LINGUIST List 14.756

Sun Mar 16 2003

Review: Applied Ling: Trappes-Lomax & Gibson (2002)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <naomilinguistlist.org>


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  1. Nadia Economou, Language in Language Teacher Education

Message 1: Language in Language Teacher Education

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003 00:28:31 +0000
From: Nadia Economou <enadiailsp.gr>
Subject: Language in Language Teacher Education

Trappes-Lomax, Hugh and Gibson Ferguson, ed. (2002) Language in
Language Teacher Education. John Benjamins Publishing Company,
vi+257pp, paperback ISBN 1-58811-260-8, $32.95, Language Learning and
Language Teaching 4.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-212.html


Nadia Economou, Institute for Language and Speech Processing

As stated in the introductory chapter, the aim of the present book is
to fill in a gap between, on the one hand, books about language which
do not deal with teacher education and books about language teacher
education which do not deal extensively with language.

Hugh Trappes-Lomax: INTRODUCTION. Language in language teacher
education: a discourse perspective

After a period when language (as ''grammar'') occupied a central role
in language teacher education (LTE), we moved to communicative
theories of language teaching where the role of language was either
downplayed or ignored. Today, ''language'' is back in LTE especially
in the form of awareness about language and together with
communicative proficiency constitute the important elements of
functionally-oriented approaches to ELT. From a more theoretical (Part
1) to the most practical (Part 2), the book emphasizes the importance
of language awareness activities embracing both teacher and learner
language and teaching material. Widely dealt in the literature topics
like cultural awareness (Barnes), attitudes to language varieties
(Wright), register, genre and language of particular professions
(Ferguson) co-exist in this volume with much less dealt topics like
reflexive nature of language (Grundy) and error analysis (Wright).
Part 1 Concepts of language in language teacher education The five
chapters explore different ways in which language is involved in
language teacher education. Important elements that are stressed are:
the notion of ''languaging'', the social dimension of language, its
nature as a pedagogic subject, reflexivity of language learner and
discourse types that ensure learning opportunities.

John E. Joseph: Is language a verb? - conceptual change in linguistics
and language teaching

After providing a brief history of applied linguistics in the 20th
century, Joseph suggests an ''alternative perspective'' as to what
language represents within the process of language teaching and
learning. He explores the possibility of treating language as a verb
instead of a noun, which will enable us to deal with speech and
thought as a single function. Conceiving language as a verb, it means
that we see it as dynamic rather than static, as an ''action'' rather
than a ''thing''. Adhering to a communicative approach to language
teaching means adopting the verbal conception of language; it means
getting students to ''do'' things, to ''perform'' functions. The
communicative approaches to language pedagogy have shifted the
emphasis from language as an institutional thing to language as a
verbal practice. Seeing the English language as an institution,
however, is not an unproblematic concept since it is not a single
universal institution. Joseph draws from his experience in Hong Kong
to give examples of the variability of Hong Kong English. The English
standards are declining in Hong Kong, one might notice, however, not
in a random way; people commit errors influenced by their principle
language. Hong Kong English as an institution differs from
international Standard English; teachers and teacher trainers have to
find the balance between the two which presupposes more or less
intervening in the cultural process. The basic issue put forward in
this chapter is that teaching a language means constantly making
decisions about whether to teach the language as institution or as
practice.

Alan Davies: The social component of language teacher education.

Davis takes this verb-like and noun-like aspect of language a step
further and emphasizes the importance of the ''social component'' in
language teacher education. Unlike physical growth which does not
presuppose any kind of interaction, language development will not take
place without interaction with other language users. This means that
students in language teacher education courses should not only learn
the grammar (the rules) of the language they plan to teach; they
almost certainly need to know how and when to operate these
rules. Davis puts down three elements of the social component of LTE:
the complexity of speech communities, the variety which we need to
teach and whether LTE should be linguistically prescriptive or not.
Regarding the first issue, being a member of the speech community
means sharing common attitudes as to what is appropriate use of a
language, what is standard language etc. Training teachers then means
encouraging them to realize such complexities and appreciate
heterogeneity. The second question, which English variety should we
teach, is related to the previous one. The easy way out is to teach
Standard English. But then, what is Standard English? What about the
marxist, feminist etc critique of Standard English? What is the place
of varieties, dialects and registers? LTE entails then a constant
decision regarding these issues. Finally, as far as the
description-prescription relationship is concerned, students of LTE
need to be made aware of the ongoing debate about norms which are
conventional but cannot be dismissed and prescription. Rather than
providing straight answers, LTE courses need to make students aware of
the social component of their education.

