive teaching and that one’s intercultural competence improves rapport and pedagogy, but that can be difficult to screen for during a hiring process and is more difficult to develop in teachers, already working for you, that resist or don’t believe in the training. Furthermore, intercultural competence is more than establishing and maintaining rapport with the students. Sojourning ELTs work with faculty and staff from many other cultures as well. So finally, from a supervisor’s perspective, what is the difference between intercultural competence and interpersonal skills?

Two Models Situating English Language Teaching Contexts and Cultures

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After submitting a manuscript to the TESOL Quarterly, I received some very helpful feedback regarding various ways to frame or contextualize sojourning English language teachers.  Since I began this research agenda, I have been using Adrian Holliday’s Host Culture Complex, which was published in 1994, as my framework.  However, one of the manuscript reviewers informed me that Sandra Lee McKay offered a somewhat similar framework in her book, Teaching English Overseas: An Introduction, published two years earlier. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a brief overview of McKay’s model and compare it to Holliday’s.

The image above is a figure I created based on McKay’s organization of her book. I thought a visual representation of her model works best when comparing it Holliday’s model.  Since I’m having difficulty embedding a working Prezi on a WordPress blog post, I’d like to direct the reader to it here: http://prezi.com/bhdkyspqppog/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

The image above shows the first of two layers of McKay’s contextualization of teaching English overseas.  Within the circle “Larger Context,” you will see a smaller circle with content that is too small to read.  The content of that smaller, inner circle is shown below.

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Figure 2. Educational Context of Teaching English Overseas (McKay, 1992)


For purposes of explaining and comparing it to Holliday’s model, I have provided his model below.

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Figure 3. Host Culture Complex (Holliday, 1994)

Because the perspective of the sojourning English language teacher, especially the newer sojourning English language teacher, was important for my dissertation study, I found Holliday’s appealing because it somewhat centered the classroom culture.  My study looked at culture more than context, although those terms can be used interchangeably even though they refer to very different yet interrelated concepts.

Since Holliday’s model is centered around the classroom culture, I will start looking at the educational context rather than the larger context of McKay’s model.

Educational Context

Institutional Context

The strongest overlap between McKay’s and Holliday’s models is with the (host) institution culture/context.  Holliday’s model shows that the host institution culture almost completely contains the classroom culture and contains most of the student culture. McKay’s model shows that there are different types of institutional contexts. Furthermore, it takes the ELT’s perspective in terms of securing employment. In her book, McKay uses this section as guidelines for ELTs before accepting a position overseas.  They are as follows:

  1. Why does the institution exist? What are its goals and objectives?
  2. Who are the people who make up the institution? Who administrates, staffs, and attends it?
  3. What is taught? What curriculum guidelines and textbooks are used?
  4. How does learning proceed? What methods are used? What schedules are implemented?
  5. Where does the learning take place? What are the facilities like? Where, and in what size community is the institution located? (McKay, 1992, p. 118-119)

In my study and in my personal experience, I have found that many sojourning ELTs do not ask these questions because they are more excited about living overseas. From my experience, if I would have known the answers to these questions, I may have been more intimidated to teach overseas. Naivete helped me become a teacher, just not a good one at first. I am confident enough to say that this was probably true for many new sojourning ELTs in East Asia before the internet made it easier to access all or most of this information.

Language Education Context

This section in McKay’s model is not clearly found in Holliday’s model mainly because it’s not directly related to culture.  Therefore, this is a good example of the difference between cultural learning and professional learning. McKay’s model shows that it’s important for teachers to gain awareness and knowledge of the policies, curriculum, and English language varieties.  Granted, policies are usually strongly linked to cultural norms and values.  To learn about the policies, ELTs need a greater understanding of the national cultures and the professional-academic culture from Holliday’s model.  To learn about the curriculum, ELTs need a greater understanding of professional-academic culture and the host institution culture. To learn about the varieties of English, ELTs need a greater understanding of cultures beyond the national boundaries,  including the international-education related cultures.

Larger Context

Cultural Context

Just like the (host) institution culture/context, the two models overlap a lot here as well, and that’s evident in the name “cultural context.”  The first category is central to my research interest, but has the misleading name of multicultural.  I say misleading because in the United States that refers to racially and ethnically diverse group of students.  McKay is referring to the cultural differences between the sojourning ELT and their students, specifically cultural views about the role of education, teacher behavior, student behavior, and their implications for language teaching.  For me, this is the heart of my research interest.  This is clearly represented in Holliday’s model in the classroom culture, which arises from a synthesis of the host institution culture, the teacher’s culture and the students’ culture.

