[Richard Caraker. Nagoya: Perceptia Press, 2020. pp. 101. ¥2,530. ISBN: 9784939130281.]
As someone who teaches both an introductory second language acquisition (SLA) class and an applied linguistics seminar, I know that it can be a challenge to find and create appropriate materials. Textbooks published overseas and aimed at students in countries where English is the dominant language are inaccessible for many Japanese students. Furthermore, creating original content can be a time-consuming endeavour. With this in mind, I was pleased to see a title aiming to address a potential need for busy teachers. Linguistic Soup: Recipes for Success describes itself as a content and language integrated learning (CLIL) (Ball et al., 2015) textbook that uses topics in applied linguistics as its subject matter. It appears to be aimed at Japanese university students and is especially appropriate for those who intend to become English teachers in the future.
Linguistic Soup contains seven units, each of which is divided into two sections. Most of the units focus on topics, such as SLA theories, communicative competence, and educational psychology, typically found in introductory SLA textbooks. Unit 2 is the one exception as it has more of a sociolinguistics focus, but this one actually proved to be the most popular with my students. Odd-numbered units provide input with a pair of reading texts, while the even-numbered units focus primarily on listening. Audio files for the listening activities can be accessed for free online through the publisher’s website, and a teacher’s guide is available upon request.
I found the units to be well designed, and they contain a variety of different text types, tasks, and exercises. The author has clearly tapped into his years of experience teaching CLIL courses by including the type of engaging collaborative activities thought to be particularly effective for CLIL, such as jigsaw readings and focused discussions (Coyle et al., 2010). Language focus is largely limited to lexis, with no explicit focus on grammatical structures. A set of vocabulary items is introduced near the beginning of each unit. Some of these items are of general academic relevance while others are more specific to the individual topics. My students, who have IELTS scores between 5.5 and 6.5, found the vocabulary to be challenging, yet it enabled them to discuss the topics with greater ease. Teachers who like more of a structure-focus in their CLIL materials will have to identify appropriate grammatical targets in the texts or students’ output.
In addition to the main units, there is an extensive appendix section. The author has included three writing assignments and a presentation project, which are tied to specific unit topics. There is also a helpful student guide for participating in discussions with presentation tips. Not including these in the main units allows an individual teacher more flexibility when working through the book.
The way the textbook is structured around seven topics with several supplementary assignments lends itself well to use as a sole textbook for the type of 15-week, one-semester course often found in Japanese universities. However, I was interested in using Linguistic Soup in my seminar classes, which usually contain only around six students. I found the book could be used effectively to gently introduce new topics. Over two 90-minute classes, we looked at a single unit, which served as a departure point to do further reading and carry out small research projects. To provide authentic texts I used How Languages are Learned by Lightbown and Spada (2013), among others. For example, after completing Unit 3 (Individual Differences), we then looked at questionnaire design, and students conducted their own survey research projects looking at L2 motivation. One of my students even decided on the topic for his graduation thesis after completing one of the units. In this way, this textbook could be used to provide an overarching structure to a longer course of 30 classes.
Overall, I found Linguistic Soup to be easy to use and full of effective tasks and activities. Even though I did not use it exactly as it had perhaps been intended, it has an intrinsic flexibility that makes it appropriate for a variety of content-based learning contexts. Preparing materials for such courses can be extremely time-consuming. Therefore, I can imagine this kind of CLIL textbook could be especially valuable for teachers who are asked to teach a CLIL course but have limited time to prepare original materials from scratch. It is also appropriate for teachers who wish to supplement it with applied linguistics projects.
Ball, P., Kelly, K., & Clegg, J. (2015). Putting CLIL into practice. Oxford University Press.
Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D. (2010). CLIL: Content and language integrated learning. Cambridge University Press.
Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2013). How languages are learned (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.