September 2011 Foreword

Dear Readers,

The Asian EFL Journal s quarterly September issue continues the tradition of providing EFL professionals throughout the world with insight into some of the most pertinent issues affecting language learning. Readers will be able to explore the work of researchers investigating a variety of perplexing topics of interest in an Asian context. Enriched with diversity, the world s largest continent provides scholars with a vast resource of distinct and varied language learning environments readily available for analysis. The articles presented in this issue are a true reflection from the heart of Asia with research originating from China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

In an inquiry into the problems of student motivation, James Life presents an extensive study involving nearly 700 undergraduate students enrolled in university EFL courses in Korea, China, and Japan. In examining motivational differences and similarities between these North-East Asian cultures, the author provides detailed information that may allow instructors to better anticipate the needs of their students. Information concerning student preferences is a crucial aspect influencing motivation and we are given a thorough explanation in this study.

In addressing the challenges faced by Chinese EFL composition students, Justina Ong investigates writing from an error analysis perspective. The author provides further invaluable information by specifically identifying problematic writing errors of the participants. Along with the accompanying explanations, we are given a clearer portrayal of the seriousness of these problems. In pinpointing high frequency errors and writing patterns, educators are given invaluable information in areas demanding attention.

Otoshi and Heffernan examine three psychological needs presented in the Self-Determination Theory autonomy, relatedness and competence the authors emphasize the importance of these aspects to intrinsic motivation in a study involving two groups of students. In a comparison of English and business majors, differences were found between the groups in causal relationships of the three psychological needs with intrinsic motivation. Based on the findings of the study, the authors recommend that teachers carefully consider the psychological needs of learners in relation to language learning activities.

In an investigation of the role of counselors in a university self-access center, Pornapit Darasawang examines the delicate distinction between those catering to the immediate needs of the learner versus those promoting the long-term goals of self-sufficiency in autonomous language learning. An analysis of knowledge, beliefs, and behavior of counselors has led the author to distinguish two groups: teaching-oriented and independent learning-oriented. In essence, although some counselors could be described as being more characteristic of tutors, others maintained the objective of facilitating autonomous learning.

In Yangyu Xiao, Gerard Sharpling and Hongyun Liu s study of Chinese high school student perspectives of a national English proficiency examination, a significant washback effect was found that directly influenced the development and utilization of student learning strategies. Despite the impact of the English proficiency examination on the development of learning strategies and reading skills, an ability to adopt metacognitive, compensation and affective language learning strategies, along with advances in reading skills were revealed in the study.
Shu-chin Yen examines the effectiveness of a particular form of educational material developed to improve academic writing; specifically, rhetorical consciousness raising instruction. Materials containing these attributes are schematic in structure, and contain rich language features and text. The author further explores frequency of use, preferences, focus areas, opinions, and an assessment of the effectiveness of these materials on learning.

Katayoon Afzali, Manoochehr Tavangar, Mohammad Amouzadeh, & Abass Eslami Rasekh investigate the needs of Iranian university students in reading literary and non-literary texts strategically and how these needs differ when reading literary texts as opposed to non-literary texts. The researchers studied thirty participants who read three literary and two non-literary texts and wrote their own questions to the related reading. Next, these questions were categorized into different types. The findings show that the principal problem for the students were in the textually implicit aspects of the texts. The practical implications of the study suggest that understanding students strategic reading needs can assist teachers in promoting better academic reading skills. The authors recommend this can be done specifically by transferring more responsibility to the students, encouraging authenticity in student questions and increasing engagement with the reading texts.

Anne Ma examines the perceptions of what students think they are learning in the language classroom and what teachers believe they are teaching. She finds the perceptions are often quite different. The focus is a case study of young learners in a primary ESL classroom in Hong Kong. The researcher looks at perceptions of learning, the purpose of the main classroom task, and student conceptions of difficulties in the task. The study incorporated pre- and post-lesson interviews with the teacher and post-lesson interviews with individual learners. Findings show that the learners had a different understanding of what the pedagogical objectives were from that of the teacher and there were also variations in the concerns of learners of different abilities. Recommendations are provided on classroom learning implications for teachers.

