EFLIS Newsletter

EFLIS News, Volume 6:3 (July 2006)

by User Not Found | 11/07/2011


In This Issue...

  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
    • A Word From the Editor
  • Articles
    • Peer Tutoring Goals and Benefits
    • Phonological Awareness Transfer From Thai to English
    • Toward a Familiarity-Based Approach to Language Proficiency
    • Day in the Life: JoAnn Miller
    • Classroom Idea Exchange
    • Bulletin Board: Announcements & Information
    • About This Community

Leadership Updates

Letter From the Chair

Jane Hoelker, hoelkerj2003@yahoo.com (summer e-mail)

Dear Colleagues,

A recent event in Doha triggered a question in my mind: Is a meeting, an exchange, or perhaps even a mingling of the two worlds of EFL and ESL taking place these days?

In 2004 and 2005, the end of the school year brought an opportunity for high school and university teachers in Doha to earn extra money scoring the 14,000 essays written by students in the fourth to twelfth grades. As there was no shortage of teachers interested in participating in this professional development activity, competition for the positions was lively, despite the fact that it involved working a 68-hour week. The five-week event was organized jointly by the ETS and Amideast to assess English as well as Arabic, math, and science skills. It was funded by the Supreme Education Council (SEC) of Qatar. The training that kicked off the sessions yielded lively discussions about writing criteria that benefited all the essay scorers. The scores were shared with the faculty and administration of the participating schools so that they could produce improved writers in the future. But the students did not receive the results because the administrators did not want to discourage those who scored low.

This year, however, a surprise announcement was made by the SEC. Upon arrival, university teachers (mainly native speakers) were sent home. Only high school teachers (mainly nonnative speakers) were allowed to participate in the event because they were the ones teaching writing. The scoring activity was a chance for these educators to mix with colleagues from different school districts, discuss and score the essays, and reflect on ways to improve their teaching of writing. One of the participants, a native speaker teaching in a high school, told me that the scoring was done as it was the previous two years except for one difference. In the first two years, the native speakers (teaching mainly in the universities) were willing to accept a group vote after a debate limited by a time deadline-no matter how exuberant the debate. However, this year the participants (mainly NNS high school teachers) preferred to reach a peaceful consensus-no matter how much time it took. This was his first time working with a group composed entirely of nonnative speakers; he counted himself fortunate to have had this experience of working with professionals in a different cultural style.

After talking with my colleague about the mostly NNS participation in the scoring event, I noticed some interesting trends in the ever-expanding field of EFL as I read the June issue of TESOL Connections:
o In South Korea, a heated debate continues about early English learning as the government seeks to teach English to first and second graders and private tutoring costs place a strain on family budgets.
o In China 1,500 teachers fear for their jobs because of low scores on the language proficiency test.
o In the Philippines, companies complain about the low English ability of recent new hires. High-proficiency English teachers go overseas for better-paying jobs (though often of a lower status); this exodus threatens the troubled economy. English proficiency was previously a cornerstone of the Filipino economy.
o In May, Taiz University in Yemen organized for the first time a seminar in which papers were presented exclusively by fourth-level students.

TESOL's response to these trends includes the following:
o The 2006 TESOL International Summer Academy will be hosted at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul.
o TESOL extended its call for contributions to the new series on language teacher research in the Middle East and Australia/New Zealand.
o TESOL also extended a call for book proposals on nonnative English speaker issues in TESOL.
o Two TESOL virtual seminars are scheduled in June and are free to Global Individual members.

In summary, first, language proficiency continues to be a high priority in many overseas contexts where governments push students and instructors in elementary, secondary, and tertiary institutions to achieve ever higher levels. In fact, some nonnative speakers achieve a high level of proficiency then leave; this serious brain drain is depleting the stock of competent instructors in some countries. Second, the TESOL organization continues to create and offer its overseas members programs and opportunities to support them as they strive to meet the level of proficiency required by their context. TESOL also invites its overseas members and nonnative speakers to contribute their voices to the dialogue of language educators. What might result from this meeting, this exchange, this mingling of the two worlds of EFL and ESL as more voices from overseas, both NS and NNS, flow back into the ESL world?

Your insights and comments on these issues are appreciated.



A Word From the Editor

Brad Baurain, bbaurain@wheatonalumni.org

Greetings! We are pleased to send you this next issue of Global Neighbors, the electronic newsletter of TESOL's EFL Interest Section. Articles and activities in this issue deal with a variety of topics, from peer tutoring to phonological awareness to traditional fables to the experiences and advice of a teacher and materials developer working in Mexico. We have also reprinted a significant article from the NNEST Caucus newsletter proposing an alternative framework for evaluating English language proficiency. Read, enjoy, learn . . . and think about contributing to the next issue! (The deadline is September 1; please check the Bulletin Board for our writer's guidelines.)

