EFLIS Newsletter

EFLIS News, Volume 6:4 (December 2006)

by User Not Found | 11/07/2011


In This Issue...

  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
  • Articles
    • Bridging the Gap Between School and Work: TESOL 2006 Academic Session Report
    • The Other Hand: IT and You
    • Conference in Malaysia
    • Bulletin Board: Announcements & Information
  • About This Member Community
    • About This Community

Leadership Updates

Letter From the Chair

Jane Hoelker, jhoelker@gmail.com

Dear Colleagues,

The EFLIS totals 1,201 educators, or 9.2% of the membership of TESOL Inc. We were allocated 55 slots for adjudicated or vetted proposals, which is a healthy contribution to the conference program in Seattle. The e-list membership has reached 323 and has been increasing steadily. These statistics indicate a very active and healthy interest section.

I would like to start this letter by wishing all 1,201 of you success in the new academic year. With classes beginning at most institutions in the Middle East in late August or September, the start of the school year is on my mind. (Qatar encouraged its institutions to begin classes very early-at the end of July-so that students could have a break in December to attend the Asian Games in Doha.) But I remembered from my 12 years of teaching in Japan that the school year starts in April there. Then I remembered from my 5 years of teaching in Seoul and Pusan that the Korean school year starts in March. I googled "school calendars" and found Tom Robb's Web site of "School Calendars Around the World," which lists the starting dates for primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in 48 countries.

I decided to check when the school year begins in the countries where EFLIS members work. From late summer until early autumn (August to October), 33 of the 48 countries listed start classes: Austria, Canada (Ontario), China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador (Highlands), Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States. A total of nine countries, including most of the Central American countries and some South American countries as well as a few Asian nations, begin the academic year from January to April: Brazil (after Carnaval), Costa Rica, Honduras, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Uruguay. The month of June sees two countries, the Philippines and Thailand, start their scholastic year.

The diversity that characterizes the EFLIS extends even to the starting date of classes on the school calendar! But though we work in many different lands according to a variety of schedules, we can meet on the Internet. We can engage in professional development activities together through the Electronic Village Online, which is a virtual extension of the TESOL 2007 Convention in Seattle. This is the perfect professional development opportunity for members of the EFLIS, whether they reside in the United States or overseas, to share with each other and with members of other interest sections. The free 6-week sessions allow participants to engage in online discussion and hands-on workshops. Participants can even moderate a workshop on a chosen topic. TESOL provides moderator training, starting in October, in easy-to-learn sequences with helpful trainers. Check the posting on the EFLIS e-list for more information.

Looking forward to seeing you online!




Bridging the Gap Between School and Work: TESOL 2006 Academic Session Report

Ulrich Bliesener, Lise-Lotte Hjulmand, and Jane Hoelker

It is an often heard criticism that language teaching in school does not adequately prepare students for the world of work. According to employers and many graduates, the teaching of foreign languages, especially the teaching of English, is geared too much to general education. It neglects requirements that future employees will have to meet if they want to be successful in their careers. The goal of this Academic Session was to get a clearer picture of where language teaching in school is lacking with regard to the general language requirements of industry and business and what could be done to remedy the shortcomings.

Three speakers discussed the situation: Ulrich Bliesener from Germany discussed how language teaching could meet the demands of the world of work. Lise-Lotte Hjulmand, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, addressed the topic from a Danish perspective. And Anne Lomperis from the United States presented ideas based on her experience as a corporate language consultant. [Editors' note: Because Anne was unable to provide a summary of her presentation, we are regretfully unable to include it here.]

Ulrich Bliesener discussed Henkel AG, based in Düsseldorf, Germany, which operates throughout Europe. Henkel AG depends on employees who can deal with a variety of foreign language situations. Ulrich presented a list of competencies required by Henkel AG. He then compared the competencies with the instructional goals of most educational institutions. Most German schools favor a traditional approach to teaching foreign languages and draw on literature and social studies courses to provide insights into the target language country. Schools hesitate to give up this general education approach because they fear that any other approach would result in foreign language instruction morphing into vocational training. The philosophy behind this decision is that a broad general education enables students to make considered decisions with regard to their own lives. A broad general education also enables them to make informed choices in the public and private domain and to take part in societal life as a European citizen.

