Could you write an EFL textbook?


#1

Here’s a fun exercise for TEACHERS:

What do you like about the coursebooks you use for teaching English?
What do you hate about them?
What do you think is lacking in them?
What are your favourites?
Do you think you could write a better book than the ones you use in your classes? What kind?


#2

Too much to think about, so I’ll just say this. The majority of textbooks here focus on American lifestle, not Taiwanese. Thanksgiving is there, but the dragon boat festival is not. Write my own, love too, but I have to retire first, and that’s still 38 years away


#3
quote:
Originally posted by amos: The majority of textbooks here focus on American lifestle, not Taiwanese. Thanksgiving is there, but the dragon boat festival is not.

DOH!!!When I studied Mandarin in America (many moons ago), everything was about things like Chinese Culture, Chinese New Year, Confucious…NOT about Columbus Day, turkey, or the Strawberry AlarmClock ( http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Concert/5771/ ) etc. Get the idea???


#4

Actually O’Brian I was speaking more specifically of kids. Now, I’m not sure if you were or weren’t a kid those many eons ago, but the majority or 10 year old kids I know, can use English to tell me about Halloween, but can’t even say Dragonboat race.

I’m actually quite curious to see if you disagree with my opinion that Taiwanese kids should be learning how to use English to express their own culture. Or should we just stop at “the Hello Kitty doll is in the bedroom, she’s sitting on my bed” Is that culture enough? The main cultural events can remain to be the Western one’s (Halloween, Thanksgiving etc). Doesn’t sound right to me. This is my point.


#5
quote:
Originally posted by amos: Actually O'Brian I was speaking more specifically of kids. Now, I'm not sure if you were or weren't a kid those many eons ago, but the majority or 10 year old kids I know, could use English to tell me about Halloween, but can't even say Dragonboat race. I'm actually quite curious to see if you disagree with this, as I know you are a staunch American.

Amos…staunch, well, I don’t know about THAT, but when teaching I like to make a class interesting. Yes, when I taught 10 year olds I brought cranberry sauce and turkey to class for Thanksgiving. Halloween, masks and candy. I showed videos and I busted my a*s because alot of Taiwanese kids are going to end up either in the US or doing business in the US. I see no reason to bore them to death with things they already know…ever read one of the local textbooks??? Christ.
I learned how to use chopsticks from my Chinese teacher’s sister (in America). My Chinese philiosphy teacher’s wife used to cook me jya-dz (my teacher was crippled and couldn’t come to the university so my seminar class met at his home).
THIS is why and how I came to appreciate Chinese culture.


#6

Sorry I edited my post midstream. Given the chance, most of my kids get pretty excited about trying to explain their culture to the foreign teacher. Problem is, it’s not in enough textbooks, as they’re (textbooks) generally written for people, migrants’s living in overseas, not Taiwan. Look at some of the topic’s in the chapters next time you’re in at Caves.

A fork has many roads, you’re talking about preparing the kids for America and I’m talking about preparing them to express themselves. Maybe you should teach business english


#7
quote:
Originally posted by amos: Maybe you should teach business english [img]images/smiles/icon_wink.gif[/img]

I prefer bargirls!


#8
quote:
Originally posted by Alien: Here's a fun exercise for TEACHERS:

Do you think you could write a better book than the ones you use in your classes? What kind?


Given the range of methodologies in books and teachers no book is ever going to satisfy.

In my experience, teachers who praise a particular book do so because it expounds their particular pedagogical principles: If you think New Interchange is hot it’s probably because your in favour of formalised grammar instruction and PPP. Equally if International Express is your thing it’s maybe because you share the view that lexis and language functions are pedagically central.

Equally, the modern EFL classroom is filled with learners who have both shared and distinct learning requirements which can make sections and whole units of a book redundant.

As such, I’ve found that a book’s usefulness and acceptability is highest when the learner’s needs are most specific. By way of illustration I have no problem maintaining class attendances in academic writing classes yet the ‘general English’ class still has me scurrying around for suitable supplements despite the bold claims of relevancy and universal appeal made by their authors.

The short shelf life of the general English book compared to it’s more ESP focused bretherin is evidence of this.

So to answer the question of “Can you write a better EFL textbook?”, the rather unhelpful answer is yes providing everyone in the class wants the same thing and responds to my pedagogy.

Then of course there is the appeal of the teacher which far outweighs the course book but let’s not get into that!


#9

I don’t think I could write a textbook but I would love to make an existing textbook more Taiwanese. I would replace all references to hamburgers and Coke with beef noodle soup and pearl milk tea. I would also add numerous references to KTV, betel nut and “smelly tofu”. Place names such as Los Angeles and New York could be replaced with Kaohsiung and Hualien.

I think students would find it easier to engage with things they are familiar with. Unfortunately most Taiwanese students lack imagination and lack of knowledge about things outside Taiwan. It is difficult to get them to talk about things they have no idea or experience of. Of course it is important that they learn more about life outside Taiwan, but if you can increase their confidence to speak English then this might begin to happen without even trying.