H.G. Widdowson: Language teaching: defining the subject

In his chapter, Widdowson seems to be stating the obvious: teachers
should know their subjects: English, French, science etc. Although
recognizing its practical utility, Widdowson however, wants to go
beyond this superficial statement and work on the crucial distinction
between object (language) and pedagogic subject. By possessing the
knowledge of their language subject, he argues, language teachers
acquire their authority and professionalism. Language as a subject
differs from language as experienced by native speakers. This is the
reason why being a native speaker of a language is not a necessary
prerequisite for being a teacher and it may even be an obstacle for a
native speaker to acquire the necessary knowledge and become language
teacher. The subject, then, is not English, French or German, but
English as a foreign language, French as a foreign language. The
knowledge that the native speaker does not necessarily possess but
which is very important for the language teacher is ''recognizing this
foreignness and recognizing how the language is foreign in different
ways for different groups of students'' (p. 25). To illustrate this
point, Widdowson gives an example of a newspaper article which
contains abstruse words crucial to its interpretation but which may be
incomprehensible for a reader who does not share the cultural values
and attitudes of the writer. He concludes by stating the role of
teacher education as follows ''to guide teachers into an understanding
of the principles that define their subject'' (p. 80). Foreignness of
language encompasses different ways and calls for different kinds of
manipulation that prospective language teachers need to be made ware
of to warrant their professional authority.

Peter Grundy: Reflexive language in language teacher education

Grundy takes Wissowson's point about teaching a language instead of
language further and stresses the importance of conscious awareness of
the reflexive nature of language in language teaching methodology. By
''reflexive language'' Grundy means ''these diacritic features of
language which instruct audiences how to interpret the speech they are
hearing'' (p. 85). He discusses examples of data from second language
classes which suggest that learners have more control over the
reflexive than over the formal properties of language. This is
contrary to what language teachers believe since the latter usually
fail to recognize that second language learners do possess reflexive
control over their own language. Drawing from his experience in Hong
Kong Polytechnic University, he describes how inspiring it was for his
students to use samples of learner talk from their own classrooms (in
an introduction to pragmatics course) to gain awareness of the
importance of reflexivity in their own teaching. Grundy's conclusion
is that languages are learnable rather than teachable and that if
learners are exposed to talk rich in reflexive features, it is these
features that enable them to acquire language since they make the
impute comprehensible to them.

Scott Thornbury: Training in instructional conversation

The author shares Widdowson's and Grundy's concerns with language that
learners can learn from; what he is interested in is the type of
discourse which creates opportunities for learners. He values c
onversation-like talk where learners have the opportunity to develop a
sense of control and, as a result of that, a sense of ownership of the
discourse and a sense of being empowered. The institutional goals and
the classroom context, including the relationship between the
interactants and the way the discourse is managed, are parameters
which are interrelated. In order to prove this interdependence,
Thornbury relates these ideas to the approach adopted on in-service
Diploma courses at International House in Barcelona. Trainees are
encouraged to gauge their learners' responses to instruction; this is
basically what training for ''a pedagogy of possibility'' is about.
Thornbury argues for instructional conversation where the learners
adopt the role of controlling the discourse, of constructing meaning
without at the same time challenging the authority and expertise of
their teacher. Part 2 Working with language in language teacher
education Moving on from theory to practice, part 2 is a collection of
papers with the emphasis on practice with language in LTE. Two main
themes link these papers together and to the first part: 1) the
importance of language awareness interpreted as the explicit knowledge
about language and how it works and 2) the role of language in the
improvement of teachers' personal language skills in the classroom.

Tony Wright: Doing language awareness. Issues for language study in
language teacher education

Wright's opening chapter deals with issues having to do with the
content and teaching of language teaching. Following Widdowson, he
states that being a fluent mother-tongue speaker of English (and, in
fact, of any language) does not guarantee successful practice as a
language teacher. Neither being a good ''linguist'' (having
successfully completed courses in syntax and semantics) guarantees a
successful language teaching practice. What a prospective teacher
needs is to possess language awareness that enables him/her to
understand not only how language works but also how students work with
language as well as the nature of their mistakes. Language awareness
is a goal and a method for LTE. Language awareness can operate within
three domains in teacher education: the ''user'' domain, the
''analyst'' domain and the teacher domain. The example of a specific
text is used to illustrate how newly acquired knowledge about language
can be linked to classroom practice; specific activities are described
to show how the data can be exploited for language awareness work with
trainees in all three domains. The chapter concludes by summarizing a
number of principles for appropriate classroom practice.

Gibson Ferguson: Language awareness in the preparation of teachers of
English for specific purposes

The issue of language awareness is taken further in Ferguson's chapter
where it is applied to English for specific purposes (ESP)
contexts. He argues for the adoption of a discourse perspective on
language that will enable users to understand the differences between
the language used in law, business, medicine etc. as variation in
discourse and genre rather than lexis and grammar. In the final part
of the chapter, the author describes one of the language awareness
activities employed on a short ESP teacher education course which was
used to introduce participants to the principles of genre analysis and
to the idea of the role of communicative purposes in making particular
lexico-grammatical choices.

