LINGUIST List 27.2320

Mon May 23 2016

Review: Applied Ling; Socioling: Akbarov (2015)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <saralinguistlist.org>


Date: 06-Feb-2016
From: Achilleas Kostoulas <achillefs.kostoulasuni-graz.at>
Subject: The Practice of Foreign Language Teaching: Theories and Applications
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/26/26-2708.html

EDITOR: Azamat Akbarov
TITLE: The Practice of Foreign Language Teaching: Theories and Applications
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Achilleas I. Kostoulas, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

INTRODUCTION

The ‘Practice of Foreign Language Teaching : Theories and Applications’ (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) is an expansive collection of papers, edited by Azamat Akbarov. This uneven volume comprises 51 chapters on topics including language and linguistics, literature, pedagogy and more, most of which have been authored by scholars in South Eastern Europe.

SUMMARY

The unusually large number of relatively short chapters that make up this volume precludes individual discussion of each chapter. Rather, I have grouped the chapters into three categories, depending on whether they have an empirical, theoretical or practical orientation, and will use these categories to structure the discussion that follows. This review will ignore the chapter entitled ‘The Book Evolution in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1867)’ by Giovanni Borriello (pp. 201-218), which lies outside my field of expertise, as well as the chapters entitled ‘Komparativna književnost i književnost manjine: na primjeru rimske književnosti u Vojvodini’, by Mirjana Ćorković (pp. 385-392), and ‘Transkripcija diftonga /ea/ sa rumunjskog jezika na srpski’, also by Mirjana Ćorković and Monica Huţanu (pp. 393-401), which appear to be written in Serbian, a language that I unfortunately cannot read.

Twenty one of the contributions that make up the volume have an empirical focus. Of these, eleven papers focus on general linguistics topics, as is the case with the chapters entitled ‘The linguistic landscapes of Mostar and Leuven: A comparative study’ (Ivana Grbavac, Koen Jaspaert & Dominika Sƚowińska, pp. 235-245) and ‘Contrastive Analysis of English and Bosnian consonants’ (Dženita Joldić & Lidija Perkić, pp. 137-146). Four other papers report on empirical studies in the fields of Second Language Acquisition or Applied Linguistics, and are therefore closer to Foreign Language Teaching, the topic indexed by the title of the book. These include ‘The role of input processing instruction in the L2 acquisition of complex syntactic structures’ (Andreja Trenc, pp. 35-50), ‘How Bosnian and Turkish students acquire English language: Negative transfer in Foreign Language Teaching’ (Alma Jeftić, pp. 10-20), a paper informed by arguably dated understandings of contrastive analysis, and ‘Discourse markers like, sort of and kind of in the spoken discourse of advanced L2 students of English’ (Sanja Čurković Kalebić, pp. 493-505). The final paper in this category, ‘A crosslinguistic study on the acquisition of subject agreement in Croatian and Yukatek’ (Barbara Blaha Pfeiler, Gordana Hržica, Marijan Palmović and Melita Kovačević, pp. 75-98) is a surprising addition to the collection, as it reports on the acquisition of the first language.

The remaining six empirical papers have an explicit focus on Foreign Language Education. These include two papers on attitudes towards foreign language learning: ‘Parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards early foreign language learning’, by Mateja Dagarin Fojkar and Karmen Pižorn (pp. 363-375), a paper which stands out in the book on account of its empirical rigour, and the cryptically entitled ‘Building English’ (Selma Kešetović, pp. 506-516), a questionnaire-based study, which presents descriptive statistics about the attitudes of Bosnian students towards the English language. Two other papers report on language learning strategies. These are: ‘Language learning strategies in a new era: do mobile phones help?’ (Nilüfer Bekleyen & Fatma Hayta, pp. 434-445) and ‘An empirical study of vocabulary learning strategies employed by Turkish learners of Spanish’ (Özlem Şivetoğlou, pp. 454-476). The final two papers in this category are entitled ‘Personality traits of foreign language teachers for young learners’ (Maria Stec & Anna Studenska, pp. 351-362) and ‘Evaluation of ELT materials for Young Learners: coursebooks as cultural artefacts’ (also by Maria Stec, pp. 517-527).

