LINGUIST List 23.1603

Thu Mar 29 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Chan, Chin & Suthiwan

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <rajivlinguistlist.org>



Date: 29-Mar-2012
From: Shih-Ju Young <shihju.younggmail.com>
Subject: Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and Beyond
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-4167.html
EDITORS: Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, Titima SuthiwanTITLE: Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and BeyondSUBTITLE: Current Perspectives and Future DirectionsSERIES TITLE: Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education [SSFLE] 3PUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2011

Shih-Ju Young, Linguistics Program, University of Georgia

SUMMARY

This edited volume consists of a total of 13 chapters. Chapter 1 is written bythe editors and the other 12 chapters/papers were selected from a pool of some140 papers and posters presented at the 2004 Centre for Language StudiesInternational Conference (CLaSIC 2004), hosted by the Centre for LanguageStudies of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University ofSingapore. The book comprises two parts: Part 1, “Theoretical foundation andresearch”, contains 7 chapters that inform readers about some recent efforts intheoretical and empirical research on foreign language teaching, whereas Part 2,“Classroom practice and evaluation studies”, consists of 5 chapters that focuson innovative developments and practices in curriculum and foreign languageteaching of various linguistic levels and modalities.

Chapter 1 “Foreign language teaching in Asia and beyond: An introduction to thebook”, by Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, and Titima Suthiwan (eds.), starts outby addressing the impact of globalization on foreign language teaching andlearning, resulting in an increasing demand for learning foreign languages, andthe necessity for a more structured language policy and a more versatilecurriculum that complements the various characteristics and needs of foreignlanguage learners. The second part of the chapter introduces the structure andcontents of this edited volume.

Part One “Theoretical foundation and research”

Chapter 2, “Preparing language teachers to teach learning strategies”, by AnnaUhl Chamot, provides a comprehensive discussion about the often underrated roleof learning strategies in foreign language learning and teaching, and why andhow it should be explicit to the students and incorporated into teachereducation training and regular curriculum practice. Previous studies havesuggested that “good language learners were skilled at matching strategies tothe task they were working on, while the less successful language learners didnot have the metacognitive knowledge about task requirements needed to selectappropriate strategies” (p. 31). This calls for consciousness-raising andgoal-oriented instructions that help students become aware of what strategiesare in general, what strategies they are already using, and how certainstrategies can be used for a particular task. Most importantly, they helpstudents begin to think about their own learning processes. The author alsointroduces a task-based, 5-phase instructional sequence (i.e. Preparation,Presentation, Practice, Self-evaluation, and Expansion) developed for theCognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), aiming to provide aframework for teachers in planning language lessons that integrate content,language and learning strategies.

Chapter 3, “Discourse Politeness Theory and second language acquisition”, byMayumi Usami, introduces a preliminary, universally applicable framework, termedDiscourse Politeness Theory (DPT), that aims to investigate and comparepoliteness effects in languages with different degrees of linguistic and/orpragmatic elaboration of politeness at the discourse level. DPT consists of 6key components which build on each other: (1) DP default, which denotes theunmarked behavior that is considered appropriate for a given discourse fromeither side of participants in the discourse; (2) Marked/unmarked behavior, inwhich behavior that is in line with the DP default is considered unmarked andbehavior that deviates from the expected norm, or DP default, is then marked;(3) Marked/unmarked politeness, whereby unmarked politeness often goes unnoticedand marked politeness often presents deliberate intent to redress Face Threats(i.e. verbal/nonverbal speech/gestural acts that positively or negatively impactthe hearers’ or speakers’ faces based on the terms of conversation); (4) DeValue, which is calculated by comparing both the speaker’s and hearer’sestimations of the degree of the Face Threat of the speaker’s act; (5) Types ofpoliteness effects, which are either marked as plus-, minus- or neutral; and (6)relative/absolute politeness, in which relative politeness is realized bymovements towards and away from the DP default of a given discourse, andabsolute politeness labels linguistic terms that are inherently more polite thanothers. The author believes that language learners can benefit from instructionsthat not only focus on appropriate linguistic forms but also emphasizeconversational strategies in order to achieve the DP defaults of varioussituations and, consequently, overall communicative competence.