Recently, I benefited greatly by participating in the RELC International Seminar in Singapore, April 24-26, on the theme of "Teacher Education in Language Teaching." Smaller and more contextualized than, say, the main TESOL Convention, it gave up nothing in terms of quality. Highlights for me included:
o Thomas S.C. Farrell on "The Art of Burglary and Learning to Teach: The Role of Language Teacher Education." This opening plenary followed one teacher through his first year, spotlighting the gaps between teacher education programs and real schools.
o Amy B.M. Tsui, "Confucianism and 'Confusionism': Negotiating EFL Teacher Identity." Outwardly, her subject adopted a communicative approach, but inwardly, the situation was much more complex.
o Rosemary Senior, who gave a couple of sessions based on her recent book, The Experience of Language Teaching (Cambridge).
o Choong Kam Foong, who addressed teacher development and the richness of life history research.

The food was excellent, the conversations interesting, the facilities and technological resources first-class-all in all, a model conference. Scholars working in Southeast Asia would do well to check out RELC's Web site, www.relc.org.sg, for details about their fellowships and postgraduate programs. It was my first visit to Singapore, an intriguingly hybrid place. After many years overseas, I am feeling rather hybrid myself these days and somehow resonated with the city. All I need to do now is figure out how to get back there for another visit!


Peer Tutoring Goals and Benefits

Sally Ali, United Arab Emirates University

Peer tutoring refers to a system of instruction whereby learners help each other and learn by teaching (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989). It is also an activity in which students help each other to understand, review, practice, or remember (Bassano & Christison, 1995).

Peer tutoring was pioneered in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989). It is a process of collaboration, of pooling knowledge to solve a problem or complete a given task (Bassano & Christison, 1995). Bassano and Christison stated that it may assume any one of the following things:
o One student has more information than another.
o Each student has some information that the other may not have.
o Both students have equal prior information but apply that information with different insights.
o Both have equal prior information but work at different rates.

Goals should be realistic and achievable. The goal is to be able to communicate functionally, not to become bilingual, which requires more time and more effort (Chastain, 1988). We need to address students' different cognitive and learning styles.

Characteristics of a Good Tutor
o Be a friend to the students.
o Develop a rapport by showing respect to culture and interest in students' needs.
o Be patient and flexible.
o Be a good listener.
o Exchange ideas.
o Motivate students.
o Be a model for students.
o Encourage students to do most of the talking.
o Speak clearly and use real language.
o Be ready to repeat when necessary.
o Be ready to admit to mistakes and ask for teachers' assistance.
o Encourage students to use a dictionary.
o Use language that students can understand and appeal to different learning styles.
o Teach students different strategies to encourage them to be more independent.
o Build on what students already know.
o Use reflective questioning.
o Teach students how to learn.
o Never do students' homework.
o Be understanding of student needs.
o Develop a sense of trust and empathy.
o Use different approaches in problem-solving.
o Give hints and wait for the learners to give the answer.
o Follow a good lesson plan.

General Benefits
Our goal is to accept, guide, support, and encourage weak students to be self-confident and motivated. We must foster an affective learning environment by encouraging students to work with others and get extra help from their peers at the same time. We need to foster a trusting relationship with our students. We need to help students develop strategic competence, which is required for putting language knowledge to use and using language in context. It consists of the following types of strategies: (a) assessing a situation, (b) setting communicative goals, (c) composing plans for achieving those goals, and (d) executing those plans (Faerch & Kasper, 1983; Bachman, 1990). Goodlad (1989) classified the benefits to tutors and tutees as follows:

Benefits to Tutors
o Tutors develop their sense of personal adequacy (role theory): This theory states that as tutors live up to their responsibilities, they develops an enhanced feeling of self-esteem.
o Tutors make use of the subject matter they have studied (gestalt theory): Students do not always see the significance of what they are studying. Their main goal is to pass an exam. The Gestalt theory states that as knowledge is woven into a field that reflects students' immediate interests, it will be more assimilated and students will be more actively interested in acquiring more knowledge.
o Tutors reinforce their knowledge of fundamentals (gestalt theory).
o Tutors are given the opportunity to review and restructure their background knowledge as they present it to the tutees.
o Peer tutoring offers tutors the experience of being productive and developing themselves.
o Tutors develop insight into the teaching/learning process and can cooperate with their teachers better (gestalt and role theory).

