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Review of  Language Centres. Their roles, functions and management

Reviewer: Robert J. Fouser
Book Title: Language Centres. Their roles, functions and management
Book Author: David E. Ingram
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 13.2170

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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.

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Robert J. Fouser, Kyoto University


_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) ( 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) ( 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) ( 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) ( 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) ( 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.


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.