Amir: Could you please tell us a bit about your linguistic, academic and professional background? How many languages do you know? How long have you been living in an English speaking country? Did you do your undergrad studies in the US as well? Also, having a different native language, did you find it hard to learn the English language?
Lucie: I was born in France but grew up in Switzerland. There, German is the majority language but I lived in the French-speaking area and had to learn German throughout my school years although I really didn’t enjoy it. I also started learning English in first grade and loved it very much. At first, it was easy to learn English, but I soon realized that the more I learn, the harder it is to master the small details of this language. In high school, I took a year of Italian because my mother is of Italian origins, but then switched to Spanish. I moved to the United States (Utah) in 1996 and first got a BA in English and Design, than a BA in TESOL. I then moved to Indiana in 2002 and have been working on my PhD in ESL here ever since.
Amir: And your extracurricular hobbies and interests?
Lucie: I love to write for my pleasure (not academic articles) and to read. I also enjoy very much traveling, reading, listening to music, watching foreign movies, and cooking. I used to play the piano but can’t afford to own or rent one anymore.
Amir: What are your academic areas of interest? The most recent conference presentation(s)/publication?
Lucie: My academic interests include teacher education, especially the preparation of nonnative English-speaking ESL and EFL teachers. I hope to write a few articles about that soon. I am also interested in the administration of Intensive English Programs in the US. I recently published an article from my Master’s thesis together with George Braine about ESL students’ attitudes towards their nonnative teachers. I am currently working on an article on how to work with IRBs (Human Subject Research Committees) and hope to write an article about caucuses in TESOL very soon.
Amir: How did Lucie initially become interested in NNESTs and their issues as a research topic?
Lucie: I started my MA in TESOL just because I didn’t really know what else to do after my BA. When I had to start my first semester of student teaching, I suddenly realized that if I were an ESL student, I wouldn’t want to have me as a teacher. I talked about this many times with my teachers who kept reassuring me that my students would love me because I was a good teacher, not because of my accent. I didn’t believe them, but when I had to choose a topic for my thesis, I decided to ask my students about their opinions, just like that. At the next TESOL conference, I met George Braine who had just created the NNEST Caucus and was presenting one of the first colloquiums on NNESTs issues… and that was the beginning of it all :)
Amir: As an NNEST in the US, what have been your most vivid memories (positive/negative) in your academic and/or professional practices? If you were to name one single huge challenge for NNESTs in your context, what would that be?
Lucie: I was very discouraged when I finished my MA in TESOL and tried to find a job both in the US and in Europe. I couldn’t find anything because all the job adds said “native speakers only.” I was also very discouraged to find out that teaching ESL in the United States most often means working at two or three different part-time jobs at the same time to survive while having no benefits or job security. I believe that many international students in TESOL programs don’t realize all this, and it’s a problem that affects all ESL teachers but NNESTs in particular, of course. For these reasons, I decided to get a PhD.
Amir: Do you have contacts with NNESTs (students or professionals) in your present job? Are there many NNEST students at your institution?
Lucie: I teach international graduate students who will most likely become Teaching Assistants or faculty members at English-speaking universities. While they won’t become English teachers (most of them are Engineering doctoral students), I use my knowledge of linguistics and the US educational context to help them become more comfortable when giving conference presentations, writing academic articles, and preparing themselves for a job in the US.
Amir: How would you describe the most important contributions of non-native speaker professionals to L2 learning/teaching, and applied linguistics?
Lucie: I could tell you all the things that have already been said… But I’ll only say one thing: nonnative professionals have shaken things up, and have made people think and re-examine old concepts and models. That’s something that every good teacher should do every once in a while: re-evaluate what they know and think about how they can harmonize their teaching to our always-evolving world.
Amir: I was really impressed with your computer skills and the ability to run a couple of blogs and webpages. How did you learn all these computer skills? And what do you consider as possible advantages of integration of technology in your practice? How would you think technology might help NNESTs in their practices?
Lucie: I didn’t know anything about computer skills until I accepted to become the webmanager of our caucus! In my first “training” year, I learned how to create simple webpages and blogs. I’ve also attended several workshops at Purdue on how to integrate technology into teaching and have found it very useful. When I ask my (US and international) students to write a research paper, they all go to the Internet and copy and paste (bad) stuff from everywhere. I believe that it is to my advantage to teach students how to use the Internet efficiently, where to find useful sources, how to evaluate them, how to cite them, etc. I also enjoy teaching my students how to write not only on paper but also for an “electronic” audience (such as putting your CV online, creating a teaching portfolio, making a small website, etc.) because those are increasingly important skills today. US students may be able to learn these things intuitively or from their peers, but international students need to learn where to find these resources and how to use them effectively to reach their English-speaking audience.
Amir: What are the things (if any) you would like to see the Caucus and its members initiate/do?
Lucie: Now that several people have done and are doing research on “theory,” (that NNESTs can be good teachers etc.) I think that we now need to start looking at the practical side of it. We need to do case studies about Intensive English Program administrators integrating and supporting their NNESTs, for example, or to create teacher education programs that are fully redesigned to address NNESTs issues. Now that we have the articles and books to support the theory, we need to actually start working on changing things.
Amir: Where is Lucie going from here? Future plans (personal and professional)?
Lucie: I will start working as an Assistant Professor in Applied Linguistics at a university in Toronto this summer. While this university now offers ESL courses to international and multilingual undergraduates only, my goal is to start graduate courses in the future (like the one I am currently teaching at Purdue), and maybe to create an ESL minor for English and Education students. Personally? I hope to learn a lot about Toronto and Canada and to enjoy life in my third country of adoption.
Amir: Good luck, and thanks for your time, Lucie!