Benefits to Tutees
o Tutees receive individualized instruction (behaviorist theory): Learning increases when every response a learner makes receives instant feedback.
o Tutees get more teaching: Peer tutoring not only individualizes instruction, but also provides more of it. Teachers usually have to cope with classes with up to 30 students and sometimes there is not enough time to give special attention to all.
o Tutees may feel more comfortable and respond better to their tutors than to their teachers.
o Tutees can receive companionship from tutors: The gestalt theory holds that learning will be improved if the pattern or situation into which an individual is placed is simply, quickly, and painlessly communicated. Hence, when tutors and tutees are of the same age, learning increases.

The presence of tutors in the English Language Program is an essential component in the students' learning. Tutors may be able to get the message across to students faster than can the teacher if the language background is the same. Tutors can also assist teachers in the classroom. Our students often tell us that they can understand us. Yet when they leave the classroom, they are baffled by their inability to understand anyone else because of their limited exposure to other people speaking English. Our students not only have different learning styles and need to be taught different strategies, but they also need to be exposed to other people in the classroom with a different pronunciation. This is what the real world is all about.

Bassano, S., & Christison, M.A. (1995). Community spirit. Alta Book Center Publishers.
Chastain, K. (1988). Developing second-language skills: Theory & practice. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers.
Faerch, C., & Kasper, G. (1983). Plans & strategies in foreign language communication. In C. Faerch & G. Kasper (Eds.), Strategies in interlanguage communication. London: Longman.
Goodlad, S., & Hirst, B. (1989). Peer tutoring. New York: Nichols Publishing.
Reid, J. (1995). Learning styles in the ESL/EFL classroom. Newbury House/Heinle & Heinle.

Phonological Awareness Transfer From Thai to English

Michael Wei, michaelzhou@yahoo.com

Phonological awareness refers to an awareness of the constituent sounds in spoken words (Goswami, 2000). In other words, phonological awareness is the understanding that sentences are made up of words, words are made up of groups of sounds (syllables), and syllables are made up of individual sounds, or phonemes (Allor, 2002). For the past 20 to 30 years, many studies in English as a first language (L1) and English as a second language (L2) have uncovered a strong relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability in English. Phonological awareness, particularly phonemic awareness, is a powerful predictor of success in reading and spelling.

Thai is a standard language spoken officially and nationally by almost 60 million people throughout every part of Thailand. It is also spoken from northern India (Assam) through northern Burma, southern China (Yunnan province and Guangxi Region), Vietnam (in the north), Laos, and Thailand (Kullawanit, 1984). Linguists have classified Thai as belonging to a Chinese-Thai branch of the Sino-Tibetan family. It is a tonal language, uninflected and predominantly monosyllabic like Chinese.

The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability in English and Thai of primary school Thai students in their native country. First, the researchers wanted to determine whether the relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability holds in the EFL classroom context in Thailand as it does in the United States, New Zealand, and other ESL contexts. In Thailand, English is not used at home or on any intracultural occasions except in English classrooms. Second, the researchers wanted to investigate the relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability in the Thai language. Third, the researchers wanted to investigate whether there is any transfer of phonological awareness from Thai to English at the young age of these Thai students.

(1) The Thai writing system is a shallow orthography (a writing system that has consistent or one-to-one correspondence between the phonemes in speech and the written code). Thai script is entirely different from the Roman alphabet, so Thai students learning English must master a new alphabet. A study of the relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability of native Thai students in English had never been conducted, but research on that relationship is essential. The results of this study will provide initial insights on this key topic.

(2) No study had investigated whether there is a correlational relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability within the Thai language itself, which employs a shallow orthography. Thus, the results of this research can be helpful to Thai teachers teaching the Thai language in primary and secondary schools.

(3) No study had investigated whether there is any transfer of phonological awareness from the Thai language to English. If there is any transfer of phonological awareness from Thai to English, we can foster phonological awareness in Thai and this will benefit students' phonological awareness in English.

(4) If the relationship between English phonological awareness and English reading ability is confirmed in the EFL context in Thailand, then the findings might have implications for how English in primary schools in other EFL contexts outside of Thailand might be taught or improved.

Research Questions
(1) Which phonological awareness subtest(s) in English provide(s) the best prediction of English reading ability among Thai primary school students in their native country?

(2) What is the relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability in the English language of Thai primary school students in their native country?

(3) Which phonological awareness subtest(s) in Thai provide(s) the best prediction of Thai reading ability among Thai primary school students in their native country?

(4) What is the relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability in the Thai language of Thai primary school students in their native country?

(5) To what degree, if at all, is there a transfer of phonological awareness from the Thai language to English among Thai primary school students?