The second category of papers that have been included in the collection are theoretical. Among the 18 papers that make up this group, eight discuss various aspects of theoretical and applied linguistics. ‘Syntactic structure of information and computer abbreviations in the English and Uzbek languages’, by Azamat Akbarov and Saodat Muhamedova, is a typology of computer abbreviations, which may be relevant to lexicography (pp. 69-74). ‘Interpretation of English-derived nominals and their aspectual properties’, by Edina Rizvić-Eminović, looks into aspects of syntax (pp. 165-173). Julie M. Kolgjini takes a critical perspective on language policy in her contribution, entitled ‘An (un)fettered Albanian language in the post-modern age: taking a glance at the contributions of Janet Byron in light of revisiting the current standard’ (pp. 318-326). Ilhana Škrgić focuses on semantics and pragmatics in ‘The language of politics: conceptual metaphors in the Liberal – Conservative fracture of the modern political discourse of the USA and the multi-party rhetoric of Bosnia and Herzegovina’ (pp. 235-245). This also appears to be the topic of Nurvadi Albekov’s ‘Cause of the field of emergentism in the polysemic situation’, a paper which proved very challenging to parse on account of conceptual confusion, poor organization, and a highly idiosyncratic rhetorical style (pp. 446-453). The last paper in this category, entitled ‘Loanwords in Andrić’s Put Alije Đerzeleza as evidence of language in contact’ (Zrinka Ćoralić & Mersina Šehić), explores the topic of language contact in the diverse linguistic ecology of South Eastern Europe (pp. 550-564).

An additional five theoretical papers discuss aspects of language education from a conceptual perspective. The first of these papers, ‘Contribution of true cognates to material development’, by Abdulkadir Çakir, argues that language learning can be facilitated by taking cognates into account (pp. 1-9). Gemma Santiago Alonso, in ‘Contrastive analysis as a didactic tool in the acquisition of the Spanish article for Slovenian learners’, revives the ghost of Contrastive Analysis in language education, and describes differences in the expression of definiteness in Spanish and Slovenian (pp. 192-200). The third paper in this category, ‘Contemporary vs. modern education’ (Nebojša Vasić), much of which has been written in bullet form, is a sweeping overview of teaching methodology that adds little to the corpus of literature from which it has been derived (pp. 408-422). The paper entitled ‘Concomitant tutelage disparities’, by Dalibor Kesić & Emir Muhić, attempts to connect language education to broader epistemological questions (e.g., “what is science and how do we know that what we claim to be science really is science?”, p. 119), J. K. Rowling’s literary output (p. 118), and more, but despite repeated readings I failed to trace a discernible thesis running through the sometimes impenetrable prose (pp. 116-126). By contrast, Hümeyra Genç’s competently written and interesting contribution, ‘A critical overview of English Language Teacher Education in the Turkish education system: Pre-service and In-service’, is an excellent source of information that would be hard to obtain elsewhere (pp. 227-235).

The remaining theoretical papers look into literary and cultural topics. These include two papers firmly grounded on the literature and culture of the UK: ‘Culture of domination and discrimination in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice’, by Zlata Simović (pp. 538-549); and ‘British cultures and literatures: Accepted or traditional conceptions of national belonging’, by Gökçe Doğan (pp. 219-226). Two more papers trace connections between cultures. These are: ‘Myths and imagination at the core of social and individual existence in Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Yaşar Kemal’s The Other Face in the Mountain Trilogy’ (Neslihan Günazdin, pp. 423-433), and ‘The picture of Orientalism coloured by the characters in the Buddha of Suburbia’ (Rümeysa Pektaş & Havva Sümerya Pektaş, pp. 477-483).

The last category comprises twelve papers with a practical orientation. Four of these are prescriptive, in the sense that they advocate pedagogical approaches, methods or techniques. One example is ‘A world picture: Developing and implementing cross-cultural education in foreign language teaching’, by Ayca Palancılar and Sevgi Can, a paper which puts forward the argument that cross-cultural communication should form a curricular goal in foreign language education (pp. 60-68). In a similar vein, Daniela Voliková (‘Social etiquette across cultures: Teaching English for building relationships and rapport’) recommends broadening current conceptualizations of curricular content to include social etiquette norms (pp. 127-136). Katrina Osborn’s contribution, ‘The philological approach’, describes the hybrid nature of English from a historical perspective, and puts forward the suggestion that such knowledge can facilitate teaching and learning language form (pp. 327-334). Finally, ‘Dictionary [sic] of abbreviations in linguistics: Towards defining functional aspects as structural elements of the entry’, by Ivo Fabijanić, describes an attempt to create what appears to be a dictionary of acronyms, which can presumably be used in language education (pp. 278-287).

