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November 12, 2013

Research for teaching English? What’s the point?

the-japan-news-logo.jpg In his Indirectly Speaking column for The Japan News, Mike Guest answers a question commonly asked by those outside of ELT academia.

My father-in-law couldn’t understand. He’s from the countryside, and the Kyushu countryside at that, perhaps the most down-to-earth demographic in Japan. Sure, he could understand a specialist attending a conference about advances in agriculture or new policies for rural development. But my case was different. I had told him that I was going abroad to attend and present at a research conference for English teachers.

A research conference for English teachers? What’s the sense in that? “If you’re a teacher, aren’t you supposed to already know enough about English and then just teach it?”

This notion is not just a product of unfamiliarity with the academic world. Medical professors and researchers at my own university have also often expressed perplexity as to what kind of research can be undertaken by English teachers. New pharmaceutical developments sure, advanced operation techniques, of course—going to conferences to present, network or learn about these makes perfect sense. But English? As one online commentator put it, “What do university English ‘researchers’ do anyway? Do they look under a microscope and discover a new verb? Do they go out into the field and tame wild grammar?”

Read the full article from The Japan News.

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