Theoretical Framework

Orthographic Depth Hypothesis
The depth of orthography in different languages has been most widely discussed in studies testing the orthographic depth hypothesis (Frost, 1992, 1994; Frost & Katz, 1987; Katz & Feldman, 1981; Katz & Frost, 1992). These studies suggest that the degree of lexical access during phonological processing is different for deep and shallow orthographies. In shallow orthographies, such as Spanish, the phonological codes are recovered from print through grapheme-phoneme correspondences that are direct and consistent. In contrast, the phonological codes of printed words in deep orthographies, such as English, are retrieved from the lexicon because of the arbitrary and inconsistent grapheme-phoneme correspondences. Conversely, in deep orthographies, grapheme-phoneme mappings do not allow readers to generate the pronunciations of the printed words prelexically. As a result, they must rely on visually orthographic access to the mental lexicon or on the postlexical or orthographic strategy. The strategy that the researchers used was called orthographic strategy.

Cognitive Transfer Hypothesis
The cognitive transfer hypothesis (Chikamatsu, 1996; Koda, 1988, 1990; Muljani, Koda, & Moates, 1998; Wade-Woolley, 1999) contends that cognitive strategies developed and utilized in one orthography can be transferred to another orthography with similar or different structural and representational properties. This contention strongly indicates that there is a transfer of the word recognition strategies of readers in deep and shallow orthographies. That is, native language readers of a shallow orthography will transfer the phonological strategy into their second or foreign language reading, whereas native language readers in deep orthographies will transfer their native language orthographic strategy developed and used in reading in their native language to reading in a second or foreign language. As the Thai writing system is a shallow orthography, the researchers predicted, according to cognitive transfer hypothesis, that Thai students would transfer their phonological strategies in reading Thai into reading EFL.

Results for Research Questions 1-2
For research question 1, we found that for Thai students in this study the best predictor for English Real Word Reading was English Final Sound Detection. The best predictor for English Pseudoword Reading was English Phoneme Deletion.

For the second prediction, the researchers used all four subtests of phonological awareness in English as predictors and English Pseudoword Reading as the criterion. Three of the four English phonological awareness subtests significantly predicted English Pseudoword Reading.
The variance in English Real Word Reading explained by English phonological awareness subtests was 19%, whereas the variance in English Pseudoword Reading explained by English phonological awareness subtests was 16.4%.

The assertion of Snow et al. about the predictive value of letter identification was supported by the current study. For the prediction of English Real Word Reading in the current study, two subtests proved to be significant predictors: English Letter Identification Lower Case and English Final Sound Detection. The variance of English Real Word Reading explained by English phonological awareness subtests and English Letter Identification was 25.1%.
In the current investigation, letter identification was also a significant predictor of English Pseudoword Reading. Three subtests predicted English Pseudoword Reading. The variance of English Pseudoword Reading explained by English phonological awareness subtests and English Letter Identification was 29.2%.

As noted earlier, Stahl and Murray (1998) called for researchers to state explicitly which types of phonological awareness subtests and reading ability subtests are involved in any prediction of reading ability based on phonological awareness. The current study has gone to great lengths to fulfill this mandate, and the results of Research Questions 4-5 seemed to have proved the appropriateness of doing so.

Results for Research Questions 3-4
For research question 3, the best predictor for Thai Real Word Reading was Thai Final Sound Detection. Next to that, the most useful predictors were Thai Phoneme Deletion and Thai Initial Sound Detection. Of the Thai phonological awareness subtests, the Thai Rhyme Task was the only nonsignificant predictor. The variance of Thai Real Word Reading explained by Thai phonological awareness subtests was 30.8%.

The best predictor for Thai Pseudoword Reading was Thai Phoneme Deletion. Next to that, the most useful predictors were Thai Final Sound Detection and Thai Initial Sound Detection. Of the Thai phonological awareness subtests, only the Thai Rhyme Task was not among the significant predictors of Thai Pseudoword Reading, just as it was not among the significant predictors of Thai Real Word Reading. The variance of Thai Pseudoword Reading that can be explained by the four Thai phonological awareness subtests was 27.9%.

The researchers wanted to test whether the Snow et al.'s English-language-referring statement, that is, that letter identification is a very useful predictor of reading ability, would work in the same way for the Thai language among Thai students. Therefore, the researchers used all four subtests of phonological awareness in Thai plus Thai Letter Identification as predictors and each subtest of reading ability in Thai as a criterion. Three variables significantly predicted Thai Real Word Reading: Thai Final Sound Detection, Thai Phoneme Deletion, and Thai Letter Identification. Thai Initial Sound Detection and Thai Rhyme Task proved not to be significant as predictors. The variance of Thai Real Word Reading explained by Thai phonological awareness subtests and Thai Letter Identification was 32.8%. So this study supported Snow's statement in the Thai context.

