English Language Education Policies and Practices in the Mediterranean Countries and Beyond

by Yasemin Bayyurt (Author) Nicos C. Sifakis (Author)
Edited Collection 295 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contributors
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: English Language Education in the Mediterranean Region and Beyond (Yasemin Bayyurt / Nicos Sifakis)
  • Part I. English Language Education
  • English Language Education Reforms and Their Effects on ELT in Turkish Primary Schools (Yasemin Kırkgöz)
  • How do we teach English to French learners? Insight into French educational policy and practice (Marc Deneire / Myriam Pereiro)
  • Portuguese University Practices: Attitudes towards Learning and Teaching English as a Lingua Franca (Lili Cavalheiro / Luis Guerra)
  • Promoting internationally-oriented communication through ELF in the primary classroom (Paola Vettorel)
  • Can They Really Tell? Relying on the Native in e-Tandem Learning (Nuria Fernández-Quesada)
  • To L1 or not to L1, that is the question: research in the young learners’ foreign language classroom (Dina Tsagari / Christina-Nicole Giannikas)
  • Part II. English Language Teacher Education and Recruitment Policy
  • Novice EFL Teachers’ Disclosures Regarding the Impact of a Teacher Education Program (Areti-Maria Sougari)
  • ELF awareness of prospective teachers in Hungary and Turkey (Éva Illés / Sumru Akcan)
  • Unidirectional Teacher Exchange Programs: Solution or Problem for Personnel Policy in Turkey? (Filiz Rızaoğlu / Zeynep Mine Derince / Bilgen Erdem)
  • Part III. English Language Testing Policies and Practices
  • History of Language Teacher Training and English Language Testing and Evaluation (ELTE) Education in Turkey (Çiler Hatipoğlu)
  • Provision of feedback in L2 exam classes in the Republic of Cyprus (Dina Tsagari / George Michaeloudes)
  • Postscript
  • A plea for appropriate teacher preparation—a postscript (Nicos Sifakis)

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Yasemin Bayyurt

Boğaziçi University

Nicos Sifakis

Hellenic Open University

English Language Education in the Mediterranean Region and Beyond

The inspiration for this book came from a colloquium that we organized in 2012 as part of the 11th ESSE (European Society for the Study of English) conference that took place at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. Our original intention was to bring together colleagues (applied linguists and teacher educators) from different parts of the Mediterranean Sea and engage them in a creative dialogue concerning teaching, learning, assessing, policy-making and teacher education in English language teaching today in their respective contexts. As a place that has, over the ages, often ignited fruitful dialogue and heated contact among the cultures and political systems surrounding it, we saw the collective research experience in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea as a unique context that can inform and inspire practitioners and English language teaching stakeholders around the world.

The Mediterranean Sea has probably been one of the most important geographical regions in the history of mankind. The area where three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa) meet, for thousands of years it has been the place where civilizations, religions and political systems have met, clashed, influenced and absorbed each other. It has played a significant role as the area that gave birth to the Greek and the Roman empires, the area that was the cradle of Western civilization, the place that witnessed the birth of philosophy, science, democracy, and the theatre. A melting pot of peoples, races and nations, the Mediterranean Sea has been the symbol of unity and discord alike and has seen stretches of peaceful coexistence and explosive turmoil among the Egyptian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic, among others, peoples and cultures that populated its lands and treaded its waters. ← 13 | 14 →

The Mediterranean Sea was once the whole world, or so it seemed in the eyes of its inhabitants. Its importance for academic research has merited the development of a specialized field of study, namely, Mediterranean Studies, that explores issues related to history and culture (e.g., Arbel, 1996; Braudel, 1995; Burke, 2012; Clancy-Smith, 2012), politics (e.g., Brummett, 1993), social anthropology (Davis, 1977; Goitein, 1967; King et al., 1997), religious studies (Greene, 2002). David Abulafia, a leading Mediterranean Studies scholar, distinguishes five periods in the history of the Mediterranean Sea. He argues that “the Mediterranean we know now was shaped by Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans in antiquity, by Genoese, Venetians and Catalans in the Middle Ages, by Dutch, English and Russian navies in the centuries before 1800” (2011: xix). Indeed, it is not enough to make sense of the history of the Mediterranean basin with reference only to the cities that dominated it (almost all of them great ports at one time or another), such as Troy, Corinth, Alexandria, Amalfi, Salonika and so on. One should also refer to the sea links across the Mediterranean Sea, the commerce, fishermen and merchants, who gave life to these ports.

