LINGUIST List 12.2683

Sat Oct 27 2001

Review: Hinkel & Fotos, Grammar Teaching

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <terrylinguistlist.org>


What follows is another discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect these discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for discussion." (This means that the publisher has sent us a review copy.) Then contact Simin Karimi at siminlinguistlist.org or Terry Langendoen at terrylinguistlist.org.

Directory

  1. Richard Watson Todd, Review of Hinkel and Fotos, New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms

Message 1: Review of Hinkel and Fotos, New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms

Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2001 13:37:46 +0700
From: Richard Watson Todd <irictoddkmutt.ac.th>
Subject: Review of Hinkel and Fotos, New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms

Hinkel, Eli and Sandra Fotos, eds. (2001) New Perspectives on Grammar
Teaching in Second Language Classrooms. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
paperback ISBN 0-8058-3955-0, viii+271pp, $29.95, ESL and Applied
Linguistics Professional Series

Richard Watson Todd, Department of Applied Linguistics, King Mongkut's
University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand.

SYNOPSIS
'New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms'
is an edited collection of original articles on the topic of grammar
as it applies to teaching English as a second or foreign language. It
is one of the first books in a new series entitled 'ESL [English as a
Second Language] and Applied Linguistics Professional Series'. The
book claims to examine 'approaches to the contextualized teaching of
grammar and communicative skills as integrated components of second
language instruction' from both theoretical and practical
perspectives. It is aimed at advanced undergraduate and master's level
courses in second language grammar pedagogy.

The book is divided into twelve chapters in three parts with an
introduction. A brief summary of each of these follows.

Chapter 1 Hinkel, E. and Fotos, S. From theory to practice: a
teacher's view. This introductory chapter gives an overview of the
history of language teaching and linguistics with specific reference
to grammar teaching before focusing on recent moves in grammar
teaching such as noticing, interaction for grammar learning, and
discourse- based approaches.

Part I: Grammar in Language Teaching Of the four articles in this
section, two look at the place of grammar in the language curriculum,
and two examine the nature of grammar from a pedagogical perspective.

Chapter 2 Ellis, R. The place of grammar instruction in the
second/foreign language curriculum. This article gives reasons for
teaching grammar and argues for an explicit structural syllabus
running in parallel to a communicative one.

Chapter 3 Richards, J. C. Accuracy and fluency revisited. This chapter
is a cogent and straightforward discussion of how grammar can be
fitted into a task-based syllabus looking at how grammatical accuracy
can be addressed before, during and after a task.

Chapter 4 McCarthy, M. and Carter, R. Ten criteria for a spoken
grammar. Arguing for the need for a grammar of spoken English to
inform communicative language teaching, this article discusses some
key aspects of a probabilistic spoken grammar, such as phrasal
complexity, position of clause elements, and clause complexes.

Chapter 5 Pennington, M. C. Grammar and communication: new directions
in theory and practice. This paper gives overviews of Chomskyan
minimalism, Brazil's incremental grammar, Clark's action grammar, and
relevance theory as alternative descriptions of English grammar to
replace traditional approaches. Pennington argues that any new
approach to pedagogical grammars should be collocational,
constructive, contextual and contrastive.

Part II: Classroom Approaches to Grammar Teaching This section
contains several suggestions for how to teach grammar in a way that
highlights its dynamic nature and the relationships between form and
meaning.

Chapter 6 Larsen-Freeman, D. The grammar of choice. This chapter
examines how different choices of grammatical forms may have the same
meaning but different pragmatic implications in terms of attitude,
power and identity, and argues that teachers should raise learners'
awareness of the implications of different choices of grammatical
forms.

Chapter 7 Celce-Murcia, M. Why it makes sense to teach grammar in
context and through discourse. Focusing on the influence of context on
grammar using examples such as the past perfect and it-cleft
sentences, this paper argues that grammar needs to be taught within a
discourse context.

Chapter 8 Fotos, S. Structure-based interactive tasks for the EFL
grammar learner This article argues that many learners of English as a
foreign language (EFL) require high levels of grammatical accuracy as
much of their English learning is exam-driven. It goes on to suggest
that the use of structure-based tasks is preferential to grammar
translation and gives examples of such tasks.

Chapter 9 Ellis, R. Methodological options in grammar teaching
materials. In this paper, Ellis conducts a comparative review of
grammar practice books examining what features are included, such as
whether the language data is authentic or contrived, whether features
appear in discrete sentences or continuous text, and whether learners
need to use the oral or written medium. He goes on to discuss the
paucity of approaches to learning exhibited in the grammar books,
particularly the lack of discovery learning and guided opportunities
for noticing, and shows how these characteristics may be incorporated
into a grammar practice book.

Chapter 10 Grammar teaching in writing classes: tenses and cohesion.
The last chapter in part II focuses on choice of and shifts in the use
of present and past tenses in newspaper writing and their effects on
cohesion. It advocates the use of authentic texts for highlighting
grammar, and gives a few teaching suggestions.

Part III: Research on Grammar Structures This section contains two
pieces of research into particular aspects of grammar.