Chapter 4, “Integrating general purpose and vocationally-oriented languagelearning (VOLL) -- New goals for language and teacher training”, by ChristinaKuhn, presents an integrated pedagogical model that incorporates both generaland vocationally-oriented goals in a single curriculum which is both needs- andsubject-oriented. Such an integrated course design aims to address theincreasing and diverse needs of foreign language learners in a globalizing worldand demonstrates the fact that in order to plan a versatile yet efficient andeffective course, language teacher training programs necessarily need to bere-directed at helping teachers develop competencies in curriculum planning,needs analysis, quality management, use of media, etc. Suggestions forintegrated themes, as well as instruments for planning this type of curriculum,are provided.

Chapter 5, “Pragmatics in foreign language teaching and learning: Reflections onthe teaching of Chinese in China”, by Hong Wang, applauds the increasing effortsput forth by some scholars in China in their research on the pragmatics of theChinese language, but conversely, worries that these efforts do not translateeffectively into how Chinese is being taught in China. The author states that inthe 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 forcommunicative fluency. The author suggests that teachers in China shouldintegrate both pragmalingustic and sociopragmatic elements into their teachingand proposes a set of procedures (i.e. Speech act identification, Analysis ofthe speech act, Conscious learning of the Chinese speech act, Controlledpractice, and Free practice) that provide guidelines for teaching and fosteringpragmatic competence in a TCFL classroom.

Chapter 6, “Development of a foreign language anxiety model”, by Yujia Zhou,explores the interrelationships between language anxiety and threepersonal-psychological traits. The three personal resources that may potentiallycontribute to language learning related anxiety examined in this chapter are:(1) self-esteem in language learning; (2) learners’ beliefs about languagelearning; and (3) learners’ self-perception of their speaking proficiency.Statistical results presented suggest that variables (1) and (2) show a directeffect on foreign language anxiety. Furthermore, variable (1) mediates theinfluence of (2) and (3) on language anxiety.

Chapter 7, “Facilitating students’ understanding of English news: Peerscaffolding in an EFL listening classroom”, by Danli Li, presents findings froma microgenetic analysis about peer scaffolding based on investigating 8intermediate college learners of English in their collaborative efforts tocomprehend 5 English news articles. It was found that peer scaffolding tasks, ingeneral, foster a supportive environment and meaning-focused communication andfacilitate language learning, as evident by students’ efforts in negotiatingmeaning and linguistic forms of the target language. It is also suggested that peer scaffolding may bea mutual effort, though oftentimes one student emerges as a tutor during exercises.

Chapter 8, “Vocabulary learning strategies among adult foreign languagelearners”, by Shameem Rafik-Galea and Bee Eng Wong, details a questionnairestudy of foreign language vocabulary learning strategy preferences and revealsthat students of different ethnic groups use both effective and ineffectivestrategies when learning different foreign language vocabulary. Furthermore, theuse of direct strategies (i.e. memory, cognitive and compensation strategies) isfar more prominent than that of indirect strategies (i.e. meta-cognitive,affective and social strategies). The results suggest that language teachersshould present learners with different learning strategies for the acquisitionof vocabulary and provide exercises and input that encourage the use of variousstrategies when learning vocabulary.

Part Two “Classroom practice and evaluation studies”

Chapter 9, “Technology in the service of constructivist pedagogy: Network-basedapplications and knowledge construction”, by Wai Meng Chan and Ing Ru Chen,presents three network-mediated applications inspired by the constructivist viewof learning -- “My Vocab Book”, “Interactive Situation Simulation”, and “MovieStudio” -- which were designed to enable self-directed and process-orientedlearning, as well as provide stimulating contexts that are authentic andopen-ended.

Chapter 10, “Pedagogical concerns: Some common features of content-basedinstruction, task-based learning and business case study, and their roles in anEBP class”, by Wenhua Hsu, offers quantitative and qualitative evaluations onthe validity and effectiveness of an English for Business Purposes (EBP) coursetaught in Taiwan that consisted of three different approaches/ tasks carried outin the order of content-based instruction (CBI), task-based learning (TBL), andbusiness case study (BCS). It was noted that both the CBI and TBL tasks greatlyimpact and yield positive effects on students’ performance on BCS tasks, andboth CBI and BCS tasks offer students opportunities for real-life stimulated andsubject-matter practice, which, according to students’ feedback, give them apurpose for language use and greatly stimulate their interests in continuouslearning.

Chapter 11, “Memorizing dialogues: The case for “Performative Exercises”, byIzumi Walker and Tomoko Utsumi, challenges common negative perceptions towardsdialogue memorization in foreign language learning and points out that thismethod may be a key step leading to automaticity and fluency in languageproduction. By asking students to memorize the model dialogue for a 5-stageperformative exercise (i.e. discussion of content and context of the modeldialogue, performance check on memorized dialogue, contextualized exercises,creative role-play, and presentation and feedback), students are provided with abasis for communication in similar real-life situations. Furthermore,familiarity with the grammar, structure, etc., through memorization allowsstudents the luxury to attend to higher-level processing, such as meaningconstruction, instead of worrying about sentential-level constructions. Theresults show that students’ speech production progresses and improvesdramatically through the exercise and that the majority of students perceivedmemorizing dialogue as being helpful in their learning.

Chapter 12, “The whole world communicates in English, do you? -- Educationaldrama as an alternative approach to teaching English in Japan”, by NaokoAraki-Metcalfe, discusses several advantages of using educational drama as analternative pedagogical approach in foreign language teaching. This approach notonly presents contextualized linguistic information, but also provides studentswith opportunities to explore non-verbal communication. Within clearly defined,rule-based boundaries, students are free to observe, to construct a sense ofself, to imagine and create, to improvise, and most importantly, to use bothlinguistic and kinesthetic skills to express themselves.

Chapter 13, “From oral interview test to oral communication test: Alleviatingstudents’ anxiety”, by Satomi Chiba and Yoko Morikawa, points out that moretraditional teacher-student, question-answer, one-way oral exams greatly induceanxiety. A high level of anxiety has an adverse effect on oral performance.Therefore, to ease anxiety, the authors suggest giving students a morehumanistic and interactive oral test that allows them to have an actualconversation with their partner(s) on a subject of their choice from a pool oftopics. Students’ self evaluations point to the positive effect of naturalcommunication between peers, from which students acquire a sense ofaccomplishment and an increase in their motivation. Suggestions for how to goabout designing, implementing, and assessing oral communication tests are alsoprovided.

EVALUATION

This edited volume is a great addition to the field of second languageacquisition in general, and foreign language teaching and learning, inparticular. It is especially beneficial for practitioners and teachers alike whoare determined, but frustrated in their efforts to find a well-balanced middlepoint for teaching and learning. For those who are constantly looking forinnovative pedagogical practices and approaches in teaching and ways to fosterstudents’ abilities and skills in learning and using the language (especiallycommunicative proficiency), this volume will not disappoint. For those who wantto develop a comprehensive theoretical background in foreign language teachingand learning, this volume will probably not be a go-to reference, since eachchapter presents only a snap-shot of certain aspects of teaching or learning,rather than painting a complete picture of the science and art of foreignlanguage teaching and learning as a collective whole.

Despite the editors’ efforts to organize these collections into two majorthemes, “theoretical foundation and research” and “classroom practice andevaluation studies”, the nature and scope of individual chapters cover too manyvariations of aspects of teaching and learning from different disciplines, whichmakes it difficult for readers to tie everything together as a collective wholeand enjoy this volume in a one-after-another fashion. I highly recommend thatreaders rearrange the order of chapters based on individual needs andpreferences in order to get the most out of this volume.

The following paragraphs suggest a more cohesive organization of chapters basedon 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 growthof research on learning styles, which suggests that various learning stylescharacterized by an individual learner do reveal a correlation between anindividual’s learning styles and his/her performance regarding differentlinguistic elements (Gregorc, 1979; Reid, 1987). Learners with differentlearning styles may opt for different teaching and learning strategies andpreferences. Chapters 2 and 8 address this variability directly by suggestingteachers explicitly introduce students to various learning strategies ingeneral, and strategies in vocabulary learning, in particular. Chapters 7 and 11offer evaluative work on students’ performance and feedback for two specificlearning strategies: peer scaffolding and dialogue memorization, respectively.All four chapters, together, paint a pretty solid picture of teaching being moreeffective if it is student-centered. They also show that the learning experienceof students can be enhanced if they have a better understanding of not just howthey learn, but how to learn. However, learning strategies are specific toolsused by individuals with different learning styles (and various teachingstrategies used by a teacher may well be an extension of the teacher’s teachingand learning styles); this being said, these four chapters can definitelybenefit from an additional chapter specifically dealing with “teaching andlearning styles”. It is my personal opinion that by having an understanding ofindividual students’ learning styles, teachers are better informed on whatthey’re getting themselves into and are better equipped to design a course,exercise, or activity that can guide students in their own learning process anddissolve 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 somethingteachers can cultivate and promote to enhance learner outcomes. Chapters 4 and10 present two purpose-specific and goal-oriented course designs to demonstratehow 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 itspedagogical resolution, have been discussed in numerous publications fromvarious disciplines (Gregersen & Horwitz, 2002; Horwitz, Tallon, & Luo, 2009).Specific to foreign language learning, three main types of anxiety are agreedupon: communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation(Cubukcu, 2007). Chapter 6 examines three potential personal attributes behindforeign language learning anxiety. Chapter 13 presents an alternative oral examformat that aims to alleviate levels of anxiety. However, as ideal as thiscommunicative approach to oral exams may sound on paper, I wonder whether it canbe properly and effectively incorporated into a curriculum. I can see this beingimplemented at the departmental level, whereby clear guidelines and strongsupport from the administrative level are given. Teachers (trained in languagetesting and assessment) work as a collective whole in planning a task like thisto avoid uncertainties in the administration and completion of the test. Withoutimplementation at these two levels, anxiety may actually increase, for bothteachers and students. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

Chapters 3 and 5 -- Pragmatic competence

Sometimes misunderstandings or communication breakdowns are not about thewell-formedness of grammatical structures, but rather about how and whereutterances are being used in communication. It is important for foreign languagelearners to develop “the ability to use available linguistic resources in acontextually appropriate fashion” (Rueda, 2006: 173). Chapter 5’s authorrecognizes the lack of instruction on developing pragmatic competence amonglearners studying Chinese in China and urges teachers to provide explicitinstruction on subject matter. The Discourse Politeness Theory (DPT) presentedin Chapter 3 also places pragmatic competence at its center (i.e. relativepoliteness), elaborating the importance of understanding inter-cultural- andinter-personal pragmatics in order to achieve the DP defaults of varioussituations.

Chapters 9 and 12 -- Alternative approaches

Over the past three decades or so there has been a gradual and healthy shift ofpreoccupation in the field from teaching to learning and to the learnerhim/herself. The recognition of that learner as the one at the center of thelearning process inevitably changes pedagogical approaches. The ultimate goal asa teacher has become to motivate students toward a level of independence wherethey develop “the internal psychological capacity to self-direct their ownlearning” (Benson, 1997: 25). This internal capacity cannot be learned ortaught, but rather fostered through linguistic and pedagogically-informedpractices that create appropriate settings (Mishan, 2005). Chapters 9 and 12introduce two alternative practices, network-based applications and educationaldrama, as a means to raise awareness of the significance of learners’involvement and to foster self-directed learning. I am personally very fond ofthe network-based applications, especially the “Interactive SituationSimulation” presented in Chapter 9, because they promote self-directed learningbeyond classroom settings.

Although this volume predominately focuses on language production in the form ofspeaking, and not on other aspects of language (e.g. writing, reading,listening, etc.), it is valuable because it provides numerous opportunities forteachers to reflect on their own teaching philosophy and pedagogical choices andoffers several innovative exercises and theoretical frameworks that can beimplemented when designing courses, materials and exercises, and tests with theintention of guiding students to achieve overall communicative competence.

REFERENCES

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 Studies1.2:133-42.

Ellis, R. 1994. The study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Gregersen, T. S. & Horwitz, E. K. 2002. Language learning and perfectionism:Anxious and non-anxious language learners’ reactions to their own oralperformance. 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 foracademic 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. TesolQuarterly 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

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.


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