Once the entire known world to its peoples, the Mediterranean Sea can be regarded as a miniature and, in a sense, a blueprint of what we currently understand as the phenomenon of globalization (Clancy-Smith, 2011; Khuri-Makdisi, 2010; Ribas-Mateos, 2005; Talani, 2010). One of the many unique characteristics of the region is the fact that its role as a superhighway of trade, transport and cultural interaction meant the development of linguistic varieties that made such communications possible. One of those varieties, probably the most widespread one, came to be known as “lingua franca”, which literally means “language of the Franks” (or Western Europeans) in Late Latin, and originally, around the year 1000, specified the variety that was used around the eastern Mediterranean Sea region as the main language of commerce (Dakhlia, 2008; Kahane and Tietze, 1988). Originally identified as Sabir (deriving from a Romance base meaning “to know”), it was based on Northern Italian and Occitano-Romance languages in the eastern Mediterranean area at first, and later integrated more Spanish and Portuguese elements (Corré, 1992). Interestingly, Sabir developed over the decades to serve the interactional needs of many a diverse people, from merchants and diplomats to slaves and pirates, and inevitably borrowed extensively from Turkish, French, Greek and Arabic.

Today, the term “lingua franca” has come to define the contact language or languages selected by speakers who do not share a common linguistic code as their shared means of linguistic interaction. To virtually everyone in the world today, this language is English (Seidlhofer, 2011). The impact of English as a lingua franca ← 14 | 15 → on teaching and learning English in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea is one of the overarching themes of this book.

A concern that is shared by all contributors of the book is the need for appropriate teacher education. Teachers’ own perspectives about their context and about the policies that concern them are central and should be focused on by teacher educators and policy makers alike. Teachers need specialised training in many areas, from the more “macro” ones (e.g., becoming aware about the global role of English) to the more “micro” ones (e.g., making the best of the use of their learners’ L1 in the EFL classroom). In this, the need for reflection not only about their own teaching practices but also about their own awareness of their beliefs and deeper convictions about their role is paramount, and an emerging issue in current ESOL research (Bayyurt, 2012; Sifakis, 2014; Sifakis and Bayyurt, 2015).

A third theme that arises in the volume is policy-making. Interesting policies are described and discussed critically in the volume (e.g., in the Turkish, Italian or Greek contexts), which underline policy makers’ convictions about myths that are being drastically reconsidered (such as the role and importance of native English speaker teachers in the foreign language classroom). Here too, appropriate decision-making at the level of foreign language planning should inform teacher training infrastructures with an aim towards empowering local teachers of English and involving them more actively in innovative practices.

The countries and contexts represented in this book cover a large section of the northern part of the Mediterranean Sea, or Southern Europe. These countries are, moving from the east to the west, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal.

Layout of the Book

The book is divided into three major sections. In the first section, entitled “English language education”, there are 6 chapters. Each chapter focuses on English language education policies in different countries from different perspectives, ranging from decision makers changing the whole education system to teachers changing their ELT practice. In the first chapter, entitled “English Language Education Reforms and Their Effects on ELT in Turkish Primary Schools”, Yasemin Kırkgöz presents different phases of education reforms in Turkey that took place between 1997 and 2012 influencing ELT practice. After presenting the Turkish case, she compares the situation of ELT at primary level in Turkey with Croatia and Greece. She also highlights the similarities and differences in the implementation of the English language education policies (in these countries). The second chapter presents the case of France. The title of the chapter is “How do we teach ← 15 | 16 → English to French learners? Insights into French educational policy and practice.” The authors (of the chapter,) Marc Deneire and Myriam Pereiro, present the case of teachers’ perspectives on the reasons behind learners’ underachievement in national tests in France. They attribute this to the elitist approaches to the educational system and the higher expectations from the learners of English, which are not much different from other contexts in the Mediterranean countries included in this volume. In this respect, it is a very informative introduction as it sets the ground for the discussions of the policies and practices presented in the chapters that follow.

In Chapter 3, entitled “Portuguese university practices: Attitudes towards learning and teaching English as a lingua franca”, Lili Cavalheiro and Luis Guerra present the results of a study they conducted with undergraduate university learners and pre-service teachers about their preferences in using English as a lingua Franca (ELF) in non-native English speaking university settings – i.e., ELF contexts. The results of the study show similarity to the perspectives of other university learners in Portugal and the Mediterranean region. The authors further discuss that, although teachers of English understand the global status of English and its impact on wider communication in the world, they still have a tendency to use native speaker norms in their use of English. However, when it comes to learners, these teachers give significance to the intelligibility factor for their learners’ language use. They think, communication is more important than obeying the native speaker norms when it comes to the use of English. Hence, this study provides an overview of foreign language education policies in Portugal since the 1940s and then relates it to the current status of English. In chapter 4, entitled “Promoting internationally-oriented communication through ELF in the primary classroom”, Paola Vettorel describes an international project that she carried out in primary schools around the Veneto Area in Italy. The project aims at promoting the intercultural communicative competence of young English language learners via international collaboration. She states that raising learners’ awareness towards the use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is important as it is the most realistic way of looking at the use of English as the common language of communication in the European context. She also discusses how the target of ELT has changed from a native-speaker-oriented model to an ELF model of communication where the owners of the language are the ELF users themselves. She concludes by saying that it is important to raise awareness of young learners towards realistic uses of English to enable them to become competent users of English.

