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BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ AND DOWNLOAD
- THE ROLE OF VISION IN LANGUAGE LEARNING
- in Children with Moderate to Severe Disabilities ...
Martha Low, Ph.D.
- SANSKRIT TO ENGLISH TRANSLATOR ...
S. Aparna, M.Sc.
- A LINGUISTIC STUDY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE CURRICULUM AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL IN BANGLADESH - A COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT by
Kamrul Hasan, Ph.D.
- COMMUNICATION VIA EYE AND FACE in Indian Contexts by
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
VIA GESTURE: A STUDY OF INDIAN CONTEXTS by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- CIEFL Occasional
Papers in Linguistics,
- Language, Thought
and Disorder - Some Classic Positions by
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- English in India:
Loyalty and Attitudes
by Annika Hohenthal
- Language In Science
by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Vocabulary Education
by B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
- A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS OF HINDI
by V. Geethakumary, Ph.D.
- LANGUAGE OF ADVERTISEMENTS
by Sandhya Nayak, Ph.D.
- An Introduction to TESOL:
Methods of Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages
by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Transformation of
into Indexing Language:
Kannada - A Case Study
by B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
- How to Learn
by M.S.Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Verbal Communication
with CP Children
by Shyamala Chengappa, Ph.D.
and M.S.Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Bringing Order
to Linguistic Diversity
- Language Planning in
the British Raj by
Ranjit Singh Rangila,
M. S. Thirumalai,
and B. Mallikarjun
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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai
A MALAYSIAN ENGLISH TEXTBOOK FOR MALAYSIAN LEARNERS OF ENGLISH
1. A REVIEW OF A MALAYSIAN TESOL TEXTBOOK
Devising a relevant and effective textbook for Teaching English to Speakers
of Other Lnguages cannot be undertaken in a leisurely manner. Any who
attempt to design tools for unraveling the intricacies of the English
language for secondary English speakers should be commended, and thus
it is appropriate to praise the graduates of Universiti Malaya for their
honorable efforts to expound the English language in their English
Form 1 textbook (PTS Publications, Malaysia).
Written to the specifications of the new Malaysian English Language syllabus
for Form 1, the book aims to help ambitious English language learners
to make friends and communicate with English-speakers, understand the
world in which we live, and enjoy language as something creative and beautiful
(Chitravelu, et al., xv). According to the authors, this book is designed
to help students become successful learners "by providing a variety
of materials and activities for each of the four basic language skills
(listening, speaking, reading, and writing)."
This review will attempt to analyze how well the authors accomplished
their goals, beginning with general observations about the book, and following
with specific sections on each of the basic language skills.
2. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
The English Form 1 language book begins with
a thorough table of contents which divides up the activities on each of
the 200 pages "in accordance with their difficulty level and content"
(p. vi-xiii). Each chapter contains exercises relating to three primary
categories: interpersonal (relating to relationships), informational (learning
about the world), and aesthetic (appreciating the beauty of English).
In addition, grammar, sound system (pronunciation), and vocabulary are
focused upon in specific sections.
It is evident from the beginning of the book that it is designed to be
used for students with varying degrees of knowledge of the English language.
The Table of Contents thus helps teachers know what parts of a lesson
will be appropriate for the needs of different students and devise their
lesson plans accordingly. This textbook probably would not be recommended
for students who have no prior knowledge of the English language, unless
the instructor is prepared to teach most of the basics of the language
outside of the text, such as the sounds and script of the language. Otherwise,
beginners will be overwhelmed by the demand for engaging in fairly complex
conversation and language skills from the outset of the book. Even teachers
of more advanced students will likely need to move quite slowly through
the initial chapters, as the content will leave the uninitiated in the
3. POSITIVE ELEMENTS OF THE TEXTBOOK
The positive elements of the English Form 1
textbook are numerous and can only be mentioned here briefly. Additional
praise will be added in the sections specific to the basic language skills.