Bliesener suggested that if this general goal of foreign language education were given up in favor of a purely functional set of targets, the loss to educational standards would be severe. Though he acknowledged the need to prepare students for the world of work, he saw no reason to give up the overall educational goals. Instead, he suggested an approach that combines the two; he argued in favor of keeping literature and social studies topics, but suggested a different, practice-oriented approach in dealing with them, thus providing the linguistic tools and competencies needed in industry and business. He argued that dealing with any literary text or social studies topic could be organized in such a way that the language of the workplace, of business meetings, or of any other communicative situation could be introduced and practiced. Teachers could be asked to plan for classroom opportunities that permitted that kind of language use.

Bliesener presented some sample lessons on using a Shakespearean play to prepare students for monitoring a meeting, presenting and defending views, and dealing with customers This approach, of course, requires different methodological and didactic decisions on the part of the teacher. But it also presupposes knowledge of the language requirements of industry. Few teachers have a clear idea of how language is used in a given company, or of what language and communicative strategies are needed to meet communication situations in a factory, in an international business setting, or on the international and political scene. He concluded that teachers in general are not to blame—it is the training at universities and teacher training colleges that needs reforming.

Lise-Lotte Hjulmand next discussed the status of English in Denmark. English, as the first foreign language, is taught from the third grade. These days a reasonable level of skill in English as the L2 is practically as important as a reasonable level of skill in L1 "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic." English has a very distinct presence in Denmark. For instance, English programs are broadcast on Danish television every day. These programs have subtitles, but they are not dubbed. The main focus in the teaching of English in primary and lower secondary school is on oral competence. The result is that most (some would say many) Danes are reasonably good at speaking informal English. Though this level of skill is to be commended for many careers these days, it is not sufficient. The problem is that many Danes do not realize this.

Hjulmand then examined the question of what is needed after school by beginning with the European perspective. The European Commission has agreed on a policy of "mother tongue plus two." Recent initiatives taken by the European Commission to further this policy include two proposals now under discussion in member countries. One is a proposal for a new framework strategy; the other is a proposal for a European "language indicator." A European language network, TNP 3 (Thematic Network Project 3), met at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) for a conference last autumn. At this conference the former dean of the CBS language faculty, Ole Helmersen, gave a speech in which he presented the preliminary findings of one of the subprojects of this network. He concluded that European integration and globalization lead to increased linguistic needs, especially for nonlanguage graduates, and that there is a perceived mismatch between the linguistic and intercultural competencies of graduates and the needs of the labor market. Finally, he stated that there is a need for more languages and that the need for English has increased. Many, including Hjulmand, would agree with these ideas.

The Danish perspective of what is needed after school is similar to the previously mentioned European point of view. At the CBS conference, Charlotte Rønhof of the Confederation of Danish Industries explained the attitude of the Danish business community. In her speech entitled, "Foreign Language Qualifications—Demands of the Business Sector," she stated that study programs should focus more on cross-disciplinary competencies, including those of language and communication. She also explained that the general language needs of the business sector were the following: (a) primarily English (which was the focus of this Academic Session) or German, (b) communication skills and cultural understanding, and (c) knowledge of society and the market in other countries.

Hjulmand offered two examples to illustrate the specific needs for English in the business sector. The first example was from a report from the CBS Career Center. This center is in frequent contact with companies and organizations in the English-speaking world that receive applications from CBS business graduates. Some of these companies and organizations complain that there are far too many mistakes in linguistic accuracy (in grammar, spelling, and vocabulary) in the applications and CVs that they receive from graduates. Their experience is that young graduates sometimes have a very arrogant attitude toward these mistakes (probably because they consider themselves fluent in English, which is what they often write in their applications and CVs). When the CBS Career Center tried to discuss these problems with the applicants, their attitude was frequently that these problems in accuracy did not really matter. Young people, however, need to understand that they do matter, and that many large international companies use the spelling and grammar on the computer as the first step in eliminating unqualified job candidates. If there are too many accuracy mistakes, their application will not even make it past the first screening in the application process.

