December 2006 Foreword

Welcome to the last quarterly issue of 2006. The Asian EFL Journal now receives so many submissions from all over the globe that some of these articles were first submitted in 2005. We thank the authors for their patience and our volunteer team of editors for their commitment to the academic process. Nine countries are represented in this issue. The eleven papers often deal with issues of local concern, but all of the themes raised transcend national boundaries.

The first paper is by one of our own associate editors, Professor Reima Al-Jarf of Saudi Arabia, who deals with a very practical issue that concerns so many countries around the world in Large Student Enrollments in EFL Programs: Challenges and Consequences . How can we make sure that it is administration that supports academic concerns and not the reverse? We are strongly committed to publishing articles like this one by prominent academics who address practical issues because they can be cited by others as evidence that large class sizes do have a negative impact and this can lead to better administrative decision making in all of our contexts. Without supportive decision making at an administrative level all academic and pedagogical efforts can be in vain: Since large freshman class sizes at COLT were found to have a negative effect on student achievement (grammar taken as an example), on student and instructor attitudes, on classroom instruction, and result in staffing problems and insufficient resources and classrooms, efforts to reduce class size should be taken seriously.

Another study from the Gulf States by Dr. Suleiman Al-Husseini of Oman, The Visible and Invisible Role of English Foundation Programmes: A Search for Communication Opportunities within EFL Contexts looks at a very common part of the university curriculum in this part of Asia, the foundation programme . His research finds that, in addition to teaching English, English Foundation Programmes are an excellent means of providing a holistic inductive process to university study, ensuring a successful transition from the previous learning experience and integration into the new context. Al-Husseini also indicates that foundation courses could provide a golden opportunity for using English communicatively.

The gap between English learnt in schools and the English needed for university study is a common theme of several papers in this issue. The first part of Taguchi and Naganuma s title – Transition from Learning English to Learning in English: Students Perceived Adjustment Difficulties in an English-Medium University in Japan – sums up the problem. Of course, not all universities are English medium universities but far more of them are now promoting courses taught in English, although even English classes at secondary schools do not always take place primarily in English. Their study reveals the students adjustment difficulties and explores the extent to which the difficulties stem from their previous experience in secondary school English classes. As one who spent almost fourteen years in secondary schools in five countries, as a teacher (and later as a researcher), before moving to university teaching, I feel it might be relevant to ask how far we can expect schools to take on any more responsibility and how far universities themselves will need to develop better programmes and strategies to bridge the gap through the kind of foundation programmes discussed in this issue.

In Dr. Lixin Xiao s contribution from China, again the issue is needs of university English students (English majors in this case), if from a very different angle. In What can we learn from a Learning Needs Analysis of Chinese English Majors in a University Context? one encouraging finding is that the students have favorable attitudes towards communicative classroom activities. In Xiao s view, this is very encouraging for teachers who are engaged in innovations in teaching methods. Xiao also emphasizes the importance of listening to students: Students also show strong interest in learning target cultures and call for innovation in combining English teaching and culture teaching. On the other hand, the students are not inclined to see all activities emphasizing formal linguistic competence as less effective than those emphasizing the communicative functions of language.

Perhaps the message of this issue is that all transitions require careful preparation and students in transition need sensitive handling. In Prospective Teachers and L2 Writing Anxiety , Atay and Kurt from Turkey provide us with an interesting study in anxiety for prospective English teachers. Their results indicate that more than half of the participants suffer from high levels of writing anxiety. Symptoms include difficulties in organizing their thoughts and producing ideas while writing in L2 . Importantly the students blame university instructors as one major factor affecting their attitude towards L2 writing.

In the first of three papers from Iran, Ghonsooly and Eghtesadee investigate the Role of Cognitive Style of Field-dependence/independence in Using Metacognitive and Cognitive Reading Strategies by a Group of Skilled and Novice Iranian Students of English Literature . Their results indicate that level of proficiency and cognitive style of field-dependence/independence are both important factors in using meta-cognitive and cognitive reading strategies. They also outline interesting findings about the differences between the meta-cognitive and cognitive reading strategies used by novice field-independent and skilled field-independent readers. These findings underline the importance of strategy teaching for novice students.

At a time when definitions of Global English are coming under the microscope, notably at our own global congress and EIL conference in May, 2007, M. Samaie, R. Sahragard, and R. Parhizkar, in their article A Critical Analysis of Learning and Teaching Goals in Gardner’s Theory of Attitudes and Motivation , present us with an interesting critical discourse analysis, raising the issue of xenocentrism in some western theories of motivation. Xenocentrism is a particular form of ethnocentrism which can be used to label assumptions built into the discourse that typically involve the superiority of the second language community and the things associated with it but the inferiority of the first language community and the things associated with it. The assumption that integrative motivation is central to EFL is clearly problematic in our world of EIL.

Mansour Koosha and Ali Akbar Jafarpour, in Data-driven Learning and Teaching Collocation of Prepositions: The Case of Iranian EFL Adult Learners , provide us with an interesting study, investigating whether concordancing materials presented through data-driven learning (DDL) have any effect in the teaching/learning of the collocation of prepositions , one conclusion being that that their DDL approach was highly effective in the teaching and learning of the collocation of prepositions.

From Taiwan, Yuh-Mei Chen s Using Children s Literature for Reading and Writing Stories explains why children s literature is suitable for older EFL learners, illustrating her view with a description of a project which used children s literature to engage EFL university students in reading and writing stories. Often a practical paper of this kind would be redirected to our teaching article issues. However, this paper is included in this issue as it provides an interesting contribution to the discussion on using literature in EFL classrooms that we are encouraging in our quarterly issues, and supports the final opinion piece of this issue by Sivasubramaniam (see below).

To conclude this last issue of 2006, which has been a very dynamic growth year for AEJ, we are pleased to present two opinion pieces included for their powers of argumentation. We hope that they stimulate lively discussion in 2007 and would welcome detailed responses over the next months. Authors who are responding in detail to recent AEJ articles can sometimes be published a little more quickly than full research submissions. Shaun O Dwyer, argues that In ELT, it s Time for Constructivists to get Real . He takes issue with the philosophy and psychology of constructivism in English language teaching, citing books such Williams and Burden s Psychology for Language Teachers (1997). He argues that so far there has not been much critical examination of constructivism in ELT. He goes on to propose a more philosophically robust and consistent understanding of those realities to serve as a background for reflective teaching practice.

Is it time to bring literature back? Did it ever actually go away? We invite our readers to join the debate stimulated by our final contributor, Sivakumar Sivasubramaniam, in Promoting the Prevalence of Literature in the Practice of Foreign and Second Language Education: Issues and Insights . Sivasubramaniam skillfully argues for a more humanistic approach to language teaching suggesting that the course-book culture rampant in current foreign and second language settings appears to promote a reductionist view of language learning which is merely aimed at meeting exam requirements. He suggests that using literature in the ELT classroom can lay the groundwork for personal and social construction of meanings by the students . Sivasubramaniam practices what he preaches in this paper.

Dr. Roger Nunn
Senior Associate Editor
Asian EFL Journal