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GLOBAL ISSUES IN LANGUAGE
EDUCATION NEWSLETTER
August 2002 - Issue No. #47 (p.12-16)

NILE:

Newspapers in Language Education

by Takashi Yoshida

Fukushima University, Japan

Motivation

Let me begin by introducing an episode that made me decide to regularly practice NILE (Newspapers in Language Education) in my college English classes in Japan. I call this the 'We Are the World' episode. I experienced this in April 1985 in one of my university EFL classes when I used an article from The Japan Times (an English newspaper published Japan) entitled 'Pop World Has a New Message: A Desire to End Starvation'.

In the first 80 minutes of class, I used a commercial EFL textbook and spent the last 10 minutes on a rapid reading exercise using the article. Then, we listened to and sang together the song 'We Are the World' recorded on the tape I brought while reading from photocopies of the lyrics. I hadn't expected anything to happen until I saw five students (5 out of 60) coming towards me as I was leaving the classroom. They had some money in their hands an d looked very moved by what they had read. They said to me, "Professor Yoshida, please send this money to those children in Africa." This was a small but significant experience that made me decide to introduce global issues into EFL classes using English newspapers.


My stance on NILE

At the outset, I'd like to explain my stance on the theme of 'globalization and foreign language education.' To me, the concept of 'globalization' goes beyond that of spreading the English language on a worldwide scale. Instead, the meaning of 'globalization' is stretched to indicate a particular type of education aimed at developing a global awareness and a sense of global citizenship in the minds of those learning English as a foreign language.

Let me explain the relationship between language teaching and global awareness education. Though both 'can be seen as dialectically connected processes, and this interconnectedness serves for their mutual enrichment' as stated by Valentina Mitina (1990), I, as a language teacher, for the reasons to be discussed later, place the primary emphasis on language teaching and the secondary emphasis on global awareness education.

The progress in foreign language learning that takes place on a day-to-day basis constitutes the short-term objective. Promoting global awareness in the minds oflearners through language teaching is a long-term objective. I feel that, if global awareness is the only goal of education, it may be better taught with richer resources and more effectively by social science teachers teaching racial problems, or natural science teachers teaching environmental problems.

My stance also suggests an instructional emphasis in the foreign language classroom. My contention is: When instructional emphasis is graded along a skills-teaching and global-education continuum, it becomes evident that English newspapers provide us with a wealth of resources which can accommodate both the ideals of language teaching and those of global education. You will also find something more added to my practice of NILE - the dimension of ACTION: involvement in working for a better world (Pike & Selby 1988 quoted by Cates 1990).

Figure 1 (below) shows the relationship of the key concepts in NILE for TEFL.

(English) NEWSPAPER
Primary
Short-term objective
(English) language teaching
Secondary
Long-term objective
Global awareness education
ACTION
Figure 1 Key concepts in NILE (Newspapers in Language Education)

I. Rationale

  • Short-term objective: language teaching:

    Every foreign language teacher tries to find his or her own cause or rationale for teaching within the objectives which are generally acknowledged in the educational setting he or she is in. In Japan, despite the new trend of language teaching for communicative competence, I think the distinctions I propose below better clarify the two opposing objectives in the classic argument of the values ('why' or 'for-what-purposes') of TEFL in Japan. This has been termed the jitsuyo-shugi (utilitarian) vs kyoyo-shugi (cultural) debate. Within Japanese education, these two have been though incompatible. The distinctions I propose clarify the difference between 'teaching' and 'education', making it easier to tell the difference between the short-term teaching objective and long-term educational objective of NILE. These are:

    • Four skills value (listening, speaking, reading, and writing): English language skills as an instrument of communication.
    • Social-cultural value: think of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that language moulds our thinking. By studying about the structure of English, we come to understand why English-speaking people think the way they do.
    • Literary value: The values you receive by reading great literary works.
    • Contrastive value: The value you learn when contrasting differences across two languages and their associated cultures.
    Long-term objective: global education:

    'Global awareness' has been defined as: awareness of world problems such as war, hunger, poverty, oppression, racism, sexism, environmental destruction and of concepts such as peace, justice, human rights, world development, social responsibility and international understanding. (Cates: 1993)

    Besides these serious themes, I add awareness of enjoyable world topics such as sports, fashions, food, music, almost anything and everything that newspaper articles can cover which make students feel like reading and discussing in class. Needless to say, these articles should be comprehensible, relevant, important, and pleasurable for students. My claim as a rationale for NILE is simply:

