Vol. 4. No. 3 R-19 May 2000
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Fundamentals of English Language Teaching
S. Kathleen Kitao and Kenji Kitao (1999)
Tokyo: Eichosha Co., Ltd.
Pp. xiii + 157
ISBN 4-268-00328-2 (paper)

Essentials of English Language Testing
S. Kathleen Kitao and Kenji Kitao (1999)
Tojyo: Eichosha Co., Ltd.
Pp. xii + 146
ISBN 4-268-00327-4 (paper)


Within the space of only five months Kathleen and Kenji Kitao have brought out two interesting books of almost equal length and layout. There is a large contrast, however, in the content, style, and perhaps even quality of each text. For purposes of brevity, I will refer to Fundamentals of English Language Teaching as FELT and to Essentials of English Language Testing as EELT. My hope is that this will be less confusing.


FELT and EELT are organised into 19 and 20 short chapters, respectively, each beginning with short lists of keywords or concepts outlined in the chapter and followed by a brief introduction to the topic. Each chapter ends with brief concluding comments and a section of either Discussion Questions or Application Exercises. FELT, as its title suggests, is an overview of the fundamental areas of ELT that books like this would normally cover, such as chapters on language teaching methods, chapters on each of the four skills, and a chapter on vocabulary. There are also four chapters at the end of the book related to technology and its applications, along with Internet and professional development resources. Other chapters describe the world importance of the English language, language learning and acquisition, and how to address cultural matters in the classroom. The book obviously attempts to cover a lot of ground. EELT covers all the expected areas of testing, a rather large and hugely interesting field containing many technical terms and dichotomies. EELT begins by devoting a chapter to such areas as norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing, and achievement tests versus proficiency tests, before moving on to whole chapters on validity, reliability, and the testing of each language skill. [-1-]

A Closer Look at Fundamentals of English Language Teaching

As I have noted above, the last five chapters of this book deal with teacher support in the form of either accessing technology or directing the teacher towards channels for professional development. The advantages and disadvantages of technology such as audio and video are listed. The authors, quite rightly in my opinion, predict that the personal computer will become an even more valuable teacher aid than it currently is.

Whilst warning that "technology isn't the answer to every problem and is often no better than the materials it is used to present" (p. 113) chapter 16 deals with suggestions for using the technology previously analysed. Perhaps one of the most useful Application Exercises is to be found here; teachers are asked to consider how appropriate the technology was and how much it enhanced the students' learning.

Whilst the chapter dealing with the Internet would most naturally follow chapter 16, it is for some reason placed between the chapters on resources and professional development. Among the resources we find lists of professional organisations such as TESOL, the many websites related to ELT, advice on the value of attending conferences and regional meetings, plus publications and on-line resources such as journals on the web. As with most chapters in this book, chapter 18, "The Internet," is filled with too many all-too-brief explanations and hints at ideas that the teacher is left to pursue alone just when interest has been aroused. There are also more links to the Kitao website to help with this pursuit.

A Closer Look at Essentials of English Language Testing

"Testing is a complex subject," the authors assert in their preface, and who would disagree? They begin by taking the reader through reasons for testing, the immense variety and methods of testing to suit the various purposes for evaluation: placement, proficiency, aptitude, and diagnosis. Two absolutely key concepts in testing, validity and reliability, are fully dealt with in chapter 3. The book goes on to outline, in chapter 6, points to remember for writing a suitable test, whilst the next chapter analyses some common problems with test items before dealing with testing skills, vocabulary, grammar, and communicative competence. Chapters 15 to 18 concern recording and interpreting scores by means of histograms, polygons, and pie-charts. The final two chapters are about which types of information to report back to testees and those interested in test performance, such as parents, administrators, and teachers. This is all highly practical and informative material. [-2-]

Discussion Questions and Application Exercises

After each chapter in both books the authors have added further tasks for readers to engage in, which are very useful as either a self-check or an extension of the concepts covered in each specific chapter. The number of discussion questions in FELT never exceeds two, and far too often the same two questions appear, added as if they were an afterthought in the absence of any other questions. In contrast, the questions in EELT generally number between five and seven, require more thought when answering, and are far more focused on the content in the chapter. The same may be said of the Application Exercise sections in both books. In FELT, tasks are only written for material preparation and lesson planning, whereas in EELT there are more questions and they seem to have been given much more careful consideration. The single (and almost banal) task in the section in FELT on technological resources is: "Get more information about three different types of resources listed here. What did you learn?" Whilst, on a much more adult level, those in EELT require teachers to analyse statistical performances of items on a test and undertake fairly complex item analysis. These tasks are more directed and focused on the chapter contents.


