Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in The Modern Language Journal, 102, 2, (2018), pp 431-462. doi 10.1111/modl.12479


Copyright © 2018 National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations; published by John Wiley. Used by permission.


One of the main arguments [Huamei] Han makes in her article [“Studying Religion and Language Teaching and Learning: Building a Subfield,” The Modern Language Journal, 102, 2, (2018), pp 432-445] is that “few scholars have studied religion and language teaching and learning in religious or secular institutions” and that a “subfield of religion and language teaching should “(a) focus on but also go beyond pedagogy and language classrooms at places of worship, such as church, synagogue, mosque and temples, or at religious schools, and into the wider religious and secular contexts in general, (b) treat language, religion and economy as intertwining and political, and (c) simultaneously address local and global issues, contexts and processes.” By the end of the article, she advocates for and suggests situating the study of religion and language teaching “in relation to the secular sector and the larger society, bearing in mind that the social processes of the current globalization are unfolding” because the role of religion has largely been ignored in applied linguistics. Because international migration has nearly tripled between 1960 and 2015 (from 77 million people living outside their birth countries worldwide to more than 244 million) and with political turmoil, climate change, and changing notions of hospitality precipitating still more movement and/or displacement, Han’s proposed subfield of research in applied linguistics makes sense, and it is incumbent upon researchers and educators to continue to find ways to better understand how and what people do to navigate ever-shifting and fluid social, religious, cultural, linguistic, economic, institutional, national, legal, and geopolitical boundaries. However, in response to Han’s eloquent call for further study in what she sees as a burgeoning field of study, it is not entirely clear that researchers have not already considered the interplay of religion and language teaching as situated in geopolitical as well as socioeconomic contexts, and while it is important for educators and researchers alike to better understand how people use language in different and across multiple contexts, including classrooms, it does not necessarily follow that they ultimately see or are aware of the nuances that religious faiths or religious texts and language in the everyday lives of people until people come into contact during such practices. Importantly, one might argue that the growth of secularization in many societies in the world may be a consequence for the need of ‘in-between’ spaces wherein different collectives of people of the world may come into contact productively, even as they simultaneously engage with their own religious, cultural, and linguistic practices.

Part of Perspectives: THE ISSUE: Seeing Religion in Language Teaching Contexts and in Language Learning Processes, Martha Bigelow, University of Minnesota, Associate Editor. Participants included: Huamei Han, Simon Fraser University; Sharon Avni, Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York; Ema Ushioda, University of Warwick, Centre for Applied Linguistics; Jason Goulah, DePaul University; Loukia K. Sarroub, University of Nebraska–Lincoln; and Jill A. Watson, St. Olaf College