    1. These articles bear instructional meaning only when they facilitate the primary purpose of our job: students' effective learning and use of a foreign language instance.
    2. Education for global awareness can be embedded in a larger content-based curriculum and accomplished on a long-term basis, ideally in collaboration with other school subjects dealing with global issues. This is the reason why I call global awareness a secondary, long-term, and educational objective as contrasted with the primary, short-term, and teaching objective of NILE. In this respect, the goal of my NILE should be 'Language teaching through peace education' as distinct from the UNESCO Linguapax aim of 'Peace education through language teaching' (Marti, 1996).

    II. Rationale

    1. Background of my teaching:

      My university offers two kinds of EFL courses that all students must take: (a) Oral communication and (b) reading. Each course consists of one 90-minute class per week, with 30 sessions distributed over two semesters (15 sessions per semester). I'm in charge of two reading classes of 55-60 students each year. Their level of English proficiency ranges from scores of 450 to 500 on the TOEFL test. One class comprises economics and social science majors while the other is for education majors. Although a large portion of class time is spent on pronunciation drills, idioms, prepositions, conjunctions, useful phrases, collocations, syntactic patterns, precis writing and creative writing, the principal learning activity is 'reading'.

    2. Schema Theory and Input Hypothesis:

      It seems to me that no theory can provide a better justification for an EFL reading pedagogy that utilizes newspapers than a combination of Schema Theory (Rumelhart/Carrell) and the Input Hypothesis (Krashen).

      • Schema Theory:
        Readers project a series of hypotheses about what they will encounter in a text, then scan ensuing sentences for broad semantic confirmation, only returning for linguistic details when initial readings produce unexpected results (Long and Richards 1987).

      My classroom procedures is as follows. Students are initially told to refrain from too easy access to dictionaries for unknown words and phrases they come across while reading. They're asked to:

      1. pay attention to any illustrations or photos accompanying the article;
      2. pay attention to the headline or sub-headline in boldface;
      3. scan the lead paragraph for the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and 1 H (How);
      4. read the concluding paragraph

      It is only after this preliminary top-down reading activity that students begin to read the body of the article. This process helps students generate and test hypotheses. Often, before letting students tackle the English version, I give articles on the same topic from Japanese newspapers and spend a few minutes discussing these either in Japanese or English. This helps students build knowledge-of-the-world schemata and form their own opinions and predictions about the issue they are going to read about.

      I also use news articles from abroad compiled by AFP, Reuters, AP and other press sources reprinted in "The Global Perspective" column of The Japan Times. The use of both overseas and domestic news coverage has the important side-effect of comparing the different press 'camera angles' between Japan and other countries regarding various incidents in the world. This, I believe, is one of the long-term objectives of global education. An example of contrasting articles on the same issue (the 1997 Japanese hostage crisis in Peru) is the article Reactions: The Lima Rescue (Straights Times, Singapore) vs the article Fujimori Acted Responsibly (Washington Post). These two articles were printed in "The Global Perspective" column of The Japan Times. I also used a number of articles on this issue from the vernacular Japanese press for the sake of comparison.

    3. Comprehensible Input:

      To achieve the above purpose, we need articles that are relevant, interesting and, above all, comprehensible to our students. Krashen's Input Hypothesis states that 'a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for language acquisition to occur is that the acquirer understand (via hearing or reading) input language (i) that contains structures "a bit beyond" (+1) his or her current level of competence.' (= i + 1) Krashen notes: 'If there is enough comprehensible input, enough i + 1 will be automatically provided to allow for successful acquisition. Sufficient quantities of interesting, comprehensible input should supply enough i + 1 for everyone, if the topic is of interest and everyone in the class can follow the discussion.' (Krashen: 1981)

      Newspapers will never run out of such input. The average number of articles printed daily in The Japan Times, according to my count, is 175 -- a veritable treasure trove of teaching material.


    III Action:

    Pike & Selby (1988) cite four dimensions of global education.

