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Review of  Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and Beyond


Reviewer: Shih-Ju Jackie Young
Book Title: Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and Beyond
Book Author: Wai Meng Chan Kwee Nyet Chin Titima Suthiwan
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Neurolinguistics
Language Acquisition
Book Announcement: 23.1603

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Review:
EDITORS: Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, Titima Suthiwan
TITLE: Cover Foreign Language Teaching in Asia and Beyond
SUBTITLE: Current Perspectives and Future Directions
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education [SSFLE] 3
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2011

Shih-Ju Young, Linguistics Program, University of Georgia

SUMMARY

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

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

Part One “Theoretical foundation and research”

Chapter 2, “Preparing language teachers to teach learning strategies”, by Anna
Uhl Chamot, provides a comprehensive discussion about the often underrated role
of learning strategies in foreign language learning and teaching, and why and
how it should be explicit to the students and incorporated into teacher
education training and regular curriculum practice. Previous studies have
suggested that “good language learners were skilled at matching strategies to
the task they were working on, while the less successful language learners did
not have the metacognitive knowledge about task requirements needed to select
appropriate strategies” (p. 31). This calls for consciousness-raising and
goal-oriented instructions that help students become aware of what strategies
are in general, what strategies they are already using, and how certain
strategies can be used for a particular task. Most importantly, they help
students begin to think about their own learning processes. The author also
introduces a task-based, 5-phase instructional sequence (i.e. Preparation,
Presentation, Practice, Self-evaluation, and Expansion) developed for the
Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), aiming to provide a
framework for teachers in planning language lessons that integrate content,
language and learning strategies.

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

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

Chapter 5, “Pragmatics in foreign language teaching and learning: Reflections on
the teaching of Chinese in China”, by Hong Wang, applauds the increasing efforts
put forth by some scholars in China in their research on the pragmatics of the
Chinese language, but conversely, worries that these efforts do not translate
effectively into how Chinese is being taught in China. The author states that in
the 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 for
communicative fluency. The author suggests that teachers in China should
integrate both pragmalingustic and sociopragmatic elements into their teaching
and proposes a set of procedures (i.e. Speech act identification, Analysis of
the speech act, Conscious learning of the Chinese speech act, Controlled
practice, and Free practice) that provide guidelines for teaching and fostering
pragmatic competence in a TCFL classroom.

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

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

Chapter 8, “Vocabulary learning strategies among adult foreign language
learners”, by Shameem Rafik-Galea and Bee Eng Wong, details a questionnaire
study of foreign language vocabulary learning strategy preferences and reveals
that students of different ethnic groups use both effective and ineffective
strategies when learning different foreign language vocabulary. Furthermore, the
use of direct strategies (i.e. memory, cognitive and compensation strategies) is
far more prominent than that of indirect strategies (i.e. meta-cognitive,
affective and social strategies). The results suggest that language teachers
should present learners with different learning strategies for the acquisition
of vocabulary and provide exercises and input that encourage the use of various
strategies when learning vocabulary.

Part Two “Classroom practice and evaluation studies”

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

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

Chapter 11, “Memorizing dialogues: The case for “Performative Exercises”, by
Izumi Walker and Tomoko Utsumi, challenges common negative perceptions towards
dialogue memorization in foreign language learning and points out that this
method may be a key step leading to automaticity and fluency in language
production. By asking students to memorize the model dialogue for a 5-stage
performative exercise (i.e. discussion of content and context of the model
dialogue, performance check on memorized dialogue, contextualized exercises,
creative role-play, and presentation and feedback), students are provided with a
basis for communication in similar real-life situations. Furthermore,
familiarity with the grammar, structure, etc., through memorization allows
students the luxury to attend to higher-level processing, such as meaning
construction, instead of worrying about sentential-level constructions. The
results show that students’ speech production progresses and improves
dramatically through the exercise and that the majority of students perceived
memorizing dialogue as being helpful in their learning.

Chapter 12, “The whole world communicates in English, do you? -- Educational
drama as an alternative approach to teaching English in Japan”, by Naoko
Araki-Metcalfe, discusses several advantages of using educational drama as an
alternative pedagogical approach in foreign language teaching. This approach not
only presents contextualized linguistic information, but also provides students
with opportunities to explore non-verbal communication. Within clearly defined,
rule-based boundaries, students are free to observe, to construct a sense of
self, to imagine and create, to improvise, and most importantly, to use both
linguistic and kinesthetic skills to express themselves.

Chapter 13, “From oral interview test to oral communication test: Alleviating
students’ anxiety”, by Satomi Chiba and Yoko Morikawa, points out that more
traditional teacher-student, question-answer, one-way oral exams greatly induce
anxiety. A high level of anxiety has an adverse effect on oral performance.
Therefore, to ease anxiety, the authors suggest giving students a more
humanistic and interactive oral test that allows them to have an actual
conversation with their partner(s) on a subject of their choice from a pool of
topics. Students’ self evaluations point to the positive effect of natural
communication between peers, from which students acquire a sense of
accomplishment and an increase in their motivation. Suggestions for how to go
about designing, implementing, and assessing oral communication tests are also
provided.

