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Review of  The Role of the Self in Language Learning


Reviewer: Hiromi Takayama
Book Title: The Role of the Self in Language Learning
Book Author: Sehnaz Sahinkarakas Jülide Inozu
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 29.3200

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Review:
SUMMARY

“The role of the self in language learning,” edited by Sehnaz Sahinkarakas and Jülide Inozu, is a collection of research on the concept of “self” as a key role in foreign language learning contexts. This book aims to analyze, psychologically and pedagogically, how foreign language learners’ role of “self” influences their language learning development from different perspectives.

This book opens with a foreword, containing an overview and a summary of each chapter. Following that, the book introduces its contributors and a list of abbreviations.

Chapter One presents an introduction of the concept of self by Sehnaz Sahinkarakas, Jülide Inozu, and Dinesh Ramoo. In this chapter, they describe the investigation of self-concept and its effects on the field of foreign language education.

In Chapter Two, entitled “The relationship between EFL learners’ future L2 self-guides, vision, and language-learning motivation,” Aycan Demir Ayaz and Ismail Hakki Erten interrogate the relationship between vision, ideal L2 self, perceptual learning styles, and L2 motivation using a survey of university EFL students in Turkey. The results reveal that L2 motivation, actual L2 self, and vision are strong predictors of ideal L2 self. The researchers suggest that L2 learners should develop a positive self-concept to enhance their ideal L2 self. Additionally, improving learners’ vision of their L2 self significantly helps to build effective L2 learning behavior .

Chapter Three, “An investigation into foreign-language anxiety and its relation to self-efficacy in oral performance,” describes Senem Zaimoğlu’s research on how college EFL students’ foreign language anxiety relates to their self-efficacy in oral performance in Turkey. From the correlation analysis exploring the relationship between EFL students’ levels of anxiety and self-efficacy in oral performance, the researcher concludes that there is a moderately negative correlation between the two psychological factors. This research reveals that students who have higher foreign language anxiety tend to have lower self-efficacy beliefs, whereas students who have higher self-efficacy beliefs tend to have lower foreign language anxiety in oral performance. This result is consistent with previous studies. The researcher suggests that teachers should motivate students with engaging activities and create a relaxing classroom atmosphere to enhance students’ self-efficacy beliefs and decrease their language learning anxiety.

Chapter Four, “Exploring experiences of the bilingual self,” demonstrates Adnan Demir’s phenomenological inquiry, exploring the developmental process of participants’ forming first- and second-language identities as bilinguals. Even though Kurdish and Arabic are the participants’ first languages, they are not confident speaking these languages because they have not used the languages in formal education in Turkey. Furthermore, if they start learning their first language sooner than other languages, their first language is more emotionally attached, whereas if they start learning their first and second languages at the same time, their emotional attachment is equal.

In Chapter Five, entitled “Exploring the willingness to communicate (WTC) in the language classroom,” Aysun Dağtaş explains which environmental factors influence English language learners’ perceptions of their WTC at a university in Turkey. From the quantitative data analysis, the researcher finds teachers, classmates, and classroom activities lead to a positive classroom environment. From the interviews, participants report that their peers, teachers, types of activities, and classroom atmosphere are factors that influence their WTC in the foreign language classroom. The researcher concludes that teachers are the most significant factor for learners’ WTC because their experience in class depends on teachers’ decision making in creating an effective classroom atmosphere and choosing activity topics.

Chapter Six, “Corrective feedback in writing classes: individual variations,” describes Eda Kahyalar and Figen Yilmaz’s conclusion that research on corrective feedback (CF) should be investigated by considering learners’ uniqueness rather than comparing groups of students based on their performance. This study is a single-case study, showing that Bora, chosen from among eight students from the experimental study, outperforms the other participants due to his higher level of retention. The factors affecting Bora’s retention are similar to those of other participants with lower levels of retention. However, the sole difference is that Bora self-studies for additional reading and writing outside of the classroom and shows motivation to improve his writing. These results connect the researchers’ argument that it is more effective to focus on individual learners’ approaches to CF rather than to observe their writing performance as a group.

