TLTE's Catalano authors new book about global migration

TLTE's Catalano authors new book about global migration

09 Feb 2016     By Brad Stauffer

Personal experience has helped motivate the development of Theresa Catalano’s new book, “Talking about Global Migration: Implications for Language Teaching.” The book addresses educational responses to migration that are informed by interviews with migrants across the globe. She hopes the book will help dispel stereotypes and also promote empathy for people who move from one country to another for a variety of reasons and in a variety of contexts.

Catalano, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education in the College of Education and Human Sciences, has experienced this firsthand.  She lived in Turkey during a brief period of political strife between Turkey and Italy. She and her Italian born husband felt “almost afraid” to speak Italian in public at the time because people were burning Fiat cars and marching to protest the political situation.

Political strife between a migrant’s country of origin and host country can highly effect migrants who must deal with the backlash even though they had nothing to do with the conflict. “We have to follow world events and be conscious of what our students may be experiencing due to political and social events abroad and in the host country,” she said.

“Migration experiences are different in so many ways,” says Catalano. “When we have these students in our classes, there are lots of things we need to consider and be aware of for each individual. The world is becoming more and more globalized, and the presence of globally mobile students in our classes is increasing and creating what Vertovec (2007) coined as  “super-diversity,” in which transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified groups of migrants are changing city landscapes around the world. We need to make appropriate educational responses to that whoever we are.”

Catalano’s book is not intended solely for teachers or those with an education focus. She notes that there are numerous professions that interface with immigrants including migration organizations, health organizations, social service organizations and government.

“Anybody who comes into contact with globally mobile people may find it interesting and helpful,” Catalano said. “I hope that by understanding migration experiences better we can have more empathy and appreciate more the incredible cultural and linguistic resources that migrants bring with them.”

To record the stories of over 70 individuals originating from 41 countries, Catalano and her graduate assistants interviewed people living in a dozen different countries including Jamaica, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Canada, Puerto Rico, Spain, Indonesia, China, Japan and Belgium. Catalano analyzed their poignant stories in unique ways, focusing on the metaphors they used to describe their experiences of migration.

One student compared her teacher’s words to a machine gun firing, revealing the sense of fear and lack of control that learners sometimes feel during the language learning process. “If you conceive of migration and language learning as a war, then you’re going to have high anxiety,” said Catalano. “That is a focal point of the book—to show anybody who works with transnational voyagers that we have to think about that. What can we do as teachers or workers to reduce that anxiety, to slow down our speech, to repeat, to recognize the unique needs that each student might have?”

“Talking about Global Migration: Implications for Language Teaching” is now on sale through the publisher, Multilingual Matters, at Catalano will be giving a book talk (together with her colleague Lauren Gatti who will also talk about her book) hosted by the University Bookstore, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in the Nebraska Union.

Catalano received her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from the University of Arizona in 2011 where she also earned her master’s degree in English language/linguistics. Her bachelor’s degree in elementary education was from UNL. In addition to her faculty role at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she is also co-director of the Master’s in Language Teaching and Acquisition program.

College of Education and Human Sciences
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education