The second example involved a friend of one of Hjulmand's sons. Eighteen months before this young man graduated from CBS with an MSc with a very high grade point average. He had taken English-taught courses in both the bachelor's and the master's program. He had been an exchange student for a semester at one of the most prestigious American business schools. And to qualify for that program he had had to earn a very high TOEFL score. While he was a graduate student, he was offered a 3-month work internship with a large international management consulting firm which then offered him a job. He has been with this firm ever since, but just before Christmas he sent his mother an email with "HELP" in the subject line. His problem was that his written English had been criticized on several occasions for mistakes in grammar and punctuation. This is the situation that many experience when they work for an international company, or in a company in which English is the corporate language.

Hjulmand then moved from the business community and university business graduates to examine the experiences of others who are required to use English in the workplace or for educational purposes. Pupils who leave school after the 9th or 10th grade and study to become electricians, beauticians, masons, or mechanics are expected to be able to read manuals and instructions with specialized vocabulary in English. Those who leave secondary schools to study at a college of further education to become nurses or teachers or who end up studying medicine, dentistry, engineering, or biology at a university face greater demands: They have to read English textbooks, and they might be expected to participate in English-taught courses with international students or study for a semester or full year in an English-speaking country.

What are educators doing to help students meet the demands illustrated by the examples? Hjulmand noted that these two examples indicate a need for more emphasis on (a) writing skills, (b) accuracy in grammar, spelling and punctuation, (c) "specialized" vocabulary, and (d) speaking in formal contexts such as presentations, speeches, and negotiations. How can be achieved? Hjulmand's answer to this question is based on the findings of a number of recent evaluations of English language instruction that have been conducted in the Danish education system: (a) the Evaluation of English in Primary and Lower Secondary Schools in 2003 (Hjulmand chaired the evaluation committee), (b) the Evaluation of English at the Advanced Level in Upper Secondary Schools in 2004, (c) the Evaluation of English (as a subject) at university level in 2005, and (d) an assessment of English skills of 9th-grade pupils in eight European countries in 2002. In addition, Hjulmand also mentioned the existence of a report—as yet still confidential—on an action plan for improving English instruction in primary and lower secondary schools, produced for the Danish Minister of Education. (Hjulmand served on the committee that produced this report.) Further suggestions were gleaned from the reform of upper secondary schools that took effect in August of 2005 and language policies being formulated at Danish universities.

The Evaluation Committee for English at Primary and Lower Secondary Schools in 2003 discovered that the focus of English teaching was mainly on communication skills and that too little attention was paid to the other three knowledge areas or competencies: that is, language and language use, language acquisition (e.g., strategies for listening, reading, and guessing), and culture and society. Although every lesson typically had five to six activities, pupils felt that the curriculum lacked variety over time. English was also an "isolated" subject; there was not much cooperation with other subjects or involvement in project work. The report proposed a number of changes, such as better integration of the four areas of knowledge and competencies. English should be used as a classroom language, especially to improve the English level of students whose mother tongue is neither English nor Danish. Lessons should focus more on writing, which would emphasize accuracy and vocabulary acquisition. Activities should be varied throughout the curriculum over time; the instructor should do more than simply offer five or six different activities per lesson. The use of authentic teaching materials, including television programs, films, DVDs, videos, video games, newspapers, computer activities, study trips, and contact with pupils in other parts of the world, should be increased. English should be used in educational activities where it naturally connects with other subjects such as project work, history, and geography.

