June 2009 Foreword

Welcome to the June issue of 2009. The first part of this issue, containing three papers, is dedicated to L2 Listening. Our Associate Editor, Jeremy Cross, has taken on full editorial responsibilities for this section. The remaining six papers reflect the diversity of cultures and research processes that we publish in our standard quarterly issue.

L2 Listening Foreword by Jeremy Cross
The past decade has seen increasing interest in L2 listening pedagogy and related research. Yet, as the small number of papers presented here reflect, the amount of research into this skill in the Asian context remains, comparatively speaking, rather low. Prior to introducing the papers, I would like to offer special thanks to Peter Burden, Maria Belien Diez-Bedmar and Afeefa Banu who provided peer reviews for papers submitted. The three papers cover a number of contemporary themes in L2 listening research.
Firstly, in Engineering Lectures in a Second Language: What Factors Facilitate Students Listening Comprehension?, Lindsay Miller explores the perceptions, concerns, and preferred lecturer strategies of a group of Hong Kong, tertiary-level, engineering students who attend lectures given in English. Data from journals, focus groups and interviews, which formed part of a large-scale ethnographic study, was used to establish the dimensions which students mentioned as aiding their comprehension of lecture content. Miller categorizes these positive dimensions as primarily language-related or pedagogy-related, providing an informative and accessible account of students interpretations of helpful features in their lectures in English. He also goes on to identify strategies lecturers can use to make their lectures easier to comprehend. As such, this paper offers useful insights into ways in which those teaching in the L2 in academic contexts may maximize students listening comprehension of lecture content.
In the paper by Jeremy Cross entitled Diagnosing the Process, Text, and Intrusion Problems Responsible for L2 Listeners Decoding Errors, a diagnostic approach is employed to determine the text, process, and intrusion problems potentially to blame for decoding errors identified in the written extended responses of Japanese EFL learners who listened to segments of authentic news videotext. Cross orients his study more towards the kind of procedure that can be exploited in the classroom rather than relying on the psycholinguistic laboratory methods often utilized to explore learners decoding processes or problems. The difficulty of attributing decoding errors to one problem source are illustrated in Cross s discussion through the use of examples of common issues encountered by the learners, which were evident in their written responses. Findings revealed learners struggled with cliticisation and resyllabification, phoneme discrimination, and poorly conceived word choices. The paper suggests initial remedial pedagogical interventions, which were derived from the given data analysis, to address these aspects.
The third paper by Ai-hua Chen, Listening Strategy Instruction: Exploring Taiwanese College Students Strategy Development, reports on a study of the effects of a 14-week listening course for beginner to low-intermediate EFL students which included a strategy training component. Entries from reflective journals the students completed at three stages of the instruction provided the raw data for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of students strategy development as the listening course progressed. The journals also acted to mediate their strategy learning in support of the classroom input (along with a task checklist). Chen s quantitative findings for the complete cohort and for groups of students at three levels of proficiency illustrate an increase in the reporting of metacognitive, cognitive, and social/affective strategies. Excerpts from students reflective journals also provide a qualitative perspective on the nature of students strategy use at the different proficiency levels. Although it is important to be cautious about the extent of claims which can be made based on using only one mode of data collection, Chen s use of reflective journals illustrates their potential for gaining insights into the utility of listening courses aimed at promoting learners strategic awareness and control, as well as for complementing those interventions. Of course, though not addressed in this study, it remains to be seen whether strategy instruction actually leads to gains in listening comprehension ability, particularly as establishing such a cause-effect relationship remains problematic.

Foreword Roger Nunn
In Plagiarism by Turkish Students: Causes and Solutions, Odiliea Rocha Erkaya addresses an issue that affects all of us whether as article reviewers or teachers. Using semi-structured interviews, Erkaya attempts to identify causes of plagiarism among Turkish students and propose possible solutions. The two most prevalent causes of plagiarism identified among the students interviewed were lack of awareness about plagiarism and lack of knowledge about writing research papers. The students appear to direct responsibility towards teachers, claiming that they were taught neither what plagiarism meant nor how to develop and structure a research paper. Lack of motivation to do research, lack of freedom to express their opinions or use their own voices, and negative attitude towards writing were other reasons cited. Some of Erkaya s suggestions include informing students about available software and search engines that detect plagiarism and encouraging students to choose interesting current topics for their research papers. My own suggestion is to be fully involved in the early drafting of students writing process in classroom session. Students work in process is displayed and discussed in class.
Esmaeel Abdollahzadeh (The Effect of Rhetorical and Cognitive Structure of Texts on Reading Comprehension) examines the comprehension of different text types by readers at different proficiency levels. The finding that more proficient readers outperform lower level groups in expository and argumentative text comprehension may seem obvious but the importance of the finding is that it provided evidence that certain text types are more difficult for lower-level underachievers. Abdollahzadeh concludes that certain levels of proficiency need to be achieved before these text types can be usefully exploited.
In Promoting Self-assessment Strategies: An Electronic Portfolio Approach Shao-Ting Hung, proposes electronic portfolios as an effective means for learners to monitor their own writing process and to practise a variety of writing strategies at the same time. This study investigates the value of self-assessment by EFL learners. The findings revealed that while self-assessment practices encouraged strategy use and self-directed language learning, involving students in their own grading also raises difficulties that need to be addressed.
Kok Eng Tan, Abdul Rashid Mohamed and Kim Guan Saw (Improving school English in Malaysia through Participation in Online Threaded Discussion Groups) exploit the fact that online communication has become an integral part of the daily lives of many Malaysian adolescents. In their qualitative study of the writing in English by a group of year 10 students they describe some characteristics of the interaction of a group of adolescent boys in an online threaded discussion group, identifying a set of ground rules that were observed to sustain discussion. The paper suggests how the daily practice of students can be put to use by teachers to improve school English.
In Teacher-Student Relationship and the Conceptualization of the Good Language Teacher : Does Culture Matter?, Larisa Nikitina and Fumitaka Furuoka raise an important issue that an international journal would clearly wish to address. Their study considers the preferred qualities of the language teacher as perceived by a cohort of Malaysian university students. While their quantitative analysis appears to indicate that teacher-student relationships are built along clearly identifiable dimensions, qualitative analysis suggests the students perceptions may be less culturally bound than the quantitative results indicate, a finding which might lead us to consider the validity of approaches for this kind of study.
Finally, in Analysis of Communication Strategies used by Freshman Active English Students using YackPack or Homework-based Speaking Tasks, Samuel Andrew Meyerhoff analyzes the progress of speaking ability in Active English (AE) students . He considers both quantity (speech rate, lexical density, etc.) and quality (lexical and grammatical accuracy) of speech, as well as the implementation of communication strategies. His preliminary findings challenge some current assumptions highlighting the need for further research into the roles of planned and unplanned speech on EFL language development.