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CATESOL Book Review: Working with Text and Around Text in Foreign Language Environments, Editors Halina Chodkiewicz, Piotr Steinbrich and Małgorzata Krzeminska-Adamek

Michelle Skowbo

Working with Text and Around Text in Foreign Language Environments
Editors Halina Chodkiewicz, Piotr Steinbrich and Małgorzata Krzeminska-Adamek

Image book cover working with text and around text in foreign language environments springer

By Sumood Almawoashi, Amel Farghaly and Kara Mac Donald 

As language teachers and curriculum developers, we work with pedagogic, semi-authentic and authentic texts on a regular basis. These texts are receptive input for learners; they serve as a model for creating their own written texts and as resources for teaching language, reading and writing. This text is divided into three sections addressing the receipt of L2 written input, the creation of L2 output and the analysis of texts for learning and language development.

Part I: Receiving Text

Principles of Task Design in Reading for Polish Learners of English as a Foreign Language 
By Maria Dakowska
Author, Maria Dakowska, discusses  sources of reading orientation (psycholinguistic processes involved in reading) and didactic functions (reading task strategies) to form a framework that can serve as a guiding principle for reading task design for future EFL teachers. In doing so, she “deconstructs'' two inextricable aspects of reading: decoding and understanding. Dakowska begins by arguing for reading comprehension as a special case of verbal communication, and states that information processing in reading is not only cognitive, but also meaning-based and, in fact, involves the “whole-person”. She highlights the breadth of processes utilized to achieve reading comprehension as ranging from parsing all the way to personalizing and evaluating. In keeping to her stated goal, she ends with a repertoire of reading comprehension processes (as well as enhancements of them for the EFL learner) and provides an array of tasks for the different stages of a reading class (pre-reading, reading, and post-reading), as a means to guide future EFL teachers.

Mental Model Theories in Reading Research and Instruction
By Monika Kusiak-Pisowacka
The author focuses on how expository text formats have been applied in our field. As she reviews the history of mental model perspectives, she highlights the shift from motor processes to mental and cognitive reading processes, and the focus on “propositions” or the ideas behind the words, rather than the words themselves. Subsequent mental model theories emphasized both texts, as well as the reader’s strategy skill set that s/he uses to comprehend a text. The author showcases Britton’s (1994) grammar of exposition model in which there is a clear “interactive nature '' between the text writer and the reader and cites it as the inspiration for her study. Kusiak-Pisowacka’s think aloud study examines textual structure and reading comprehension of proficient readers of Polish (L1) and high level readers of English (L2) when reading authentic expository texts. The think aloud data identified two types of propositions used by participants: “partial” and “final.” These 2 propositions, respectively, illustrate “initial” and “complete” comprehension of the texts by participants.

Finally, she stresses the pedagogic importance of mental models as they elucidate the dynamic relationship between 1) text properties and writer signals, and 2) readers’ strategies for EFL learners.

On Texts Interesting to Read in Foreign Language Teaching
By Halina Chodkiewicz
Chodkiewicz explores the construct of “interest” in reading & learning in L2/FL settings, and maintains that while there is no standardized definition of what constitutes an interesting text, there is general consensus about its cruciality to a successful classroom experience. As the author examines interest, she delineates a line, at times overlooked, between “individual” interest (a personal characteristic) vs. “situation” interest (related to the context or environment). The author argues it is misleading to limit “text interest” to a set of static text features. Such a view ignores the process of meaning construction when a text is received by a reader. Instead, she maintains that reader-text interest plays a key role in promoting successful reading comprehension. Researchers highlight different components of reader-text interest, such as ease of comprehension, text cohesion, vividness, engagement, readers’ prior knowledge, among others. Pedagogically, Chodkiewicz stresses that when students read texts that are interesting to them, they are able to process reading texts at a deeper level, and are able to offer a better representation of the text and its recall. 
The Learning Potential of Study Questions in TEFL Textbooks

By Anna Kiszczak
Kizczak, emphasizes the unquestionable benefit for readers when they utilize strategies. Working with study questions while following a text is the popular strategy that is examined in this article. She identifies various question levels based on their complexity (e.g., high level vs. low level questions), as outlined in various taxonomies in the field. 

Kizczak highlights the fact that question-directed reading guides students to sections that are particularly salient, thus helping them achieve deeper processing and knowledge building. At the same time, she concedes the shortage of studies that investigate the quality of such questions.

