March 2006 Foreword

We are happy to present the March edition of the Asian EFL Journal, an issue that largely concerns itself with teaching practices based on sound academic theory. As we prepare for our second international conference at Dongseo University in Pusan, Korea in late April, many of the contributions presented here are relevant to this year’s Task-based Learning theme as well as to last year’s conference and the continuing theme of competence we seek to debate through the Journal.

In the first piece, Ya-Ling Chen provides us with a detailed and fascinating study of partial immersion, a theme of last year’s conference. After examining the Influence of Partial English Immersion Programs in Taiwan on Kindergartners’ Perceptions of Chinese and English Languages and Cultures, Chen dispels many of the myths about immersion, providing us with a very realistic yet positive conclusion. This study deserves to be seen as essential reading for anyone considering immersion for a monolingual and monocultural Asian context.

David R. Litz & Allison K. Smith provide us with a useful contribution to research into a practical aspect of administering cloze test procedure. Their evidence suggests that an exact replacement scoring method (ERS) might be just as reliable as SEMAC (semantically acceptable scoring procedure). Before rushing to drop SEMAC for the sake of expediency, however, readers should carefully consider Litz and Smith’s own recommendations of caution and the need for corroboration from further research.

With a study from Taiwan, Yuh-Mei Chen provides us with an interesting contribution to our knowledge on portfolio use, concluding that portfolios are a useful and successful pedagogical tool but might not be appropriate for assessment, a conclusion that should provide food for thought for those of us who use portfolios for assessment in other contexts.

Our fourth contribution is from Darren Lingley who describes a teaching procedure for developing intercultural awareness skills in the Japanese university context. His paper relates theory to teaching practice, discussing a detailed example of a failed intercultural communication. He uses a real-life critical incident in which public apologies are the central issue to develop teaching procedures “to help students cope with culture’s impact on language”.

The Asian EFL Journal is about to hold its conference on the theme of Task-Based Learning. In-Jae Jeon and Jung-won Hahn gives us a timely reminder of the fact that theoretical support for an approach in journals or conferences is less important than the knowledge, perceptions and abilities of teachers. Practical problems of the high-school classroom, for example, cannot be excluded from curriculum decisions: “Many Korean EFL teachers retain some fear of adopting TBLT as an instructional method because of perceived disciplinary problems related to classroom practice.” Teachers need to have confidence in the approach they adopt, but Jeon points out that “one of the major reasons teachers avoid implementing TBLT is deeply related to a lack of confidence”.

A. H. Abdul Raof and Masdinah Alauyah Md. Yusof from Malaysia introduce some aspects of ESP Project Work which are partially rooted in a task-based learning approach. They provide a well-documented example from the world of ESP for Engineering students that supports their contention that “language acquisition would be most effectively facilitated if it could be embedded with the learners’ field of study or work. Through appropriate pedagogy for learning, the more the learners are exposed to real world tasks, the better language users they will become.” Their project-based approach and the design of activities that have real-world applications clearly has applications beyond the field of ESP.

From Japan, Mita, Shirao, Martin, Hatagaki and Dendo report on the positive impact of foreign Asian students in Japanese university EFL classrooms, an initiative that requires extensive organization but which is potentially replicable in other Asian contexts. They report “a positive effect on motivation and performance that went beyond improving students’ cross-cultural understanding” having among other advantages “a profound effect on the strategic competence of the Japanese students”.

While many of the pieces in this issue have dealt with practical teaching approaches based on sound theory, the Asian EFL journal is still very interested in stimulating debate issues that affect Asian EFL. The last three contributions all stimulate thought and potential debate for future issues.

Mohammad Ali Salmani-Nodoushan attempts to impose some order on the often bewildering diversity of trends and paradigms in circulation in the field of EFL. He provides us with his summary of “recent trends” in language pedagogy identifying three recent aspects of the debate: “(1) a search for an alternative to method rather than an alternative method, (2) an emphasis on teacher autonomy, and (3) an attempt at principled pragmatism”.

In his paper, Ali Al-Issa from Oman provides a further angle to add to our knowledge of the cultural politics of EFL examining the extent to which Omani EFL is “culturally and educationally dependant on North America (USA and Canada), Britain and Australia (NABA) for its progress and development”. Al-Issa provides a meticulous description of the Omani situation to support his view and goes on to suggest ways in which this dependency can be reduced.

Finally, our opinion piece for this issue returns to a much-debated theme linked to our continuing concern with the notion of competence. In this case the theme is the kind of competence we are encouraging our students to achieve. Fenton and Terasawa challenge the contention made in 2004 by Jarvis and Atsilarat in the Asian EFL Journal, in which they took issue with the suitability of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) methodology for the Asian context. We would be happy to publish a response in a future issue.

Roger Nunn
Senior Associate Editor