EVALUATION

This edited volume is a great addition to the field of second language
acquisition in general, and foreign language teaching and learning, in
particular. It is especially beneficial for practitioners and teachers alike who
are determined, but frustrated in their efforts to find a well-balanced middle
point for teaching and learning. For those who are constantly looking for
innovative pedagogical practices and approaches in teaching and ways to foster
students’ abilities and skills in learning and using the language (especially
communicative proficiency), this volume will not disappoint. For those who want
to develop a comprehensive theoretical background in foreign language teaching
and learning, this volume will probably not be a go-to reference, since each
chapter presents only a snap-shot of certain aspects of teaching or learning,
rather than painting a complete picture of the science and art of foreign
language teaching and learning as a collective whole.

Despite the editors’ efforts to organize these collections into two major
themes, “theoretical foundation and research” and “classroom practice and
evaluation studies”, the nature and scope of individual chapters cover too many
variations of aspects of teaching and learning from different disciplines, which
makes it difficult for readers to tie everything together as a collective whole
and enjoy this volume in a one-after-another fashion. I highly recommend that
readers rearrange the order of chapters based on individual needs and
preferences in order to get the most out of this volume.

The following paragraphs suggest a more cohesive organization of chapters based
on 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 growth
of research on learning styles, which suggests that various learning styles
characterized by an individual learner do reveal a correlation between an
individual’s learning styles and his/her performance regarding different
linguistic elements (Gregorc, 1979; Reid, 1987). Learners with different
learning styles may opt for different teaching and learning strategies and
preferences. Chapters 2 and 8 address this variability directly by suggesting
teachers explicitly introduce students to various learning strategies in
general, and strategies in vocabulary learning, in particular. Chapters 7 and 11
offer evaluative work on students’ performance and feedback for two specific
learning strategies: peer scaffolding and dialogue memorization, respectively.
All four chapters, together, paint a pretty solid picture of teaching being more
effective if it is student-centered. They also show that the learning experience
of students can be enhanced if they have a better understanding of not just how
they learn, but how to learn. However, learning strategies are specific tools
used by individuals with different learning styles (and various teaching
strategies used by a teacher may well be an extension of the teacher’s teaching
and learning styles); this being said, these four chapters can definitely
benefit from an additional chapter specifically dealing with “teaching and
learning styles”. It is my personal opinion that by having an understanding of
individual students’ learning styles, teachers are better informed on what
they’re getting themselves into and are better equipped to design a course,
exercise, or activity that can guide students in their own learning process and
dissolve 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 something
teachers can cultivate and promote to enhance learner outcomes. Chapters 4 and
10 present two purpose-specific and goal-oriented course designs to demonstrate
how 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 its
pedagogical resolution, have been discussed in numerous publications from
various disciplines (Gregersen & Horwitz, 2002; Horwitz, Tallon, & Luo, 2009).
Specific to foreign language learning, three main types of anxiety are agreed
upon: communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation
(Cubukcu, 2007). Chapter 6 examines three potential personal attributes behind
foreign language learning anxiety. Chapter 13 presents an alternative oral exam
format that aims to alleviate levels of anxiety. However, as ideal as this
communicative approach to oral exams may sound on paper, I wonder whether it can
be properly and effectively incorporated into a curriculum. I can see this being
implemented at the departmental level, whereby clear guidelines and strong
support from the administrative level are given. Teachers (trained in language
testing and assessment) work as a collective whole in planning a task like this
to avoid uncertainties in the administration and completion of the test. Without
implementation at these two levels, anxiety may actually increase, for both
teachers and students. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

Chapters 3 and 5 -- Pragmatic competence

Sometimes misunderstandings or communication breakdowns are not about the
well-formedness of grammatical structures, but rather about how and where
utterances are being used in communication. It is important for foreign language
learners to develop “the ability to use available linguistic resources in a
contextually appropriate fashion” (Rueda, 2006: 173). Chapter 5’s author
recognizes the lack of instruction on developing pragmatic competence among
learners studying Chinese in China and urges teachers to provide explicit
instruction on subject matter. The Discourse Politeness Theory (DPT) presented
in Chapter 3 also places pragmatic competence at its center (i.e. relative
politeness), elaborating the importance of understanding inter-cultural- and
inter-personal pragmatics in order to achieve the DP defaults of various
situations.

Chapters 9 and 12 -- Alternative approaches

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

Although this volume predominately focuses on language production in the form of
speaking, and not on other aspects of language (e.g. writing, reading,
listening, etc.), it is valuable because it provides numerous opportunities for
teachers to reflect on their own teaching philosophy and pedagogical choices and
offers several innovative exercises and theoretical frameworks that can be
implemented when designing courses, materials and exercises, and tests with the
intention 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 Studies
1.2:133-42.

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

Gregersen, T. S. & Horwitz, E. K. 2002. Language learning and perfectionism:
Anxious and non-anxious language learners’ reactions to their own oral
performance. 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 for
academic 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. Tesol
Quarterly 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
 
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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