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Review of Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and Beyond
EDITORS: Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, Titima Suthiwan TITLE: Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and Beyond SUBTITLE: Current Perspectives and Future Directions SERIES TITLE: Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education [SSFLE] 3 PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2011
Shih-Ju Young, Linguistics Program, University of Georgia
This edited volume consists of a total of 13 chapters. Chapter 1 is written by the editors and the other 12 chapters/papers were selected from a pool of some 140 papers and posters presented at the 2004 Centre for Language Studies International Conference (CLaSIC 2004), hosted by the Centre for Language Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore. The book comprises two parts: Part 1, “Theoretical foundation and research”, contains 7 chapters that inform readers about some recent efforts in theoretical and empirical research on foreign language teaching, whereas Part 2, “Classroom practice and evaluation studies”, consists of 5 chapters that focus on innovative developments and practices in curriculum and foreign language teaching of various linguistic levels and modalities.
Chapter 1 “Foreign language teaching in Asia and beyond: An introduction to the book”, by Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, and Titima Suthiwan (eds.), starts out by addressing the impact of globalization on foreign language teaching and learning, resulting in an increasing demand for learning foreign languages, and the necessity for a more structured language policy and a more versatile curriculum that complements the various characteristics and needs of foreign language learners. The second part of the chapter introduces the structure and contents of this edited volume.
Part One “Theoretical foundation and research”
Chapter 2, “Preparing language teachers to teach learning strategies”, by Anna Uhl Chamot, provides a comprehensive discussion about the often underrated role of learning strategies in foreign language learning and teaching, and why and how it should be explicit to the students and incorporated into teacher education training and regular curriculum practice. Previous studies have suggested that “good language learners were skilled at matching strategies to the task they were working on, while the less successful language learners did not have the metacognitive knowledge about task requirements needed to select appropriate strategies” (p. 31). This calls for consciousness-raising and goal-oriented instructions that help students become aware of what strategies are in general, what strategies they are already using, and how certain strategies can be used for a particular task. Most importantly, they help students begin to think about their own learning processes. The author also introduces a task-based, 5-phase instructional sequence (i.e. Preparation, Presentation, Practice, Self-evaluation, and Expansion) developed for the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), aiming to provide a framework for teachers in planning language lessons that integrate content, language and learning strategies.
Chapter 3, “Discourse Politeness Theory and second language acquisition”, by Mayumi Usami, introduces a preliminary, universally applicable framework, termed Discourse Politeness Theory (DPT), that aims to investigate and compare politeness effects in languages with different degrees of linguistic and/or pragmatic elaboration of politeness at the discourse level. DPT consists of 6 key components which build on each other: (1) DP default, which denotes the unmarked behavior that is considered appropriate for a given discourse from either side of participants in the discourse; (2) Marked/unmarked behavior, in which behavior that is in line with the DP default is considered unmarked and behavior that deviates from the expected norm, or DP default, is then marked; (3) Marked/unmarked politeness, whereby unmarked politeness often goes unnoticed and marked politeness often presents deliberate intent to redress Face Threats (i.e. verbal/nonverbal speech/gestural acts that positively or negatively impact the hearers’ or speakers’ faces based on the terms of conversation); (4) De Value, which is calculated by comparing both the speaker’s and hearer’s estimations of the degree of the Face Threat of the speaker’s act; (5) Types of politeness effects, which are either marked as plus-, minus- or neutral; and (6) relative/absolute politeness, in which relative politeness is realized by movements towards and away from the DP default of a given discourse, and absolute politeness labels linguistic terms that are inherently more polite than others. The author believes that language learners can benefit from instructions that not only focus on appropriate linguistic forms but also emphasize conversational strategies in order to achieve the DP defaults of various situations and, consequently, overall communicative competence.
Chapter 4, “Integrating general purpose and vocationally-oriented language learning (VOLL) -- New goals for language and teacher training”, by Christina Kuhn, presents an integrated pedagogical model that incorporates both general and vocationally-oriented goals in a single curriculum which is both needs- and subject-oriented. Such an integrated course design aims to address the increasing and diverse needs of foreign language learners in a globalizing world and demonstrates the fact that in order to plan a versatile yet efficient and effective course, language teacher training programs necessarily need to be re-directed at helping teachers develop competencies in curriculum planning, needs analysis, quality management, use of media, etc. Suggestions for integrated themes, as well as instruments for planning this type of curriculum, are provided.
