"Her Mouth Windfull of Speech": Gender in the English as a Second Language Classroom


  • Kellen Toohey
  • Anne Scholefield




This article explores ways in which gender might be productively investigated in classrooms where students are learning English as a second language. We review studies that posit gender differences in communicative style and review feminist critiques of such studies on the basis of their essentialism and ignoring of political issues. Studies that document differences between the behaviors of boys and girls in classrooms are also examined and critiqued on the same grounds. The point is made that such explorations of difference commonly assume differences to be "normal" or "natural," merely a matter of "style," and ignore relationships of power that might be seen as instantiated in communicative events. Two projects of the authors are described in which the perceptions of a group of secondary school students of ESL about gendered speech conventions in home, community, and school were investigated. Recognizing that these students (despite diversity in ethnicity) perceive common gender differences in communicative behaviors, the authors speculate about how students might be encouraged to examine the sources of and reasons for these perceptions of difference. The article concludes with a discussion of how linguistic as well as other practices in schools might be examined so as to make that context safer and more positive for girls and ESL students.




How to Cite

Toohey, K. . . . . . . . . . ., & Scholefield, A. . . . . . . . . . . (1994). "Her Mouth Windfull of Speech": Gender in the English as a Second Language Classroom. TESL Canada Journal, 12(1), 01–14. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v12i1.640