LINGUIST List 13.2170

Sat Aug 24 2002

Review: Applied Linguistics: Ingram (2001)

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  1. Robert Fouser, Review of Ingram (2001) Language Centres

Message 1: Review of Ingram (2001) Language Centres

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2002 15:31:28 +0900
From: Robert Fouser <rjfousermsg.biglobe.ne.jp>
Subject: Review of Ingram (2001) Language Centres

Ingram, David (2001) Language Centres: Their Roles Functions and Management. 
John Benjamins Publishing Company, viii+241pp, hardback ISBN 90-272-1957-5 
(Eur.), 1-58811-094-X (US), USD 82.00, Language International World Directory.

Announced in http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-250.html

Robert J. Fouser, Kyoto University

DESCRIPTION

_Language Centres_ begins, in Chapter 1, with a preliminary discussion
of definitions, the goals of the book, and the rationale for selecting
the centers discussed in the book. The author defines language centers
as "Language centres take many forms, but essentially, they are units
with a defined purpose related differentially, to the development of
applied linguistic the improvement of language education, and the
implementation of language policy in the institution, nation or region
that they serve" (p. 1). The author excludes language teaching
centers, language resource centers, and related institutions from
analysis. "However the distinctive feature of language centers as
discussed in this book is that they also include a substantial
interest in applied linguistics for the purposes of research,
consultancy or teaching" (p. 4). The goal of the book is provide a
fuller understanding of the purpose organization, and funding of
language centers. The author limits his analysis of language centers
to five well- know language centers "because they provide contrasting
illustrations in their missions, roles, and functions..." (p. 5).

Chapter 2 presents a discussion of the National Foreign Language
Center (NFLC) (www.nflc.org) in Washington DC. Founded in 1987, the
Center is funded largely by private sources and supports advisory
activities related to language policy in the United States. It follows
the think-tank model, and publishes research and policy statements
that are designed to influence foreign language education policy,
particularly at the national level. The author discusses in detail how
the work of Dr. Richard Lambert, founder of the NFLC, influenced the
research interests and institutional design. The NFLC has responded to
lack of a clearly articulated foreign language education policy in the
United States, especially concern about falling enrolments in foreign
language courses. The uniqueness and effectiveness of the NFLC come
from "its independence, its exceptional funding base that makes that
independence possible, its perception of national social, economic,
political, and security needs, and in the unique structure is has been
able to adopt with the cooperation of its financial donors..."
(p. 36).

Chapter 3 contains an analysis of the Centre for Information on
Language Teaching and Research (CILT) (http://www.cilt.org.uk) in
London. Founded in 1966, the oldest of the centers discussed in this
book, CILT is government funded and has a number of branches
throughout the United Kingdom. It is focused on improving the quality
of classroom language teaching in United Kingdom by disseminating
information on language learning and teaching to teachers and
researchers. The author evaluates CILT as follows: "It is very
different from in funding, activities, and management approach from
all of the other centres that are considered, and it is highly
effective in its prime roles of information gathering and
dissemination, as a clearinghouse, and as a centre charged with
stimulating and facilitating research, development, and high quality
practice in the field of foreign language education" (p. 62).

Chapter 4 focuses the European Centre for Modern Language (ECML)
(http://www.ecml.at) in Graz, Austria. The ECML is the newest of the language
centers discussed in the book. The Council of Europe founded it for a
three-year trial period in 1995, and was given permanent status in
1998. Its main function is to implement that the language policy
decisions of the Council of Europe headquartered in Strasbourg.
Unlike the two centers discussed above, the ECML is a multinational
and multilingual institution. The author concludes, "The international
status, role and functions of the Centre while being located in and
party funded by Austria make it distinctive, as does it specific role
of responding to the urgent language needs of the newly independent
countries of Eastern and Central Europe" (p. 83).

