East Asian Perspectives on Silence in English Language Education

Edited by: Jim King, Seiko Harumi

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Multilingual Matters
Number of pages:
234mm x 156mm

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Silence is a key pedagogical issue in language education. Seen by some as a space for thinking and reflection during the learning process, for others silence represents a threat, inhibiting target language interaction which is so vital during second language acquisition. This book eschews stereotypes and generalisations about why so many learners from East Asia seem either reluctant or unable to speak in English by providing a state-of-the art account of current research into the complex and ambiguous issue of silence in language education. The innovative research included in this volume focuses on silence both as a barrier to successful learning and as a resource that may in some cases facilitate language acquisition. The book offers a fresh perspective on ways to facilitate classroom interaction while also embracing silence and it touches on key pedagogical concepts such as teacher cognition, the role of task features, classroom interactional approaches, pedagogical intervention and socialisation, willingness to communicate, as well as psychological and sociocultural factors. Each of the book's chapters include self-reflection and discussion tasks, as well as annotated bibliographies for further reading.

Although seemingly paradoxical, King and Harumi have much to say about silence. This edited work unlocks the 'problem' of silence in East Asian English language classrooms, and shows teachers how to leverage it for better language learning. Educators are certain to find this book to be a valuable resource.

Gregory Hadley, Niigata University, Japan

As language practitioners and researchers we are behooved to consider the entire communication process – even that which goes beyond words – to include their absence. This volume is a must-read for those of us who care about how much is said when nothing is.

Tammy Gregersen, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

This well-informed book uses a healthy variety of research methods to present a multi-layered picture of learner reticence within classroom interaction, and sociocultural and psychological features of learning. It offers highly relevant insights to many school and university classrooms around the world and should be on the reading lists for advanced professional or Masters courses in ELT, applied linguistics, and classroom research methods.

Martin Cortazzi, University of Warwick, UK

I find two aspects of the volume particularly appealing. The first of course is the thoughtfulness each study put into reconceptualising silence from the perspective of students and teachers. By treating silence as a serious topic for investigation, the contributions have shown that what has been treated only as problematic is actually a complex, nuanced, and potentially malleable confluence of psychological and sociocultural forces. The second is the inclusion of various research methodologies and theoretical approaches. In the spirit of recent calls for transdisciplinarity in the field of Second Language Acquisition (Douglas Fir Group 2016; Duff and Byrnes 2019), the volume recognises that silence is too vast and complex an issue to be adequately addressed by one approach. King and Harumi as well as their contributors are to be applauded for assembling a volume that pushes the fields of TESOL and Applied Linguistics to reconsider classroom silence as a dynamic phenomenon.

Classroom Discourse, 2020

This volume adds additional insight to the discussion of silence and willingness to talk especially in L2 classroom by examining the issues from psychological point of view.

The Asian EFL Journal, Issue 24 Volume 6

[This book] serves as a good introduction into the study of silence among EFL students from East Asian backgrounds. Beyond the audience explicitly stated in the text, teachers of East Asian languages such as Japanese, Chinese, or Korean will also likely benefit from the expanded understanding the book provides regarding silence in the East Asian context. Teachers less familiar with the field of silence in language learning and teaching may find the authors' perspectives insightful and will likely lead to a better understanding of how to approach silence in their own teaching.

LINGUIST List 32.1224

Jim King is based at the University of Leicester where he directs the institution's campus-based Masters courses in applied linguistics and English language teaching. His books include the monograph Silence in the Second Language Classroom (Palgrave, 2013) and the edited volume The Emotional Rollercoaster of Language Teaching (with Christina Gkonou and Jean-Marc Dewaele, Multilingual Matters, 2020).

Seiko Harumi is a Lecturer in Japanese and Applied Linguistics (Education) at SOAS, University of London. She has taught English, Applied Linguistics and Japanese in Japan and currently teaches in the United Kingdom. Her academic interests lie in classroom discourse, pragmatics, learner-centred reflective approaches in L2 learning and language pedagogy.


Chapter 1. Seiko Harumi and Jim King: East Asian Perspectives on Silence in English Language Education: An Introduction 

Chapter 2. Dat Bao: Silence, Talk, and In-betweens: East-Asian Students' Responses to Task Challenge in an Australian University 

Chapter 3. Seiko Harumi: Approaches to Interacting with Classroom Silence: The Role of Teacher Talk 

Chapter 4.  Jim King, Tomoko Yashima, Simon Humphries, Scott Aubrey and Maiko Ikeda: Silence and Anxiety in the English-medium Classroom of Japanese Universities: A Longitudinal Intervention Study 

Chapter 5. Kate Maher: A Cognitive-behavioural Theory-based Approach to Examining L2 Learners' Silent Behaviour and Anxiety in the Classroom 

Chapter 6. Michael Karas and Farahnaz Faez: Communicative Language Teaching and Silence: Chinese (pre-service) Teachers' Perspectives 

Chapter 7. Simon Humphries, Nobuhiko Akamatsu, Takako Tanaka and Anne Burns:  Silence in Japanese Classrooms: Activities and Factors in Capacities to Speak English

Chapter 8. Jian-E Peng: Willing Silence and Silent Willingness to Communicate (WTC) in the Chinese EFL Classroom: A Dynamic Systems Perspective 

Chapter 9. Amy B M Tsui and Rintaro Imafuku: Silence in EFL Classrooms Revisited  

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