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LINGUIST List 25.2526

Wed Jun 11 2014

Review: Applied Linguistics: Benati (2013)

Editor for this issue: Mateja Schuck <mschuckwisc.edu>

Date: 14-Dec-2013
From: Seetha Jayaraman <seetha.jaygmail.com>
Subject: Issues in Second Language Teaching
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-2108.html

AUTHOR: Alessandro G. Benati
TITLE: Issues in Second Language Teaching
PUBLISHER: Equinox Publishing Ltd
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Seetha Jayaraman, Dhofar University

Issues in Second Language Teaching is a small volume covering the key concepts
and current trends in language teaching. It discusses recent developments in
Second Language Teaching. The book consists of eight chapters treating
different approaches, some old and some new, from a new perspective. A brief
summary of each paper follows.

The Preface summarizes all the chapters, and the Introduction gives an
overview of the key concepts and various theories in Second Language
Acquisition dealt with in the book.

Chapter 1, “Key Developments in Second Language Teaching”, reviews methods and
approaches in Second Language Teaching, ranging from the Grammar Translation
Method to the Task-based approach. The recommendations about effective methods
for Second Language instructors are also presented, with evidence from
classroom practice. The characteristics of each theory are explained in terms
of the methodology and the classroom activities involved.

Chapter 2, “Key Issues in Grammar Teaching”, discusses the techniques of
grammar teaching. The input-output based approach and the key terms used in
the teaching grammar are explained briefly. According to the input-output
based approach mere instruction on rules of grammar and mechanical drills does
not bring about learning. On the contrary, the focus of learners must be on
the ‘form’ of the input to enhance and speed up effective learning of grammar
in communicative language teaching. The input enhancement technique and
structured input practice lead to processing the input correctly and
efficiently. Consciousness raising is one technique which helps learners to
pay attention to the grammatical forms and provides the input needed to
acquire an L2. Collaborative output tasks provide the opportunity to produce
the right output and help learners to develop their linguistic skills through
the comprehension of forms.

Chapter 3, “Key Issues in Interactional and Corrective Feedback”, provides
useful tips to teachers on corrective feedback and defines important terms in
interactional feedback. The chapter also deals with various approaches to
corrective feedback considered the key elements in Second Language
Learning/Teaching. For instance, corrective feedback plays a facilitative role
in L2 learning. The information provided to the L2 learners through corrective
feedback should help them to confirm or falsify generalizations and/or to
modify their interlanguage. Corrective feedback must be provided implicitly
and error correction must make learners reflect on language structures or
vocabulary. Using the type of corrective feedback that can produce
student-generated repairs can reach more learners. Therefore, self-correction
must be encouraged through systematic feedback.

Chapter 4 “Key Issues in the Teaching of Speaking”, emphasizes Communicative
Competence over Linguistic Competence. A few suggestions are made on the use
of effective tasks to improve the learners’ oral skills.

Chapter 5, “Key Issues in the Teaching of Listening”, discusses the issues in
teaching listening and the principles and theories involved in listening. The
different objectives of listening (viz., listening for gist, for a purpose,
for main concepts or for specific information), and different listening
strategies are discussed. Guidelines on effective listening task construction
and the notion of ‘task’ as an important listening activity in Language
Teaching are also presented.

Chapter 6, “Key Issues in the Teaching of Reading”, is all about the role of
Reading Comprehension in Second Language Teaching. The different activities
and the five-stage approach -- including pre-reading, reading,
text-interaction, post-reading and personalization stages -- are detailed to
foster reading skills in learners.

Chapter 7, “Key Issues in the Teaching of Writing”, is about the
process-oriented approach to writing. This approach deals with the process of
creating a written text as opposed to focusing on the final product of
writing. It presents methods for developing effecting writing tasks in the
classroom and a composing-oriented approach is advocated to develop writing
skills among L2 learners. This approach focuses on the different cognitive
processes involved in writing.

According to this approach, developing an effective writing task should follow
three steps:

1. Defining the rhetorical problem (goal/purpose and audience)
2. Planning (generating ideas, organizing them, setting goals).
3. Reviewing (evaluation and review)

These help enhance the L2 learners’ attention at every stage in the process of
composing the written task. There is a shift from a product-oriented to a
process-oriented approach in order to make learning more productive.

Chapter 8, “Key Questions in Second Language Teaching: Implementing Principles
of Learning”, addresses some important questions in Second Language Teaching.
Some of the questions addressed in this chapter are:

--What types of grammar instruction are better than others?
--Are any particular types of error correction techniques better than others?
--Is it useful to provide explicit information like grammar rules?
--Are any forms or structures more difficult to acquire than others?
--Are there any preferences for particular types of oral and listening tasks,
reading and writing tasks?

The Conclusions are based on the observations made in the preceding eight
chapters and the chapter provides a summary of the chapters. It highlights ten
points on the principled and evidence-based approach to second language
teaching viz., ensuring that learners develop linguistic and communicative
competence, engage in meaningful tasks along with the ‘form’ in L2, are
exposed to quality input and get opportunity for good output, get exposure to
L2 speech and can play key role in performing tasks. They must work in groups
for learning a variety of forms and get minimum error correction and are able
to self-repair.
An index of key terms is provided at the end of the book.

The book is helpful to researchers and teachers working on teaching of second
language as a reference guide to ESL Teaching concepts. It serves as a good
supplement to theories in ESL. A comparison of the traditional methods and the
modern teaching technique, without subscribing to any particular method is
impressive. Each chapter progresses along a short introduction, key aspects,
the key developments in the specified area and suggests a few teaching
techniques adapted from earlier theories. A brief summary and conclusions are
presented with the pros and cons of the methods.

The 140-page book is clearly written. Although most of the issues discussed
are likely to be familiar to many readers, the viewpoints presented are likely
to be different, based on the latest trends in the field in English language
teaching/learning. Chapter 5, on the key issues in teaching Listening, is
particularly interesting for its discussion of developmental aspects in the
field and the Table 5.1 on p. 82 on Listening strategies and the principles of
a Listening Task. The index to key terms and explanation to the terms, which
appears at the end of the book, serves as a helpful quick reference and
enhances the quality of explanation offered. A few typos could have been

Ellis, R. (1997). SLA Teaching Research and Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Nunan, D. (2001). Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston, MA: Heinle
and Heinle.

I completed my Master's degree in English and in French and earned my
Doctorate in Acoustic Phonetics from Osmania University, Hyderabad,India.
Currently, I am a faculty member at Dhofar University, Sultanate of Oman,
where I teach English Language Skills to graduate students. My research
interests include sociolinguistics, comparative linguistics, English Language
Teaching, articulatory and acoustic phonetics.
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