Kizczak conducted a small-scale study using three EFL/SLA academic textbooks used at the university level in Poland. She used Graisser & Person’s (1994) taxonomy of questions to analyze: 1) the proportion of questions within each question category in the taxonomy, and 2) the proportions of the particular subcategories of questions. Results showed that “deep” questions category was the most common in the textbooks used.  Additionally, “judgmental questions”—a subcategory of “deep questions—were the leading question type used. For the classroom, Kizczak maintains that teachers should not only focus on the content of texts, but also on the range of tasks, or study questions, accompanying them. Also, teachers should be equipped with the skill to analyze the quality of questions.

Learner Perception of Academic Register at the Undergraduate Level
By Ewa Guz
The chapter begins by underscoring the importance of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at colleges today, and captures the complexity of academic literacy by arguing that beyond the basic “lexico-grammatical knowledge", students also need control of competencies, such as academic discourse and register awareness. Relatedly, she reports on her study that seeks insight into Polish undergraduate students’ beliefs and perceptions regarding EAP within their academic settings. Data were collected at the beginning, middle and at the end of their study time (one year). Participants identified “the use of specialized vocabulary”, “nature of topics covered”, and “text organization/structure”, as key features of academic literacy. Midway through the course, a large number of students cited “comprehension difficulty in relation to their cognitive effort” as a key challenge; however, this point disappears at the final data collection point. Guz thus points out that EAP courses do provide academic skills important to students at the tertiary level, and this is reflected in student perceptions. Guz also points out that through the student data negative attitudes emerged regarding academic texts (e.g., text complexity) and even the authors. By the end of the course, this attitude shifts and becomes more of an attitude that concedes the presence of distinctive features of academic writing. 

Assessment of Language Learners’ Spoken Texts: Overview of Key Issues
By Miroslaw Pawlak
Pawlak asserts that speaking is seen by scholars as the key manifestation of “knowing” a language, hence its undeniable importance. One, among many, of the factors that makes speaking complex is the necessity of merging both “declarative” and “procedural” knowledge in order to “deploy” comprehensible and contextually appropriate language in real time. Pawlak reviews the literature, and maintains interactionist approaches and sociocultural theory subscribers, among others, have pushed the teaching and learning of speaking into the spotlight for decades. He summarizes the dilemma facing educators: they are cognizant of the need to create opportunities that encourage learning of speaking, yet, they face the challenge of conducting instruction in such a way that supports the multitude of factors ranging from lexico-grammatical issues to the less tangible variables such as socio-pragmatics. In reviewing a repertoire of speaking assessment tools ranging from non-participatory to participatory ones, Pawlak emphasizes the challenge of creating clear-cut criteria that accurately assess such a wide range of tools. Among these challenges are the role of corrective feedback that is often overlooked during speaking assessment, as well as the concern of negative “washback” on instruction. Finally, he calls on teachers, in light of their time pressure in the classroom, to explore  alternative assessment options to assess students. At the same time, he cautions that opportunities for alternative means of communication must be context specific, rather than a “one-size fits all” approach.

Part II: Constructing Text

“In This Paper I Will Prove…”: The Challenges Behind Authorial Self-Representation in L2 Undergraduate Research Paper Writing
By Magdalena Trpczynska
Trpczynska discusses the presence of the self in academic writing, as the writer’s beliefs and arguments are always present, and so academic writing cannot be truly void of the author’s voice. Often it is through writing that the identity of the writer develops and emerges through the creation of a text. Professional writers often include their voice in academic writing and manage the balance between neutrality and their voice, but this can be challenging for L2 writers, and it’s impacted by a complexity of factors. The author highlights many of these challenges, one being that they are novice academics in their field and are learning a new genre of written discourse. The remainder of the chapter outlines a study examining the use of first-person pronouns as a function of reflecting author identity in undergraduate research papers, regarding distribution, rhetorical function, types of verbs in conjunction with such pronouns, and semantic connotations. Despite being a small study, the results did show that the writers were hesitant to reveal their author presence and limited the occurrences of presentation of the self. When present, they served a rhetorical function. Writers tended to not overuse pronouns to expose their author voice.

Creating Academic Text: The Use of Lexical Syntagms by L2 Undergraduate Students of English
Piotr Steinbrich
The author begins with establishing that English is the dominant language for the sharing and distribution of academic knowledge, and journals published in author dominant languages are increasingly replaced by ones published in English. As a consequence, it is necessary to explore academic register and teach L2 writers the ability to notice its characteristics and produce such writing as the register is very distinctive. In the middle of the 1900’s the analysis and function of formulaic language took hold with a focus on the lexical composition and semantic/structural approaches. The lexical composition approach understands that words take on their meaning from those they occur with. The semantic approach examines syntagms (i.e., a linguistic unit consisting phonemes, lexical items and phrases) in meaning making outside of grammar structure. The structural approach examines syntagms with structure as the meaning is influenced by grammar. Next the author outlines the types of syntagms in academic writing: prefabs, fixed phrases, collocations, collocations complexes, and lexical bundles. Steinbrich then outlines his study examining how L2 novice academic English writers use lexical syntagms. He shares the findings, including how awareness of academic discourse assists L2 writers in producing academic writing.

