[Pino Cutrone & Siewkee Beh. Tokyo: Shohakusha, 2014. (Audio files available online) pp. 105. ¥2,268. ISBN: 978-4-88198-702-5.]
Welcome to Kyushu, Japan offers a task-based approach to EFL learning that is sure to stimulate students in the Japanese context. While such an approach has received a substantial amount of research support, there are few, if any, task-based course books currently on the market. Besides the fact that it fills a major void in the market, I found this book impressive for four specific reasons. First, the task-based activities are motivating and maintain student interest. Second, the seven-step approach for each unit focuses on the development of communicative English language skills through the established components of Tasked-Based Language Learning (TBLL) (Willis, 1996). Moreover, the characteristics of the learning tasks presented in Welcome to Kyushu, Japan appropriately match task criteria defined by Ellis (2003). Third, the dialogs are based on real and authentic English, as the speakers are not reading from a script; rather, they were free to speak intuitively when completing tasks. The English in the dialogs is spontaneous and real instead of being based on a dictated or predesigned script. Fourth, the comprehensive design of the book and the teacher’s manual makes it user friendly.
According to Ellis (2003), tasks are defined as activities that learners carry out in order to draw together and further develop their knowledge and skills. Tasks are characterized by an emphasis on participation and communication among participants through a variety of modes and media. The task-based approach to language study promoted by this book is a student-oriented approach for language learning, which is defined as a process of study rather than a strict focus on an anticipated result. Creativity and individual thought are nurtured through the task-based approach presented by the authors.
The structure of the chapters provides a clear blueprint of how lessons are to be conducted. This textbook acts as a specific reference point for the individual learning process and works well as a tool to track the individual development of students’ language skills. The text does not require lengthy preparation or effort in learning the material presented in each unit.
To encourage communicative competence, students using Welcome to Kyushu, Japan are exposed to different linguistic situations and tasks to which they must respond creatively. The text begins with an explanation of the units and some tactful advice on language study and how to make the most of the book. The goal-oriented tasks integrated into each unit helps the students visualize the purpose of their study. The final unit is an assessment task that allows students to evaluate their improvement throughout the course.
The dialogs are based on actual authentic conversations. This gives learners a feel for English by exposing them to it as it is actually spoken. The authors explain in detail the process for making the dialogs for the text and how the impromptu and natural element was preserved by having native speakers converse about a selected issue without following a set dialog. The journal article written by the authors provides details that further explains the context of the book and its correlation with task-based learning. I believe that educators considering using Welcome to Kyushu, Japan in their classrooms would benefit by reading Cutrone and Beh’s (2014) article to learn the back-story behind the textbook.
I used Welcome to Kyushu, Japan in private academy and university conversation courses. Student feedback reflected an interest in the tasks. Proficient students remarked that giving reasons and creative responses supported their confidence and individual thought. Students also commented that they felt a new purpose in studying English. Students were also receptive and picked up on the practical application of the text. Students who were struggling with English were challenged by the dialogs but expressed interest in the pre-tasks. Student opinions also suggested that the task-oriented method of instruction introduced by this text is appropriate for even larger classes in which it is difficult to otherwise provide immediate individual attention to the students.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that students in the Kyushu area will benefit from this book. Welcome to Kyushu, Japan is a task-based approach to EFL learning that will liven up your classroom and capture the attention of your students.
- Cutrone, P. & Beh, S. (2014). Increasing motivation in the Japanese university EFL classroom: Towards a task-based approach to language instruction. The Journal of Center for Language Studies, Nagasaki University, 2, 1-20.
- Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Willis, J. (1996). A framework for task-based learning. London, UK: Longman Addison-Wesley.