|Florentina Halimi, Ph.D., will apply her research at Fordham to English language instruction in Macedonia.
The Graduate School of Education (GSE) will welcome to its faculty an accomplished Albanian scholar from Macedonia, Florentina Halimi, Ph.D., who will spend the fall semester teaching and researching as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar.
Halimi, a linguist specializing in English language instruction and acquisition, has chosen Fordham as the host school for her Fulbright research to collaborate with the GSE’s programs in English language learning to study the development of teacher leadership.
In particular, Halimi will take advantage of the resources of the Center for Educational Partnerships, which will enable her to work within several New York City schools and will also allow her to study the teacher-leader training models offered by programs like the Long Island/Westchester Bilingual & ESL Teacher Leadership Academy (LI/W BETLA).
Halimi’s ultimate aim is to apply the research from her time at Fordham to English language instruction in Macedonia, where there is now a great need for a renewed approach to teaching English as a foreign language.
“Macedonia has been going through a period of transition,” Halimi said. “After the Iron Curtain fell, English became one of the most important languages learned in Macedonia.”
According to Halimi, economic growth in Macedonia has led to a rise in bilingualism and multilingualism, and academics, businesspeople and young people, in particular, have expressed an increased demand for English training.
Halimi notes, however, that as a multicultural, multiethnic nation, Macedonia poses unique challenges for English language instruction. Teachers need to be aware of the specific social and psychological factors affecting language acquisition, she said.
Fordham’s vibrant, metropolitan, multicultural environment and its large body of international students will provide a particularly fertile ground in which to research these factors, she stated.
“The focus that I am very much interested in studying is the way students with different linguistic backgrounds and cultural backgrounds acquire English,” she said.
Halimi, who is part of the Albanian population in Macedonia, speaks from her own broad experiences on the subject of language acquisition, as she is fluent in a total of six languages.
“I have always been interested in the way people learn languages, in particular, the way people learn English,” she said. “I have always loved the English language and have wanted to learn more about the English language and culture.”
Halimi’s work as an English teacher in Macedonia gave her the opportunity to work with students who were multilingual, bilingual, or learning English as a second or additional language. The experience led to her desire to study the acquisition of English in Macedonia, so she went on to earn a Ph.D. from Vienna University, focusing on the speech and written production of bilingual students.
While in New York, Halimi will collaborate in research with Fordham professors, one of whom will be Carolyn Brown, Ph.D., associate professor in the GSE’s division of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Policy.
Halimi and Brown met in 2005 when they co-taught a course at an international summer university organized in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. This fall they will conduct research on leadership in English language instruction as well as classroom and curriculum development.
“We will discuss what teachers actually need to know about English language learners and the need to provide training in teacher education programs. We will investigate teachers’ experiences with English language learners,” said Halimi.
The study will draw upon a variety of organizational contexts, including intensive English programs, TESOL departments in universities, ESL programs in community colleges, adult education programs, and commercial ELT centers and schools in New York.
Halimi’s aim is to return to her post at State Tetovo University and implement new professional development courses, form new strategies and initiatives to keep English teachers’ qualifications up-to-date, and develop new funding schemes for schools that will help improve teaching conditions.
Halimi hopes to work with her colleagues in Macedonia, who she said are eager to participate, to establish new networks between the university and schools, similar to the model employed by Fordham’s GSE.
On top of her busy Fulbright research schedule, Halimi will teach a course she proposed for the GSE on Multilingualism and English, which is designed for students who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the spread of English in Europe, particularly South Eastern Europe.
“Hopefully it will be interesting for Fordham students in New York to learn a little bit about our social environment here and how much people are interested in learning English,” she said.
– Nina Romeo