In terms of ethnography, McKay suggests that the ELT take on the role of ethnographer to better understand the culture or cultures (as represented in Holliday’s model).  In this case, I believe Holliday’s model can be used as an ethnographer’s tool to better learn the various cultures represented in and influencing the classroom culture and students’ cultures.

Finally, McKay raises a point that is not clearly represented in Holliday’s model, culture in materials. The materials can represent the culture of the host country, the teacher’s home country, or various other cultures as the host institution or publisher sees fit.  For new sojourning ELTs, most of the time they do not get a choice of what to use as the main textbooks.  Sojourning ELTs may bring materials that represent their own culture.  In the case of my first EFL teaching experience, we used an old textbook in Japan intended for immigrants in the United States. That textbook contained pop culture references from the 1980s and assumed that most students were from Latin America.

Sociocultural Context & Economic Context

I’m lumping these two together because these do not receive the immediate attention from most new sojourning ELTs and they are less associated with culture. Even though the term “sociocultural” is used for one type of context, it refers more to sociopolitical contexts, such as language planning and social beliefs and attitudes towards one’s nation and one’s national identity.  This clearly is similar to Holliday’s national culture in his model.

Economic context also falls under national culture when referring to the motivation and attitudes of English language learners abroad.  However, it expands beyond national borders when referring to English language spread.  Through my study, most new sojourning ELTs are not completely aware of the relationship between the economic context and their jobs.  Although many are interested in and have broad guesses in learner motivation, it takes a while for new ELTs to get the whole picture.  Getting the whole picture is even more difficult when applying the history of the English language, specifically its spread to teaching English at a specific location overseas.


So that’s my brief overview of McKay’s contextual model of teaching English overseas and how it compares and complements Holliday’s host culture complex. After reviewing the two together, I find that they are stronger together and I may work on a synthesis of the two models combined with my own findings. My goal is to update these models to address teaching English in an unfamiliar context instead of “overseas” or “abroad” because that references a time when English was not a global or international language.


Holliday, A. (1994). Appropriate Methodology and Social Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

McKay, S.L. (1992). Teaching English Overseas: An Introduction. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Can You Predict Your Adjustment?


Two blog posts ago, I promised to blog about longitudinal studies of international students that can also be applied to sojourning English language teachers.  Ward, Bochner, and Furnham (2001) report on a few of these longitudinal studies, and Demes and Geeraert (2015) provide a nice updated review of literature on the same subject.  Many of these studies look at predictors or correlations to the adjustment or maladjustment of international students abroad. As mentioned in a few previous posts, I posit that these patterns can be transferable to most sojourning English language teachers.


Below is a list of some the predictive variables, or antecedents of cultural adjustment (Demes & Geeraert, 2015), many studies have used:

  • Coping strategies (Carver, Scheier & Weintraub, 1989; Herman & Tetrick, 2009; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Wang et al., 2012; Ward & Kennedy, 2001)
  • Demographics of the sojourners, international students specifically (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Early experiences abroad (Kennedy, 1999)
  • Empathy (Davis, 1980, 1983; van der Zee & van Oudenhoven, 2000; van Oudenhoven & van der Zee, 2002; Ward & Kennedy, 1999)
  • Expectations (Demes & Geeraert, 2015; Kennedy, 1999; Martin, Bradford, & Rohrlich, 1995; Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Language ability (Kennedy, 1999; Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Pre-departure adaptation (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Pre-departure individual differences (Furukawa & Shibayama, 1993, 1994)
  • Pre-departure need for achievement (Kennedy, 1999)
  • Pre-departure stress (Kennedy, 1999)
  • Previous cross cultural experience (Kennedy, 1999)
  • Social support (Cemalcilar, Falbo, & Stapleton, 2005; Geeraert & Demoulin, 2013)

Measures of personality are one of the more commonly used predictive variables many of these studies have used, and they include:

  • Femininity (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Five Factor Model (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Piedmont, 1998)
  • HEXACO personality model (Ashton & Lee, 2009)
  • Locus of control (Ward & Kennedy, 1992)
  • Norm adherence (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Self-actualization (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Self-efficacy (Harrison, Chadwick & Scales, 1996)

Looking at all the variables listed above, which do you think best predicts adjustment or maladjustment of international students or sojourning English language teachers? I believe none of these alone are great predictors as the most likely answer is that it is case by case, but there are some predictors that more likely contribute to adjustment than others.

To what extent do the predictors predict?