Although some might claim unfairness on the part of the speaker, many will agree with her description of the English course offered in the traditional Danish upper secondary school as a course in English literature. The report from the Evaluation Committee for English in Upper Secondary Schools, which analyzed the teaching of English before August 2005, said this in a much more diplomatic way. The report indicated that there was a heavy emphasis on the reading of literary texts, that written assignments were often traditional literary essays, and that there was not a sufficient focus on language and language skills. Many have found this situation unfortunate as only a small number of students will continue to study English language and literature at a traditional university. Most will need English for entirely different purposes, and it is important that the courses offered take this need into account.

The 2005 reform of upper secondary schools and especially the guidelines for the teaching of English meet this need to a large extent. The curriculum now focuses more on language and language skills. Students are offered an introductory course in language and there are language questions in the exam assignments. Part of the course is organized around a number of themes that may involve other subjects such as history, biology, and mathematics. English is moving out of its isolation and is cooperating more with other subjects. Greater focus is found now on nonliterary texts, such as the supplementary texts used when integrating English with subjects such as history, biology, or mathematics. As a result of this integration of other subjects into the English lesson, more focus is placed on acquiring "specialist" vocabulary. Written work is now more varied and involves genres such as reports, abstracts, synopses, and summaries in addition to traditional essays. Students also acquire skills that will prove useful in a future academic context such as reading strategies (like scanning vast amounts of material for information) and listening strategies (like listening for the main points in order to ask questions). The new guidelines for the teaching of English after the reform are indeed very ambitious.

In the tertiary level of education, textbooks in English have been used in many subjects for years. It is simply too expensive to translate many books into Danish because the market is so small. These days more and more full programs or individual courses are taught in English. Group work is assigned with foreign students in English and assignments are to be written in English. However, so far very little, if any, training is offered to nonlanguage students. Teachers are expected to teach in English even if their English is not very good; they may not be the best role models for students and they cannot support students if they have linguistic problems. This language obstacle means that important details may be lost, and many fear that the academic level of a content course (e.g., a physics course) will be limited to the level permitted by the English level of the teacher and the class.

Presently, initiatives for nonlanguage students, some of which are incorporated in the language policies being prepared by all Danish universities, include greater focus on language, especially foreign languages, in nonlanguage programs. Previously, the attitude in most institutions was that there was not enough time for this. At CBS, support for nonnative teachers who teach in English is provided in courses such as "Teach Your Subject in English" or through advice offered to individual instructors, such as through the PLATE Project (Project in Language Assessment for Teaching in English), which was developed by Joyce Kling, the head of the CBS Language Center and a member of the TESOL Inc. Board of Directors. Voluntary courses are available for students who need to improve their general English skills. In addition, instructors must raise student awareness so that they realize that their English is not perfect; their spoken English might be quite good, but their other skills, especially their written English, need improvement. This improvement, especially in linguistic accuracy, requires effort on the part of the students.

In summary, in the "world of work" companies, organizations and individuals must remember that learning a foreign language is a lifelong project that requires a lifelong effort.

The Other Hand: IT and You

Joep van der Werff, Interlingua, Mexico City, Mexico, joepvdw@interlingua.com.mx

You have just checked your email. There was a message from the EFL IS. You recognized it as the TESOL Interest Section for EFL teachers—in other words, teachers such as you. You opened the message. It was the latest issue of the newsletter, and you spent some time reading interesting articles. Then, you saw an article called IT and You. Though not really interested in personal pronouns, you clicked on the link anyway.

Just a few years ago, you remember with a smile, you were still having a hard time with computers. Nowadays, everything seems so simple and fast, especially using the Internet: You check your email, follow links to interesting sites, and look for information to use in class. Yes, you consider yourself pretty computer-savvy. Not a technophile, like the ones that sign up for the CALL IS—the interest section for Computer Assisted Language Learning, you knew that too, of course—but you are not at all a technophobe, like some teachers you know, the ones who will avoid sending emails at any cost.

