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Review of  Language Education Today


Reviewer: Laura Loder Buechel
Book Title: Language Education Today
Book Author: Georgeta Raţă
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
Language Acquisition
Book Announcement: 22.2658

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Review:
EDITOR Georgeta Raţă
TITLE: Language Education Today
SUBTITLE: Between Theory and Practice
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2010

Laura Loder Buechel, Elementary School Foreign Language Departments, Zurich and
Schaffhausen Universities of Teacher Education

SUMMARY

''Language Education Today'' is a collection of essays geared towards modern
foreign language teachers and students. The essays are applicable to most levels
of teaching and age-groups and they cover a wide range of topics - from
philosophical underpinnings of what a mother-tongue is to concrete classroom
activities. This book is broken down into three main chapters; ''Language
Education'', ''English Language Teaching and Learning'' and ''Linguistic Issues''.

Chapter one, ''Language Education'', begins with definitions of and interactions
between first language and multilingualism. In ''Code-Switching and Code-Mixing
in Bilingual Interaction: Turkish-Kurdish Bilingual Students in Classroom
Interaction'', Sabine Çabuk analyzes in-school code-switching and code-mixing of
Turkish-Kurdish elementary school students. In ''Langue(s) Maternelle(s)'',
Dragana Drobnjak provides possible definitions of mother tongues while showing
that it is possible to have several and describing situations of mother-tongue
attrition.

Chapter one continues with two articles on contact linguistics. In ''Names of
Slavic Origin in Banat Toponymy'', Diana-Andreea Boc-Sînmărghiţan lists Romanian
toponyms of Slavic origin, gives an overview of the history of the region and
the etymology of these words. In a similar manner, Mirela-Zamilia Danciu and
Alecsandra-Maria Balint point out ''The German Influence on the Romanian Speeches
from Western Romania'' through lists of words broken down categorically.

The section entitled ''L1 vs. L2'' contains two articles. The first one, by
Naghmana Ali, ''Exploring One's Identity in Second Language Education Courses'',
is a reflective description of student-centered projects which can aid in
identity development. Sandra Stefanović's article, ''Error Analysis and Language
Transfer'' describes and counts language-transfer and overgeneralization errors
made by Serbian high school students in English.

The final section of this chapter contains one article in the field of
contrastive studies by Biljana Ivanovska and Violeta Dimova called ''Similarities
and Differences in the Meaning of Linguistic Units in Contemporary German and
Macedonian''. This article provides an overview of the lexical similarities and
differences between family-member lexical units in the two languages.

Chapter 2, ''English Language Teaching and Learning'' starts with a section on EFL
(English as a Foreign Language). In ''An Insight into Serbian EFL Learners'
Difficulties with Spelling at Tertiary Level: A Pilot Study'', Jelena Danilović
analyzes what good spellers do differently from poor ones and suggests
strategies for teachers to help their learners improve. In ''Teaching EFL for
Ruthenians in Vojvodina (Serbia)'', Mihajlo Fejsa illustrates the problems of
English language teaching at the public elementary school level and makes
suggestions for improvement on the policy level.

The second part of Chapter 2, ''ESP'' (English for Specific Purposes), begins with
Alina-Andreea Dragoescu's article on ''Contrastive Corpora of Business English
Compounds and Derivatives of the Words 'Market' and 'Marketing','' where the
English and Romanian uses and definitions of these two words are provided and
adaptations in the Romanian language of these loanwords are discussed. In a
similar manner, the following article, ''The Scientific Language of Informational
Technology: A Semantic Approach'' by Astrid-Simone Groszler explain how ''IT words
are either translated or absorbed into Romanian'' (p. 131), but mainly absorbed
when an exact Romanian equivalent exists. Scott Hollifield, Ioan Petroman and
Cornelia Petroman then contribute their research in ''Hotel Terminology: An
Etymological Approach''. They provide the etymology of native, loan and borrowed
words related to the word 'hotel' in English and find that most of these words
stem from Old French and are compound words. The final article, ''Metaphors in
Business Media Discourse'' by Andreea Varga analyzes and categorizes metaphors
used in business that do not contain references to the usual language of the
subject through critical discourse analysis and finds how these uses can change
a reader's, especially a non-native English reader's, conceptualization of the
topic.