In Chapter 5, entitled “Can They Really Tell? Relying on the Native in e-Tandem Learning”, similar to Paola Vettorel’s chapter on young learners, Nuria ← 16 | 17 → Fernández-Quesada presents a study that focuses on intercultural communication, although at university level. The chapter focuses on an e-tandem learning project between Spanish and North American university learners. The aim is to give the learners the opportunity to participate in a self-directed project in which they give feedback to each other’s writing, exchange ideas on errors and mistakes they make and similar. She also indicates that this kind of project could provide university learners with opportunities for realistic uses of English in a time when there are scarce opportunities for all the learners to go abroad on Erasmus+ and similar international exchange programs.

In Chapter 6, entitled “To L1 or not to L1, that is the question: research in the young learners’ foreign language classroom”, Dina Tsagari and Christina-Nicole Giannikas present a case study in Cyprus. They investigate the use of L1 in English language classrooms in private primary schools and its impact on young learners’ English language development. In other words, the use of the L1/using the L1 in the classrooms should not be seen as a negative issue. This study is important in terms of bringing into the attention of TESOL scholars the significance of the role of learners’ L1 in the classroom as a resource, as indicated in the ELF literature, rather than as something that needs to be avoided in those contexts where teachers and learners share the same L1 (Seidlhofer, 2011). Moreover, the chapter also states that use of L1 in the classroom also contributes to young learners’ social and cognitive development (from an SLA perspective) as well as to their linguistic development (from an ELF perspective). The authors conclude that teacher education programs need to be developed in line with these perspectives, where the use of the L1 can be seen as a tool used when necessary rather than as a form of interference which hinders language learning. This chapter is a good contribution to the current volume since it looks at the situation from a micro-policy perspective, along with chapters 2 and 5 (in this section).

The chapters in the second section of the book cover applications on “English Language Teacher Education and Recruitment Policy” in different contexts. In this section, there are three chapters. The first chapter (Chapter 7), entitled “Novice EFL Teachers’ Disclosures Regarding the Impact of a Teacher Education Program”, presents a case study from the Greek educational context, where Areti-Maria Sougari focuses on pre-service teacher education programs in Greece. She reports the findings of a survey investigating novice EFL teachers’ perspectives on teacher education programs during their internship period and their early years of teaching English. On the basis of the findings of her study, Sougari gives suggestions on future directions in teacher education programs with regard to offering trainees more effective teaching and learning practice. ← 17 | 18 →

The second chapter in this section (Chapter 8) presents two case studies focusing on pre-service teacher education in Turkey and Hungary. As the title of the chapter - “ELF awareness of prospective teachers in Hungary and Turkey” - indicates, Eva Illés and Sumru Akcan focus on the language use of prospective English teachers during the practicum period, and on their perspectives about the involvement of English as a Lingua Franca in their teaching practice. They collected data through observations in both contexts, questionnaires and interviews. The results emphasize that trainee teachers should be encouraged to adopt a reflective approach towards their teaching practice. The authors further state that trainee teachers should be encouraged to develop a better understanding of the nature of communication, focusing on ELF communication in particular. In terms of raising prospective teachers’ awareness towards ELF and World Englishes issues, it is an important addition to the volume.

In the third chapter (Chapter 9), entitled “Unidirectional English language teacher exchange programs: solution or problem for personnel policy in Turkey?”, the authors Zeynep Filiz Rızaoğlu, Mine Derince and Bilgen Erdem present the case of hiring native English speaking teachers to improve the English language speaking skills of Turkish learners of English in mainstream education, in Turkish primary and lower/upper secondary schools. They carried out a survey with 3rd and 4th year trainee teachers studying at two state universities in Turkey. The authors’ aim was to find out how these teachers view these kinds of policies as future teachers of English. The authors state that, although this policy is not implemented in the Turkish education system as it was announced some years ago, such policies would not be successful in dominantly EFL contexts where the majority of teachers are Turkish – i.e., non-native speakers of English. The results of the questionnaire also confirm this point. Hence, policy makers should take into consideration the feelings and opinions of those who will be influenced by those policies, most notably pre-/in-service teachers, learners, parents and similar. This chapter complements the rest of the volume by bringing in a case of macro-level decisions and their impact at micro-level applications.