You look at the title of the article again. IT and You, with IT written in capitals...wait a second, IT stands for Information Technology—you are getting good at reading acronyms! Information Technology and You? Sure, as a teacher you regularly use a computer. Just recently you used the Internet to get the lyrics of a popular song that your students wanted you to play for them. And you found some articles to use as readings. And the Internet has always been a good source for finding language games and icebreakers. You are fluent enough on the computer—after all, how much IT does a language teacher really need?

Plus, you have always known that computer technology is for teachers, not students. Because you know that learners need a real-life person to help them learn English. The human touch is indispensable. Language is about communication; computers can only help learners a little bit. Technology cannot be competition for a professional teacher like you, can they?

Or can they? What was that comment that a colleague of yours made the other day? Something with blend...yes, blended learning. You wonder what that was about. So you open a new browser window, go to Wikipedia, and type in your query. You skim the definitions and explanations. So that's what the teacher was talking about—a mixture of in-class practice and self-directed, electronic learning. Hmm, that might be an interesting idea. One can reinforce the other.

Actually, not a bad idea at all! You recall some things you have heard on conferences and book presentations. Those comments did not make much sense then, but now it seems different, now things fall into place. Your mind is racing. You realize that with blended learning, your students could have CD-ROMS that complemented their in-class practice. Several coursebooks already offer companion Websites for students to do extra exercises and activities. If you assigned online practice, learners might actually be tempted to do all their homework, because it looks colorful and cool—a lot better than your black-and-white photocopies! And maybe your learners could get pen pals (or "key pals," as the phrase is now). And what was that project with learners working together in different countries? Maybe you could set up something like that.

You realize you are beginning to understand the impact that blended learning can have on language teaching. Think about it: maybe one day, learners could do the boring grammar stuff, the drills, and the fill-in-the-blank stuff at their own pace at a computer. As for the communicative part of the learning experience, that is what teachers would be giving learners in class. So there it is—teachers will always be needed. What was that quote you read somewhere? "Teachers will never be replaced by technology, but teachers who do not use technology will be replaced by teachers that do." That makes sense now, too.

You are getting more enthusiastic now. Maybe it is time to get on the bandwagon and see what IT can do for You. Hmm...you will have to think about that...

Conference in Malaysia

Phan Le Ha, Monash University, Australia, and Hanoi Open University, Vietnam, ha.phan@education.monash.edu.au

MICELT: 6th Malaysia International Conference on English Language Teaching, Melaka, Malaysia, 8-10 May 2006,http://www.micelt.com.my/html/event.htm.

I am writing this right after having read and reviewed Adrian Holliday's The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language (2005) and find that the operation, manner, and activities of the 6th MICELT Conference, to a great extent, disrupted what Holliday referred to as "native speakerism." For almost the first time in my experience, I saw a large number of people who were not from English-speaking countries invited and sponsored to speak at one of the biggest international conferences in the field of English language teaching. In the same vein, neither did I personally experience any native-speakerism throughout the conference. I found it a truly healthy, scholarly, and supportive conference where everyone was professional and eager to share with and learn from one another. Alan Maley, Andrew Wright, Rod Ellis, Rod Bolitho, and Richard Day are friendly and humorous as individuals, as well as modest, considerate, and knowledgeable as scholars. Bao Dat's presentations were so stimulating and were delivered in so charming and engaging a manner that a number of participants expressed to him, "You've opened my eyes to research and teaching." We were much entertained by a "Stories and Poems" night with Alan Maley and Andrew Wright, who interacted with the audience as individuals with personalities and feelings. I was so proud to see one of my former students from Indonesia, Kalayo, confidently demonstrate a game for language teaching created and developed by his team of English teachers. All the participants formed groups and played the game, and we all wished that his session could have lasted longer. Jayakaran Mukundan, chair of the conference, truly made everyone happy, honored, and united in a TESOL world in which each of us was seen as a professional with an identity and ideas to contribute. I thank Jaya for his great work.