    1. Knowledge (Facts about World Problems),
    2. Skills (Tools for Solving World Problems,
    3. Attitudes (Mindframes Needed to Solve World Problems),
    4. Action (Involvement in Working for a Better World)

    The short but powerful motto Think globally, act locally is a good summary of these aims. However, in education, the second part ('act locally') has been neglected or hasn't received enough emphasis. I believe that merely reading, thinking about, discussing, criticizing or getting angry in class at the grave problems of the world within classrooms alone would not bring about any change in our world will not bring about any changes. 'Thinking globally' is necessary but is not enough.

    Let me describe an episode of "action combined with communication skills" that took place in my EFL classroom several years ago. The action started when I used an Oct. 20, 1992 article from The Japan Times in two of my EFL classes. It was about Yoshihiro Hattori, a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who was shot dead when he mistakenly approached a house he thought belonged to a friend who was giving a Halloween party. Shocked at the incident, my students requested that I continue taking up the articles that reported on the further developments of the incident. I bring in more articles on further developments of the incident. I ended up using 20 articles published in both countries that dealt with the investigation, the verdict, the judicial background, defense arguments, the feelings of the dead student's parents and friends, the emotions of the general public in the US and Japan and the various consequences of the incident.

    The articles were in the form of news reports, editorials, commentaries and letters to the editor. These were taken from both Japanese and English newspapers for the purpose of comparing different 'camera-angles.' For me, 'thinking globally' means to be fair about our judgment and not biased. One article in a Japanese newspaper even blamed the EFL profession in Japan for the death of this Japanese student, saying: "You don't teach the phonemic difference between "Freeze" and "Please."

    Above everything, my students seemed extremely shocked at the reality of America being a gun society. Pros and cons were cited by the students when I held English discussions about the legitimacy of gun possession by general citizens. The majority were of the opinion that it's not easy to restrict guns, but that a safe society with no guns is better.

    The crux of this NILE unit came when all the students advocated taking action together against the gun society. 75 students from two EFL classes joined to compose English letters (some anonymous) which were kept in a file titled "Never let it happen again! To the soul of Yoshihiro Hattori." The file was sent to Hattori's parents and I discovered later that it reached them the day before they left Japan for the White House to meet President Clinton. We were sure that our file was handed over to Clinton along with a million signatures collected by the Hattoris about gun control and their son's tragedy.

    I have two reflections on this episode:

    1. I was proud of my students and their action
    2. I was pleased that this was combined with the communication skills of reading and writing.

    In terms of NILE, students thought globally as they read newspapers, and acted locally as they wrote their letters.


    IV Caveats:

    Any EFL approach has shortcomings and NILE is no exception. Here, I'd like to present a few caveats based on my 14-year NILE practice at a Japanese university.

    1. We must always face the 'knowledge vs. use dilemma' or 'content-education vs. skill-teaching paradox.' Simply, the more you're involved in global education and knowledge of the world in the classroom, the more you tend to forget about language teaching, and vice versa. Don't forget that you're a language teacher.
    2. Since "freshness" is the life of NILE, your pre-planned teaching sequence is often disturbed by the "fresh" articles you bring in.
    3. Allegation is dangerous. In order to achieve "freshness", you risk using articles about incidents whose judgment at the time of classroom use may be falsified later.
    4. Lack of sophistication in journalese. I frequently find my knowledge and experience in the language of newspapers insufficient except for basic linguistic conventions of headline phrasing.
    5. There's a risk of a self-satisfying choice of newspaper articles by the teacher. It's difficult to assess students' interest in topics chosen, their knowledge of the world and the their level of English proficiency. Krashen's comprehensible input hypothesis doesn't always work with large EFL classes of mixed proficiency levels.
    6. Doubt about whether The Japan Times motto "All the news without fear or favor" is always practicable or realistic. Are you sure that 'globalization' doesn't mean 'Americanization'? Aren't there camera angles other than those of the articles we choose? Aren't the viewpoints of our chosen articles biased towards English-speaking countries because of the lexical and syntactic structures of the English language itself?

      Global education is an exciting new approach to foreign language teaching which aims at enabling students to effectively acquire and use a foreign language while at the same time empowering them with the knowledge, skills and commitment required by world citizens for the solution of global problems. (Cates: 1993)

    I am aware that there are more caveats and warnings to consider, but my stance is that, all these problems notwithstanding:


    V. Comments from students

    Comments from my students have been both critical and encouraging. The critical comments are found in the caveats above while the positive comments are expressed in the above quote. The general tone of students' feedback was positive enough to make me continue with my NILE practice.