The third section includes chapters focusing on “English language testing policies and practices” in different contexts. In this section, the first chapter (Chapter 10) by Çiler Hatipoğlu focuses on the history of foreign language testing in Turkey. In this respect, the author discusses past and present policies on teacher training, and the place of language testing and evaluation in the education system, starting from the late Ottoman Empire until our times in Turkish Republic. As she states, teacher education in Turkey has developed from an institutionally governed era towards more state-controlled times. She points out that language ← 18 | 19 → testing and evaluation courses have become part of the pre-service teacher education programs since the late 1990s. Hatipoğlu argues that this has led to a delay in the development and advancement of research on testing and evaluation in the Turkish academic context. In this respect, the chapter is a valuable contribution to the rest of the volume, as it reveals how macro-level policies can negatively influence micro-level implementations of language testing and evaluation. Given that testing and evaluation is an underexplored area of study, we can say it is a necessary component of a successful implementation of macro-level education policies and their implementations at the micro-level.

In the last chapter of both this section and the volume (Chapter 11), entitled “Provision of feedback in L2 exam classes in Cyprus”, Dina Tsagari and George Michealoudes discuss the impact of different types of feedback practices in L2 exam classes in Cyprus. They present the case of four English language teachers who are preparing their learners for the FCE exam. They observed and audio-recorded the classes of these teachers to understand their instructional orientations and feedback types that were employed during these sessions. They transcribed and analysed the data in terms of instructional orientations and feedback types. They also highlight that classroom interaction can be considered a complex phenomenon which needs to be carefully approached and studied from a Vygostkian scaffolding – i.e., zone of proximal development (ZPD) – point of view (Afzal, 2013; Bayyurt and Alptekin, 2000; Vygotsky, 1978; Wood et al., 1976). In this respect, they indicate that it is necessary to raise teachers’ awareness of the impact of their instructional practice on high-stakes exam preparation. In return, they also mention how significant teachers’ teaching practice is in developing learners’ preparation for high-stakes exams. This chapter is a good contribution to the volume as it draws the reader’s attention to the fact that teachers need to develop their assessment literacy to prepare their learners effectively for exams. In this respect, this chapter also emphasizes that there may be a lack of assessment literacy courses (or, as Hatipoğlu states, language testing and evaluation courses) in (the) teacher education programs in Cyprus, just like in pre-/in-service teacher education programs in Turkey. Once again, this study has implications for macro-level decision makers in planning teacher education programs from a language assessment point of view.


All in all, the chapters in this volume constitute an attempt to make a connection between different contexts of English language teaching and learning in one broad geographical area. We have titled the book “English Language Education Policies ← 19 | 20 → in the Northern Mediterranean Countries and Beyond” to account for the fact that we incorporate countries ranging from Spain to Turkey (from the Northern Mediterranean shore) to Portugal (from the West of the Iberian peninsula) and Hungary (from Eastern Europe). We could draw some similarities and differences in terms of the implementation of macro and micro level policies in all the contexts where the authors of this volume are located.

Our book focuses on pre-/in-service teacher education programs and how they are implemented in different contexts as well as on how English language teaching practices vary in these different contexts. Despite the interesting findings emerging in this volume, further research should develop an understanding of the status of English language education in different contexts. Volumes based on such studies could shed light on how different countries implement their foreign language education policies to fit English language teaching into their curricula both at micro and macro levels. In many cases, people still seem to have difficulties learning English despite all the efforts of decision makers and other stakeholders who design macro- and micro- level policies. We hope that we have partially contributed to the understanding of why there are people who are still suffering for not being able to speak English as well as they would like to, despite the good will and efforts of the macro- and micro- level policy makers.

As a final note, we have asked the authors of the chapters that follow to integrate a series of reflective questions following their text. These questions are meant to be used by readers of this volume (individual teachers, but also academic tutors or in-service teacher training programme designers and trainers) as prompts that would help them better appreciate the gist of these chapters. The same is the case with the brief annotated bibliography that also accompanies each chapter. We hope that the reflective activities and the annotated bibliography will help readers in getting to grips with the content of each chapter. We also hope that these activities will be very useful for the students at undergraduate and graduate levels to develop an understanding of state policies towards teaching and learning of English at macro- and micro- levels.


Biographical notes

Yasemin Bayyurt (Author) Nicos C. Sifakis (Author)

Yasemin Bayyurt (Ph.D.) is a full professor of applied linguistics at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. Her research focuses on EIL/ELF-aware ESOL teacher education, intercultural communication, mobile language learning. Nicos C. Sifakis is a tenured associate professor at the School of Humanities of the Hellenic Open University and director of its M.Ed. in TESOL programme. He holds a Ph.D. in language and linguistics from the University of Essex, UK.


Title: English Language Education Policies and Practices in the Mediterranean Countries and Beyond