The Dominant Language Constellations of Immigrant Teacher Trainees in Israel: Russian, Hebrew and English
This research examines the dominant language constellations (DLC) of multilingual, immigrant teacher trainers in Israel. The seven participants in this study from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have resided in Israel for two to four years. This qualitative research, conducted through a narrative method, reveals that while they possess different language repertoires (i.e., Russian, Ukrainian, English), all share a need to master the Hebrew language. This research examines how their competency in English facilitates social, academic, professional and personal assimilation, enabling them to transition into Israeli society. This research reveals that unlike monolingual immigrants from the FSU, these participants have affordances at their disposal, based on their competency in English that allow them to negotiate their acculturation and assimilation, at least initially. Eventually, it is through Hebrew that a new identity is formed, and their DLCs are reconfigured, moving away from English and towards Hebrew. The findings of this research have implications for the training of immigrant teachers, for immigrants in general, and for multilingualism in Israel. This research also provides additional insight into scholarly research on DLCs, their dynamic and flexible nature, and how they evolve in constitution and are reconfigured according to the individual's environment, needs and attitude.
Keywords: Dominant language constellations; multilingualism; acculturation; assimilation; identity; reconfiguration
The Dominant Language Constellation of Cross-sectoral English Teachers in Israel: Case Studies
Israel operates separate educational systems for Jews and Arabs, however substantial change is underway, an increase in cross-sectoral teaching that has been introduced into approximately 1,000 Israeli schools (Yitzhaki et al. 2021). An acute shortage of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers in the Jewish sector and a surplus in the Arab sector has facilitated movement of Arab teachers into Jewish schools, a move that must be accompanied by multilingual and multicultural practices in order to ensure its success. This research examines the DLCs (Dominant Language Constellations) of eight Arab EFL teachers in Jewish schools. A DLC is an individual's language use as it relates to communication, culture, socialization, cognition, and one's identity (Yoel 2021). It is "a group of one's most important (vehicle) languages, functioning as an entire unit" (Aronin 2006, p. 146).Lo Bianco (2020) examines how DLCs are influenced by a recognition and acceptance of diversity, stating that cultural and linguistic hegemony and marginality should not impose negative effects. Menezes (2011) suggests affordances have value beyond the classroom. An affordance-based approach exploits the dispensations of teachers' DLCs and is "instrumental in targeting various sociolinguistic situations,where actual languages and multilingual contexts and learners are intermixed"(p. 89).Additional research posits that English is a medium for peacebuilding (Saada and Gross 2019), an idea supported by Gallagher (2021), who asserts "English language engagement is an important vehicle in Israel" (Yitzhaki et al. 2021).The methodology of this qualitative research combined narrative inquiry, the former coded thematically, with a grounded theory approach to allow for deeper understanding of psychological and social aspects of participants' multi-dimensional realities. Narrative inquiry, at the core of analyses, is based on Bamberg's (2011)notion that speakers reveal what is significant to their identities. Analyses focused on individual and socially constructed elements of behavior, opinions, and perception. The eight narrators, seven females, and one male, range in age from 24 to 43, five of whom are Christian, two Muslims and one Druze. They have between two- and ten-years experience in Jewish schools. All located in the north, two teach at elementary schools, three at junior high schools, and three at high schools, and they are employed in different types of schools, one at a Kibbutz school, one at an agricultural boarding school, one at a democratic, open school, one at a Waldorf school, two at private schools and two at state-run, secular schools. Assured confidentiality, teachers' names were changed. Results illustrate that their language use is not compartmentalized. As Arabic speakers teaching English to Hebrew speakers, there is interplay between languages. Language use is tied to their identity, their culture and patterns of socialization. Examination of their DLCs presents evidence of the ways in which cross-sectoral teachers capitalize on their linguistic assets and experience in order to optimize their cross-sectoral teaching, develop mutual understanding and promote their professional and personal identities, while offering similar benefits to those in their immediate environment. Use of English, particularly with other English teachers, establishes personal and professional ties. English is used for professional functions and some administrative tasks. One teacher, Lila, states "When I have to hand in my curriculum, I do this in English. I refuse to share it in Hebrew – anything that has to do with my lesson plans. It would not be professional." English is a means of communication. A teacher asserts, "They have to talk to me in English because I am the English teacher" [Jihan].English is also directly related to their identity as Arabs. Lila says, "I see English as a mediator, a sort of a bridge – until you know my language and I know yours -conversation is in English."It is through Arabic that one's identity is revealed, identity they take pride in." On thevery first day, I said "I am an Arab, a Druze, a teacher and an English teacher - all ofthe necessary information", declares Noor. Teachers share their culture and teach about Arab holidays. Arabic is also used in classroom management, introducing"[j]ust a few words like hallas, when the pupils get too noisy. "It is a tool through which teachers develop interpersonal relationships, exemplified by the teacher who also assists her English students with Arabic homework. Socially, Arabic is used to establish solidarity with others, who may be other English teachers or Jewish teachers of Arabic. These teachers note that Hebrew is crucial to their teaching, particularly "in the very young grades… I need to use Hebrew"[Lila]. Others support its necessity with weaker learners. The majority of administrative tasks require Hebrew, which creates situations where Arab teachers seek assistance from Jewish colleagues, since the majority of EFL teachers cite Hebrew language skills as an obstacle. Social ties are strengthened via Hebrew, as are relationships with administrative staff and students' parents. Through Hebrew, a sense of belonging is instilled, leading to statements like,"I don't feel different than any other teacher in my school" [Jihan]. Hebrew fulfills asocio-emotional purpose, as teachers empathize with their learners, and their learners with them. So prevalent is Hebrew that in spite of the aforementioned self-declared difficulty, their narratives (in English) include numerous examples of codeswitching from English into Hebrew. This research brings to light the important roles of cross-sectoral teachers' DLCs, and the contribution of their DLCs. Furthermore, it reveals the extent to which English serves as a lingua franca. As the native language of neither population, it plays a significant role in supporting principles of civic and social equality. These evidence-based conclusions, grounded in the findings, have implications beyond teachers, students and schools and can extend to sustainable bridge building. With this recent trend of cross-sectoral teaching "not rooted in …pro-coexistence work, but…as a solution to an urgent [and demographic] problem"(Kadari–Ovadia 2019), English is a means of communication and a tool for mutual cooperation in a multicultural andmultilingual society.