Authors Btoosh and Taweel explore the use of rhetorical features (specifically inflation and over-assertion devices, verbal voices and polyphonic visibility) in L2 learners and native speakers academic writing. The study attempts to uncover the reasons underlying divergence in the L2 learners use of the target language features. The database for the study consisted of two corpora, namely, the Interlanguage Corpus of Arab Students of English and the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays. Findings show that L2 learners writing is characterized by numerous rhetorical features primarily attributed to L1 influence and learners general tendencies. Chief among these features are L2 learners overuse of intensifiers, underuse of passive voice, and strong visibility in the text. The study presents an implication for EFL teachers concerning the importance of corpora in linguistic analysis, and how differences between L2 and L1 students, in terms of the overuse, underuse or incorrect use of lexical items or grammatical features should be approached in EFL teaching.
Ali Reza investigates metacognitive strategy instruction, specifically paraphrasing strategy intervention to improve reading comprehension. His study was conducted with college students in India. The effect of this instruction was measured by the students performance in reading comprehension. Based on a proficiency test, students were grouped into high and low levels, considered to be another independent variable in addition to gender. Findings indicate that intervention or explicit instruction was effective in improving Indian ESL students’ reading comprehension. Although there was no interaction between gender and learners’ performance in reading comprehension, the study found that college students can be taught to improve their reading through the development of their paraphrasing skills.

This qualitative case study by Jianwei Xu explores how self-confidence is socially constructed by investigating the experiences of two Chinese advanced learners of English in Australia. Expanding on the social and cultural concepts of L2 learning and theories of self-confidence as being socially constructed, the researcher shows that a learner s sense of confidence is influenced by external factors such as power relations and internal factors such as a learner s previously established L2 identities shaped by the concept of investment in learning the second language. Through in-depth interviews the researcher constructs a description of the learners language development and attitudes, providing an understanding of the dynamic process of confidence construction. This study also provides useful observations of the significance regarding the complex relations between language, investment and identity.

Masataka Kasai, Jeong-Ah Lee and Soonhyang Kim explore Japanese and Korean secondary school students’ perceptions about their native English-speaking teachers (NESTs) and nonnative English-speaking teachers (NNESTs), concerning their competence in the target language and in language teaching, cultural and personal traits, teaching styles, and the classroom atmosphere. The purpose of this study was to examine and extend previous research findings concerning the characteristics of NESTs and NNESTs. This study only partially supported the previous research. While it corroborated the studies that reported language competence and cultural aspects as NESTs’ strengths over NNESTs, differences were found when it came to personal aspects and competence in teaching language skills. The findings suggest that students’ perceptions about NESTs and NNESTs are situational, and contextual particularities and strengths and/or weaknesses of all teachers need to be understood on an individual basis rather than assumed as characteristic of any group of teachers.

Su-Jen Lai and Ming-i Lydia Tseng develop an ecological view of literacy in EFL learning contexts. Following a qualitative multiple case study approach, the authors combine in-depth interviews along with reading tasks, written assignments, and observations to investigate Taiwanese EFL literacy learning. The study justifies the importance of adopting an ecological perspective of literacy when examining how students English literacy learning is culturally embedded and socially constructed. The research findings suggest that EFL teachers should adopt a reflective curriculum, encouraging EFL students to take an ethnographic viewpoint towards their English literacy learning. This study offers a new perspective for EFL teachers, researchers and students from which to rethink how an ecological view of literacy can be implemented in an EFL literacy class, creating more opportunities for students to work together with their peers as well as to become more engaged in learning. This research is relevant to teachers who are interested in EFL literacy education as it demonstrates how such an approach to literacy can generate new insights for the field of ELT, particularly in EFL reading and writing instruction.

Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to all of those who have contributed to an extensive process requiring the expertise and dedication of countless reviewers, editors, and proofreaders. Last but not least, we are especially grateful to all of the authors for sharing their valuable research and insight.