Similarly, three subtests significantly predicted Thai Pseudoword Reading: Thai Phoneme Deletion, Thai Final Sound Detection, and Thai Letter Identification. These are the same subtests that significantly predicted Thai Real Word Reading, although in a slightly different order. Again, Thai Rhyme Task and Thai Initial Sound Detection were not among the significant predictors. The variance of Thai Pseudoword Reading explained by Thai phonological awareness subtests and Thai Letter Identification was 27.9%.

Results for Research Question 5
The researchers first checked the intercorrelations between English phonological awareness subtests and Thai phonological awareness subtests. They were all significantly correlated. That is, when students had high scores in Thai phonological awareness, they often had high scores in English phonological awareness. That was the first step to determine whether there might be a transfer from Thai to English among these Thai students.

For the second step, multiple regression analysis was used to investigate whether phonological awareness in Thai could predict reading ability in English. Three subtests of phonological awareness in Thai predicted English Real Word Reading: Thai Rhyme Task, Thai Phoneme Deletion, and Thai Initial Sound Detection. The other phonological awareness subtest, Thai Final Sound Detection, was not a significant predictor of English Real Word Reading. The variance in English Real Word Reading explained by Thai phonological awareness subtests was 14.4%.

Two of the four subtests of Thai phonological awareness predicted English Pseudoword Reading: Thai Phoneme Deletion and Thai Rhyme Task. The other subtests, Thai Initial Sound Detection and Thai Final Sound Detection, were not significant predictors of English Pseudoword Reading. The variance in English Pseudoword Reading explained by Thai phonological awareness subtests was 8.2%.

Phonological awareness is not only related to learning to read in English, but is also an important factor in learning to read in other languages such as French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Swedish (e.g., Alegria, Pignot, & Morais, 1982; Cossu, Shankweiler, Liberman, Katz, & Tola, 1988; de Manrique & Gramigna, 1984; Lundberg, Oloffson, & Wall, 1980; Ognjenovic, Lukatela, Feldman, & Turvey, 1983). Cisero and Royer (1995)'s study also stated that, with respect to the transfer of phonological awareness from the native language to another language, the language needed to be alphabetic with similar phonological structure. The Thai language uses an alphabetic symbol system, but does not have a phonological structure similar to English. This study provided evidence that there is transfer from Thai to English even though the phonological structure is different.

Alegria, J., Pignot, E., & Morais, J. (1982). Phonemic analysis of speech and memory codes in beginning readers. Memory & Cognition, 10, 451-456.
Allor, J. H. (2002). The relationships of phonemic awareness and rapid naming to reading development. Learning Disability Quarterly, 25, 47-57.
Chikamatsu, N. (1996). The effects of L1 orthography on L2 word recognition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18, 403-432.
Cisero, C. A., & Royer, J. (1995). The development and cross-language transfer of phonological awareness. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 275-303.
Cossu, G., Shankweiler, D., Liberman, I. Y., Katz, K., & Tola, G. (1988). Awareness of phonological segments and reading ability in Italian children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 9, 1-16.
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Frost, R. (1994). Prelexical and postlexical strategies in reading: Evidence from a deep and a shallow orthography. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 1, 116-129.
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Koda, K. (1988). Cognitive process in second language reading: Transfer of L1 reading skills and strategies. Second Language Research, 4, 133-156.
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Lundberg, I., Olofsson, A., & Wall, S. (1980). Reading and spelling skills in the first school years predicted from phonemic awareness skills in kindergarten.Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 21, 159-173.
Muljani, D., Koda, K., & Moates, D. R. (1998). The development of word recognition in a second language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 19, 99-113.
Ognjenovic, V., Lukatela, G., Feldman, L. B., & Turvey, M. T. (1983). Misreadings by beginning readers of Serbo-Croatian. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 35A, 97-109.
Stahl, S. A., & Murray, B. (1998). Issues involved in defining phonological awareness and its relation to early reading. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.),Word recognition in beginning literacy. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Wade-Woolley, L. (1999). First language influence on second language word reading: All roads lead to Rome. Language Learning, 49(3), 447-471.

