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Another Argument for Research on the Sojourning ELT Experience

One reason that I am not posting so often on this blog is that I am busy with my PhD dissertation.  At this stage, I have written the first draft of my data analysis (Chapter 4) and I am in the process of revising my introduction and purpose for the study (Chapter 1).  I'm at a crossroads in terms of the latter.  I have made the smaller revisions as suggested by my dissertation committee.  However, there were some suggestions, not shared by everyone in the committee, about reframing the purpose.   So the purpose of this posting is to share my brainstorm for this possible reframing.

This research project has been guided by my experiences as a sojourning English language teacher (ELT) in Japan, South Korea, and Russia.  At the turn of the millennium, when I was new to the field, there were not many ways to learn about the experiences of sojourning ELTs as compared to now.  I first prepared by reading travel and history books and watching videos about the target culture.  Later, I enrolled in a graduate program to learn more about ESL education, most of which was geared towards ESL education in the United States.  Unless one had access to scholarly journals, it was difficult to find resources that combined both the cultural and educational information about teaching abroad.  Even those scholarly journals rarely published articles about learning how to live and teach English in another country.

With the advent of social media, the sojourning ELT experience has become much more accessible.  There are many blogs, microblogs, YouTube channels, and social media pages written by sojourning ELTs.  Many of these bloggers (and vloggers) have created online communities on their own to support one another as they grow more comfortable in their life overseas and/or in their English language teaching career.  Some of these bloggers and blogging communities receive questions and comments from prospective ELTs who would like to teaching in a certain country.

Each blog, microblog, YouTube channel, and social media page written by a sojourning ELT provides enough data for one to learn about one's experience.  Some bloggers focus more on their new lifestyles.  Others focus more on their culture shock in the English language classroom abroad.  And still others focus mostly or entirely on English language teaching and learning.  This study is interested in the former as it helps new or prospective ELTs gain the sociocultural knowledge that is difficult to access through some graduate programs and many scholarly journals.

[I can insert here my argument, already in the chapter, about the need for building sociocultural knowledge in second language teacher education programs.]

I also wanted to weave in the idea of how sojourning ELTs are often overlooked in the literature, but this may need to be added to my literature review rather than my introduction.  However, I feel the need to share the main idea in the introduction.  I want to better answer the question, "Why should we pay more attention to sojourning ELTs?"  In the chapter, I provided the estimated number of ELTs in South Korea and Japan, and I plan to provide an estimated number of English language teaching programs in those countries that hire sojourning ELTs.  Perhaps that's all I can do because comparing and contrasting the literature on the experiences of other ELTs as opposed to those of sojourning ELTs is a meta-analysis project in its own right.  Someone doesn't need to do it, right?

After I completed my data analysis, I wanted to see how many other sojourning ELTs used social media outside of Japan and South Korea.  I know that China and most countries on the Arabian Peninsula have similar or maybe even a larger population of sojourning ELTs, however the Internet in both areas is much more restricted.  I expected this when trying to find sojourning ELTs in China, but not so much for countries on the Arabian Peninsula.  I'm getting a little off topic here, but if anyone else is interested or can provide help, I would be interested in learning about countries that host a lot of sojourning ELTs who use social media.  I have just started this endeavor and found that Turkey and Russia have a few, but not as nearly as much as Japan and South Korea.  I have yet to look at sojourning ELTs in the Western Hemisphere.

To get back on topic, I believe I was fortuitous to select the two countries that seem to have the most sojourning ELTs who use social media to share their experiences.  At this point, I'm unsure if this strengthens my argument for choosing Japan or South Korea, especially because I learned of this while working on a related research project. 


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