The Use of Citations in Research Articles Written by Polish and English Native-Speaker Writers
By Katarzyna Hryniuk
Academic texts exist as a network of literature in the field and are very  much associated with a discipline specific and social process of disseminating knowledge. Consequently, citation is a principal characteristic of academic writing. Hryniuk presents research on the function and value of citations, format conventions. Some examples she offers are i) there are double the number of citations in humanities and social sciences compared to scientific publications, ii) direct quotes as well are more common in humanities and social sciences, iii) tendencies of integral and non-integral citations are explored in different fields, iv) frequency of verbs used in citing research, etc., along with an extensive discussion of research exploring the use of citations across fields are examined.  Nyrniuk then presents her study of a corpus analysis of published articles in applied linguistics by native English and Polish speakers. The questions he explores are: i) what are the differences in citation types, ii) are there differences in the presence of citations in the research article sections? The corpus consisted of 20 articles from each language, where the author examined integral and non-integral citations and the percentage of their use on the Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion and Conclusion. The differences between the use of citations among the two language publication groups are shared, with implications for novice L2 writers to understand the function and rhetorical role of citations in academic writing and highlighting that they need to recognize that academic writing is embedded in a social function and process.

Creating Text Together – Collaborative Writing in Polish Secondary School
By Krzysztof Kotula
After highlighting the field’s value of collaborative writing, the author presents the finding from four principal studies on the practice, followed by its use since Web 2.0 (i.e., mid-2000s) and common challenges with using the practice. Noting that most collaborative writing project among language learners are done in pairs, Kotula’s research aimed to understand if collaborative writing projects could be engaging and effective in larger groups. In his case, he explored groups of three in creating a lengthy story using a web-based collaborative writing platform. His study asked: i) how do students interact and stay engaged in the writing process, ii) how does group interaction unfold, and  iii) what influences students’ views of the collaborative writing process. His participants were 27 high school language learners, working in nine groups of three. The outcomes of the study based on the above stated questions are shared, with implications for collaborative writing projects in larger groups using a web-based platform.

Gap-Filling in English as L2 as a Form of Text Construction Using Contextual Cues
By Teresa Maria Włosowicz
The chapter shares a study investigating the use of gap-fill activities with master L2 students in a non-language specific course. The notion of gap-fill is described along with some challenges students can face in completing such activities and the research on lexical retrieval. The author first presents work on bi- and multilingual mental lexicons, exploring how lexical items are stored and retrieved. Then, she discusses L2 reading comprehension and writing, and gap-fill activities. Gap-fill activities require good reading comprehension and  strong bottom-up processing. Learners need to grasp meaning from the text, understand the topic and meaning beyond the sentence level, and engage with paragraph relationships to be able to complete the gap-fill. Next, the author examines other factors that impact comprehension: context, mental models and relevance theory. The aforementioned study, 52 students participated in two gap-fill activities, a multiple-choice test, a flexible gap-fill task and a questionnaire about the activities. The results are described along with implications for the writing instruction.

Part III: Deconstructing Text

Texts as Vocabulary Networks
By Paul Meara
The third part of the book focuses on Deconstructing Text.  It begins with a chapter by Paul Meara titled Text as Vocabulary Networks.  In this study, the researcher explores the co-citation method to investigate the possibility of the co-occurrence of words in texts, which may eventually help students learn vocabulary as grouped entities.  To do that, he studied two classic children's stories characterized by simple, repetitive narrative structures.  He analyzed the words that repeatedly co-occur together and created maps with nodes. Aiming for a more solid answer to his research question, he eliminated the nodes with more predictable words like connectors and prepositions. Focusing on the less predictable vocabulary, the study concluded that there is an obvious tendency for clustering among semantically and functionally similar words. The study concludes that clustering might be an essential characteristic of words and texts and an effective tool for vocabulary acquisition in foreign language classes. However, the researcher chose texts full of repetition for his analysis. Consequently, he identifies an unanswered question for future research:  What about less repetitious and formulaic texts? could they have the same results?

