Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd Edition)

March 2002 — Volume 5, Number 4

Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd Edition)

Marianne Celce-Murcia, Editor. (2001)
University of California, Los Angeles.
Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
Pp. xii + 584
ISBN 0-8384-1992-5 (paper) US $45.95

Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language in its third edition, was primarily designed as a textbook for pre-service TESL/TEFL courses. The book can also be used in other ways, for example as a reference book and handbook for individual teachers to explore on their own and a sourcebook for teacher trainers. I would select this text as the essential starting point for teachers new to the field who wish to gain an overview of theory and practice.

It has several features that I feel make it an excellent text for teacher trainers who want to keep up with developments in the field, and stay informed about predominant theories. Its main use is likely to be as a core textbook on formal pre-service and in-service training courses.

Throughout, it encourages teachers to reflect on issues in language teaching and learning on the basis of the specialists’ research in the field.

Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, also known as “The Apple Book”, is an anthology book; personal contributions from more than forty acknowledged specialists in the field provide a variety of perspectives. This third edition covers more topics and has more contributors than the previous ones. As the editor states, “sixteen of the chapters appearing in this third edition are revised and updated versions of chapters in the second edition¹ and the revisions have been substantial. . . ten chapters have been completely rewritten and the remaining ten chapters¹ appear for the first time in this edition” (vii). All this contributions primarily are focused on the learner, but none of them avoids the fact of socio-cultural, socio-political and sociolinguistic influences (such as increased globalization and the development of “world Englishes”) which will cause them to reconsider long-held views about language and language teaching.

The structure of the volume is straightforward and serves the reader well. All chapters of the book have the same structure. The volume is also unified by consistent underlying theoretical concerns and was previewed as a whole; authors constantly address readers to other chapters related to their topic for further reading: “(see the chapter by. . . in this volume)” (p. 10).

The goal of the book is “to maintain a balance between theory and practice” (vii). The book offers, on the one hand, background information about present and past approaches and on the other hand, resources for teachers and useful information for the classroom teacher.

Each chapter begins with and “introductory task” which invites readers to focus their attention on the area to be considered. Each chapter concludes with, suggested activities, discussion questions and web sites for additional information on the topics and further reading; many of these activities are based on real examples of ESL/EFL teaching contexts and can be exploit in training courses. Some chapters add tables and endnotes. The last part of the book lists useful references and ends with an index; the index lists words in alphabetical order, as well as the page on which they are introduced. [-1-]

The volume consists of five units in addition to a foreword. The editor, Marianne Celce-Murcia, provides a foreword that serves to introduce the volume. This is followed by chapters presented as units.

  • Unit 1, which regroups all of the papers dealing with Teaching Methodology: Five chapters addressed to those interested in Language Teaching Approaches, CLT, ESP and Syllabus Design;
  • Unit 2 which regroups those papers concerned with Language Skills: Fourteen chapters covering the four skills, grammar and vocabulary;
  • Unit 3 regroups papers which provide a perspective to Integrated Approaches: Four chapters focusing on Content-Based Immersion models and Bilingual Approaches;
  • The penultimate unit regroups all of the papers that focus their attention on the Learner: Three chapters related to Learning Styles and Strategies, Adult Education and SL Content Teaching;
  • The final unit regroups all the papers which pay more attention to teachers’ concerns: Ten chapters dealing with Lesson Planning, Cross-cultural Communication, Computers in LT, SL Assessment, Media Uses in LT and Reflective Teaching.

The papers included are consistently good but it is not my intention here to comment on all of the contributions because the volume is too long, but perhaps brief comments on the chapters I consider more relevant, might help situate the prospective reader.

I find the first chapters, dealing with past and present approaches very clear and help the reader to “learn more about the various approaches and methods available” (p. 9-10). Marianne Celce-Murcia, in chapter one “Language Teaching Approaches: An Overview“, points out the differences between a method, a technique and an approach. It is also very interesting the chapter written by Sandra J. Savignon, “Communicative Language Teaching for the Twenty-First Century” in which Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) development is explained and also readers are introduced in the design of a curriculum made up with five components which I consider is very innovative. Her description of the approach is accurate, fair and comprehensive and it is of great help for those whose classroom practice concerns might be related to this approach. In the last chapter of the first unit written by David Nunan, “Syllabus Design“, the author “describes and evaluates a range of syllabus types” (p. 55). In this chapter, the reader learns more in-depth many different procedures for developing syllabuses. This chapter should be a must read for those classroom teachers and schools starting to develop integrated syllabuses as a part of curriculum development.