First of all, these studies looked at international students, predominantly university students.  So if we consider age and maturity, these predictors may be more transferable to the younger sojourning English language teachers than their older peers.  Below is a very quick summary of most studies’ results.

Predictors of maladjustment

  • Pre-departure level of depression (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991), followed by
  • Psychological femininity, poor self-assessed language ability, and anticipating more interpersonal problems (Ying & Liese, 1990, 1991)
  • Neuroticism (Five Factor Personality) and inadequacy of interpersonal attachments (Furukawa & Shibayama, 1993 1994)
  • Pre-departure stress and undermet expectations (Kennedy, 1999)
  • Neuroticism (Swagler & Jome, 2005; Ward, Leong, and Low, 2004)
  • Avoidance strategies to coping (Ward & Kennedy, 2001)

Predictors of adjustment

  • Language ability and previous cross-cultural adaptation (Kennedy, 1999)
  • Agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extroversion (Swagler & Jome, 2005; Ward, Leong, and Low, 2004)
  • Problem-focused or approach strategies (Herman & Tetrick, 2009)
  • Approach strategies to coping (Ward & Kennedy, 2001)
  • Use of humor (Ward & Kennedy, 2001)
  • Use of acceptance, reframing, and striving strategies (Wang et al., 2012)
  • Family support (Wang et al., 2012)
  • Perspective taking to cope with stress (Demes & Geeraert, 2015)
  • Seeking support from people in the host country (Demes & Geeraert, 2015)

From a lay perspective, many of these predictors make perspective.  For example, if you are depressed or neurotic, you may have a more difficult time adjusting to living overseas. And if you are agreeable and have a good sense of humor, you may have a better time adjusting to life abroad.  With this information, one could overgeneralize and say that an open and positive attitude will help you adjust.  And that advice can probably be applied to life in general no matter if you are a sojourner or not.

How can we apply this information?

First of all, we should approach this data with a great deal of skepticism because there haven’t been enough studies on this topic.  Furthermore, there are even fewer studies on the antecedents of cultural adjustment of sojourning English language teachers.

Prospective English language teachers

If you’re thinking of teaching English abroad, perhaps you should evaluate yourself by looking at these findings.  If you are neurotic and use avoidance strategies to cope with stress, you should probably stay in your home country.  Or at least visit another country for a short-term to see how well you do. I don’t know, perhaps your home country is contributing to your neuroticism and leaving would be a remedy.

English language programs

I’m not sure how legal this is, but programs could psychologically screen their applicants to make sure they will last more than a few months in the host country.  I assume most interviews are designed for this purpose. There’s not enough science behind this yet, so I would not trust the results of any formal measurement yet.

TESOL & CELTA programs

Instructors, professors, and advisors should look after the psychological well-being of their students. Perhaps a course, such as intercultural communication, could help raise awareness of these predictors. All English language teachers need this information either for themselves if planning to teach abroad or for their students if they are planning to teach students coming to their classroom from all over the world.


Ashton, M.C. & Lee, K. (2001). A theoretical basis for the major dimensions of personality. European Journal of Personality, 15, 327-353.

Carver, C.S., Scheier, M.F., & Weintraub, J.K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267-283.

Cemalcilar, Z., Falbo, T., & Stapleton, L.M. (2005). Cyber communication: A new opportunity for international students’ adaptation? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29, 91-110.

Costa, P.T. & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Davis, M.H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 85.

Davis, M.H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 113-126.

Demes, K.A. & Geeraert, N. (2015). The highs and lows of a cultural transition: a longitudinal analysis of sojourner stress and adaptation across 50 countries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(2), 316-337.

Geeraert, N. & Demoulin, S. (2013). Acculturative stress or resilience? A longitudinal multilevel analysis of sojourners’ stress and self-esteem. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44, 1239-1260.

Harrison, J.K., Chadwick, M., & Scales, M. (1996). The relationship between cross-cultural adjustment and the personality variables of self-efficacy and self-monitoring. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 20, 167-188.

Herman, J.L. & Tetrick, L.E. (2009). Problem-focused versus emotion-focused coping strategies and repatriation adjustment. Human Resource Management, 48, 69-88.

Kennedy, A. (1999). Singaporean sojourners: Meeting the demands of cross-cultural transition. Unpublished doctoral thesis, National University of Singapore.

Lazarus, R.S. & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Coping, and Appraisal. New York, NY: Springer.