    References

    • Carrel, P. and Eisterhold, J. 1987. Schema theory and ESL reading pedagogy. Methodology in TESOL: a book of readings. ed. by M. Long and J. Richards. New York: Newbury House Publishers.
    • Cates, K. 1992. Commonly asked questions about global education and language teaching. Tottori University Journal of the Faculty of General Education 26. 267-293.
    • Cates, K. 1993. LINGUAPAX, language teaching and global education. The Language Teacher 17. 3-4.
    • Krashen, S. 1981. Effective second language acquisition: insights from research. The second language classroom: directions for the 1980's. ed. by J. Alatis, H. Altman, P. Alatis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • The Language Teacher 17. 1993. Special issue: Global education. The Japan Association of Language Teachers.
    • The Language Teacher 23. 1999. Special issue: Teaching world citizenship in the language classroom. The Japan Association for language teaching.
    • Long, M. and Richards, J. (eds.). 1987. Methodology in TESOL a book of readings. New York: Newbury House Publishers.
    • Marti. F. 1996. Linguapax. languages and peace, The Language Teacher 20. 33-44.
    • Mitina, V. 1990. Peace education in English language teaching in the Soviet Union. TESOL Newsletter 24. 23.
    • Pike and Selby. 1988 in Cates, K. 1990. A global education approach to language teaching. JALT 1990 Conference, Omiya, Japan.
    • Yoshida, T. 1994. Issues of English language education in Japan: 'Kyoyo-shugi' and 'Jitsuyo-shugi' - a search for compatibility. Paper read at The Southern Japan Seminar, Panama City, Fla., U.S.A.


    List of newspaper articles used in 1998

    1. Ban guns, save lives
    2. Japan's problems are the world's problems
    3. Hanami ends in alcohol poisoning
    4. Women in workforce cite gender inequality
    5. Hong Kong: Where have the Japanese gone?
    6. Facing the winds of globalization in Asia
    7. Fleshing out real-life shapes
    8. Nomo hurls three-hitter at Brewers
    9. Hosokawa resigns from Lower House
    10. Indian nuclear tests threaten Japanese aid
    11. Clinton hits New Delhi with sanctions
    12. Pakistan preparing for test
    13. Suharto to step down if "no longer trusted"
    14. "Youth and politics"
    15. Haiku moments
    16. Increase efforts to ban nuclear weapons
    17. Irabu, Nakata have a lot in common
    18. Teacher shooting after policy dispute
    19. Singapore most competitive economy
    20. Aum doctor's sentence stirs mixed reaction
    21. Top officials see "Mr. Bean" as ideal boss
    22. Asian's recovery depends on Japan
    23. Easing the schoolchild's burden
    24. World AIDS conference focus on treatment
    25. AIDS: prevention Africa's only hope
    26. "Copycat" terrorism in Japan
    27. Diabetic Virginian named Miss America
    28. India and Pakistan ready to ban testing
    29. Reducing the threat of missile attacks
    30. Speak softly and carry a point
    31. Happiness is...
    32. South Korea allows in Japanese culture
    33. Student suicides bring changes at Harvard
    34. Color is only skin deep
    35. Education report fails
    36. Language cops war on gobbledygook
    37. Excellence in Japanese schools
    38. Half-hearted efforts to aid Japan's banks
    39. Contest winners deliver provocative talks
    40. Imperial poetry reading held
    41. College seniors find tough job market
    42. Children becoming weak
    43. Honda makes most of chances abroad
    44. Cut textbooks down to basics, panel says


    Activities used with newspaper articles

    • Vb - Fill in the blank with a verb form
    • N - Fill in the blank with a noun phrase
    • P - Fill in the blank with a preposition
    • C - Fill in the blank with a conjunction
    • Ar - Arrange sentences into correct order
    • SJ - Summarize main ideas in Japanese
    • SE - Summarize main ideas in English
    • V jpn - Vocabulary test (put into Japanese)
    • V eng - Vocabulary test (put into English)
    • PS - Mark the syllable with primary stress
    • TR - Translate into English


    This article is an edited version of a longer academic paper published by the author in the Fukushima University Faculty of Education Journal No. 37.


    Takashi Yoshida, Professor Emeritus, Fukushima University
    Address: 6-21 Hokida Aza Mitouchi, Fukushima 960-8163 JAPAN E-mail: bowchoro@bea.hi-ho.ne.jp

    *****

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