You are on page 1of 4


profundity and value in Dörnyei’s arguing in favour of the application of

mixed methods.

Reviewed by Hong Zhong and Huhua Ouyang

Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China

Downloaded from at INFLIBNET N List Project (College Model) on August 27, 2010
doi:10.1093/applin/amq023 Advance Access published on 29 June 2010

Berns, M. and K. Matsuda. 2008. ‘Applied lin- Hatch, E. and H. Farhady. 1982. Research Design
guistics: overview and history’ in A. Anderson and Statistics for Applied Linguistics. Rowley.
et al. (eds): Encyclopedia of Language & Lave, J. and E. Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning:
Linguistics. Vol. 1. 2nd edn. Shanghai Foreign Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge
Language Education Press. University Press.


LEARNING. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

During the past decades, there has been a steady increase in the number of
Second Language Acquisition (SLA) studies in which the use of tasks is a
central theme. Many of these studies try to reveal clear-cut and direct rela-
tionships between task features (e.g. complexity) and specific aspects of lan-
guage learning. In order to research specific hypotheses, the conditions of task
implementation are kept under control, so as to prevent all kinds of disturbing
variables from intervening between task features and the independent vari-
able. ‘Task’ is treated as a fixed variable: all learners carry out one and the same
task, and the assumption is that there is a fixed effect on language learning. In
authentic classrooms, however, tasks are far less under the control of teachers
and learners. Tasks therefore should not be perceived as fixed entities, but
rather as behaving like highly flexible material that can take on different ex-
istential guises as they pass through the minds and mouths of their users. A
central question in task-based research is what this entails for the relationship
between tasks (in the classroom) and language learning. In other words, to
what extent do the many variables that are intrinsic to natural interaction in
real classrooms have an impact on the task’s potential to stimulate language
learning? Samuda and Bygate’s book tackles these topics theoretically and
through research. The research selected for discussion comes from both per-
spectives (experimental and controlled designs versus natural, ‘real-life’ con-
texts), with a strong focus on classroom-based studies which research
pedagogic tasks. Although the book focuses on tasks in classrooms, the
intended audience are researchers, not teachers or practitioners.

The introductory chapters describe theoretical and conceptual aspects of

task-based language teaching (TBLT) from a historical viewpoint. The fact
that tasks require holistic language use is something that educational theorists
like Dewey and Freinet acknowledged a long time ago. The major challenge in
education, and a central issue in this book, is how to find a balance between
focusing on certain aspects of language to enhance learning and not losing

Downloaded from at INFLIBNET N List Project (College Model) on August 27, 2010
sight of the holistic qualities of ‘normal’ language use. Here, the authors could
have elaborated more on the fact that especially in Freinet and contemporary
experience-based education, finding this balance is a particular pressure point.
To illustrate what tasks are, and the forms they can take in classrooms, the
authors use for example the ‘things in pockets’-task. Defining what tasks are
does not seem to be simple and straightforward, and more attention could
have been paid to the distinction between a task-as-work plan and a
task-in-process (Breen 1987). Interesting is the way in which the authors
compare different definitions, and describe critical task features. They arrive
at their own definition: ‘A task is a holistic activity which engages language use
in order to achieve some non-linguistic outcome while meeting a linguistic
challenge, with the overall aim of promoting language learning, through pro-
cess or product or both’ (p. 69). This definition captures the essence of tasks,
but it does not tell us much about the (social) learning environment in which
learners are confronted with particular tasks, an aspect which remains neg-
lected throughout the book. Tasks can only be powerful if learners are facing
them in a positive and safe language learning environment and when they
receive fine-tuned interactional support (Verhelst 2006).
In the next chapters, the authors deal with real classroom settings by ex-
panding on tasks in pedagogical contexts. They do so first of all from a research
perspective, by setting a particular agenda. Their overview of different
approaches towards the study of tasks is indicative of different paradigms:
systemic versus process-oriented research, group versus case studies and quan-
titative versus qualitative studies. Samuda and Bygate evaluate the paradigms
without favouring one in particular. They try to reconcile them and the
nuance this results in is certainly a strength throughout this book. A ‘balance
sheet’ identifies relevant studies about pedagogic tasks, with the conclusion
that there is too little research and that this research tends to be undertaken in
a rather unsystematic way.
The second part of the book is devoted to the interaction between research
and practice. Empirical studies are explored critically and described in terms of
theoretical and practical implications. The eight studies selected rely on differ-
ent methodologies in distinct paradigms. The authors are right to advocate
studies that are contextualized, that deal with the actual use of tasks (by teach-
ers and learners in authentic settings) and also involve classroom processes
(not only outcomes). Several examples are given of projects implementing
TBLT. One of them is the project in Flanders, in which The Leuven Centre
for Language and Education developed and implemented a task-based pro-
gramme in regular and adult education (Van den Branden 2006). Although

the authors state that the Flemish project is extremely well-documented, they
also highlight the fact that very little is known about the impact and effects on
language learning. This lack of effect studies about TBLT is a widespread point
of criticism. Norris (2009) points out that effect studies should be embedded in
programme evaluation and be related to the situated realities of task-based
teaching and learning. In contrast, as the authors mention, there are not

