June 2007 Foreword

Welcome to the June Issue of the Asian EFL Journal. The first papers in this issue all address international issues of a very different nature, reflecting the variety of potential areas of interest in a journal with international aspirations like AEJ.
AEJ always welcomes contributions that deal with the realities of international English usage. In “High School Freshmen s Responses to Home Economics Conducted in Non-native Variety of English: A Three-year Survey on Content-based Instruction in Japan”, Takagaki and Tanabe provide us with a very innovative study into using non-native varieties of English in the classroom. This paper should be of interest for both researchers and practitioners who are interested in raising awareness of the expanding reality of international English use. It also leads to some interesting implications for content-based instruction.
In Refusal Strategies by Yemeni EFL Learners , Abdullah Ali Al-Eryani from Yemen investigates the speech act of refusing by Yemeni Arab learners of English as a foreign language. In spite of the similar strategies available in both language groups, cross-cultural variation was still evident. This kind of comparative research into speech acts is interesting in relation to EIL as it can be argued that we increasingly need to consider the usefulness of teaching students to conform to target norms in a single target speech community.
The other cross-cultural study in this issue attempts to understand students’ strategy use. In Language Learning Strategies for Junior College Students in Taiwan: Investigating Ethnicity and Proficiency”, Ming-Nuan Yang investigates the effects of ethnicity and language proficiency on the use of language learning strategies by junior college students by comparing aboriginal and non-aboriginal students in Taiwan. Understanding students strategy use assists in making decisions about incorporating language learning strategy training into English lessons with all the potential advantages for heightened language acquisition.
Classroom discourse studies are particularly time consuming and difficult to conduct, which might explain why the Asian EFL Journal does not receive enough of them. To improve what goes on in classrooms, it is important to describe what actually goes on in them on a regular basis and this can be very different from reported perceptions of what happens there. In “Reactive and preemptive language related episodes, and uptake in an EFL class”, Farrokhi and Gholami examine the potential of two types of focus on form for promoting uptake, an essential prerequisite to learning. Farrokhi and Gholami not only address a common issue of such research, the low amount of uptake, but also provide a new characterization of a neglected aspect, camouflaged uptake, in addition to learners immediate responses to focus on form.
Vocabulary is quite rightly a central concern of EFL learning wherever it takes place. In “An Examination of Vocabulary Learning of College-level Learners of English in China”, Ming Wei reports on the learning of English vocabulary by college students in mainland China. Wei’s analysis reveals that important strategies such as contextualized activation and management strategies are underused and points out that this “may lead to difficulties in long-term retention and use of vocabulary, the top two problematic areas in vocabulary learning rated by the participants.”
The related topic of providing comprehensive input is also a central issue in EFL. It has not been uncommon in the three universities I have taught to encounter first-year students who have never read a book in English. The important policy issue of developing a reading habit is addressed by Anson Yang, a Secondary School Vice Principal in Hong Kong, in “Cultivating a reading habit: Silent reading at school”. His paper illustrates the effectiveness of a “whole-school” approach to solving problems when administrative support can be obtained. Yang concludes that that “students find it fruitful reading during school time, because it allows them to cultivate a reading habit, and they can find time to do leisure reading when they grow older.”
Also focusing on high school English, Ali Jahangard looks at the staple diet of so many high school students, the EFL textbook, in “Evaluation of the EFL Materials Taught at Iranian Public High Schools”. Jahangard underlines the need for teachers themselves to be involved in textbook evaluation. Looking critically at textbooks is important because it makes us aware of the differences between intended and actual use. He proposes 13 common criteria for text book evaluation and provides suggestions for some shortcomings he encountered in the books in relation to these criteria.
The use of the students’ first language in the classroom is a common subject of discussion in journals and something very frequently practiced in classrooms. The next two studies both discuss using the first language in some form. Zheng Lin, in “Setting EFL Reading Comprehension Questions in Learners L1?”, asks: Will it make a difference if reading comprehension questions are set in learners L1 instead of English (L2)? In a carefully developed research-based argumentation, Lin concludes that EFL reading comprehension test questions, especially those for beginning learners, should be set in the learners L1 whenever feasible.
>>Anchalee Sattayatham and Somchoen Honsa Jr., in Medical Students Most Frequent Errors at Mahidol University, Thailand provide us with a detailed study of error analysis partly depending on translation identifying a top ten list of errors in the writing of first-year medical students. Error analysis is a very complex issue, in particular in relation to translation, so we would welcome other studies in a similar area and reactions to this paper. Their study has practical implications for material development and curriculum planning.
Finally, James Moody, in our first contribution from Qatar, Plagiarism or intertextuality?: Approaches to Teaching EFL Academic Writing concludes this issue with an interesting discussion of a fascinating topic and one that all teachers of extended writing have to deal with in this age of easy Internet access. Moody argues that treating plagiarism from the perspective of intertextuality is a productive approach to teaching writing skills, as it can help to foster student writers self confidence. Moody provides a thorough review of the issue concluding that the best self image to impart to the student academic writer is that of a contributor to a developing body of knowledge . We would be happy to host debate on this topic in future issues.

Roger Nunn
Senior Associate Editor
Asian EFL Journal