Door-to-Door: A Complete Study Abroad Guide
[Greg Minhane. Nagoya: Perceptia Press, 2012. pp. 84. ¥2,100. ISBN: 9-784939-130823.]
For English language learners in Japan, opportunities for genuine and meaningful English usage are decidedly limited. The chance to partake in study programs overseas can arguably be a valuable and viable supplement to learning English, and an option that could yield long-term future benefits. Although such programs have ample positive aspects, they can still present challenging and unfamiliar situations for Japanese learners to overcome. Door-to-Door: A Complete Study Abroad Guide, attempts to make this process more enjoyable for learners. Suitable principally for tertiary-level learners of English who wish to embark on study trips to native English speaking, inner-circle countries (see Kachru, 1992), the book aims to prepare and offer support to learners by bridging the gap between home and host countries, through a collection of activities and projects.
Door-to-Door could be described as more of an interactive guidebook for learners than a traditional classroom-based, teacher-fronted resource, for the following reasons. As the title of the book suggests, the layout leads the learners through all stages of a study trip. Section A, Before You Go, helps learners consider their own contexts, and how information about family and home country could be communicated during a forthcoming study trip. Section B operates as an advice section structured around problems which learners are likely to meet during a home-stay. This section is then followed by a rather lengthy, but informative guide about a group of commonly visited countries including Australia, Canada, and America. This section is supported by reading comprehension tasks such as crosswords and quizzes. The final two sections are more learner-autonomous and involve a series of projects to be undertaken during learners’ trips, before communicatively reflecting on their programs after returning to Japan.
The text is written to appeal to a wide audience, as there does not seem to be any overt focus on particular groups of learners or specific study trip purposes. Therefore, it seems that this text is designed more as a general resource for a variety of learners which focuses largely on the social aspects of study abroad as opposed to any ESP learning needs (see Hall, 2011, pp. 193-195). For example, no attention is paid to classroom experiences of learners or any language that may be of use in these situations. There is limited L1 used throughout, which other culturally oriented materials tend to use more of (see Hoffer, Honna, & Tajima, 2010), and the text largely depends on English as the medium for both instruction and information. It is interesting to find such a text that attempts to partner language activities with information about particular countries that learners would perhaps more traditionally go to a guidebook for. Although the benefits of using more authoritative and specific resources like a guidebook, to find out the essentials about a country of study are clear, this text presents the added benefit of facilitating communication, and promoting interaction with peers who may also be embarking on trips abroad.
The overall design and instructions are easily understandable for learners of pre-intermediate level and above, making Door-to-Door an attractive option for self-study. Additionally, this text could be used as orientation material, in courses preparing learners for study abroad. In sampling this textbook, the reviewer brought together a small group of Japanese undergraduate learners who had all returned from a short study trip in the UK. Of particular interest was the Photo Expo activity in the final section of the text. With very little teacher intervention, the students were able to speak confidently about photographs they had taken during their trip. A great deal of incidental language was generated, which evoked fond memories within the learners. The group also studied the Country Guide section about the UK, commenting that they felt this information would have been of benefit to them before embarking on their trip. It remains to be seen, however, if the set of projects in Section D really added much to the study abroad experience. Learners regarded tasks such as writing about an outing or grocery shopping were time-consuming and felt that activities which fostered direct communication between native speakers and fellow English learners on their courses would have been more beneficial.
In summary, this text is highly recommended as independent learning material for learners preparing to study abroad and encourages learners to continue using some of the activities included at every stage of their trip. The text may also be suitable for educational departments as material for pre-departure orientation seminars.
Hall, G. (2011). Exploring English language teaching. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Hoffer, B., Honna, N., & Tajima, H. T. (2010). Get to the point. Tokyo: Pearson Education Japan.
Kachru, B. B. (1992). Teaching world Englishes. In Kachru, B. B. (Ed.), The other tongue: English across cultures (pp. 355-66). Chicago: University of Illinois Press.