Toward a Familiarity-Based Approach to Language Proficiency

Ahmar Mahboob, University of Sydney, ahmar.mahboob@arts.usyd.edu.au

One of the hardest concepts to tackle in TESOL and applied linguistics is that of language proficiency: How do we define language proficiency? How proficient does one need to be to be an effective teacher? In some countries (such as China), teachers' language proficiency is measured by standardized tests. However, research has shown that standardized tests fail to take localized use of language into account. In addition, my ongoing research with Lia Kamhi-Stein has shown that although teachers' language proficiency as measured by language tests is an indicator of their use or nonuse of the target language in class, some teachers with low language proficiency scores do use the target language in their classes. We argue that such use may be explained by looking at teachers' belief systems. However, no model of language proficiency or how it relates to language teaching has been presented. Such a model is of interest to TESOL in general, but is especially relevant to NNESTs-especially because NNESTs often have to deal with questions about their language proficiency. In this essay, I introduce a framework that we can use to understand the notion of language proficiency. This familiarity-based approach to language proficiency draws on our understanding of research on World Englishes and genre.

In light of our understanding of World Englishes, we know that the English language undergoes linguistic adjustments when it is taken up in different regions. In terms of language proficiency, World Englishes give us an understanding that we are proficient in the variety of English that we are most familiar with. We might be proficient speakers of Chinese or Pakistani English, but not of Australian English. Likewise, proficiency in Anglo-American English or Afro-American English does not mean the same thing. Our understanding of different Englishes is in part a result of our familiarity with them. Thus, a speaker of Chinese English will find another speaker of the same variety easy to understand and mark him or her as proficient, but may find a speaker of Sri Lankan English harder to follow and mark that person as less proficient (and vice versa). However, with exposure and interaction, these perceptions change. Thus, a definition of proficiency needs to be flexible and to take the familiarity of language into consideration. In a different body of work, genre-based research has shown that language varies and can be explained in relation to the context in which it is used. The language used in a formal business meeting is not the same as language used among friends at an evening party. In terms of teaching, the language used by a teacher in class is not the same as the language used by lawyers in the courts. In short, the language we use is dependent on the context of use, and our ability to select and use appropriate language is related to our familiarity with the context. When we first encounter a situation, we are not always confident about our appropriateness or use of language. As we become familiar with the context and genre, we are able to draw on our experience and use the appropriate style and register. The familiarity of context thus impacts our proficiency: We are not all equally proficient in different contexts, and our familiarity with a genre impacts our ability to operate in it.

In trying to understand the concept of proficiency we have to consider both these aspects. Figure 1 below shows that we can map the two dimensions (language and genre) along a familiar-unfamiliar continuum. That is, we can be more or less familiar with a particular language (register, dialect, variety) or context. This mapping gives us four quadrants that show different ways in which we can understand language proficiency.

Figure 1: A familiarity-based framework for understanding language proficiency.
Language here refers to a dialect or a variety of a language.

The familiarity-based framework presented in Figure 1 suggests that the nature of language proficiency varies according to our familiarity or unfamiliarity with a particular language dialect, or variety and context of use. The figure shows four broad categories. Proficiency in one quadrant does not mean or imply that a person will have proficiency in a different setting as well. The dotted arrows in the figure show that, over time, unfamiliar contexts and language variations may become familiar.

Quadrant A represents familiar contexts in which we also share the language variety. Most everyday language experiences, such as casual conversations with friends or family, may be placed in this quadrant. It also includes expert or professional discourses that we engage in routinely, as these discourses and genres have become familiar to us. Thus classroom talk for experienced teachers falls in this category. Quadrant B represents new contexts of use, but contexts in which we use a familiar language. For example, when we interview for a job, we use language (professional and personal) that we are familiar with, but in a context that is new. If we have several job interviews, then the context becomes familiar as well. Quadrant C represents use of unfamiliar language dialect or variety in a familiar genre. Many cross-cultural episodes fall in this quadrant. An example of this is reading newspapers published in English in different countries. In this situation, we know what to expect (based on our understanding of the genre) in a news feature, an editorial, or perhaps a letter to the editor, but the language code is different and might contain linguistic forms and structures with which we are not familiar. In these contexts we need to use strategies to develop an understanding of the rules of this language variety. Once we develop this understanding (which might take varying degrees of effort, time, and exposure), we move to quadrant A where this language and genre are familiar. Finally, Quadrant D represents new contexts and new language forms. We may encounter these within our cultural contexts; for example, when we graduate from high school and enter university, we find that the language of higher education and academics is different from other language forms. Or when we travel, we may find ourselves talking to people with an unfamiliar dialect and in contexts that we are not familiar with. For example, if we apply for a job overseas and are interviewed over the phone by a person who speaks in a different variety, then we have to negotiate both an unfamiliar language variety and context. Perhaps proficiency in quadrant D is a higher category of language proficiency-it includes linguistic strategies that enable communication in unique circumstances. However, this is not the type of proficiency that we should expect in all speakers (including native speakers). Also, as in quadrants B and C, frequent encounters with an unfamiliar context or language changes the nature of the speech event as these become familiar (quadrant A) to us.