Piedmont, R.L. (1998). The revised NEO personality inventory: Clinical and research applications. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

van der Zee, K.I. & van Oudenhoven, J.P. (2000). The multicultural personality questionnaire: A multidimensional instrument of multicultural effectiveness. European Journal of Personality, 14, 291-309.

van Oudenhoven, J.P. & van der Zee, K.I. (2002). Predicting multicultural effectiveness of international students: The Multicultural Personality Quesst

Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The Psychology of Culture Shock. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ward, C. & Kennedy, A. (1999). The measurement of sociocultural adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23, 659-677.

Ward, C., Leong, C.H., & Low, M. (2004). Personality and sojourner adjustment: An exploration of the Big Five and Cultural Fit proposition. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 137-151.

Ying, Y.W. & Liese, L.H. (1990). Initial adaptation of Taiwan foreign students to the US: The impact of pre-arrival variables. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 825-845.

Ying, Y.W. & Liese, L.H. (1991). Emotional well-being of Taiwan students in the US: An examination of pre- to post-arrival differential. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 15, 345-366.

Why Do Sojourning ELTs Need Attention?


I’m not talking about the egos of sojourning ELTs or that they have difficulty keeping students’ attention; I’m referring to making a case for sojourning ELTs to receive more attention as a target population in TESOL research. This is an updated extension to my post on another blog at http://jesl1.blogspot.com/2014/01/another-argument-for-research-on.html.

One reason is, through my observations and experience, that the world of sojourning ELTs is quite different from ELTs who teach in their own country. Sojourning ELTs, particularly new and/or young ELTs, do not seem to be taken seriously by the rest of the professional English language teaching community.  Because many of them come straight out of college and into the English language classroom overseas, they do not have much in common with their local counterparts.


To help illustrate the gap between sojourning ELTs and local ELTs, I like to use two groups of local ELTs.  For example, I will compare an American sojourning ELT in South Korea to an American teaching English language learners in the US public school system and a Korean teaching English in the Korean public school system. First of all, the biggest difference is the training.  Both local teachers require a degree, even a graduate degree in education, to teach English in the public school system.  For the most part, the American sojourning ELT only needs a bachelor’s degree in any field. So the bar to gain entrance to the English language teaching profession is set lower for most sojourning ELTs.

Privilege (exoticism)

Another difference, which only affects the white “native speaking” sojourning ELT, is privilege.  Both local types of ELTs do not enjoy the same level of privilege that comes to sojourning ELTs, who are a more exotic to language learners. (Since I haven’t been teaching abroad for a decade now, I wonder if this exoticism is wearing out/thin in some countries). Privilege is most enjoyed by the white “native speaking” ELT who is commodified as the prototypical authentic English language teacher (Seargeant, 2009). The young or new sojourning ELT straight out of college may not understand that language teachers usually get the least respect in the field of education. So another gap between these two populations is represented by an inequality of perceived prestige.  The local teachers who often receive more education in English language pedagogy and applied linguistics do not get the same amount of respect and, often likely, pay as their less educated and often younger counterparts, who may not even consider English teaching as a real job.

Professional Identity

Because most local ELTs have more preparation to become teachers, they have spent more time and effort into developing a professional identity. I posit that this professional identity is the main reason local ELTs and their contexts have been given a lot more attention in the research literature. I assume most researchers prefer to investigate ELTs who have received some sort of education or training and who teach in a more controlled environment, such as a classroom in a public/accredited school or program. In this context, the teacher and the researcher are both academic professionals as opposed to the sojourning ELT who may not care about the profession or be too new to have any rationale for his or her teaching approach.

I think back to my experiences as a new sojourning ELT in Japan.  My form of professional development came as on-the-job training. No research was presented to us, but I assumed my school’s method had a research-informed methodology. I didn’t know it was a combination of the direct method and the audio-lingual method (disguised as the communicative language approach) until I attended graduate courses in TESOL afterwards. I didn’t even know that Japan had professional teaching organizations such as JALT (Japan Association of Language Teaching) until I left. I wanted to grow professionally, but I was in a private/corporate language school that wanted teachers to teach their way and employed many people who were not serious about the profession beyond the business.

The Learner’s Perspective

My final argument is that sojourning ELTs need more attention in research because, for many English language learners all over the world, these sojourning ELTs represent the profession as it relates to the rest of the world. Back to my first example, the Korean student may see their Korean English teacher as just another teacher at his or her school like the math teacher and the history teacher, but he or she sees the sojourning ELT representing English teachers outside of the school context.  Through the eyes of this Korean English language learner, the sojourning ELT represents the ELT profession internationally.  And for this reason, for the sake of our profession, we should give more attention to sojourning ELTs.


Seargeant, P. (2009).  The idea of English in Japan: ideology and the evolution of a global language.  Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.