Martha C. Pennington: Examining classroom discourse frames. An
approach to raising language teachers' awareness of and planning for
language use

This chapter aims at increasing teachers' professional development,
awareness of their own and their students' language use and
understanding of classroom dynamics. To chive this, Pennington uses
classroom discourse data in the form of audio and video recordings and
classroom observation in Hong Kong and Britain. She presents a scheme
for the classification of classroom discourse into different
communicative frames. In this way, apprentice teachers are helped
towards raising their awareness of classroom dynamics in relation to
larger contexts. The frames identified are: lesson frame,
lesson-support frame, institutional-support frame and, finally,
commentary frame. The latter is being influenced by popular culture
and vernacular language; this is where participants express their
opinion and reactions to classroom context and the world at large.

Clare O'Donoghue and Tom Hales: What was that you said? Trainee
generated language awareness

The authors start by describing several possible models for the
language awareness component of teacher education courses. Using
self-generated transcript-data, they develop a series of grammar
awareness activities for teachers. What is really unusual is that
students of pre-service training courses are encouraged to examine
authentic instances of language and consider themselves as researchers
of language rather than consumers or transmitters of
knowledge. Trainees work in groups to perform dialogue and concordance
tasks, to apply their theoretical learning to authentic data and
investigate if grammatical descriptions and coursebook paradigms hold
true.

Heather Murray: Developing language awareness and error
detection. What can we expect of novice trainees?

This chapter reports on an investigation of teacher trainees' ability
to detect and classify language learners' errors. The trainees were
attending a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults)
course. The author points out that the importance of error detection
has been underestimated in teacher training courses despite the fact
that errors constitute evidence of the level of difficulty of an
exercise or activity and indicators of learning success or
failure. Specific training activities are described which help
trainees identify and classify errors with greater linguistic
sensitivity.

Ann Barnes: Maintaining language skills in pre-service training for
foreign language teachers

Barnes stresses the importance of language skills maintenance for
modern foreign language teacher trainees taking a postgraduate
certificate in education (PGCE). The programme is given by the
University of Warwick and encompasses several aspects of subject
knowledge. The author describes the rationale behind the development
of the programme as well as the content and the tasks. The Language
Centre provides the programme with audio and multimedia material,
satellite TV and printed materials. Trainees are given specific tasks
to complete using the materials available, some of which are
open-ended. Language learning refreshment classes are combined with
independent language learning sessions. The author concludes by
stressing the encouraging results of the programme, especially of the
language refreshment classes.

Richard Cullen: The use of lesson transcripts for developing teachers'
classroom language

Cullen uses lesson transcripts made from video recordings of classroom
teaching to develop teachers' classroom language skills on in-service
courses to deepen their understanding of teaching processes. The
emphasis is placed on questioning (to get students to think, to check
understanding, to get them practice language forms etc.) since this
still constitutes an essential aspect of effective teaching especially
for non-native speaker teachers. The ultimate aim of Cullen is to
raise the teachers' awareness of the pedagogical role of different
types of teacher questions and to improve their proficiency in
reformulating pedagogically useful questions. Teaching skills are
improved together with language skills.

Susan Lavender: Towards a framework for language improvement within
short in-service teacher development programmes

Together with Murray's chapter, this one can be considered as an
example of action research. The author used an on-going research
methodology, collecting data at various points to capture possible
changes of perceptions of both teachers and tutors. The data were
obtained from two groups of primary and secondary school teachers of
English from Korea attending in-service teacher development
programmes. The aim of the programme was to upgrade the teachers' ELT
methodology, to provide insights into British culture and to improve
their languages skills. The analysis of data from diaries, interviews
and questionnaires has proved that trainees and tutors keep changing
their perceptions of the language improvement component of the
course. The more confident the teachers become as far as their
language abilities are concerned, the better able they are to employ
English in the classroom and encourage their students to do likewise.

As pointed out in p. 23, teacher education, being a form of service
industry, in the business not of mass-producing machines (in this
case, human) but of creating added value. The beneficiaries are of
course prospective teachers and in-service teachers, as well as
learners, parents, employers and society at large. However, the nature
of value added is very difficult to define since it is not always easy
to define the relationship between teacher education and teacher
performance. The same holds true for the present volume. Its value
lies in the fact that we can select from the pages issues that are
common in teacher education settings despite cultural
differences. This is especially true for the second part of the
book. The various forms of practice described in this part are
contextually specific and not straight forwardly replicated in other
places. However, they constitute an invaluable source of practice and
have wider implications for various educational settings. 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Nadia Economou holds a Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics from the
University of Lancaster, U.K. She has taught courses in General
Linguistics and Discourse Analysis in private institutions in
Greece. She is currently working as assistant researcher in the
Division of Educational Technology at the Institute for Language and
Speech Processing (ILSP).
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