N is for New edition

16 04 2017

New A-Z of ELT

I started this blog not long after the publication of An A to Z of ELT, with the express purpose of gathering feedback, amendments, corrections and additions for a possible second edition (and as a not-so-subtle way of putting pressure on my publishers to produce such an edition). I’m pleased to say that, just over 10 years down the line, including several periods of concentrated blogging, the second edition is now out – called The New A –Z of ELT. Outwardly resembling the first edition, but running to a hefty 320+ pages, compared to the first edition’s 256, the new edition is – in the words of soap powder marketing – 30% new and improved!

So, what’s different?

First of all there are many new entries, reflecting developments in linguistic theory, language education and, especially, technology over the decade since the first edition appeared. Many of these topics were dealt with in blog posts, especially those – such as othering, imitation, rapport, and coursebook – that attracted a lot of hits; some of them are old topics re-labelled (such as English as an international language, now subsumed under English as a lingua franca, rather than the other way round, and homework re-labelled as self-study). Some topics were just unaccountably missing, even from the index, of the first edition, like language, teacher knowledge, creativity and research. Still others reflect my recent interest in embodied cognition and dynamic systems theories, e.g. gesture, emergence, cognitive grammar and alignment.  And, of course, on-going technological developments prompted entries on adaptive learning, gamification, the flipped classroom, blended learning, mobile learning, and webinar, as well as revisions of entries on computer-assisted language learning, and computer-mediated communication, and a whole new entry simply called educational technology.30%

Other topics that are extensively revised in the light of my own reading and thinking, as well as feedback on the blog, are accuracy, fluency, bilingualism, method, communicative activities, and syllabus. Many of the entries dealing with phonology have been expanded to include more reference to American English (reflecting my own professional relocation).

Some former entries, such as ARC and self-access centre, were deleted from the new edition, on the grounds that they had reached their sell-by date.  By contrast, Demand high and reading aloud are allowed in.

One significant theme that emerged in the re-write was the steady seepage of the language of neoliberalism into the discourse of language teaching: witness outcomes, competencies, life skills, and benchmarking. My discomfort at this development is only thinly disguised. Witness:

Because ‘outcomes’ is a term borrowed from the world of business, it has negative associations for many educationalists, since it conjures up images of the school as a kind of factory, producing undifferentiated learners to order. On the other hand, it satisfies the perception by many stakeholders that educational institutions should be accountable, and meet externally imposed standards.

So, why blog again? For similar reasons as first time round: to encourage the same kind of rich and diverse conversation that informed the writing of the 2nd edition – with a view to a possible 3rd edition – who knows?  And, of course, for shameless self-promotion. (An overtly promotional talk I gave at the IATEFL conference two weeks ago was criticized in some quarters for being – erm – too promotional. As if writers weren’t allowed to promote their own books.)

As in the past, new posts will appear every Sunday morning (European time). All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my publisher. Comments are moderated, so mind your language. I don’t make money from this site: in fact, I pay WordPress to keep the blog ad-free. As recompense, you could, of course, buy the book – available in both print and e-book versions at the end of the month.