March 2007 Foreword

Welcome to the first issue of 2007. Again we present papers from a variety of international sources on current themes such as competence in international English, intercultural collaboration and task-based learning. The Asian EFL Journal is also interested in exploring different approaches to academic writing including article writing styles and this issue again presents some different formats alongside the more familiar format of the research article. We also hope that many of these research papers not only raise problems but also suggest solutions to them that can be adapted and applied by readers in their own local contexts.
In the first contribution, Academic Discussion Tasks: A Study of EFL Students Perspectives , Han Eun hee, a Ph.D. candidate in TESOL at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, provides us with an important insight into the challenges facing EFL students studying in American universities. Han focuses on oral/aural skill for class participation. As one of the crucial obstacles for EFL students academic success , Han also suggests how this problem can be solved. Combining personal experience with research, this paper provides very useful advice for all involved.
In Discourse Markers in Academic Lectures , Eslami and Rasekh also attempt to shed light on another practical issue from the world of EAP, providing us with an interesting discussion of the processes underlying academic performance in English. This piece provides clear conclusions about the need to supply discourse markers in academic lectures and underlines the importance of such a finding not only for lecturers, but also for materials designers, teachers and teacher trainers. Eslami and Rasekh point out that this is an area that is relatively easily taught and well worth teaching as it may have an immediate effect on comprehension.
Another theme that the Asian EFL Journal supports as actively as possible is intercultural collaboration. In Collaborating Together: Linked Intercultural Learning Activities for Undergraduate Japanese and American Students , Linda Heuser from the USA takes up the theme of intercultural learning and learning communities, proposing a set of learning activities designed as a way to increase students intercultural competence and language fluency . Her task-based/project-based assignments involved equal collaboration between Japanese and American students.
On a related topic, Leila B. Iyldyz, from Kazakhstan responds to our request for papers on the concept of competence in EIL an ongoing theme very central to the work of the Asian EFL Journal and one that will be discussed in some detail at our upcoming global conference in May. In Rethinking Validity of the L2 Proficiency Concept: Lessons for EIL , Leila considers the concept of proficiency pointing out that the concept seems to be understood and be a useful reference point in the discourse of L2 professionals until it is questioned and further explored. As all of us discover when working in detail on this theme, defining proficiency is a more complex topic than is generally assumed. Iyldyz provides us with a useful background discussion highlighting some aspects useful for careful consideration when constructing the EIL competence framework.
Also raising the issue of “proficiency” but from a different angle, in A survey on the relationship between English language proficiency and the academic achievement of Iranian EFL students , Ataollah Maleki and Ebrahim Zangani explore language proficiency in relation to overall academic achievement. They conclude that, English language proficiency is a good indicator and predictor of academic achievement for those students who are majoring in English (the EFL area), at least in the Iranian context.
The next group of papers highlights the usefulness of being sensitive to the students’ perspective. In Language Learning Style Preferences: A Students Case Study of Shiraz EFL Institutes , Abdolmehdi Riazi and Mohammad Javad Riasati, investigate the language learning style preferences of EFL learners, and the degree to which teachers are aware of them. Their results indicate areas that could be targeted for closer cooperation between teachers and students. For example, students like to interact with each other and be actively engaged in classroom debates . Preferences are linked to motivation. In Chinese Students Motivation to Learn English at the Tertiary Level , Meihua Liu takes up the theme of motivation in relation to proficiency discovering that students attitudes and motivation were positively correlated with their English proficiency . Shokrpour and Fallahzadeh s study, A Survey of the Students and Interns EFL Writing Problems in Shiraz University of Medical Sciences , was set up to determine whether language skills or writing skills were the major problem areas faced by senior medical students and interns. They concluded that medical students have problem both in language and writing skills, but the main problems were in process/genre writing skills.
Lixia Wang from China also considers the process of academic writing, from a systemic linguistics point of view, in Theme and Rheme in the Thematic Organization of Text: Implications for Teaching Academic Writing . Her paper focuses on the organizational aspect of coherence and cohesion, describing an attempt to increase awareness of thematic structure by encouraging students to perform the same analysis in their own writings, and thus improve their written competence.
The final three papers of this issue reflect our policy of providing a forum for different perspectives and styles of communicating with an academic audience. Firstly, Jennifer Smith provides us with a different angle on the value of EFL programmes in The Contribution of EFL Programs to Community Development in China . Her research is situated in a small northeastern city but is arguably relevant to development programmes throughout Asia. Smith argues for a different type of assessment when evaluating the cost/benefits of EFL programs by considering issues of community development.
Should the first person be excluded from academic discourse? The Asian EFL Journal is always interested in alternative styles of sharing experience with fellow academics. In Developing The Course for College Level English as a Foreign Language Learners and Faculty Members in Vietnam , Greta Gorsuch shares her professional experience in Vietnam using a first person account as an interesting alternative to the usual research based structure.
In our September 2006 issue, we already highlighted a variety of views and approaches in relation to the Task-based learning. In this final piece a debate started in ELTJ is continued in AEJ. Anthony Bruton, in Description or prescription for task-based instruction?: A reply to Littlewood takes issue with a recent proposal by Littlewood on the task-based approach in which he proposes two dimensions, task involvement and task focus, on which to place activities in the language classroom. We will be happy to publish powerfully argued reactions to this piece that make a contribution to this debate, particularly from contributors to the September issue.

Roger Nunn
Senior Associate Editor
Asian EFL Journal