Chapter 5, “Pragmatics in foreign language teaching and learning: Reflections on the teaching of Chinese in China”, by Hong Wang, applauds the increasing efforts put forth by some scholars in China in their research on the pragmatics of the Chinese language, but conversely, worries that these efforts do not translate effectively into how Chinese is being taught in China. The author states that in the field of teaching the Chinese language to foreign learners (TCFL hereafter) in China, form-centered teaching still dominates the nation’s classrooms, despite the fact that the majority of students studying in China are there for communicative fluency. The author suggests that teachers in China should integrate both pragmalingustic and sociopragmatic elements into their teaching and proposes a set of procedures (i.e. Speech act identification, Analysis of the speech act, Conscious learning of the Chinese speech act, Controlled practice, and Free practice) that provide guidelines for teaching and fostering pragmatic competence in a TCFL classroom.
Chapter 6, “Development of a foreign language anxiety model”, by Yujia Zhou, explores the interrelationships between language anxiety and three personal-psychological traits. The three personal resources that may potentially contribute to language learning related anxiety examined in this chapter are: (1) self-esteem in language learning; (2) learners’ beliefs about language learning; and (3) learners’ self-perception of their speaking proficiency. Statistical results presented suggest that variables (1) and (2) show a direct effect on foreign language anxiety. Furthermore, variable (1) mediates the influence of (2) and (3) on language anxiety.
Chapter 7, “Facilitating students’ understanding of English news: Peer scaffolding in an EFL listening classroom”, by Danli Li, presents findings from a microgenetic analysis about peer scaffolding based on investigating 8 intermediate college learners of English in their collaborative efforts to comprehend 5 English news articles. It was found that peer scaffolding tasks, in general, foster a supportive environment and meaning-focused communication and facilitate language learning, as evident by students’ efforts in negotiating meaning and linguistic forms of the target language. It is also suggested that peer scaffolding may be a mutual effort, though oftentimes one student emerges as a tutor during exercises.
Chapter 8, “Vocabulary learning strategies among adult foreign language learners”, by Shameem Rafik-Galea and Bee Eng Wong, details a questionnaire study of foreign language vocabulary learning strategy preferences and reveals that students of different ethnic groups use both effective and ineffective strategies when learning different foreign language vocabulary. Furthermore, the use of direct strategies (i.e. memory, cognitive and compensation strategies) is far more prominent than that of indirect strategies (i.e. meta-cognitive, affective and social strategies). The results suggest that language teachers should present learners with different learning strategies for the acquisition of vocabulary and provide exercises and input that encourage the use of various strategies when learning vocabulary.
Part Two “Classroom practice and evaluation studies”
Chapter 9, “Technology in the service of constructivist pedagogy: Network-based applications and knowledge construction”, by Wai Meng Chan and Ing Ru Chen, presents three network-mediated applications inspired by the constructivist view of learning -- “My Vocab Book”, “Interactive Situation Simulation”, and “Movie Studio” -- which were designed to enable self-directed and process-oriented learning, as well as provide stimulating contexts that are authentic and open-ended.
Chapter 10, “Pedagogical concerns: Some common features of content-based instruction, task-based learning and business case study, and their roles in an EBP class”, by Wenhua Hsu, offers quantitative and qualitative evaluations on the validity and effectiveness of an English for Business Purposes (EBP) course taught in Taiwan that consisted of three different approaches/ tasks carried out in the order of content-based instruction (CBI), task-based learning (TBL), and business case study (BCS). It was noted that both the CBI and TBL tasks greatly impact and yield positive effects on students’ performance on BCS tasks, and both CBI and BCS tasks offer students opportunities for real-life stimulated and subject-matter practice, which, according to students’ feedback, give them a purpose for language use and greatly stimulate their interests in continuous learning.
Chapter 11, “Memorizing dialogues: The case for “Performative Exercises”, by Izumi Walker and Tomoko Utsumi, challenges common negative perceptions towards dialogue memorization in foreign language learning and points out that this method may be a key step leading to automaticity and fluency in language production. By asking students to memorize the model dialogue for a 5-stage performative exercise (i.e. discussion of content and context of the model dialogue, performance check on memorized dialogue, contextualized exercises, creative role-play, and presentation and feedback), students are provided with a basis for communication in similar real-life situations. Furthermore, familiarity with the grammar, structure, etc., through memorization allows students the luxury to attend to higher-level processing, such as meaning construction, instead of worrying about sentential-level constructions. The results show that students’ speech production progresses and improves dramatically through the exercise and that the majority of students perceived memorizing dialogue as being helpful in their learning.