One of the aspects that make this familiarity-based understanding of proficiency unique is that it does away with the distinction between native and nonnative speakers. Such a separation is not important or relevant to teaching EAL (English as an Additional Language). Since proficiency is measured by both the control of the local variety of the language as well as the genre and the context of use, all speakers of English will find certain contexts and language structures more familiar than others. In addition, to be able to work in nonfamiliar contexts and/or language varieties, all speakers (whether native or nonnative) will need strategies that they can use to jointly coconstruct a language variety that is meaningful to them.

An understanding of this familiarity-based framework impacts the way in which we look at standards in language teaching. One of the current debates in TESOL is whether we need to have language proficiency standards for language teachers-especially in the case of NNESTs. The familiarity-based framework suggests that we need to tread very carefully in this area. It is difficult to establish standards for each of the four quadrants as our language proficiency varies in these. Thus, for language teachers to be efficient in their classes, they may have proficiency in classroom-specific language-they can use the target language appropriately within their limited context. They may not have or need language skills or strategies to negotiate in other contexts (especially quadrants C or D). For example, many of the teachers whom I have observed and worked with in Pakistan have low language proficiency as measured by a battery of language tests, but use English extensively in their classes. This is possible because they use familiar language (Pakistani English) that is domain-specific (classroom- and textbook-based). When asked to produce language in different contexts (essay writing, interviews) using a different language variety (language test based on standard British English), they are unable to satisfy the requirements. Keeping this in mind, perhaps when we talk about language standards and language proficiency for language teachers, we need to keep both the domain of language use as well as local language variety in mind.

The author invites comments and discussion on this article. Please feel free to contact him at the e-mail address above or post your comments on the EFLIS e-list for general discussion.

This article was originally published in TESOL's NNEST Caucus Newsletter, Volume 8, Issue 1, May 2006. It is reprinted here with the author's permission, with minor alterations done by TESOL's in-house editor.

Day in the Life: JoAnn Miller

JoAnn Miller, miller@efltasks.net, was on the TESOL board of directors from 2003 to 2006 and previously served as program chair, chair-elect, and chair of the EFLIS. Global Neighbors newsletter editor Brad Baurain, bbaurain@wheatonalumni.org, recently conducted this e-mail interview with her.

How did you get started in teaching EFL?

Like many of us, it wasn't planned. I studied Spanish linguistics and when I came to live in Mexico City over 35 years ago, I realized there wasn't much need for a nonnative Spanish linguist, so I became an EFL teacher.

What have been the most rewarding and difficult aspects of teaching over the years for you?

The most rewarding aspects are all related to the wonderful people I have met during the years-students and colleagues I have met here in Mexico and through TESOL. The most difficult aspects have been related to the limitations put on us by government policies and misguided administrators who often make decisions that are not in the best interests of the students, but that we as teachers have to live with on a daily basis.

What do you think is unique or interesting about your current teaching post?

I'm not currently teaching EFL students. After 25 years in the classroom, I served as an administrator and teacher trainer for seven years and then became a materials writer. I still do a lot of teacher training both online and f2f [face-to-face]. Sometimes I miss teaching EFL, but I enjoy writing materials and traveling around Mexico visiting teachers.

On the basis of your experiences, what advice would you give to young teachers just entering the profession?

I guess the best advice I can give is to get prepared. In the past you could be an EFL teacher after a 50-hour certificate program. Now as more and more teachers are getting university degrees and more government and nongovernment agencies are requiring formal degrees, a young person entering the profession should spend as much time as possible preparing for it. University degrees as well as knowledge of modern technology are needed to be able to compete in a modern school system.

Can you summarize your personal philosophy of teaching? How has it changed or developed over the years?

I'm not sure I actually have a personal philosophy, but I know I have changed throughout the years-and maybe not for the better. When I started teaching over 35 years ago, we were expected to use the audio-lingual method-dialogue memorization, choral repetition, and substitution drills were our daily activities. However, many of us were not content with this limited fare and started experimenting. Before communicative methods were popular, we dedicated ourselves to what was called the eclectic method-we did whatever we wanted to do. It was the most creative period of my teaching career. As we didn't have useful textbooks or technological advances, we cut out pictures from magazines, made color charts, and organized primitive group work activities. Each day was a creative binge that I have never felt again; now we have good textbooks and tons of technology that handles the creativity for us.

What are your current professional interests and pursuits (courses, research projects, conferences, publications, etc.)?