Another eight chapters describe quasi-experimental teaching interventions, classroom-based investigations, or action research projects. ‘Motivating students to participate in classroom discussions through the Socratic Circle approach’, by Alma Pirić, is one of the more competently handled examples in this category (pp. 21-34). It describes an attempt to enhance the speaking skills of university students who were being taught English, through a well-focused and clearly described intervention. ‘Asking students to read in class: Applying new ideas in teaching reading’, by Atiye Bihter Sekin, is another interesting contribution, which reports with unusual clarity on a well-designed intervention aiming to improve reading skills (pp. 51-59). Similar projects include: ‘Reducing oral apprehension in the Libyan EFL context using schema theory: an input for language skills enhancement’, by Edgar H. Malonzo (pp. 156-164); ‘Using story-based drama and related creative activities to teach English to kindergarten pupils’, by Eda Üstünel and Havva Sümerya Pektaş (pp. 147-155); ‘Technology-enhanced English Language Learning’, by Izela Habul-Šabanović (pp. 288-299); and ‘From examinations to assignments: a shift in assessing university students in Libya’, by Mohammed Juma M. Zagood, which focusses on assessment rather than teaching (pp. 402-407). Also included in the category is a contribution entitled ‘“Our Neighbouring Countries”: raising multicultural awareness through a CLIL project for young learners’, by Eleni Griva, Dora Cholesteridou and Klio Semoglou, which reports on a Content and Language Integrated Learning project that allegedly took place in a primary education context, but is disappointingly devoid of data, teaching and learning materials or any concrete information about the project that it describes (pp. 174-183). Finally, Milica Prvulović transparently reports on a project that aimed to teach phrasal verbs by capitalizing on the semantic properties indexed in the particles, but failed to produce the expected outcome (‘The ups and downs of learning phrasal verbs’, pp. 376-384).

EVALUATION

This is an edited collection that had considerable potential to make a useful contribution to the literature on Foreign Language Education. Unfortunately, the book is weakened by a very diffuse focus, the uncritical inclusion of an injudiciously large number of papers, and what appears to be complete lack of editorial oversight.

The decision to include no fewer than 51 chapters in the collection is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, it has meant that the volume has no clear focus. As seen in the previous section, the book consists of at least three distinct thematic strands, namely teaching, literature and linguistics, and there were several papers which do not comfortably fit any of these categories (e.g., Borriello’s treatise on the evolution of print in Tokugawa Japan, pp. 201-218). Similarly, the number of languages represented in the collection is impressive: among the papers, the readers will find descriptions of Yukatek (p. 75), a discussion of linguistic ecologies of the Netherlands (p. 235-245), and even entire papers written in Serbian. While such diversity can be seen as a strength, it is difficult to envisage any reader who might be interested in more than a few of the studies that make up the volume.

The second reason why the elastic inclusion criteria detract from the value of the volume is that they have produced a very uneven collection. The volume includes several examples of scholarship that meets a reasonable threshold of quality, and some - like Genç’s discussion of the Turkish language teacher education provision (pp. 227-235) - are highly interesting and original. Interspersed among them are a large number of papers that report on what are, at best, trivial findings, and often make no attempt to argue for the originality or the pedagogical utility of the research on which they report. Even more problematic is the inclusion in the collection of two papers that are almost completely indecipherable due to poor coherence and language issues, one paper that appears to have been copy-pasted from presentation slides, and at least two papers that warrant further investigation for possible research malpractice, namely plagiarism and data fabrication.

Another serious weakness of the volume is that it does not appear to have not benefited from editorial attention at any stage of its production. Unusually for an edited collection, there is no introduction by the editor, where salient themes of the book and inclusion criteria might be presented to the reader. Moreover, no intellectual effort appears to have been applied to grouping or sequencing the chapters. Rather, these are listed in alphabetical order according to the authors’ given name or, exceptionally, their surname in the case of Maria Stec’s contribution (pp. 517-527). The volume includes a section with information about the contributors (pp. 565 et seq.), but this is incomplete and contains no contact information for those authors that are listed, thus significantly limiting its usefulness. The number of typographical issues is such that suggests a consistent lack of care on the part of the authors, the editor and the publishers. For instance, three typographical mistakes were found in the bibliographical list of the first chapter alone (pp. 8-9), including a misspelling of the author’s surname. Likewise, in Chapter 3, Victoria Fromkin’s name is variously spelled as “Fromklin” (p. 20) and “Fr++++++++++++++klin” (sic) (p. 18). Finally, the graphics and tables are inconsistent in style, and many graphs are unreadable in monochrome.

Among the redeeming features of the volume is that it contains a good coverage of the scholarship in language, literature and language education in South Eastern Europe, an area that is not very well represented in the mainstream literature. In addition, most of the contributions that report on actual pedagogical issues are clearly described and will perhaps be of value to language educators and researchers with an interest in how English is taught in the periphery of the English-using world. That said, a stricter peer review would have pointed out many avoidable problems in individual chapters and would have benefited the volume as a whole.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Achilleas I. Kostoulas is a researcher in the English Language Teaching Research and Methodology unit at the University of Graz (Austria). He also teaches courses in Foreign Language Didactics and Applied Linguistics. He has a PhD and an MA in TESOL (Manchester, UK) and a BA in English Studies (Athens, Greece).

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