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Adrian Holliday

In January 2015, the University of Warwick (UK) hosted a lecture by Dr. Adrian Holliday, whose work has greatly influenced my dissertation.  The lecture was recorded and can be viewed at you are interested in watching the video, I advise that you wear headphones as Dr. Holliday was not wearing a microphone.  For this blog, I briefly summarize the video, highlighting what I found most provocative.  Following that, I explain how Holliday's work has influenced my research and teaching philosophy for the past 5-10 years.

Summary of "Revisiting appropriate methodology, BANA, TESEP and 'contexts'"

The main purpose of this lecture was for Holliday to reflect upon his book Appropriate Methodology and Social Context, published 20 years ago by Cambridge University Press.  In this lecture, he integrated criticism from another professor whose research I admire, Dr. Suresh Canagajarah, who is currently at Penn State University.

The video is nearly 50 minutes long, and within the first 10 minutes he explains his concepts of BANA and TESEP.  The acronym BANA stands for Britain, Australia, and North America and TESEP stands for Tertiary, Secondary, and Primary education sectors throughout the world.  In the world of English language education, BANA is the invasive species (italics my interpretation) and TESEP is the local culture.  Holliday also interprets this classification is BANA being mostly private sector and TESEP being mostly public education.

The second 10 minutes were more interesting to me as Dr. Holliday talks about how Western ideology imposes itself on other cultures through English language teaching, bringing up concepts such as objectification, oversimplification, essentialization, and imperialism.  My favorite bit in this section is the Western concept of individualism vs. collectivism, in which the former is used to describe the underperforming culture according to the authoritative (individualistic/capitalistic) culture.

The third 10 minutes, Dr. Holliday makes some suggestions to overcome this othering, us vs. them dichotomy that is often found in language teaching.  His suggestions come from his own experience and the research projects of others, including some doctoral students he has supervised.  A memorable segment in this section is how "collectivist" students resist the curriculum or instructor in the classroom but use communicative learning strategies outside the class.

The last 20 minutes were a bit less focused than the first 30 minutes.  However, one highlight was his criticism on education research, in that it often focuses on the structures and not the language learning and teaching outside the structure, the classroom.  As someone who has just earned his PhD, I have noticed many of my peers and colleagues investigating learning "in the margins."  Another fascinating bit about 35 minutes into the video is Dr. Holliday's dislike of the word "learner" as there is not really such a person as a non-learner.  He said it's like calling people "breathers."  We all do it.  The video ends with Dr. Holliday summarizing his MA research, which is also in the book.

Holliday's Influence on Me

My dissertation and a paper that I have just revised and resubmitted for publication is centered around Holliday's Host Culture Complex, which was introduced in the same book, Appropriate Methodology and Social Context.  I have described it in detail in my other blog at

Although the Host Culture Complex helped me to structure the professional and cultural learning of English language teachers, I found his next book, The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language, more influential in terms of my teaching philosophy and approach.  It has helped me, as it perhaps helped him, become more interested in intercultural communication and sensitivity. 

As a well-educated white male "native-speaking" English language teacher, I am very much aware of the culture my students and my employers may expect me to display.  Because of my background, I am very marketable overseas, but intelligent students are able to look through this image.  The struggle to teach English is really the native speaker's struggle if he or she chooses to teach English without the superficiality that comes with being a commodity, the native speaker with the communicative English language teaching antidote.

Although I am a fan of Holliday's work, I have not had the opportunity to read his latest works in depth about intercultural communication.  This may seem odd to those who know me in my current line of work designing and facilitating a faculty development course called the Culturally Responsive Classroom at Kirkwood Community College.  When I get an opportunity to read his later works, I would not be surprised if my pedagogy and research interests are impacted.

Final Thoughts

I feel a bit hypocritical in that, I, a well-educated white male English language teaching professional am praising another well-educated white male English language teaching professional about our cultural sensitivity.  I'd like to close this post by pointing out others who have shaped my pedagogy and research interests.
  • Dr. Suresh Canagarajah, who I mentioned earlier in the post
  • Dr. Karen E. Johnson, who is in the same department as Dr. Canagarajah at Penn State
  • Dr. Seran Dogancay-Aktuna, whose work influenced me as much as Dr. Johnson's concerning the sociocultural knowledge base of English language teachers
  • Dr. Ryuko Kubota, whose work help exposes native-speakerism in Japanese ELT contexts
I wonder how many other English language teachers and researchers have similar interests in the interplay between intercultural competence and English language teaching.  Are "native speakers" like me too culturally sensitive or not sensitive enough?  I'm asking all stakeholders here: students, parents, NNESTs (non-native English speaking teachers), and administrators.  Let me finish by saying that I hate using the terms "native speaker" and "non-native," and I only use them for convenience labels because many people in TESOL are all too familiar with the terms. 


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