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Review of  Issues in Second Language Teaching


Reviewer: 'Seetha Jayaraman' ['Seetha Jayaraman'] Seetha Jayaraman
Book Title: Issues in Second Language Teaching
Book Author: Alessandro G. Benati
Publisher: Equinox Publishing Ltd
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 25.2526

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Review:
SUMMARY
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.

EVALUATION
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 avoided.

REFERENCES
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.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
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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