My life has become a bit unplanned since I became a materials developer. I generally write exams for textbooks or for schools, but I have also been involved in editing a dictionary and writing other materials. However, my greatest joy is giving teacher-training talks here in Mexico. In the past few years the quality of teachers has improved so much that nowadays classroom teachers are often up-to-date on the most recent theories. When I became a teacher, oh-so-many years ago, the "best" teachers were native speakers who probably had no training. Now most teachers are nonnative, Mexican teachers who often have university degrees in language teaching. I admit some schools still hire "gringos on vacation," but it's a changing scene and I have hope that in the future this practice will disappear.

What are your goals, hopes, ambitions, and dreams for the EFLIS? What would you like most to tell the members?

While I was on the board of directors of TESOL one of my assignments was chair of the Global Initiatives Committee. In the past few years, TESOL has recognized the importance of becoming more international. This led to the inclusion of a Strategic Plan Goal dedicated to the importance of increasing our global base.

As TESOL becomes more and more international, we have realized that we have to offer more to our non-U.S. based members who are unable to come to the annual convention. The new Global and Electronic Membership categories have gone far to open membership to more international professionals whose incomes would not previously have allowed them to pay the membership fees. However, this new influx of members has posed a problem-what can we offer them if they can't make it to the convention? With the advent of increased Internet connections throughout the world, we have become convinced that what needs to be done is to increase our online, members-only offerings. To that end, the new Interest Section Leadership Committee has designated Johanna Kratchen to work with the Technology Advisory Committee and TESOL's Central Office to design a system through which IS members will be able to help TESOL augment online offerings, especially practical classroom activities and lesson plans. You will be hearing more of this in the future as the EFLIS is the IS that most recognizes the needs of our worldwide membership.

Classroom Idea Exchange

Fables in the Foreign Language Classroom

Marcela Quintana-Lara, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, marcela@ku.edu
María Isabel Trillo, Universidad Arturo Prat, Iquique, Chile, mitrotrueblue@hotmail.com

We incorporated fables in one of our intermediate classes for second-year English/Spanish translation students. The purpose of this activity is to give students the opportunity to create and practice language meaningfully, express their creativity, and interpret written language. Students are in control of the activity except for these requirements: fables, number of group members, and classroom time for presentation.

Activity Steps

1. Select a number of fables for students to choose from. They could be from both home and target cultures, but they could also be unique to the second language culture.

2. Form groups and allow students to select the fable that best suits their interests and attracts their curiosity.

3. Explain the main requirements:
o Students are to adapt the fable, if desired, but without missing or changing the core message.
o Students are to present it in an original, clear, and concise way. Our students created stage scenery, designed costumes, and selected a narrator.
o Each group has 20 minutes to present and 10 minutes to set up and take down the stage scenery.

4. Ask students to choose key vocabulary items and introduce them at the beginning of the presentation.

5. After the presentations are done, comment on their positive aspects, both overall and in terms of individual groups. In later class sessions, give students feedback on the linguistic strengths and weaknesses of their presentations and the criteria for grading, such as fulfilling the requirements; clarity and coherence of the message; sequence of events; linguistic performance (grammar, pronunciation, lexis); and dramatic performance (group coordination, no awkward improvisation).

This activity exceeded our expectations. Though it was graded, students saw it as an opportunity to express aspects of their personalities and showed an outstanding level of cooperation and dedication.

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, and/or the coeditor, Jane Hoelker, jhoelker@qf.org.qa. The deadline for inclusion in the next issue is September 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.

Spread the word about TESOL's Global Membership category! International academics in selected countries may join for as little as $25, and less expensive, electronic-only subscriptions to TESOL Quarterly are also available in this category. For more information, please read the last paragraph of the Day in the Life interview with JoAnn Miller in this issue of Global Neighbors.

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.

Free books! The very phrase makes a teacher's heart pound. From July 4 to August 4, 2006, about 300,000 electronic books will be available for free download at worldebookfair.com. The organizers aim to repeat this event every summer, with a target of one million e-books in more than 100 languages by 2009! This is a cooperative venture of Project Gutenberg and the World eBook Library Consortia.

The latest information about the TESOL Convention 2007 in Seattle can be found at www.tesol.org-click on "Convention." If you make a presentation at this or any conference, please consider writing it up for publication in Global Neighbors!

We would like to have a World Cup theme in the Classroom Idea Exchange section of the next issue of Global Neighbors. Please send us your best practical lessons and activities!

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 the e-mail addresses 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
o Articles. An absolute maximum of 2,000 words.
o 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.
o 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:
o Brad Baurain, bbaurain@wheatonalumni.org
o Jane Hoelker, Academic Bridge Program, Qatar Foundation, Qatar, jhoelker@qf.org.qa

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 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 www.tesol.org/getconnected. Message archives may be read by subscribers athttp://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@qf.org.qa, hoelkerj2003@yahoo.com (summer e-mail)
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