Overall the authors have done an exceptional job creating content and
activities that are engaging. The layout of the book is inviting with
the use of effective illustrations and photos, and the authors refrain
from being too wordy. The content in each chapter is laid out in a logical
fashion with subsequent activities building upon the skills and vocabulary
emphasized in previous tasks. Reviews are provided at the end of each
chapter which are comprehensive but short and to the point (p.17). The
language of the book flows well and conforms to standard English, although
the language is slightly influenced by British spelling (for example,
colour - on pages p.6, and 86), and this is
quite understadable given the Malaysian contacts with Britain.
The activities given are creative and not always spelled out specifically,
which allows the teacher to have the liberty to use the material in various
ways to emphasize different skills. For example, an instruction to "make
up descriptions" about something can be turned into an oral or a
Students are encouraged throughout the lessons to give personal opinions
and share their thoughts within groups, thus making the material applicable
for themselves. They are further encouraged to build a word bank, dividing
a notebook into categories and writing new words they come across (p.13).
On many occasions they are asked to use outside sources like the Internet
in their studies (p.16, 29-30). In doing this, the authors are giving
students practical tools that will help them after they leave class.
While much more can be said in favor of English Form 1,
several factors are also worth noting which could be considered to be
deficiencies within the book if taught in certain contexts.
Although the authors provide a good curriculum for students desiring
to use English in Malaysian contexts, they fail to provide adequate training
for students desiring to live and work in English-speaking countries of
the West. What is the goal of learning English in such detailed fashion,
if the learners would not be able to contextualize their learning also
to the native language contexts and environs?
The illustrations are effective and appropriate for Malaysian culture
but fail to give a visual representation of the Western world, even though
one of the goals of the textbook is to introduce students to the world.
Students are not necessarily taught how to operate within Western society.
Instead, Malaysian bumper stickers and road signs are pictured, and crosswalks
are taught as "zebra crossings" (p.64-65). Marriage customs
are taught in regards to Malaysian culture (p.15), sample phone numbers
are Malaysian style (p. 91), and Malaysian names and currency are used throughout
the book (p.42). The text is slightly biased toward Muslim religion, but
the authors do try to give space for other beliefs. For instance, after
a writing exercise on one of Islam's celebrations, the students are encouraged
to write about festivals from other religions, such as the Chinese New
Year or Christmas (p.11). Still, throughout the exercises students are
most often asked to describe their own culture (p.28). Lessons on American/Western
culture might be practical help for many students who may be seeking higher
speaking education in countries like the United States, U.K., and Australia,
to name a few.
Not only is the bias toward Malaysian culture prevalent, but it seems
that the authors promote a certain lifestyle, seemingly at the expense
of teaching vital language skills. Chapters 3 and 4 promote a healthy
and safe lifestyle, respectively. While these are not bad topics to discuss
in a language textbook, teenagers clearly become the target audience in
chapter 3, and many exercises focus around advice that parents would teach
their children, such as not taking candy from strangers (p.55). Adults
using the material may feel like they are being treated as children through
the content given.
At one point in chapter 3 students are asked to find out about the eating
habits of their classmates with the motive of conforming unhealthy habits
to healthy standards (p.39). This direct confrontation of a student's
lifestyle arguably borders on intimidation. Chapter 9 focuses on keeping
the environment clean and chapter 10 teaches charity and community service.
Chapter 6 teaches about smart shopping, but the focus is still upon Malaysian
life skills. The following chapter talks about being "Proud to
be a Malaysian," and another chapter entitled "We Did It"
is devoted to an elucidation of the greatness of Malaysia and its people.
While there is nothing wrong with having pride in one's nation, one wonders whether such matters
are appropriate subjects for a TESOL textbook when the primary purpose
is to learn English for communication with people of another culture.
English Form 1 is strong on ideology but weaker
on teaching specific language skills that are necessary for surviving
in the English speaking world. Even so, many strengths are found in the
ways in which the four basic language skills are taught, as emphasized
in the content-specific sections addressed henceforth.
By starting the book with speaking exercises, listening automatically becomes involved from the very beginning, which is what one would hope to find in a TESOL textbook (p.1-2). A specific section in each chapter is devoted to the listening skill. Passages are provided at the end of the textbook for teachers to read to the class, and comprehension questions are usually given as a writing assignment (v.8,24). Most listening practice comes from interaction with classmates, which can thus be extended to interaction with the outside world. Some attention is given in the text to the discrimination of similar sounds, which should be a major part of all listening practice (Thirumalai 40). Thus, the listening practice succeeds in maintaining a level of real-life relevance and helps students with segmental sounds. Additional basic skills will be ingrained in the students as they listen to the speech and basic commands of the instructor.
