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Reviewed by:
  • What English Language Teachers Need to Know, Vol. 1: Understanding Learning, and: What English Language Teachers Need to Know, Vol. 2: Facilitating Learning
  • Marian J. Rossiter
D.E. Murray & M.A. Christison (2011). What English Language Teachers Need to Know, Vol. 1: Understanding Learning. New York: Routledge. Pp. 224, CDN$46.50 (paper).
D.E. Murray & M.A. Christison (2011). What English Language Teachers Need to Know, Vol. 2: Facilitating Learning New York: Routledge. Pp. 235, CDN$46.50 (paper).

The two companion volumes in Routledge's ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series are written for pre-service and novice English-language instructors who teach with a range of learning purposes, in a variety of contexts, and at different levels of education. The first volume provides background knowledge on learning contexts, the nature of English, and the role teachers play in English-language teaching (ELT). The second volume provides guidance on planning, instructing, and assessing student learning. The books, unlike many other introductory texts in our field, are of manageable size (6 x 9 inches), with relatively small print. Each of the chapters within the two volumes (reviewed sequentially below) begins with a relevant classroom vignette; sets tasks within the chapter for research, reflection, or further exploration (reading); and ends with questions for discussion.

Volume I: Understanding Learning, Part One provides an excellent overview of identity in a wide range of contexts following Kachru's (1986) Inner Circle, Outer Circle, and Expanding Circle framework, with an acknowledgement of some of the limitations in adapting this structure. The topic of learner identities is dealt with as it applies to K-12, university, and adult English as a second language (ESL) settings. Many pertinent issues (e.g., identity conflict, acculturation rates, non-native English speaking teachers, cultures of learning, medium of instruction, and age of acquisition of English in schools around the world) are also addressed in this section. The topics, which are often neglected in introductory texts, provide essential background for teaching English to speakers of other languages but, unfortunately, the development of intercultural communicative competence is [End Page 234] mentioned only in passing. The final chapter in this section asserts the need for teachers to develop familiarity with the culture of the educational institution in which they are employed as well as that of the wider community in which the learning takes place. The influence of these issues on teaching and learning cannot be underestimated, and it is gratifying to see them provided as foundations for the chapters that follow.

The development of language awareness is the focus of Part Two. This includes a clear, succinct description of the sound system (e.g., International Phonetic Alphabet, articulatory phonetics, consonants and vowels, phonology), the system of words (e.g., language families, history of English, classification of words), and the sentence system (e.g., sentence classification, parts of speech, phrase/clause typology). Readers will need to acquaint themselves with more recent literature in the area of pronunciation. For example, in the recommendation of minimal pairs, there is no mention of the importance of functional load (Brown, 1988), and the text fails to acknowledge the extensive research that has been conducted on intelligibility, suprasegmentals, and second language (L2) speaking fluency. The statistics on vocabulary largely ignore the substantial body of research on L2 vocabulary development that has been conducted in the past 15 years and ignores some of the leading experts in this field (e.g., Nation & Webb, 2011; Schmitt, 2010). There is no mention of formulaic sequences, word frequency, or corpora, for example. The final chapter in Part Two contrasts spoken and written language and provides an overview of conversation analysis, discourse analysis, and speech act theory. Speech act issues are mentioned briefly in a section on cultural variations in spoken English; reference to the extensive research in this area (e.g., Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, 2009) would have significantly enhanced this section.

The third part of this volume provides useful information regarding theories of learning, followed by an introduction to the key historical developments in second language acquisition research. Here, readers are advised to consult the references and read additional research for a deeper understanding of the...


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