Applying Corpus Linguistics and Conversation Analysis in the Investigation of Small Group Teaching in Higher Education
By Steve Walsh
The second chapter in this part investigates the interactions between tutors and students in small-group teaching (SGT). It uses a combined approach of Corpus Linguistics and Conversation Analysis to identify frequent linguistic features and interactional contexts. The study discusses four context areas. First, organizational talk, where the tutors explain procedural matters, such as setting dates, is understood as authoritative talk. Instructional talk relies heavily on IRF: “initiation by the teacher, the response by the learner, feedback by teacher.” Discursive talk provides a space where the learner is more willing to participate in the conversation. Lastly, argumentative talk encourages individualized thinking and arguing about concepts; however, it doesn’t happen often in tutor-student interactions. The researcher emphasizes the importance of educating the tutors to develop greater "interactional competence" to enrich interactive teaching. This dual analysis of CL CA has produced a rich body of findings revealing interaction patterns between tutors and students that wouldn't have been able to be uncovered using a singular method. 

Language Teachers Working with Texts: Increasing Target Language Awareness of Student Teachers with Do-it-yourself Corpus Research
By Jaroslaw Karjka
This chapter explores the possibility of increasing foreign language teachers’ awareness through data-driven learning and corpus linguistics. This study builds on the foundation that if teachers develop language awareness (LA), they can instill this in their students and turn them into “language discoverers.” Fifteen graduate students in their final year of majoring in English at a university in Poland participated in this study with data collection consisting of a final essay, quizzes, and a follow-up interview.  The study revealed varied degrees of understanding regarding corpus linguistics and how it could be effective in foreign language classes. This finding indicates a further need to train teachers before they can comprehend the new technology-based instruction procedures, in this case, the do it yourself strategy. Only then can they effectively create a classroom environment that provides students with that awareness to enable them to be autonomous learners. He concludes that there is a need to empower teachers to work with texts to become language analysts and investigators, so more training for teachers is ideal to improve their students’ outcome.

Meaning-Making Practices in EFL Classes in Private and State Schools: Classroom Interaction and Bilingualism Policy in Columbia
By Silvia Valencia Giraldo
The fourth chapter of Part III explores the pedagogical practices inside foreign language classrooms and how meaning is being constructed by the teacher and the learner in private and public schools in Colombia, following the national initiative to convert the capital city into a bilingual city. The study provides a rich body of data analysis due to the large number of participants considered in it: (three private and five state schools, with 35 students in each group ranging from first to fourth graders).  Investigating teacher-student interaction in private and public schools, this qualitative study found that classes are fundamentally traditional in using the IRF method: “initiation by the teacher, the response by the learner, feedback by teacher.”  Nevertheless, the study points out an emerging effort to expand student interaction. Additionally, teachers and students were transitioning from English to Spanish to confirm understanding and negotiate meaning making.  The study concludes that teachers are concentrating on correctly using grammar and punctuation in speaking and writing.  With the national policy in mind, teachers' focus leans towards accuracy rather than fluency. Moreover, the research highlights that the content material is restricted to the textbook.  However, there are efforts to increase student-teacher interaction by increasing the hours for English in the curriculum.

L1 Use in the Foreign Language Primary Classroom – Pre-service Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices
By Malgorzata Tetiurka
The fifth chapter discusses Malgorzata Tetiuorka's research on pre-service teachers' beliefs and practices regarding using the mother tongue in the primary foreign language classroom. The study followed the emerging modern methodologies of the 20th century in teaching foreign languages that focus on communication and fluency rather than the traditional translation-based classes aiming towards accuracy. The research involved 34 Polish pre-service trainees, and the data collection utilized various resources. Giving them a chance to reflect on their own recorded teaching experience inside the classroom showed that there were instances where there was a lack of awareness among teachers regarding their practices inside the classroom, leading to the recommendation of awareness-raising activities for pre-service teachers as a helpful tool to identify their areas of improvement.

Should We Blame Machine Translation for the Inadequacy of English? A Study on the Vocabulary of Family and Relationships
By Levent Uzun
The last chapter explores a study comparing translations of the vocabulary of family and relationships used by Turkish learners of English to family and relationships vocabulary by machine translation. It relays that language expression is closely connected to cultural background and that the inadequacy of the lexicon in the target language is caused by a lexical void, which leads to a lack of appropriate vocabulary. The study concluded that there are cultural problems in translation due to the cultural differences regarding family relationships, which English falls short of conveying.  The study highlights the lexical voids in translation from Asian languages into English. Collecting data from students' reports about family relations and comparing it to technology-generalized translation, Uzun found that manual translations were more accurate and clearer than machine-produced translations, which lacked lexical richness.


Whether a classroom language teacher, curriculum developer, or post-secondary writing instructor, this text is a valuable resource. Although the content in some chapters looks at academic research writing, the chapters cover elements of interacting with and producing texts from the primary and secondary level as well. Even undergraduate and post-graduate L2 writers can gain insight into how the field of academic discourse in English functions to inform their own insights and writing.