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Volume 9 Number 1, Spring 2012, Pages 1-197   

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From the Editor-in-Chief

    Bernard Spolsky

By the time this issue appears, winter should be a memory in our part of the world, but with the strange changes in climate for which we seem reluctant to take responsibility, who can tell? And with any luck, we may have ended a war or two, and not started the next one yet, and we may not have more nations equipped with weapons of mass destruction, and some governments may have stopped shooting people who object to dictatorship...
As I get older, I wonder if things are really getting worse, or if it just seems so, as better access to news shows up the bad along with the good. But enough of this general blogging, and down to business. Our task is not to solve the problems of the world, and hope that the year of the dragon will be a happier one, but to work in our own small domain, the teaching of English as a foreign language in Asia. Therefore, I am happy to report continued progress with our publication activities (a collection of Asia TEFL essays on elementary English teaching is in the production stage with Routledge, a major international publisher; we now have a policy for subscriptions to hard copies of the journal; and we are actively pursuing the recognition by more indexing establishments that will assist our contributors to obtain recognition from their institutions) and to introduce another fine collection of papers.
Our first paper, by Alireza Jalilifar from Iran (which has its own mixture of good and bad news - an Academy Award winning picture distracting for a moment from international concern over nuclear developments) deals with a matter of professional interest, a comparison of the rhetorical structure of applied linguistics articles published in Iranian journals with those published in international journals. The most significant difference found was a reluctance in those writing for local publications to contextualize the article within current research in the field. Journal editors, I can assure you, take this very seriously: we want to know that our contributors are aware of the state of the art in our field, and are able to report progress before they show their originality. One of the best ways to assure acceptance of a paper is to show how it continues, or challenges, or expands articles that have appeared lately.
The second paper, by Masoud Zoghi, also from Iran deals not with the general personal anxiety so well presented in the movie The Separation, but the specific foreign language anxiety that affects many of us when we are learning a new language or trying to use it in a school or natural situation. The paper reports on the development and testing of an improved instrument for measuring the affect.
In a paper by a Taiwanese scholar, Adeline K. Teo tackles a serious problem ignored in most large scale language testing, the need to add a dynamic factor to the measure. Tests usually tell you (if they tell you anything) where a student is at the moment, but not how long it took them to get there or how fast they might be expected to make further progress. From a carefully designed pilot study that deserves replication with larger numbers, we learn how dynamic assessment helps clarify individual differences and provides useful data for planning future instruction.
Mi-Lim Ryoo and Mark L. Wing next report on a study with a group of South Korean students of some aspects of peer review of writing assignments. They find valuable but different effects depending on the proficiency level of reviewers and writers, providing further evidence of the usefulness and nature of the procedure.
Another study from South Korea, this one by Soo-Ok Kweon, deals with the learning of an English grammatical feature, the effect of discourse-linked and non-discourse linked wh-phrases. Language learners perform differently than native speakers, it is reported.
In another study of rhetorical organization, Misyana Susanti Husin and Kamisah Ariffin from Malaysia look at the placing of thesis sentences in a number of essays written by Malay students, and show evidence of cultural influence, thus adding a further application of the hypothesis proposed by Robert Kaplan.
Finally, Jackie F. K. Lee reports on a study of the difficulties faced by Hong Kong students with English wh- questions. After exploration and analysis of the nature of interference, a team of teachers worked together following a Japanese model of teaching called Learning Study to overcome the students' problems.
We are grateful to the contributors who submitted these articles, and to the many others for whose work did not have space; and we thank the editorial team that took the awesome responsibility of deciding between the two groups.

Jerusalem, March 2012
Bernard Spolsky,
Editor-in-chief and Asia TEFL Publications Executive Director