[Matthew Reesor. Tokyo: MacMillan LanguageHouse, 2004. pp. iv + 89. ￥1,800. ISBN: 978-4-89585-510-5.]
Unlike the vast number of speaking and conversation textbooks available today where the primary goal is to use the target language in a given situation to perform a specific task, Tell Me More: Effective Communication Strategies for the Japanese Student provides students, in addition to target language, with opportunities for learning and using conversation strategies, a type of language learning strategy, in order to overcome breakdowns in communication in everyday, real-life situations. Tell Me More is a skills-based speaking and listening textbook which aims at using students existing knowledge, vocabulary, and overall English communicative competence (including grammatical, sociolinguistic, strategic, and discourse competence) while promoting both confidence and skills in natural, authentic situations. The textbook is written for an EFL audience, specifically for Japanese university and adult learners who have studied English in the past but lack the necessary conversational strategies and communicative abilities to communicate effectively and efficiently. Tell Me More provides students with the chance to communicate in freer, less structured, more learner-centered communicative situations. Written for false beginners or pre-intermediate learners with TOEIC scores between 350 and 600, it could also be used in any English as a Second or Foreign Language setting. Ten of the 12 units (two units are review) provide learners with 10 key conversation strategies, such as using rejoinders, asking follow-up questions, approximation, word coinage, circumlocution, and rephrasing, which guide the learners to produce more natural and authentic language.
The textbook is student-friendly as the exercises in each unit follow the same pattern: Warm-Up; Strategies Practice; Listening Exercises; Pair Work; Wrap-Up (usually in groups of 4); and Extra Activities. This gives the learners a sense of comfort and support before using the material as they advance to freer, fluency-driven exercises. Although Tell Me More is only 89 pages long, it could easily stand alone as a core text, or be used as a supplementary resource. Also included is a Teacher’s Manual, available for free from the publisher’s website, which provides step-by-step suggestions for each exercise in each unit, making it an excellent resource for the beginner teacher or for the veteran teacher who wants to learn some new tricks. The accompanying CD works well with the Listening Exercises as the textbook listening exercises provide a visual, such as charts and graphs, for the learners to follow while listening to the CD. According to Ur (1984), “[s]ome kind of visual clue is essential in any language-learning activity” (p. 29). Tell Me More also includes free-fluency activities (with conversation cards) which are designed to “[g]ive students the opportunity to practice the strategies learned in the book in a free and natural way” (Reesor, 2004, p. 54). Free, natural, spontaneous, and unrehearsed conversation is vital in the second language (L2) classroom because it forces the learners to use conversation strategies in a natural, authentic way when communication breaks down, in order for successful communication to occur. Lessard-Clouston (1997) argues that a paradigm shift in the field of education has occurred, which favors “[l]ess emphasis on teachers and teaching and greater stress on learners and learning” (Introduction, para. 1). These free-fluency activities accomplish this aim.
Tell Me Moredoes have room for improvement. For example, at the back of the textbook is a Word List with English to Japanese translations, and although teachers should explain that this is only to provide possible unknown vocabulary support, the word list could be used as a springboard for teaching dictionary skills. However, Tell Me More certainly has been an extremely useful conversation strategies textbook in the writer’s classrooms. The exercises are designed to help learners develop strategic conversation skills that coincide with sociolinguistic and linguistic skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and usage. What these strategic conversation skills do is to guide and help the learners, both speaker and listener, keep their conversation going in a free, natural, unrehearsed way until it reaches its natural or desired conclusion, which is the ultimate goal in our conversation classes.
Lessard-Clouston, M. (1997). Language learning strategies: An overview for L2 teachers. The Internet TESL Journal, 3(12). Retrieved from <iteslj.org/Articles/Lessard-Clouston-Strategy.html>.
Reesor, M. (2004). Tell me more:Effective communication strategies for the Japanese student (Teacher’s Book). Tokyo: MacMillan LanguageHouse. Retrieved from <www.mlh.co.jp/teacher>.
Ur, P. (1984). Teaching listening comprehension. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.