Chapter Seven, “Investigating the role of learners’ selves in language-learner motivation,” examines Simla Course’s research question. The question explores EFL teachers’ role in motivational self-systems for learning foreign languages. In questionnaires and interviews, participants point out that the most important role for learning English is the ideal self, which reinforces their high level of motivation. In contrast, due to the lack of strong images of selves and future self-guides for learning additional foreign languages, such as Russian, German, Turkish, Swedish, Japanese, Dutch, and Korean, none of the participants continue learning them.

In Chapter Eight, entitled “The establishment of self in pronunciation and intonation in teacher training: a demonstration by computer via the PRAATS program,” Mehmet Demirezen explains types of selves, such as real self, ideal self, ought-to self, feared-teacher self, professional-teacher self, and pitch as acoustic and biological foundations of self. It explains how pitch influences foreign language learners’ identity related to their foreign language learning experiences. The author recommends using PRAAT, a speech visualizing analysis program, to enhance non-native English speakers’ pronunciation.

Chapter Nine, “Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of English teachers as mediators,” describes Deniz Elcin’s research on English teachers’ perceptions of their roles and students’ perceptions of the characteristics of ideal English teachers. This study includes three phases: a questionnaire of 130 teachers, a written report of ideal English teachers’ characteristics by 50 students, and an interview with a randomly selected 50 teachers out of the initial 130. Both teachers and students bring their perceptions and beliefs to language teaching and learning based on their identities, cultures, lives, and backgrounds. Therefore, it is important to understand language teachers’ roles as mediators despite their challenges, standardized tests and curricula, which they cannot control.

EVALUATION

There are two admirable points to this book. The topics of each chapter are coherent, focusing on a broad sense of self, and the content compiled in the book is diverse while remaining interesting. Most of the topics are related to individual learners’ psychological notions of language teaching and learning, such as self-concept, language learning anxiety, self-efficacy, first- and second-language identities, language learners’ perceptions of willingness to communicate, language learners’ role of motivational self-systems, and teachers’ and learners’ perceptions of roles. Chapters Six and Eight are different from others because these chapters are based on corrective feedback and pronunciation research. However, in Chapter Six, the authors conclude that corrective feedback should consider learners’ individual differences rather than their performance as groups. Similarly, although Chapter Eight closely examines pitch and intonation, the researchers demonstrate the relationship between pronunciation and language learners’ identity. Hence, these chapters focus on individual learners, despite their discussion of seemingly unrelated topics.

The major weakness of this text is that the research context of all the chapters is limited to language education in Turkey. Although issues of EFL education in Turkey can be applied to other EFL countries, it is true that the educational system is a product of social and cultural norms in each country. Thus, this book is meaningful for language learners and educators in Turkey; yet some findings from small-scale studies may not be applied to other countries’ contexts. For example, in Chapter Four, the participants’ first- and second-language emotional attachment depends on the Turkish language policy; this result can be influenced by each country’s language planning. This is a great book for language teachers and researchers in Turkey; however, if this edited volume had collected studies from different EFL countries, it could have been applied to various contexts and could have appealed to a broader audience.

The rigor of some of the research methodologies in this book is questionable. For instance, in Chapter Three, the result section includes correlation analysis, yet most of the data is based on the investigation of descriptive statistics, such as percentages, means, and standard deviations. Similarly, in Chapter Five, most of the quantitative data depends on descriptive statistics by displaying means and standard deviations with a few sentences to explain a correlation. These findings are helpful only to understand similar populations. In contrast, Chapter Two contains correlation and regression analyses shown by organized tables after brief explanations of means and standard deviations. This chapter provides correlation and regression analyses between variables, and readers can consider the results persuasive due to the investigation of each variable’s relationship. As for the qualitative study in Chapter Four, it is difficult to determine whether the researcher’s interpretation is accurate or not due to a lack of interview data. Rigorous findings corroborated by reliable data are absent from this chapter.

Despite these reservations, this book presents diverse EFL learners’ issues from various perspectives, which achieves the editors’ goal. Specifically, this edited volume is meaningful for those who are interested in exploring EFL teaching and researching in a Turkish context. This book provides consistent topics related to Turkish language learners’ characteristics in an absorbing way.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Hiromi Takayama received her Ph.D. in Foreign Language and ESL Education from the University of Iowa in 2015. Her research interests include teacher education, specifically for teacher efficacy and teacher identity, cultural influence on language teaching and learning, and grammar pedagogy.

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Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781527500013
Pages: 175
Prices: U.K. £ 58.99
U.S. $ 99.95