#10

Yes it’s not surprising that the majority of EFL textbooks which originate out of Europe or the US have very little in the way of an Asian focus. I have seen some locally produced books targeted at Asian learners but, while more topical and relevant, the quality of the materials was lower than that of overseas books. Nevertheless, rather than trying to market a ‘global English learning book’ such as New Interchange, it surely wouldn’t involve an awful lot more work tailoiring books to suit different geographical areas i.e ‘New Interchange Chinese Version’

By tailoring these books to better meet the needs of specific learners and cultures accommodation could be provided for such things as the Asian learner’s strong visual learning style and reluctance to take part in ‘imagine type activities’. Even more practically, the phonetics sections could be given with IPA and KK. Love it or loathe it, it would at least make pronunciation exercises usable and deter students fro diving into their dictionaries.

I’m sure this kind of book would be more suitable here but doubt very much whether authors and publishers would want to go down this route. By allowing local experts to modify materials and pedagogies they would lose their assumed native speaker superiority.


#11
quote:
Originally posted by wix99: I don't think I could write a textbook but I would love to make an existing textbook more Taiwanese. I would replace all references to hamburgers and Coke with beef noodle soup and pearl milk tea. I would also add numerous references to KTV, betel nut and "smelly tofu". Place names such as Los Angeles and New York could be replaced with Kaohsiung and Hualien.

This is exactly what they did with Yale’s SPEAK/READ MANDARIN textbooks here. Beijing became Taipei and Keelung became Shanghai. Ah…I still remember the love story (sniff sniff!) of Miss Chen and Hsiao Wang the Shanghai student studying at Beihai University. Miss Chen was SO cruel.


#12

Abracadabra,

You make some very valid points. I think localization of English learning texts is a very good idea. However, for most international publishing companies such as OUP, Cambridge and Longman it is simply not in their interests to design such texts, because of the broardness of the market they are trying to reach.

For example, New Interchange can be used here in Taiwan, Germany, Spain and Brazil. It makes it a compromize text and whilst it’s far from perfect the pedagogy, presentation of skills, and pacing are fairly sharp. The difficulty in Taiwan is to find authors with the ability to write, and design such texts in a local setting. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but there is a lot more that goes into writing a text book than the average Joe Blow might think.

But that said all your points are extremely valid. I remember being in a meeting last year discussing the development of online learning materials with one of the above publishers and somebody in the meeting made an interesting point about Nestle when they wanted to use their international advertising strategy in Taiwan. It was based on a multi-racial universal theme and it simply bombed as it just didn’t have the appeal to the locals. Eventually they settled on the cute one where the girl brings the coffee down to the guy in the phone box.


#13

I believe teachers using different materials and methologies can be equally effective. As previously mentioned, students’ learning styles and motivations also figure in. So that said, here are some of my opinions about specific books. Remember, they are just opinions!!!

New Interchange: I personally like this series. Not perfect, but very useable from the very first. The language targets and topics of each lesson are easy to expand on, or gloss over if I think time would be better spent on something else.

Side by Side: I had to teach this as the main text. I think it makes a good supplement but as the main text, I hated it.

Spectrum: Not a favorite. With creativity and planning, I can make it more interactive and “alive” but the first few times through it is a challenge.

Communication Activities: I’ve used activities from this over and over. The drawings aren’t first-rate and it could use an update, but it’s a godsend in my book.

That’s just a few, but enough for now.


#14

Couldn’t agree with amos more! And I’m a ‘staunch’ American. Localize and ‘pertinize’ (if you’ll allow me to make a verb of the word)to all extents possible. A Canadian friend of mine sums up this localization with the phrase, “teach fish,” which was the motto of a teaching program in which she partook in a coastal area where the economy and the culture were driven by the fishing industry.

When the goal is teaching children to express themselves competently and confidentlyin a secon language, we must allow them to discuss what interests them and avoid inflicting our own ‘adult’ ideas of what should be the topics of their conversations.

Could I write a textbook? Texts stifle creativity.
As far as kids are concerned, I’d rather do a different lesson plan every day of the week than force a bunch of disinterested kids to wade through something written for the masses.


#15

I think that the ideal EFL textbook for Taiwanese learners would be relevant to their lives and interesting, rather than the same format through the whole book. And I’m with Taitodd, while it must have some structure, it must incorporate fun activities on the part of the teacher and learner; field trips, telephone conversations to request brochures (had to do this one in a French class at home; you didn’t get marks unless you could present the brochure), polls, etc. And I think that the biggest problem with EFL texts in Taiwan is a lack of practice and reinforcement. Learn one thing. Take the test. On to the next topic. There must be some way to incorporate the knowledge already learned so that the student begins using it automatically (so many people here have magnificent vocabularies, but can’t use past tense unless they’re doing a grammar exercise). Kind of a comprehensive, cumulative approach.

That being said, I have not written this textbook for several reasons:

  1. I’m really, really lazy
  2. No money to fund it and no assurance that anyone would buy it
  3. No time. When I’m not being really, really lazy, I’m actually quite busy
  4. I don’t think anyone would buy a textbook written by someone without a teaching specialisation who also happened to be a foreign monkey (correct me if I’m wrong on this one; sounds like some of you have been published)

Maybe someday when I’m old and grey and all of Taiwan speaks fluent English and my book is rendered useless. Or maybe in my spare time.