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Transfer of learning in English and mathematics: Singaporean primary classrooms booklet 3

2019, Jones, Sally Ann, Yeo, Lauren Rei-Chi, Yeo, Joseph Kai Kow, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer, Loh, Mei Yoke, Ho, Hsien Lin

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Language matters in mathematics: Singaporean primary classrooms booklet 1

2019, Jones, Sally Ann, Yeo, Lauren Rei-Chi, Yeo, Joseph Kai Kow, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer, Loh, Mei Yoke, Ho, Hsien Lin

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Dilemmas in English teaching and learning: Singaporean primary classrooms booklet 2

2019, Jones, Sally Ann, Yeo, Lauren Rei-Chi, Yeo, Joseph Kai Kow, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer, Loh, Mei Yoke, Ho, Hsien Lin

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Attitudes to Mandarin Chinese varieties in Singapore

2018, Cavallaro, Francesco, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer, Ho, Yen Yee, Ng, Bee Chin

This study aims to shed light on the attitudes of Chinese Singaporeans and Chinese nationals residing in Singapore to varieties of Mandarin Chinese. 64 Singaporean Chinese and Chinese national participants took matched and verbal-guise tests, evaluating recorded speakers of two varieties of Singapore Mandarin (standard and colloquial) and the variety spoken in the PRC on status and solidarity traits. These evaluations were followed by optional questionnaire items intended to probe for additional insights into the participants’ attitudes and perceptions of one another. Both Singaporean Chinese and Chinese national participants assigned higher status to the PRC’s variety of Mandarin. Attitudes toward the two varieties of Singapore Mandarin, however, varied, with Singaporeans rating the standard variety higher than the colloquial variety on all traits and Chinese nationals favouring the colloquial variety. Interestingly, for all three varieties of Mandarin, solidarity traits were rated higher than status traits by all participants, suggesting that, in Singapore, Mandarin Chinese is now viewed more as a language of solidarity than status.

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Repositioning Singlish in Singapore's language-in-education policies

2021, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer, Kwek, Geraldine

Singapore’s language-in-education policies have always prescribed that only a standard variety of English be allowed in teaching and learning. This view of upholding a standard has been pervasive not only in education but also throughout Singapore’s society. In this article, we review Singapore’s language policy, emphasizing the functional polarization of languages ideology that serves as its basis, and discuss the resultant natural emergence of the key linguistic marker of Singaporean national identity – Singlish. Charting the journey and growth of Singlish’s role and status from both official and socio-cultural perspectives, we highlight that changes can be observed. It is, thus, imperative that Singlish’s place in language classrooms and the affordances that Singlish has for language learning be reconsidered. Following a discussion of salient Singlish features, highlighting their appropriacy in social situations where standard English features are not and the fact that many Singapore English features are recognizably shared by both Singlish and Singapore Standard English, we propose a linguistic feature-based contrastive analysis approach for Singapore’s English language classrooms. At the core, we call for a review of Singapore’s language-in-education policies and the support of various stakeholders in the bid to nurture confident and effective English language users of the future.

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Teaching the language of mathematics at three levels of an English-medium primary school

2019, Jones, Sally Ann, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer

This study, situated in a multilingual, English-medium educational context, draws on theory from mathematics and language education to capture teachers’ perspectives on the place of language in their mathematics pedagogy. The benchmark study explored this topic through surveying and interviewing teachers. Additionally, it sought to relate teacher’s views to their practice by focusing on observing three teachers’ mathematics lessons at primary one, three, and five. Findings are that mathematics teachers placed importance on teaching language, being specifically concerned with language as input and comprehension. They taught vocabulary and reading skills in supportive ways explicitly yet differently at the three grade levels. Particularly at the lower levels, teachers contextualized language in the concrete examples employed for mathematics teaching. At all three levels, prominence was given to teaching pupils how to read word problems as well as how to solve them. However, at primary three, a tension was observed between the two aims of teaching mathematical vocabulary and teaching the reading skills for word problems. This paper illustrates the tension and discusses its possible causes.

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Language as pure potential in Taiwan: Case studies of six professional trajectories

2020, Mark Fifer Seilhamer

In Taiwan, students on the vocational track can choose, at around the age of 14, to enter five-year junior college programs at institutes of technology. These programs provide five years of intensive study in applied science, business, or foreign languages. In this chapter, I examine the professional trajectories of six young women who graduated in 2009 with junior college diplomas in English. Using a critical view of the language as pure potential ideology (Park 2016) as a theoretical lens, I discuss the young women’s motivations for choosing, while still quite young, to commit themselves to five years of intensive foreign language study, the aspirations that they had during their five-year course of study, and the realities they ended up experiencing. While some participants had the good fortune of encountering only situations that facilitated deployment of their foreign language skills, others were forced to contend with uneven playing fields that constrained their professional development. Those in a position to influence students in the process of cultivating their linguistic abilities should thus consciously propagate counter-hegemonic discourses, reminding learners that, in the inequitable world we live in, hard work and perseverance will very often not be sufficient for realizing professional aspirations.

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Girls becoming mathematicians: Identity and agency in the figured world of the English-medium primary school

2020, Jones, Sally Ann, Seilhamer, Mark Fifer

This paper focusses on the process of learning mathematics in primary school from the perspectives of 62 girls aged seven to eleven. For many of these Singaporean girls, English is not the dominant home language, but they all learn mathematics in English. Despite the fact that achievement in mathematics is high nationally, girls appear to be less confident than boys. Adopting notions of identity and agency at the intersection of language and gender, the paper explores how the girls oriented themselves and others to the figured world of school mathematics as successful or not through their interaction in focus group interviews. While some were confident in their mastery of the subject, for some others, the discipline, its language, and other artefacts, such as model drawing and assessment, restricted and frustrated them. Girls experienced a sense of security in their own fellowship and appreciated considerate pedagogies, such as space for individual agency and for improvisation and expression of language, through which they could achieve understanding and progress.