The third section, ''Language Teaching and Assessing Methods'' begins with ''The
Effects of Teaching Communication Strategies to Thai Learners of English'' by
Tiwaporn Kongsom. This study evaluated engineering students' attitudes towards
several explicitly-taught communicative strategies including hesitation devices,
and indicates the usefulness of such explicit strategy instruction. ''Class
Activities Aimed at Enhancing Oral Production in CLIL-Based Lessons'' by Marcella
Menegale provides some guidelines for encouraging speaking through content and
task-based foreign language lessons. ''A Study on the Picture-Word Inductive
Model [PWIM] of Teaching and its Effects on the Vocabulary Acquisition of Year 1
Malaysian Students'' by Ambigapathy Pandian, Bee Choo Lee and Debbita Ai Lin Tan
provides an overview of the PWIM model, the issues of English language teaching
in Malaysia and a future study which will evaluate the effectiveness of this
model. In ''Vocabulary via the Newspaper'', Ambigapathy Pandian, Debbita Ai Lin
Tan and Bee Choo Lee point out another study to be carried out in Malaysia which
will look at the effectiveness of explicit vocabulary training through
newspaper-related exercises as compared to traditional approaches to vocabulary
teaching. The next paper, ''Classroom Management and Cooperative Learning'' by
Jasna Vujčić and Anica Perković, analyzes the use of cooperative learning
settings in vocational schools and provides advantages of such settings. This
section ends with ''Try to Review with Games'', also by Jasna Vujčić and Anica
Perković, which provides reasons for using games and includes descriptions of
two games.

The final section of Chapter 2, ''Language Teacher Profile'' applies theories of
teacher effectiveness and training to specific language situations. The first
article, ''The Responsibility of the Teacher Teaching Medical English'' by Violeta
Dimova and Biljana Ivanovska applies general concepts of effective teaching onto
the ESP teachers in the medical field. ''A Profile of the Language Teacher:
Between Ideal and Reality'' by Maria Palicica and Codruţa Gavrilă shows
characteristics of a good teacher through undergraduate student evaluations.

Chapter 3, ''Linguistic Issues'' begins with Constantin Chevereşan's article:
''Some Word Histories in the Semantic Field of Education''. This article shows the
value of a focus on etymology in teaching through looking at categories of
semantic change and giving examples of the history of the uses of the words
'academy', 'school' and 'symposium'. Snežana Gudurić's article ''Le Français
Actuel et Comment l'enseigner. Quelques Remarques sur la Prononciation et
l'orthographe du Français d'aujourd'hui'' looks at the discrepancy between spoken
and written French and the history of this development as well as the difficulty
in making compromises in the teaching of French as to what is acceptable or not.
In Virginia-Elvira-Jenea Masichevici's article ''Verbs of Animal Communication in
Contemporary French: An Etymological Approach'', there is a list of animal sounds
in French according to some categories of verb-endings and root. In ''Some
Implications of the Complexity of the English Modal Verbs System for Serbian
English Language Learners'', Jelena Prtljaga looks at distinct differences
between modal verb use and structures in English and Serbian which can
facilitate both English and Serbian language teaching. The book ends with
''Plesiosauria Nomenclature: Another 'Lingua Franca''' by the editor, Georgeta
Raţă. In this article, the author shows that indeed, the naming of dinosaurs
followed a certain pattern so as to make classification simpler.

EVALUATION

''Language Education Today: Between Theory and Practice'' has its merits in that
it provides articles stemming from countries that have been often
under-represented in English-based applied linguistics literature. The explicit
focus of the book is language teachers, but individual articles in this book
would appeal to a wide range of experts and non-experts; for example, a person
simply curious about language might be interested in the essays on etymology; a
politician looking to make a policy decision might be interested in ''Teaching
EFL for Ruthenians in Vojvodina''; a Serbian or English teacher looking to be
proactive might be interested in Stefanović's or Prtljaga's articles. The
breadth of topics and the range of countries and languages represented makes
this book relevant for many a public. Furthermore, it is a good sign when
articles leave the reader wanting to know more, such as in the articles about
forthcoming studies in Malaysia.

