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Volume 2 Number 2, Summer 2005, Pages 1-151   

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From the Editor-in-Chief

    Bernard Spolsky

The establishment of Asia TEFL is one obvious result of the growing importance of English teaching throughout Asia. One could multiply evidence, such as the decision of the Malaysian government, after 50 years of promoting Bahasa Melayu as the medium of education at all levels to now emulate neighboring Singapore in making English the medium, or the law currently being debated in the Philippines Parliament proposing a similar policy. If these forces are not to run wild, it is essential to build a strong local cadre of scholars able and willing to carry out the research necessary and apply the necessary judgment to these developments. This is essentially the task that Asia TEFL is undertaking, as demonstrated in the papers presented at its conferences and as recorded in this journal. The editor and members of the editorial board have once again winnowed out from manuscripts submitted a strong selection of papers that reveal the serious standard of local scholarship.

The opening paper by Stephen Andrews, deals with the increasingly critical issue of how to assure the professional qualifications of English teachers. Based on the situation in Hong Kong, he analyses the difficulties of setting standards and calls for collaboration with members of the profession in raising standards; it mentioned also the growing problem of assuring the quality of private instruction. In the second article, Gui Qingyang raises the key problem that I alluded to earlier, how to teach English effectively without westernizing, noting the large gaps between Western and Asian ideologies of learning. Reporting research in Latin America, Pedro L. Luchini discusses the problem of teaching pronunciation and describes one case study of a method designed to overcome the problem: what is particularly noteworthy is the caution with which he presents and judges the results. In the next paper, three scholars Atsuko Kashiwagi, Michael Snyder, and James Craig present results of a case study in a university in Japan showing evidence that a course in pronunciation does have positive effects. Based on a study of students at university in Korea, Jihyeon Jeon analyses the sources of anxiety in oral presentations in the native language and in English, showing much overlap and some differences and suggesting implications for teaching. In describing her own experiences and an experimental program at a technological university in Iran, Soraya Khonsari brings out the challenges and potential of content-based instruction. Discussing her own experiences teaching creative writing in English in a Chinese university, Sui Gang takes a quite different position from that of Gui Qingyang and argues for the value of intercultural communication. Somchoen Honsa, Jr. and Pongrat Ratanapinyowong report on an experiment in which students in science faculties in a Thai university were encouraged to write journals in English; they outline the arguments for journal writing and show student reactions and evidence of improvement in writing fluency.

Reading these eight papers, one is impressed by the relevance of the questions they ask, the care with which their research is designed, and the soundness and modesty with which the results are analyzed. Readers will also note the wide geographical coverage. These are the results of local studies (the absence of funding for larger studies must be regretted) of topics that are important to the teaching of English anywhere.

Bernard Spolsky