Language and identity are closely connected – the way we speak, the things we talk about, and even our accent help make up who we are. But what does this mean for language teachers and learners?
With content from Artist Hetain Patel, and ideas from National Geographic Learning and TED Talks, ELT materials writer Lewis Lansford makes connections between the big ideas of identity, voice and collaboration and the practicalities of language teaching.
Hetain Patel is a british artist of Indian heritage. He makes films, photographs, sculptures and live performances for galleries and theatres worldwide, including Tate Modern and the Royal Opera House, London, Venice Biennale and Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing.
His artwork, exploring the subtle and often humorous complexities of identity formation, crosses a number of art forms, which he finds reflects the multiple ways of looking at and expressing ideas.
Taking inspiration from a bruce Lee quote, he loves the idea of identity being, “formless, shapeless, like water”. This philosophy is something embedded into his creative and professional life. Being british born of Indian origin, and married to a French person of Spanish origin, this fluidity of languages, geography and thinking constantly inform his life and art.
Lewis got his first taste of teaching English in Barcelona in the late 1980s. The experience inspired him to get a Master’s in TESOL, after which he taught at a university language center in Arizona and then a manufacturing company in Japan. In 1995, he took an editorial job with a major publisher in Hong Kong developing materials for Asia, and in 1997 became a freelance editor, project manager and writer in the UK. He has worked on books, videos, tests, audio materials, worksheets, apps and online materials for English learners of all ages across the world. His most recent projects are National Geographic Learning’s Keynote and Perspectives, featuring TED Talks.