What makes TESOL readings difficult for TESOL students?
Willy A Renandya, 5 Jan 2024
Reading TESOL academic texts can be challenging due to technical language and complex concepts. Terms like input/output hypothesis, social constructivism and pragmatic competence are difficult to grasp without specialized knowledge.
Understanding the concept of a task in task-based language teaching, for example, requires delving into seminal works by scholars like N.S. Prahbu, which was further expanded upon by Michael Long and Rod Ellis, with additional refinements discussed by many other scholars.
So what makes TESOL readings challenging for TESOL students?
TESOL scholars vary in their writing styles, with some using formal language and intricate structures. For instance, Norman Fairclough, a critical discourse analysist, employs complex and dense language in discussing sociolinguistic theories. This complexity may pose challenges for readers unfamiliar with such complex language.
Academic texts in TESOL often include specialized vocabulary (e.g., metacognition, lexical chunks, phonological awareness), which can be overwhelming for students. Understanding these terms may require consulting dictionaries like the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching or the Cambridge Dictionary of Linguistics.
Variability in writing styles
Writers adopt different styles based on their audience and purpose. When writing for high-impact journals (e.g., TESOL Quarterly), they tend to use highly academic style characterized by specialized vocabulary and technical jargon and a formal and serious tone. Authors writing for the more practice-oriented journals tend to favour the use of less formal vocabulary and employ a more reader-friendly style.
Complex theories and concepts
TESOL literature delves into intricate theories related to language learning, cognitive processes, and sociocultural issues. Concepts like translanguaging may be confused with similar ideas such as code-switching/mixing, making them challenging for readers lacking prior knowledge in the field.
Unfamiliarity with TESOL contexts
TESOL contexts vary globally, with differences in the teaching of English in the US or the UK (referred to as ESL contexts) compared to Japan, Korea, and Thailand (EFL contexts). Understanding these variations is crucial, as the teaching context influences how English is taught and assessed.
Tips for overcoming the problems above
Here are some helpful tips to overcome the problems:
- Take a quick look at the materials before studying them in detail
- Learn and remember technical words related to TESOL
- Take good notes when you read
- Talk with your classmates about what you are learning
- Divide the content into smaller parts to understand it better.
- Use extra resources (e.g., Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, Google search and ChatGPT)
- Read the same text 2 or 3 times
- Consult more knowledgeable others (e.g., your TESOL professors)