Chapter 11 Master, P. Relative clause reduction in technical research
articles. This article is a register analysis of the use of reduced
relative clauses in research articles in terms of the syntactic
environment and the field of study. It also examines why some
reducible relative clauses were not reduced, and gives some basic
suggestions for teachers of academic English.

Chapter 12 Hinkel, E. Why English passive is difficult to teach (and
learn) Focusing on the passive voice in English, the last chapter
briefly looks at the shortcomings of traditional approaches and
especially the lack on noun animacy and verb transitivity. It then
presents research comparing native speaker and non-native speaker
judgments on the animacy of nouns and the grammaticality of a variety
of active and passive sentences.

CRITICAL EVALUATION
With publishers increasingly only publishing books which fit into
existing series, the first few books of any new series are more
important than they would otherwise be, in that they give an idea of
what else may be expected from the same publisher in the future. 'New
Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms' is one
of the first in the 'ESL and Applied Linguistics Professional Series',
and bodes well for future books by Lawrence Erlbaum in applied
linguistics. The contributors of the articles collected in the book
are all well-known and well-respected authors in the field of applied
linguistics, and generally the quality of writing and ideas is high.

The book aims to be a 'foundational text for second language grammar
pedagogy courses at the advanced undergraduate and master's levels'.
Such courses present lecturers with a dilemma. It is often not clear
what should be taught. Should the focus be on the grammar of English
and the metalanguage of language description? Or should the course
emphasise how to teach grammar? Or perhaps the course should take a
more theoretical perspective and look at different theories of
grammar. The book under review attempts to cover all of these areas
and thus presents a variety of views on grammar and how to teach it.
After the broad introductory chapter, chapters 2, 3, 8 and 9 present
arguments concerning how grammar should be taught; chapters 4, 5, and
6 focus on the nature of grammar; and chapters 7, 10, 11 and 12
examine certain aspects of the grammatical structure of English. As
can be seen from the fairly random way in which these chapters group
together, the organisation of the book into sections could probably be
improved.

>From a master's student's perspective, the writing is accessible and
does not assume the need for much prior knowledge (something which may
also attract classroom teachers keen on learning more about grammar),
and the research articles provide useful models for master's theses.
>From the perspective of researchers and applied linguists, the
articles provide clear, well-argued introductions to several areas of
English grammar and grammar pedagogy and, although they lack the depth
required by specialists in these areas, they are very worthwhile
overviews.

There is, however, one exception to this pattern of useful and clear
articles. The first article in the collection by Ellis (chapter 2) is
both provocative and full of woolly thinking. Ironically, in this
respect it resembles the arguments for the lexical approach of Lewis
(1993) which are the antithesis of what Ellis is trying to argue in
this article. The chapter is provocative in that it runs counter to
much which is widely accepted in English language teaching. For
example, Ellis argues that integration of skills and aspects of
language in language teaching is a waste of time, and categorically
states that grammar should not be taught to beginners or elementary
learners.

Unfortunately, the article is also full of non sequiturs and
contradictions, which is very surprising given the quality of the
other article in the collection by the same author and his other
writings (e.g. Ellis, 1994, 1999). For instance, on page 18, he states
that 'learners may be able to satisfy their communicative needs
without acquiring target language norms', but then takes a teacher-
knows-best attitude that such learners still need to study grammar;
later, he takes the more enlightened view that learners' needs and
wants should be taken into account (but apparently only where these
justify the teaching of grammar). Similarly, he argues against the use
of task-based syllabuses since they cannot guarantee 'a full and
systematic coverage of the grammar of the L2 [second language]'; but
in discussing his preferred structural syllabuses he states that
decisions need to be made about which grammar points should be covered
and in how much depth -- a point which matches his argument against
task-based syllabuses. More worryingly, he does not consider and
counter the published arguments against his stated position, such as
van Lier's (1996) arguments about whether choosing structures to teach
is appropriate at all, and he cites Yalden's (1987) proportional
syllabus as supporting his own view when it is actually arguing the
exact opposite.

Ellis' first article in the book should, however, be viewed as a
blemish on an otherwise estimable collection. 'New Perspectives on
Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms' is likely to prove
valuable for courses on second language grammar pedagogy either as a
foundation book or as extra reading, and is well worth reading for
anyone, whether teacher or linguist, who is interested in English
grammar.

REFERENCES
Ellis, R. (1994) The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (1999) Item versus system learning: explaining free
variation. Applied Linguistics vol. 20 no. 4.

Lewis, M. (1993) The Lexical Approach : The State of ELT and a Way
Forward. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

Van Lier, L. (1996) Interaction in the Language Curriculum: Awareness,
Autonomy & Authenticity. London: Longman.

Yalden, J. (1987) The Communicative Syllabus: Evolution, Design and
Implementation. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Richard Watson Todd is Associate Professor at King Mongkut's
University of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok. He is the author of
'Classroom Teaching Strategies' and 'Ways of Learning English', and
editor of 'Task-Based Learning and Curriculum Innovation'. He is
interested in a wide range of areas in applied linguistics.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue