LINGUIST List 23.4532

Wed Oct 31 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics, Language Acquisition: Chan et. al. (eds., 2011)

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <>

Date: 31-Oct-2012
From: Marije Michel <>
Subject: Processes and Process-Orientation in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning
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AUTHORS: Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, Nagami Masanori, Titima SuthiwanTITLE: Processes and Process-Orientation in Foreign Language Teaching and LearningSERIES TITLE: Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education [SSFLE] 4PUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2011

Marije C. Michel, Department of Linguistics and English Language, LancasterUniversity, UK


This book presents 17 papers based on a selection of submissions to the CLaSIC2006 (Centre for Language Studies International Conference) of the Faculty ofArts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore. The bookfocuses on a process-orientation in language teaching and learning.

In chapter 1, the editors give an introduction to the volume and highlight aparadigm shift in language pedagogy. According to the editors, today's EFLclasses advocate:

"1) the learner as the active subject of learning and the internal processesthat constitute his/her learning leading to the development of communicativecompetence; 2) teaching approaches, curricula and materials that reflect thisview of language learning; and 3) other factors such as the socioculturalcontext, social interactions and discourse, and individual learnercharacteristics and differences" (p. 4).

The volume builds upon Rüschoff and Wolff's (1999) process-oriented model offoreign language teaching and learning and the view that language can only belearned by using it.

The book has two sections: the first presents in nine chapters what the editorscall "macro-level processes," that is, process-orientation at the institutional,curricular and disciplinary level; the second section is a collection of"micro-level processes" and the eight chapters in this section focus onempirical studies into language learning and teaching addressing various topicslike, e.g., learning strategies, motivation, and learner initiation.

Section 1

Chapter 2 by William Littlewood summarizes relevant processes and products offoreign language teaching. Based on the analysis of a Singapore and Hong-Kongsyllabus he provides the conceptual framework of processes and products inlanguage pedagogy. He makes a distinction within language teaching orientationof product as outcome, process in progress, and process as outcome and explainshow, even though we focus on processes, we very often assess products.Consequently, he makes us aware that the conceptual distinction is hard to makein practice. Furthermore, he stresses that the process-orientation can easilybecome a way of controlling rather than supporting learning.

In chapter 3, Andrew Edward Finch takes a philosophical perspective by reviewingprocess-oriented teaching and learning from a postmodern account. By relatinglanguage pedagogy to the work of e.g., Derrida (1976) and Deleuze (1994) heconcludes that teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in the postmoderntime means that we lost some of the main targets and players of traditionalteaching (e.g., the ideal of the native speaker or the teacher in the center ofattention) in favor of postmodern accounts like student-directed, holisticlearning and the acknowledgement of multilingualism as a resource.

Chapter 4 is dedicated to the role of a pragmatic framework for languagelearning with a special focus on the Chinese context. The author, Weiping Wu,demonstrates how a clash of cultures may affect language learners and,consequently, encourages practitioners to adopt an approach to language teachingthat allows for real-life communication, e.g., by including pragmaticdifferences as a topic in the classroom discourse. Wu finishes with thestatement that "the literature on the importance of pragmatic competence and therole of culture has been rather extensive […]. Thus what we really need now isperhaps not why we should have pragmatics and culture in the process but how itshould be done." (p. 85).

In chapter 5, Yoshikazu Kawaguchi gives a Japanese perspective on FL teaching.The chapter first discusses the question, 'What are functions in textbooks' andthen addresses the issue of 'What is communication'. The author comes to theconclusion that, in order to provide learners with appropriate grammaticalitems, teachers need to contextualise the function of grammar, that is, analysewhat functions are useful in what context. For example, students may benefitfrom being interviewed by their peers during the composition of a story abouttheir hometown, as this encourages them to personalise their writing, which adds"narrative communication" to their repertoire.

In chapter 6, Benjamin Laskar presents how his home university in Japan hascreated, maintained, evaluated, and modified their EFL program towardsprocess-oriented teaching and learning. The paper gives a step-by-stepdescription of their process and builds upon Lewis' (1993)Observation-Hypothesis-Experiment paradigm for teaching. The chapter gives agood understanding of the different steps and processes of curriculum design anddiscusses this process from different stakeholders' perspectives.

Bernd Rüschoff presents in chapter 7 three practical examples of how theyimplemented at his German university meaningful tasks into EFL teacher trainingby creating authentic language use in perception and production. He adopts aconstructivist approach to language pedagogy and stresses that by usingauthentic material, language learning and teaching goes hand in hand withraising learners' cultural awareness. As a result, learners not only becomelinguistically competent, but similarly grow in intercultural communicativecompetence (cf. Byram 1997).

Suksan Suppasetseree presents in chapter 8 a plan to design web-basedinstructions for teaching remedial English to Thai students. The author firstaddresses the different types and uses of web-based instruction, e.g.,stand-alone courses that are web-implemented as a whole in contrast totraditional in-class courses that rely on the web for supporting materials andassignments. Following an evaluation of (dis-)advantages of web-basedinstruction and instructions on how to perform a needs analysis for web-basedclasses (e.g., who, what, what type of learning, which forms of interaction), adetailed report of an empirical investigation into remedial English teaching viaweb-based instruction is given. This chapter highlights that web-basedinstruction was successful in order to teach learners English but on top of thatthe use of new medium increased the motivation of Thai students to spend time onEnglish learning and was beneficial for their computers skills too.

In chapter 9, Johanna Instanto presents a language immersion programme topromote language awareness and language proficiency for learners of BahasaIndonesia at the National University of Singapore. The author asked students whotook part in a study-abroad phase in the country where the target language isspoken, whether they were aware of the importance of culture for their languagelearning, what language skills improved most during their stay and what part ofthe programme supported best their language learning goals. Based on a surveyamong ten participants, the author concludes that their study-abroad experienceimproved both the students' understanding of the role of culture as well astheir language proficiency and knowledge about the host country.

Paul Sze explains in chapter 10 a newly developed online peer-observationplatform for in-service EFL teachers in Hong Kong. The tool is based onauthentic video material that presents short sequences focusing on a specificaspect of language teaching, e.g., teaching listening, interaction withstudents, teacher talk. Teachers are asked to reflect in an online forum on thepresented practices and to discuss the topics with each other. According to theauthor, one of the benefits of the tool is, that it creates the opportunity touse peer-feedback without interference of e.g., in-house power relationships andworkplace politics.

Section 2

Section two of the book collects a micro-perspective, that is, studies thatevaluate a specific aspect of implemented process-orientation in languagelearning and teaching.

Chapter 11 presents, as the author, Swathi Vanniarajan, states a"cognitive-neurobiological model of language acquisition." It first and foremostis a review of literature into cognitive and neurobiological aspects of languageprocessing. It addresses topics like encoding, attention, storage and retrievalas well as affect and lateralisation of language. In the second part it explainshow different types of errors may be based on problems at the level of e.g.encoding, storage, and retrieval. The chapter concludes by acknowledging that inits current form, it is "more of a laboratory research model," such that moreresearch is needed in order to evaluate its predictions.

In chapter 12, Hsiao-Fang Cheng presents research into factors affectinglistening performance in different test formats. By using two different types oftesting (multiple choice and dictation-paraphrase tests) and follow-upinterviews the author collected quantitative and qualitative data. Resultsreveal that participants scored significantly higher at the multiple-choicetest. Similarly, the interview data supported the finding that when listening tospeech in a foreign language, learners find it substantially easier to tick oneout of four given answers rather than producing own words and phrases in theother test format. Scores on the latter format furthermore seemed to be stronglyrelated to vocabulary knowledge of participants as well as their individualfactors, like language anxiety. The author concludes that the data support theclaim that "listening performance is an interaction between text-based andextra-text- or listener based components" (p. 250).

Shenghui Cindy Huang and Shanmao Frank Chang explain in chapter 13 theirexploration into the implementation of a language learning strategy training onstudents' FL performance. They followed Taiwanese EFL learners at a senior highschool for two months. Participants either received (experimental group) or didnot receive (control group) a training in language learning strategies, e.g.,"guessing intelligently," "activate background knowledge by titles/pictures" aspart of their English lessons. Results only tentatively support the hypothesis,that strategy training positively affects learning success. The authors suggestthat a longer training may yield stronger support.

In chapter 14, Chen-Ying Li presents a well-designed multiple case-study intolearner initiation in the EFL classroom in Taiwan. In a quantitative andqualitative evaluation the author compares a story-based to a standard approachto EFL teaching in the primary classroom. The study shows that a story-basedapproach can create an environment where young learners have more chances togive self-initiated contributions to the lesson. In addition, the author findsthat these contributions very often are given in the native language.Furthermore, the work shows that the individual teacher plays an important rolein how often and in what phases of a class, pupils do contribute to the classdiscourse.

Using a conversation analytical approach for a case study, Masanori Nagaiexplains in chapter 15 how a learner and a native speaker of Japanese manageover time to establish ways of understanding each other. The author shows howthe interactants move from initially macro-level triggers of understanding(e.g., trying to find a common conceptual ground) towards more micro-leveltriggers of understanding (e.g., to use a dictionary to find the meaning of aunknown noun or verb).

In chapter 16, Miwako Yanagisawa explores the process of second languagesocialization. The chapter follows the process of noticing and utilizingculturally specific ways of interaction of two cases: an Indonesian and anIndian L2 learner of Japanese. The two learners were asked to record theirinteractions with Japanese L1 speakers. Recordings were screened for instancesof learning both language and culture. Based on the timely co-incidence of theseinstances, supported by excerpts from the interactions, the author concludesthat there is a strong interdependence of language learning and socialization.

Chapter 17 investigates what students learn in a process-oriented Japanesepedagogy course. The authors, Akiko Sugiyama and Yuko Abe, focus on how the ownlearning experiences of teachers influence their teaching practice. Therefore,they follow four teacher trainees that tutored international students learningJapanese by means of a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews andstudents' reflection reports on lesson observations. The results show that theJapanese trainees not only learned something about their own language, e.g.,that Japanese 'has grammar rules' but also grew more confident in speakingEnglish even if they did not know it perfectly. The increased contact with FLlearners of Japanese seemed to serve as an excellent preparation to studyabroad. In general, the authors conclude that self-reflection and peer-feedbackwere very helpful tools to train future teachers.

Finally, in chapter 18 Teow Ghee Tan and Ae Kee Ooi study the motivation ofMalay students towards learning Mandarin as a third language. In contrast to thegrowing popularity in Malaysia to learn Mandarin, success rates of languagelearning show a decrease when passing beginner level towards intermediate levelsof FL proficiency. The chapter investigates the intrinsic-extrinsic as well asthe integrative-instrumental dimensions of motivation among 124 students ofbusiness management. Results reveal that instrumental motivational factors(e.g., the faculty requirement to study a third language) are the dominantreasons to learn Mandarin even though also intrinsic factors ('I enjoy learningthe language') received substantial support. Both aspects of motivation decreasewhen reaching higher (and more demanding) levels of Mandarin.


Taking a processing-oriented perspective, this volume presents a wide array oftopics that will be interesting for both researchers and practitioners ofteaching, learning and researching second language acquisition. As a reviewer Imust admit, however, that also the quality of the presented work stretches overa wide array, such that I would recommend only selected chapters.

The first section includes some interesting chapters taking a more global orphilosophical perspective. They explain how the above-mentioned paradigm shiftaffected concepts of language learning and teaching. These chapters may serve asoverview articles for students of applied linguistics or will be of interest tothose working in curriculum design. As mentioned before, however, it isespecially in this first section that the contributions vary in quality. Ingeneral, the second part, where many good pieces of qualitative and/orquantitative research into language teaching and learning are gathered, may beof more interest to a scientific audience. In addition, this second section maybe of particular interest to practitioners working in the Asian context.