Whilst neither book includes an index, they both contain useful appendix sections. In FELT, this consists of a lengthy table of contents, also available on the authors' Web site, titled "On-line Resources for Linguists and Language Teachers," which includes many mailing list addresses and links to other ELT-related sites. Appendix A in EELT has several web references to sites other than the authors', but Appendix B is simply a list of what is available in the section on testing in the Kitaos' On-line Resources website (http:/ilc2.doshisha.ac.jp/users/kkitao/online/www/).

Intended Audience

Both authors are based in Japan and many references in FELT are either to that country or surrounding regions in the Pacific rim; pages 5 and 6, for example, are headed "The Situation in Japan." There are also several references to major organisations such as JALT (The Japanese Association of Language Teachers), plus Internet resources, along with journals and newspapers in English that are produced in Japan. It would be unfair to accuse the authors of putting together too much of an ethnocentric work, though, since the vast majority of the book's content and areas mentioned can apply to classrooms from Tierra del Fuego to Nova Scotia, and other resources, such as those of TESOL and IATEFL, get a well-deserved mention also. [-3-] In contrast to this, it would be fair to say that most readers will leave this book feeling that Kitao and Kitao's web site is the last word in ELT resources on the World Wide Web, and that FELT, in particular, is far too self-referencing. Their website is very good, but doesn't require the dozens of mentions it sometimes gets (there are 10 references to it on page 155 alone). In fact there is an assumption prevalent throughout that readers of FELT have access to the Internet. Unfortunately, for the majority of teachers around the world, the Internet is still a long way off. Perhaps the lack of citations of the work of other academics is the sociocultural norm in Japan, but "the giving of gifts," as acknowledging others' work is termed, is a widely-recognised aspect of books like these. Not to acknowledge is considered impolite.

Criticisms of Layout, Style, and Register

I was left with a feeling, more so in FELT than EELT, that chapters on such major areas as language acquisition deserved greater space than they got, and that the authors might have tried to cover too much within the 150 pages allotted to each book. This is a pity, as Kitao and Kitao are well-known ELT authors. Sadly, references to other authors are almost totally absent from each book, and the absence of an index doesn't help the reader who might be searching for a specific topic. I suppose the list of keywords that precedes each chapter might help in this direction, but I still feel that books without an index are an unnecessary let-down, as computer programmes are available these days to very quickly arrange an index for much larger texts than these two. Readers of both books will notice a contrast in styles and a change in register as the writers seem to lose sight of who they are writing for. It seems as if, and indeed may have been the case, parts of each book were written by one or the other author without having read the preceding chapters. For example, the introduction to FELT uses pronouns written to a you by authors who refer to themselves as we, and describes students and researchers as they. EELT falls less into this lapse in style and opts for structures such as There is . . . rather than You can find . . ., each of which tends to distance the author from the content, or at least provide a more detached viewpoint.

Whilst EELT seems to have been written with a clear audience in mind and at the level of technical explanation for an interested, intelligent audience, FELT assumes the audience wavers between novice teacher, especially when writing about lesson plans, and teachers wholly committed to (and able to access) Internet technology. [-4-]

Concluding Remarks

For general background, FELT would be a wise investment, as it touches on a plethora of key concepts about our profession without going into immense detail; it could be used well in basic ELT training courses. In contrast, EELT would be of most use to the teacher interested in moving into the area of evaluation and assessment. This book would also fit well within a teacher-development course for teachers with some previous experience of the area of testing.

Wayne Trotman
Özel Çakabey Lisesi, Izmir, Turkey

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