The breakdown of chapters and the subcategories make the book difficult to
follow. A student looking for – perhaps - studies about Serbian or studies about
etymology might be lost due to this, and also because there is no index.
Prtljaga's article, as an example, could clearly fit under the chapter about
contrastive studies, and many articles could belong to several categories. The
distinction in the articles under the subchapters ''first language vs.
multilingualism'' or ''L1 vs. L2'' is not clear. It is unclear what the editor
intended to show about the categories defined, and the final chapter ''Linguistic
Issues'' seems to be simple leftovers.

Though there is quite a bit of interesting research, some of the articles are
not overly professionally-written and there is some lack of attention to detail.
As one example, in ''Classroom Management and Cooperative Learning'', it is hard
to find out which country or language is being referred to. Some articles,
''Contrastive Corpora of Business English Compounds'' among others, though
interesting, are simply long lists of definitions, word uses or roots which make
the section difficult and tiresome to read -- the analyses or syntheses are cut
short or neglected.

There were a few issues with the content of the articles themselves. Though
certainly not the case in all articles, in some a lack of citation of recent
literature was noted. For example, in ''Error Analysis and Language Transfer'',
the most recent work cited was in 2003 and there has been extensive research on
this topic under terms such as 'syntactic transfer', 'miscue analysis',
'crosslinguistic influence' and more. Furthermore, in Stefanović's article some
language transfer errors might actually be colloquialisms (e.g. ''He did not have
NO money with him'', p. 27) which might be acceptable to native speakers, yet is
counted as an error in this article. ''Language Education Today'' offers many
studies with descriptive statistics, but no use of statistics programs or tests
of significance as could perhaps have been done in Danilovic's article on
individual factors that influence good spelling.

Thinking about supporting identity in the classroom and understanding what a
mother-tongue is can help teachers understand learners. Knowing what errors
learners tend to make and what is difficult in a certain language can help
teachers be proactive and sympathetic. Knowing where words come from is
interesting and can help define correct word use as well as provide insight into
the peoples of certain regions. Having snapshots of classroom activities and
explicit training activities throughout the world can be motivating for teachers
to take up their own action research projects and try new things. Knowing what
good teaching is can provide security. However, more scientific and critical
insights into modern foreign language education can be found through proceedings
from organizations such as the European Second Language Association (Roberts et
al. 2010), the European Association of Applied Linguistics (Bardovi-Harlig and
Dörnyei 2006) or the Boston University Conference on Language Development
(Franich et al. 2010), all of which also provide professional articles stemming
from many regions of the world and many sub-domains in the field. Though most
articles in ''Language Education Today'' make clear links to the topic in the
title, there are quite a few where it is a far stretch to the classroom or
implications for teachers, especially when long lists are presented. The
compilation of articles in ''Language Education Today: Between Theory and
Practice'' unfortunately leaves one wondering what language education today
really is.

REFERENCES

Roberts, L., Howard, M., Ó Laoire, M. and Singleton, D. (eds.). 2010. EUROSLA
Yearbook: Volume 10. European Second Language Association. http://eurosla.org.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. and Dörnyei, Z. (eds). 2006.
http://www.benjamins.com/cgi-bin/t_bookview.cgi?bookid=AILA%2019, Themes in SLA
Research: AILA Review, Volume 19. International Association of Applied
Linguistics. http://www.aila.info.

Franich, K., Iserman, K., and Keil, L. (eds). 2010. BUCLD 34: Proceedings of the
34th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development.
http://www.cascadilla.com/bucld.html or http://www.bu.edu/bucld.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Laura Loder Büchel, M.Ed. is a full-time teacher trainer at the Zurich and Schaffhausen Universities of Teacher Education. Her research interests lie in the field of elementary school foreign language instruction and teacher effectiveness. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

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