Features on ELTNEWS.com View All Features
Visit ELTBOOKS - all Western ELT Books with 20% discount (Japan only)

Interview with Jennifer Bassett

jennifer_bassett.jpg Jennifer Bassett has worked in ELT since 1972, and for the last seventeen years has been writing and editing stories for language learners. She is the series editor of the Oxford Bookworms, a series of graded readers with over 160 titles, and also series co- adviser, with H. G. Widdowson, of the Oxford Bookworms Collection, volumes of unadapted short stories. She has worked on syllabus design for writing in reduced codes, and is the author of more than 30 original or adapted stories for English language learners. Her current areas of interest are narratology and English as a creative medium for storytelling in World Englishes.

Jennifer conducted this interview by e-mail with ELT News editor Mark McBennett in September 2005. She will be in Japan in October for the JALT National Conference, where she is a plenary speaker and will take part in the ELT News Think Tank Live panel event.

ELTNEWS
For some time now, you've been a writer and editor rather than an English teacher. But you did teach for many years. How did you first get into ELT?
Jennifer
Like many others, in those far-off days in the 1970s. We were young, the world beckoned, we did some training, and set off into the wild blue yonder, clutching our Thomson & Martinets (the essential Learner's Grammar of the time).
ELTNEWS
And what made you move from teaching to writing?
Jennifer
It wasn't really a conscious decision. It was a very gradual process; the writing grew out of the teaching, the teaching reinforced the writing, which led to more writing, and so on.
ELTNEWS
Among other things, you are the series editor of the Oxford Bookworms graded readers. Can you give us some background on how that series got started?
Jennifer
It was the brainchild of Mary McIntosh, a very talented editor at Oxford University Press at the time, who worked with Tricia Hedge, the founding series editor, to develop a syllabus for writing graded readers that paid much more attention to features of discourse than had happened before. I joined the project as the first scripts started to come in.
ELTNEWS
And Bookworms is divided up into different levels. How do they differ - simply in terms of vocabulary, or is there more to it?
Jennifer
A lot more to it! There is a core grammatical syllabus as well as the headword list, and a host of guidelines on syntax and discourse features.
ELTNEWS
Can you explain for us the difference between extensive reading and intensive reading (Bookworms vs. Dominoes)?
Jennifer
In ER learners read a vast amount of text, well within their current linguistic competence, choose what they want to read, and focus on the meaning not on the language. The aims are enjoyment, and developing confidence, fluency, and automaticity in reading.

In IR learners read short, usually difficult texts, typically chosen by the teacher. They focus on the language rather than on the text, may be translating, using a dictionary, learning new vocabulary, studying the grammar, answering comprehension questions.

ELTNEWS
In addition to adapting existing stories, you've also written quite a few original ones. Which is more challenging and enjoyable?
Jennifer
They each present different challenges, but once I am immersed in a story, whether it's my own story or began life as someone else's, they are both equally enjoyable.
ELTNEWS
Are there opportunities for teachers who may be interested in writing original stories for readers?
Jennifer
There are lots of publishers publishing graded readers, but it is quite a competitive field now. You have to be a good storyteller, not just good at the language controls.
ELTNEWS
Do you have a personal favorite among the hundreds of readers you've edited or written yourself?
Jennifer
No, a series editor shouldn't have favourites. I love all the titles I have ever worked on with an equal passion.
ELTNEWS
What on earth is narratology?
Jennifer
A theory of narrative the critical and theoretical study of the numerous forms of narrative discourse, especially in literary and film studies. That sounds as dry as dust, but it is fascinating in practice, for example, studying how the story structure of Howl's Moving Castle changes from Diana Wynne Jones's original narrative text to Hayao Miyazaki's retelling in film animation. Which I hope to do, as soon as I can get to see the film.
ELTNEWS
Many linguists these days are less focused on English as the exclusive property of the Anglophone countries and looking at the language in more of a global context - World English or even World Englishes. I believe this is a topic that interests you, too.
Jennifer
Hugely. As a speaker of what is now one of the minority English varieties (British), I am keen to improve my accommodation strategies when communicating with speakers of Other Englishes. And there is some terrific creative writing being done by non-Anglophone writers, full of zest and freshness and newly minted language.
ELTNEWS
You're a plenary speaker at the JALT Conference this year. What topics will you be speaking about?
Jennifer
In keeping with the conference theme of "Sharing Our Stories," I'll be speaking about Storytelling. The title is "Infinite Riches in a Little Room: Storytelling for Extensive Reading."
ELTNEWS
I also look forward to seeing you on the panel of the ELT News Think Tank Live event at the JALT Conference.
Jennifer
I look forward to meeting everyone at that event. And I have written a little story especially for the occasion...
ELTNEWS
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Jennifer
My pleasure. I was honoured to be asked.



« Interview with Ken Beatty | Main | Interview with Henry G. Widdowson »

Comments

Hi I'm training teacher and I would like know more about the book "One-way ticket" thanks


Recent Entries

Recent Comments

Comments

Events

World Today