Downloaded from at INFLIBNET N List Project (College Model) on August 27, 2010
many fully developed TBLT-programmes to study.
Samuda and Bygate make a distinction between TBLT and task-supported
language teaching (TSLT). In TSLT, the use of tasks is only one element in
instruction, whereas, in TBLT, tasks are the only pedagogic activities. The au-
thors describe some problems with TSLT and the risk of devaluating tasks. An
existing danger for TBLT is indeed the fuzziness and creative use of the concept
in daily practice (cf. Van den Branden and Verhelst 2006). In the ‘real’ world of
language education, today TBLT comes in many shapes and forms. ‘Task’
serves as a basic unit which guides the identification and selection of goals,
syllabus design, classroom methodology and language assessment and will be
defined by practitioners in numerous ways, ranging from the things that
people do in real life to focused grammar exercises which are designed to
automate the learner’s knowledge of particular isolated rules. Samuda and
Bygate make clear that tasks should be described as activities that people
engage in to achieve certain (real-life) objectives and which necessitate the
meaningful use of language. The authors further explore the strength of tasks
as pedagogic tools.
In the last chapters, Samuda and Bygate provide some research directions
and list possible resources. Potential directions for future research are for ex-
ample the relation between task design, use and grammar, the interactive
processes while carrying out tasks, the need for differentiated teaching strate-
gies for different language aspects, and the views of both teachers and learners
on tasks. Although the research agenda is already very broad, some topics are
not listed. Future research should also deal with TBLT and young children, the
impact of social relations on TBLT, the functional use of the home language in
task-based second language teaching, etc. The list of resources is very interest-
ing, because it brings together relevant books and journals, expert organiza-
tions, databases and materials, all resources that are interesting enough to be
put on a TBLT-website (that is under construction).
Overall, this book is inspiring material for anyone in the field of language
teaching. The richness of well-chosen examples, the clarity and balance in the
description of benefits and pressure points of TBLT, make this book a worth-
while publication.

Reviewed by Machteld Verhelst

The Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
doi:10.1093/applin/amq020 Advance Access published on 29 June 2010

Breen, M. 1987. ‘Learner contributions to task Theory to Practice. Cambridge University Press,
design’ in C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds): pp. 217–48.
Language Learning Tasks. Prentice Hall, Van den Branden, K. and M. Verhelst. 2006.
pp. 23–46. ‘Task-based language education: forms and
Norris, J. M. 2009. ‘Understanding and functions,’ ITL International Journal of Applied
improving language education through Linguistics 152: 1–6.

Downloaded from at INFLIBNET N List Project (College Model) on August 27, 2010
program evaluation: Introduction to the Verhelst, M. 2006. ‘A box full of feelings:
special issue,’ Language Teaching Research 13/1: Promoting infants’ second language acquisition
7–13. all day long’ in K. Van den Branden (ed.):
Van den Branden, K. 2006. ‘Training teachers: Task-based Language Teaching: From Theory to
Task-based as well?’ in K. Van den Branden Practice. Cambridge University Press,
(ed.): Task-based Language Education: From pp. 197–216.

H. Spencer-Oatey and P. Franklin: INTERCULTURAL INTERACTION:

COMMUNICATION. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Using examples of intercultural interaction from different disciplines such as

anthropology, communication, psychology, marketing, management, and
applied linguistics, the authors of this book have managed to present an excit-
ing exploration of the theme of ‘becoming intercultural’ for both academic and
non-academic readers. The main purpose of this book is to develop a multi-
disciplinary approach which brings insights from applied linguistics, pragmat-
ics, and discourse analysis to the analysis of intercultural behaviours in
interactions. However, the book comes with a distinct focus on intercultural,
rather than interaction. It consists of four parts: Conceptualizing Intercultural
Interaction (Chapters 2–7), Promoting Competence in Intercultural Interaction
(Chapters 8 and 9), Researching Intercultural Interaction (Chapters 10 and
11), and Resources (Chapter 11).
The first part, which begins with a multidisciplinary approach to the notions
of culture and intercultural interaction competence, explores the role of (mis)un-
derstandings and rapport management towards effective intercultural inter-
action and culminates in a discussion of two outcomes of cultural difference:
the encounter with an unfamiliar culture and impression management in
intercultural interactions. In Chapter 2, the authors review different frame-
works and ways of identifying and comparing ‘culture’ in different societies. A
social construction perspective is invoked only as a justification for the vari-
ability of cultures, constructed by sets of regularities in different contexts.
Without these regularities, social construction itself cannot explain the emer-
gence of culture in societies and social groups. In fact they would not agree
with Blommaert that ‘culture. . . is always situational’ (Blommaert 1998: 37).
However, social constructivism, as a way of understanding the world, can be