From Language Learner to Language Teacher: An Introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language

Don Snow. Alexandria, Virginia: TESOL, 2007. Pp. ix + 357.

Reviewed by Marilyn N. Lewis
The University of Auckland, New Zealand

The title of Snow s latest book, From Language Learner to Language Teacher: An Introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language makes a link between the learning and teaching of a language. As the introduction makes clear, the intended readers are second language speakers of English who bring to their teaching both challenges and strengths (p.v) which are different from those of native speakers (NSs), but NSs too could most certainly relate to the principles and examples in this latest publication.

The thirteen chapters of text are divided into two parts. Part one, Preparing to Teach, has five chapters, starting with Language teachers as language learners . Here the author often uses the device of question and answer, as in Why should an English teacher be a successful English learner? Chapter 2 presents language learning principles and the teacher s role. Here, as elsewhere in the book, Snow makes links between general theory and his own experiences, as in the section Language learning as a battle of the heart where he recalls his own early efforts to learn Russian. He also refers to the Confucian teaching approach as the role of a sage, which contrasts with the metaphor of teacher as coach. Chapters 3 to 5 deal with general information: course and lesson planning, evaluation and grading, as well as something he realistically calls classroom survival. While Snow avoids being dogmatic ( There are as many ways to structure a lesson plan as there are different teaching situations p. 67), he does provide concrete suggestions for the reader to accept or modify.

The second part of the book , Aspects of English Teaching, has eight chapters. Here the author turns to the more traditional divisions used in advice to teachers, with one chapter each for the four skills and for the teaching of vocabulary, of culture and of grammar. Then chapter 13 addresses a number of problems common to language teachers all over the world: large classes, disparate skill levels, students who participate too much or too little, and others. With his love of the metaphor, Snow presents the teacher as a traveler whose goal is to cross the desert and reach lush, green meadows on the other side (p. 228).

The five appendices include one of which has some ready-to-go ideas for classes on oral English. There are also three pages of Internet resources. Finally, Snow points to further reading through the occasional internal referencing and a one page list of sources. Chronologically, these range from Ur s 1981 Discussions that Work (Cambridge) to the author s own 2004 student and teacher text from the Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press. Geographically, the two sources acknowledge the value of both traditional and newer sources in informing English language teaching.

A number of helpful devices make the content accessible. One is the personal style of writing already noted. Others are the key statements that open each chapter with bullet points, and the concluding items for thought, discussion and action. This latter feature would make the book into a useful text for pre- or in-service courses.

For its practical ideas, its readability and its many examples, this book is recommended to both its intended readership and to NSs.