The 6th MICELT made the gap between teaching theory and practice minimal. The inspiration that many participants and I gained from it resulted from an excellent combination of presentations, workshops, speeches, and other common activities performed and given by students, teachers, and scholars with a wide range of experience and expertise.

Another great aspect of MICELT was the presence of friendly, helpful, and hospitable publishers' representatives who sponsored a large number of speakers and displayed their books at the conference venue. These people played an important part in the success of the conference and presented a very positive image of MICELT and Malaysia.

Bulletin Board: Announcements & Information

Any information you would like to announce on this Bulletin Board should be submitted to the editor, Brad Baurain, bbaurain@wheatonalumni.org, or the coeditor, Jane Hoelker, jhoelker@gmail.com. The deadline for inclusion in the next issue is February 1.

Have you heard about TESOL's invitation to submit book proposals on NNEST issues? Please visit the organization's Web site, www.tesol.org, and click on "Publications" to find more details.

One need not be a TESOL member to discuss TESOL Quarterly articles in the TQ Forum. Check it out at http://communities.tesol.org/default.asp?boardid=tq&action=0.

The latest information about the TESOL Convention 2007 in Seattle can be found at http://www.tesol.org—click on "Convention." If you submitted a proposal, you should have heard back already about whether it was accepted.

Submissions to Global Neighbors are always welcomed. Here are the guidelines and relevant information for contributors:

Day in the Life. EFLIS members teach in a tremendous variety of contexts and settings. Share yours with us! If you wish, this can be done as an e-mail interview with one of the editors—just contact us at an e-mail address listed below. 400–800 words.

The Other Hand. If you have a strong opinion on a burning issue, this is the place for you. Tell us what you think! This column might also feature excerpts from responses to issues or questions raised on the e-list. 400–800 words.

Classroom Idea Exchange. What has worked in your classroom? Describe the activity or technique in a short and practical manner. 200–400 words each.

We continue to accept submissions of:

  • Articles. An absolute maximum of 2,000 words.
  • Conference reports. If you have been to a professional conference recently, write up what stands out in your mind about the experience, sessions, speakers, or setting. 200–600 words.
  • Book/resource reviews. These might be formal notices, but they can also be more subjective or conversational recommendations. 300–600 words.

Submissions are accepted throughout the year and may be edited for reasons of space, correctness, or clarity. Deadlines for contributions to our planned quarterly issues are officially March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1.

Please e-mail submissions to one or both of the coeditors:

About This Member Community

About This Community

TESOL's English as a Foreign Language Interest Section facilitates idea exchanges on global and specific EFL/ESL issues; brings together professionals who have had/intend to have EFL/ESL experiences in different countries; provides an international network for teaching positions and professional interests worldwide; and encourages standing committees and other ISs to address relevant international concerns.

The EFL Interest Section Web site is http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss.asp?CID=301&DID=1806.

The EFL Interest Section e-list, EFLIS-L, may be joined by signing up at http://www.tesol.org/getconnected. Message archives may be read by subscribers at http://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=eflis-l.

The purpose of the EFLIS Newsletter is to keep EFLIS members in touch with the EFLIS leadership and to share ideas, experiences, opinions, and information of mutual professional and practical interest through articles, columns, and brief announcements. The primary audience for the newsletter is teachers and teacher educators outside North America at all levels: K-12, two- and four-year institutions of higher learning, adult education, English for specific purposes courses, and foreign language centers.

Contact information for EFLIS leaders:
Chair and Newsletter Coeditor: Jane Hoelker, jhoelker@gmail.com
Immediate Past Chair: Ulrich Bliesener, U.Blie@t-online.de
Chair-Elect: Sally Harris, ssharris@nwc.edu, sponselharris@aol.com
Webmaster: Gabriela Kleckova, gabriela_kleckova@yahoo.com
E-list Manager: Orlando Rodriguez, orlandor@adinet.com.uy
Newsletter Editor: Brad Baurain, bbaurain@wheatonalumni.org