CHAPTER 1: Theory Here I examine literature underpinning the theory regarding the circumstances in which English L2 learners (or “new Scots”) find themselves having to be assessed in their English language ability in order to secure the status of citizen of the UK and Scotland, or person with indefinite leave to remain. This is necessary to give a framework to a complicated situation which crosses several disciplines, (Language Assessment, Educational Policy, Immigration Law and Policy, and Second Language Acquisition Theory). The theory helps to move the research from a narrative of “What happens to new Scots with regard to their emergent bilingualism?” to a more critical field of discourse, “Why does that happen?” and “What does it mean?”
- “Non-Native Speakers” v “emergent bilinguals”. This section looks at theory regarding L2 learners, that is people who are learning a language, (with specific reference to English learners in Scotland) which is not the same as L1 their first language. The key concept here is the way we conceptualise language learners. Bonfiglio (2010) examines the concepts of “native speaker” and “mother tongue”. I want to examine this in connexion with the relationship between English L1 speakers in Scotland and new Scots, and perceptions of L1s and L2s. Emergent bilinguals is a related concept, (Garcia, 2009). This is also key to my theoretical understanding. Garcia, (2009) argues that the term empowers L2 learners, reminding us that they already have an L1, and therefore have a contribution to make in their relationships with L1 English speakers. It is a question of viewing language learning and assessment discourse as horizontally rather than vertically (per Bernstein, 1999).
- L2 as a route to empowerment. I want to examine Clayton’s, 2005, views on L2 acquistion’s role. She suggests that L2 English has a role in enabling emergent bilinguals to escape from (for example) abusive domestic situations. This will lead to further reading I need to do on the bigger question of: Why does it seem to be assumed that L2 acquisition of English is essential to life in Scotland? I expect that Clayton is correct in her view of empowerment, but that this was not the intention behind policies of migration and language assessment. This takes us to Chapter 2.
CHAPTER 2: Law & Policy For this area I need to cover a wide, complex and sometimes hidden discourse. It is very controversial. At this time in my reading, (December 2015) “migration” is a dominant topic in news media. A Google news search (google.co.uk, 2015) for “migrant crisis” yields 4,880,000 results. There is a lot of reading to do here. For now, I have identified some key concepts to explore:
- The technicalities. What must emergent bilinguals do to pass hurdles set up by the state to secure themselves leave to remain in, or citizenship of, the UK? How does this compare with those who wish to spend a limited time in the UK, to work or study. Trinitycollege.com (2015) gives an overview. Butterworths (2015) gives the legal framework in Immigration Law, together with a discussion of the background, including some very brief political analysis. This informs my research in giving an apparently concrete, legal framework.
- Policy rationale. Publications.parliament.uk (2015) have me access to the findings of the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Select committee, which may go someway to elucidating the vertical discourse which underlies the compulsion of new Scots to undergo language assessment. I have only just begun reading in this section. I expect that critical discourse analysis of political documents will reveal surface concerns about emergent bilinguals integration, but a deeper analysis may show contradictions in the need for, and inevitablity of migration to the UK and Scotland and political pressure from right wing elements, particularly in the media. Another complicated area to explore is the as yet uncertain relationships between the UK and the Scottish governments. Mulvey 2013, and 2015 is a leading author but I am not satisfied with his views on the differences in approach between Scotland and the UK, which appear to be based on assertions. I expect to find a complicated and murky discourse here.
CHAPTER 3: Assessment The language test which is used to assess the abilities of new Scots comes from the Trinity College GESE suite of exams. Some research has been done into these tests, for example Wall & Taylor (2014) discuss whether GESE assessment qualify as Communicative Language Tests. That goes someway into exploring the key concept of the assessment’s reliabilty and validity. For the latter concept, I will rely chiefly on the paradigm of Consequential Validity (Bachman, 2005). It’s not possible to rely on work published to date to answer questions about GESE’s validity or otherwise, and this will form part of my research. I do not know yet if Trinity have published, or will be prepared to disclose, test data.
CHAPTER 4: SLA & Washback Bachman (2005) and his idea of Consequential Validity overlaps with this final section. He brings me to the key concept summed up in the question, what are the consequences of emergent bilinguals being required to do language tests? For example, Turner (2009) looks at the washback effects in the classroom, and this leads me to look at the concept of washback from high stakes testing. Could it be that the very existence of these tests - as a dark shadow looming over emergent bilinguals’ future - is resulting in a negative consequence in Second Language Acquisition terms, that it is interfering with the delicate processes involved in acquiring bilingualism? Or are they a useful motivator? I can look to Bachman (1998) for key concepts about the relationship between assessment and SLA.
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