The following paragraphs will highlight those papers, which are believed to beof special interest to the LINGUIST list audience.

Chapter 2 gives a good overview of the underlying concept of process-orientedforeign language teaching and learning. The manifold supportive tables, modelsand figures make it, especially, suitable as an introduction to this topic.Similarly, the philosophical account of chapter 3 is an excellent overview ofpostmodernism in language learning and teaching.

Chapter 6 may be of particular interest to researchers and practitioners who arein duty of designing a new curriculum for EFL teaching as the paper gives adetailed description of the author's efforts at his home university. As such itmay serve as a guideline for those who have a similar duty. The reader may bewarned, however, that the chapter reports on the theoretical ideal but does notgive data on how successful the curriculum was. Therefore, future work thatreports on the evaluation of the program, will be of additional interest.

As explained, chapter 10 introduces a very interesting online peer-feedback toolused in teacher training. Again, no data are given on the performance ofteachers who use the program and how participants evaluated the tool.Consequently, no conclusions can be drawn on its success. Still, as it may be away of neutralizing power-relations, it presents a promising tool for manydifferent contexts aiming to work with peer-review.

Section 2

As mentioned before, many chapters in section two present well-designedempirical studies and report their findings based on theoretically motivatedanalyses and interpretations taking a micro-level perspective onprocess-orientation in foreign language pedagogy. Even though most of thechapters present data that are based on small-scale studies, the section as awhole is well-worth reading. As a lecturer, I consider them to be good trainingmaterial for students of SLA: The chapters are relatively short and report onstudies, that are well-designed but do leave students the possibility tocritique at the theoretical and empirical level. The different chapters addressvarious linguistic settings from EFL learning in Indonesia, via learningMandarin in Malaysia to learning Japanese as a second language in Japan. Itincludes case studies, larger-scale surveys and both qualitative andquantitative approaches. Accordingly, it gives a broad perspective on foreignlanguage pedagogy and will be of special interest for those who would like toknow more about language teaching and learning in different Asian contexts.

From these chapters, especially, chapter 14 and 15 convinced the reviewer bytheir innovative approach, well-designed and well-conducted empiricalinvestigation, and not least, as they are presented in a clear style such thatas a whole the chapters are highly enjoyable and informative to read. Inaddition, their conclusions are interesting for practitioners and researchersalike. Chapter 14 as it succeeds in providing a micro-perspective on classroomprocesses of language learning and teaching in primary education, and chapter 15as it presents a micro-analysis of how a second language learner and anon-trained native speaker gradually manage to align their ways of learning andteaching in an informal setting.

To give a final evaluation, this volume presents work on process-orientation inlanguage pedagogy that is valuable to the field and gives an interestingoverview of language learning and teaching, especially, in the Asian context.The mixed quality of the chapters, however, can be a reason not to read thewhole book but to focus on section two and selected chapters of section one, forexample the ones reviewed in this text.


Byram, M. 1997. Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence.Clevendon: Multilingual Matters.

Deleuze, D. 1994. Difference and repetition. New York: Columbia University Press.

Derrida, J. 1976. Of grammatology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lewis, M. 1993. The lexical approach: the state of ELT and a way forward. Hove,UK: Language Teaching Publications.

Rüschoff, B. & Wolff, D. 1999. Fremdsprachenlernen in der Wissensgesellschaft.Zum Einsatz der neuen Technologien in Schule und Unterricht. Ismaning: Hueber.


Marije Michel holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University ofAmsterdam in the Netherlands and did a post-doc at the Department ofEnglish Linguistics, University of Mannheim, Germany, researching preschoolteachers' language competence. She now is a lecturer of language learningand teaching at Lancaster University. Her research focuses onpsycholinguistic aspects of task-based adult second language learning asshe investigates effects of task complexity and priming during task-basedinteractions.

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