Conversation is utilized from the very first page. Students are asked
to speak about their family, which allows them to address a subject that
is familiar and comfortable to them as they warm up to their classmates
and the English language. Subsequent chapters often focus on getting to
know the other students through speaking (p.1-2). However, even these
familiar subjects will likely be difficult for beginning students to speak
about in English, and the text does not provide for a rising degree of
difficulty in the speaking exercises. The deficiency is somewhat made
good when substitution and repetition are emphasized, and students are
asked to create new sentences using a certain pattern: "My father
is tall," "My father is short," and so on (p.7). According to Thirumalai in his introductory book on teaching English
as a second language, "substitution of a word, phrase, or sentence
by another is an elementary method which helps students to produce new
utterances and to develop speaking skill" (60).
are practiced in chapter 2, such as accepting and declining invitations,
inviting someone into one's home, apologizing, and complementing (p.20-21).
Speaking poetry helps students develop the rhythm of English (p.31), and
intonation is directly taught when students are asked to read a dialogue
and properly inflect their voices to portray what the character is feeling
(v.32). Role play is another tool utilized (p.14). Each chapter has a
special emphasis on pronunciation, focusing upon segmental sounds that
will be difficult for students learning English, such as s-sh and b-p.
Minimal pairs and tongue twisters are often taught to help with pronunciation
practice (p.25, 73), and singing is even utilized in one chapter (p.73).
The speaking skill appears to be a particular strength of this textbook.
According to the introduction to English Form 1,
"in the Reading section, margin questions encourage students to think
as they read. The last activity in the section helps students to relate
what they have read to their own lives while a Review section helps them
to assess mastery of what they have learned. In the Literature section,
different texts and activities are used to help students understand and
enjoy creative use of language" (Chitravelu, et al., xv). According
to Thirumalai, a good reading lesson should include an introduction to
the text, followed by the passage, comprehension tasks, and review and
related exercises (128). This is in fact the exact model followed by the
passage found on p.27-28. Many of the reading passages may not be inherently
practical, but the variety of literature presented is certain to hold
the interest of the students. Styles include folk tales (p.9), poetry
(p.14), and newspaper articles (p.58). The authors also integrate Western
authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harper Lee as one of their only obvious
links to Western culture (p.26-28).
In accordance with the intent of the authors, writing exercises are given
in such a way that accommodates students at different levels of writing
skill. However, only limited emphasis is given upon mechanics of writing
(such as capital letters and punctuation - p.7), and no help is given
in writing letters and constructing basic sentences. Hence the textbook
prescribes intermediate to advanced writing skill from the very beginning.
One of the first writing exercises has the students punctuate a paragraph
of such difficulty that many American students (mother tongue learners
of English) entering high school would struggle with the task (p.7).
Fill-in-the-blanks and freestyle writing are accented throughout the
textbook (p.5), and some practical skills are emphasized, such as the
mechanics behind writing a letter (p.12). However, without building a
foundation of writing mechanics at the beginning stages, students may
end up practicing poor writing habits in all of their freestyle exercises.
Instructors will be responsible for providing further guidance.
In summary, the English Form 1 textbook successfully
teaches the four basic language skills, although the difficulty of the
exercises will exceed the skill of novices in the English language. While
the authors do structure their book to help students become successful
learners, they limit their instruction to the context of Malaysian culture,
inserting a great deal of ideology while neglecting their primary task
of teaching English skills that will be useful in the context of the broader
outside world. All in all, English Form 1 is
a helpful resource for advancing the aptitude of students who are in the
process of learning English as a second language.
Chitravelu, Nesamalar, et al. English Form 1. Ed. Seow Ai Ti Angeline. Malaysia: PTS Publications, 2002.
Thirumalai, M. S. An Introduction to TESOL. Experimental Lecture Text. Minneapolis: Bethany College of Missions, 2001.
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