The second unit “Language Skills”, is probably the unit in which practice is introduced more in-depth: lesson suggestions are given. In chapter nine “Teaching Pronunciation“, by Janet Goodwin tools needed to teach pronunciation are provided and also Appendices illustrating Places of Articulation, Manner of Articulation , Organs of Speech , Points of Articulation and the Phonetic Alphabet for English as well as the Vowel Chart.

Joan Morley in chapter five “Aural Comprehension Instruction: Principles and Practices” clearly states the roles we play in our listening interaction as well as she rejects “the conceptualization of listening as a passive act” (p. 72).

Chapter fourteen “Functional Tasks for Mastering the Mechanics of Writing and Going Just Beyond” by Elite Olshtain is very useful for children’s teachers at initial stages. The author clearly outlines the mechanics of communicative reading and writing. The author provides a way of looking at the mechanics of these two skills as well as the steps in the development of reading and writing habits. Practical and emotive writing tasks are also provided. “It has been the main aim of this chapter to emphasize the fact that the mechanics of writing at the initial stage of learning since they help students establish a good basis in sound-spelling correspondences, which are important for effective use of reading and writing” (p. 213) [-2-]

The third unit “Integrated Approaches” incorporates insights from the three authors’ experience in the field. Since the 1980s, a movement from narrow Language Teaching toward integrated approaches has been witnessed in the US, Canada and also in other countries. Using language as a vehicle for teaching other content areas is discussed in chapter nineteen “Content-Based and Immersion Models for Second and Foreign Language Teaching” by Marguerite Ann Snow. She also provides examples of well-established content-based models and recent variations as well as activities, the roles of the language and the content teachers and the strategies for integrating language and content. The last part of the chapter also describes current an future trends in content-based instruction, such as “the search for the right balance of language and content teaching” (p. 315) and the framework M. Ann Snow, Myriam Met and Fred Genesee developed to define two types of language teaching objectives.

All the chapters of the fourth unit focus on with all the aspects teachers need to know when they are dealing with a class: learning styles, cultural and linguistic backgrounds¹

And finally, the last unit which I consider fundamental because states what are the skills and competencies needed to be effective and professional teachers. Chapter twenty-six “Planning lessons” by Linda Jensen clearly outlines what a lesson plan is and the basic principles of lesson planning as “a learning experience for both the teacher and the students” (p. 407). She also provides five appendices including a 50-minute lesson plan template. Patricia Byrd in chapter twenty-seven “Textbooks: Evaluation for Selection and Analysis for Implementation” provides guidelines for selecting and implementing textbooks. A useful table for “Analyzing Content for Implementation in Teaching” (p. 420) and a second one for “Analyzing Teaching Activities for Implementation in Teaching” (p. 421) are also provided at the end of the chapter.

When the Teacher Is a Non-native Speaker” by Péter Medgyes is an interesting chapter because the author outlines the pros and cons of being a NEST and NON-NEST teachers and its influence and differences in teaching behavior. A table explaining which are these differences is also provided. The chapter is a must read for both groups of teachers. Donna M. Brinton presents a rationale for the use of media materials in language teaching in chapter thirty “The Use of Media in Language Teaching” and the factors that “should be considered when incorporating media into our language teaching goals” (p. 473). Six sample lessons and a chart illustrate this framework. Maggie Sokolik introduces technology in her chapter “Computers in Language Teaching.” The author lists what computers can and cannot do and also dispels the idea that “computers are a panacea for those trying to learn second languages” (p. 486) but clearly states that they are “a tool with which language can be learned more effectively” (p. 486). The last chapter “Keeping Up to Date as an ESL or EFL Professional” by Joann Crandall focuses on a number of strategies and resources for professional development: professional associations and organizations, professional journals, clearinghouses and websites and online resources.

Bearing in mind that to this volume has contributions from forty authors, I would like to have seen brief bio-data at the beginning of each article.

To end up, I would recommend Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language not only because of the appropriateness of its content for those who need to reinforce their principles when teaching ESL/EFL students but because of the many doors it opens up for future research.

Marisa González Díaz
Cefire, Valencia, Spain
<extrapvalencia@centres.cult.gva.es>

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