Chapter 12, “The whole world communicates in English, do you? -- Educational drama as an alternative approach to teaching English in Japan”, by Naoko Araki-Metcalfe, discusses several advantages of using educational drama as an alternative pedagogical approach in foreign language teaching. This approach not only presents contextualized linguistic information, but also provides students with opportunities to explore non-verbal communication. Within clearly defined, rule-based boundaries, students are free to observe, to construct a sense of self, to imagine and create, to improvise, and most importantly, to use both linguistic and kinesthetic skills to express themselves.
Chapter 13, “From oral interview test to oral communication test: Alleviating students’ anxiety”, by Satomi Chiba and Yoko Morikawa, points out that more traditional teacher-student, question-answer, one-way oral exams greatly induce anxiety. A high level of anxiety has an adverse effect on oral performance. Therefore, to ease anxiety, the authors suggest giving students a more humanistic and interactive oral test that allows them to have an actual conversation with their partner(s) on a subject of their choice from a pool of topics. Students’ self evaluations point to the positive effect of natural communication between peers, from which students acquire a sense of accomplishment and an increase in their motivation. Suggestions for how to go about designing, implementing, and assessing oral communication tests are also provided.
This edited volume is a great addition to the field of second language acquisition in general, and foreign language teaching and learning, in particular. It is especially beneficial for practitioners and teachers alike who are determined, but frustrated in their efforts to find a well-balanced middle point for teaching and learning. For those who are constantly looking for innovative pedagogical practices and approaches in teaching and ways to foster students’ abilities and skills in learning and using the language (especially communicative proficiency), this volume will not disappoint. For those who want to develop a comprehensive theoretical background in foreign language teaching and learning, this volume will probably not be a go-to reference, since each chapter presents only a snap-shot of certain aspects of teaching or learning, rather than painting a complete picture of the science and art of foreign language teaching and learning as a collective whole.
Despite the editors’ efforts to organize these collections into two major themes, “theoretical foundation and research” and “classroom practice and evaluation studies”, the nature and scope of individual chapters cover too many variations of aspects of teaching and learning from different disciplines, which makes it difficult for readers to tie everything together as a collective whole and enjoy this volume in a one-after-another fashion. I highly recommend that readers rearrange the order of chapters based on individual needs and preferences in order to get the most out of this volume.
The following paragraphs suggest a more cohesive organization of chapters based on themes that closely link specific papers together.
Chapters 2, 8, 7, and 11 -- Teaching and learning strategies
The field of second language teaching has witnessed a healthy and rapid growth of research on learning styles, which suggests that various learning styles characterized by an individual learner do reveal a correlation between an individual’s learning styles and his/her performance regarding different linguistic elements (Gregorc, 1979; Reid, 1987). Learners with different learning styles may opt for different teaching and learning strategies and preferences. Chapters 2 and 8 address this variability directly by suggesting teachers explicitly introduce students to various learning strategies in general, and strategies in vocabulary learning, in particular. Chapters 7 and 11 offer evaluative work on students’ performance and feedback for two specific learning strategies: peer scaffolding and dialogue memorization, respectively. All four chapters, together, paint a pretty solid picture of teaching being more effective if it is student-centered. They also show that the learning experience of students can be enhanced if they have a better understanding of not just how they learn, but how to learn. However, learning strategies are specific tools used by individuals with different learning styles (and various teaching strategies used by a teacher may well be an extension of the teacher’s teaching and learning styles); this being said, these four chapters can definitely benefit from an additional chapter specifically dealing with “teaching and learning styles”. It is my personal opinion that by having an understanding of individual students’ learning styles, teachers are better informed on what they’re getting themselves into and are better equipped to design a course, exercise, or activity that can guide students in their own learning process and dissolve potential conflicts raised when there is a mismatch between students’ and teachers’ learning styles and expectations.
Chapters 4 and 10 -- Psychological trait: Degrees of motivation
Motivation is another key factor driving language success (Ellis, 1994). Motivation is not just something students bring to the classroom but something teachers can cultivate and promote to enhance learner outcomes. Chapters 4 and 10 present two purpose-specific and goal-oriented course designs to demonstrate how such courses can promote interests in learning.