Chapter 5 presents a discussion the SEAMEO Regional Language Centre
(RELC) (http://www.relc.org.sg) in Singapore. Founded in by the SEAMEO
(Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization) in 1968, RELC
focuses on the language learning needs of Southeast Asia. Unlike the
centers discussed above, RELC its primary focus is on teacher
development through seminars and workshops. Though RELC receives some
government funding, it generates most of its own funding through user
fees and profits from the RELC International Hotel, which gives it
considerable independence. The author concludes, "Its distinctiveness
lies in the nature of the regional role it fulfills as a predominantly
training institution serving the needs of a highly populous and
diverse region" (p. 107).

Chapter 6 contains an analysis of the Centre for Applied Linguistics
and Languages (CALL) (http://www.gu.edu.au/centre/call) at Griffith
University in Brisbane. The author is director of this Center, the
only university-based center discussed in the book. CALL focuses on
developing high-quality language teaching programs for Australian and
overseas students. It also supports research and consulting activities
in this area. Among the institutions discussed in the book, CALL is
the only one that offers degrees (graduate certificates to Ph.D.) and
that does not rely on government or private grants for funding. The
author concludes, "The experience of the Centre for Applied
Linguistics and Languages demonstrates that wholly self-funding,
commercially oriented language centres within a university's normal
structures can be successful both financially and in terms of the
academic and research reputation they generate" (p. 156).

In Chapter 7, the author concludes by summarizing similarities and
differences among the language centers under the following categories:
background and origins, geographical and administrative locations,
purpose and mission, activities, interactions and links, staffing,
facilities, and budget. The chapter concludes with a summary of
constraints and opportunities that the center faces as well as the
uniqueness and impact of the centers.

Finally, in Chapter 8, the author discusses issues related to
establishing a language center in considerable detail. He argues that
language centers must have a defined purpose that "responds to
globalization" as it relates to improving the quality of language
instruction. The chapter also includes a discussion of the
administrative scope and governance and management of language
centers. The author argues against the creation of an omnipotent
institution designed to control language policy: "Rather than
all-embracing, the successful examples of language centres discussion
in this book demonstrate that, so long as the basic requirement of
synergy is met, size, per se, is not so critical an issue as that the
centre be clearly focused, with a clearly directed role and function,
and with a specific and all-determining purpose" (p. 186). The chapter
also includes a discussion of how to generate financial support and
establish cooperative relationships with other institutions and
individuals in other institutions.

EVALUATION

As the most detailed study of language centers available, _Language
Centres_ makes a substantial contribution to the literature on the
role of institutions and organizations in language education and
research. The discussion of how language centers evolve in response
to diverse social needs is valuable and offers an effective framework
for investigating other language centers. The author draws on his
experience as a director of a language center to offer unique
perspective on more practical concerns of management, staffing, and
funding.

The author makes a convincing case for his choice of language centers,
but the book would have benefited from the inclusion of a language
center in a developing non- English-speaking country. Four of the five
centers discussed in the book are in developed English-speaking
countries or have roots in the Anglo-American research tradition. The
other, the European Centre for Modern Languages, is multilingual and
serves the needs of one of the richest areas of the world. Aside from
bringing greater balance to the subject, the inclusion of a language
center in a developing non-English-speaking country would have shown
how language centers respond to different set of social and language
learning needs.

My main quibble with the book is the quality of the writing. Most
sentences are too long and loaded with prepositional phrases and
modifying clauses, which makes for cumbersome reading at times. The
book could have benefited from a list of other language centers of
importance, but that were not discussed. Finally, the book could have
benefited from the use of tables and figures to provide visual
explanations of ideas and information presented.

To conclude, _Language Centres_ is required reading for persons and
organizations interested in establishing or expanding a language
center. Persons interested in language policy, curricular reform, and
research facilities will also find the book an invaluable resource.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Robert J. Fouser is associate professor of foreign language education
at Kyoto University. He holds an M.A. degree in applied linguistics
from The University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in applied linguistics
from Trinity College Dublin. His main research interests are third
language acquisition, and sociolinguistics in SLA, and foreign
language education policy in Japan and South Korea.
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