Chapters 6 and 13 -- Psychological trait: Levels of anxiety in learners
The possibility that anxiety interferes with language learning, as well as its pedagogical resolution, have been discussed in numerous publications from various disciplines (Gregersen & Horwitz, 2002; Horwitz, Tallon, & Luo, 2009). Specific to foreign language learning, three main types of anxiety are agreed upon: communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation (Cubukcu, 2007). Chapter 6 examines three potential personal attributes behind foreign language learning anxiety. Chapter 13 presents an alternative oral exam format that aims to alleviate levels of anxiety. However, as ideal as this communicative approach to oral exams may sound on paper, I wonder whether it can be properly and effectively incorporated into a curriculum. I can see this being implemented at the departmental level, whereby clear guidelines and strong support from the administrative level are given. Teachers (trained in language testing and assessment) work as a collective whole in planning a task like this to avoid uncertainties in the administration and completion of the test. Without implementation at these two levels, anxiety may actually increase, for both teachers and students. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Chapters 3 and 5 -- Pragmatic competence
Sometimes misunderstandings or communication breakdowns are not about the well-formedness of grammatical structures, but rather about how and where utterances are being used in communication. It is important for foreign language learners to develop “the ability to use available linguistic resources in a contextually appropriate fashion” (Rueda, 2006: 173). Chapter 5’s author recognizes the lack of instruction on developing pragmatic competence among learners studying Chinese in China and urges teachers to provide explicit instruction on subject matter. The Discourse Politeness Theory (DPT) presented in Chapter 3 also places pragmatic competence at its center (i.e. relative politeness), elaborating the importance of understanding inter-cultural- and inter-personal pragmatics in order to achieve the DP defaults of various situations.
Chapters 9 and 12 -- Alternative approaches
Over the past three decades or so there has been a gradual and healthy shift of preoccupation in the field from teaching to learning and to the learner him/herself. The recognition of that learner as the one at the center of the learning process inevitably changes pedagogical approaches. The ultimate goal as a teacher has become to motivate students toward a level of independence where they develop “the internal psychological capacity to self-direct their own learning” (Benson, 1997: 25). This internal capacity cannot be learned or taught, but rather fostered through linguistic and pedagogically-informed practices that create appropriate settings (Mishan, 2005). Chapters 9 and 12 introduce two alternative practices, network-based applications and educational drama, as a means to raise awareness of the significance of learners’ involvement and to foster self-directed learning. I am personally very fond of the network-based applications, especially the “Interactive Situation Simulation” presented in Chapter 9, because they promote self-directed learning beyond classroom settings.
Although this volume predominately focuses on language production in the form of speaking, and not on other aspects of language (e.g. writing, reading, listening, etc.), it is valuable because it provides numerous opportunities for teachers to reflect on their own teaching philosophy and pedagogical choices and offers several innovative exercises and theoretical frameworks that can be implemented when designing courses, materials and exercises, and tests with the intention of guiding students to achieve overall communicative competence.
Benson, P. 1997. The philosophy and politics of learner autonomy, ed. by P. Benson and P. Voller, Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning, 18-34. London: Longman.
Cubukcu, F. 2007. Foreign language anxiety. Iranian Journal of Language Studies 1.2:133-42.
Ellis, R. 1994. The study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gregersen, T. S. & Horwitz, E. K. 2002. Language learning and perfectionism: Anxious and non-anxious language learners’ reactions to their own oral performance. The Modern Language Journal 86.4:562-70.
Gregorc, A. F. 1979. Learning/teaching styles: Potent forces behind them. Educational Leadership 36:234-7.
Horwitz, E. K., Tallon, M., & Luo, H. 2009. Foreign language anxiety, ed. by J. C. Cassady, Anxiety in schools: The causes, consequences, and solutions for academic anxieties. New York: Peter Lang.
Mishan, F. 2005. Designing authenticity into language learning materials. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books.
Reid, J. M. 1987. The learning style preferences of ESL students. Tesol Quarterly 21.1:87-110.
Rueda, Y. T. 2006. Developing pragmatic competence in a foreign language. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal 8:169-82.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Shih-Ju Young is a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistics and a teaching assistant
in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia.
She had taught Linguistics and has taught Mandarin Chinese at various
venues from private language institutes and business associations to
heritage programs and college classrooms. She is currently working on her
dissertation with the intended title of “Cross-linguistic influence in the
articulation, gesticulation and perception of motion events”. Her research
interests include bilingualism, cross-linguistic influence, SLA/TLA,
foreign language teaching/learning, and Chinese linguistics. She is a
recipient of a 2012 UGA Graduate School Dean’s Award.