May 23, 2012

TESOL accepts faculty members’ book proposal

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two members of the Center for English as a Second Language faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will collaborate on a book that will become part of the teaching materials offered by TESOL, the organization for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Paul McPherron, assistant professor, and Patrick T. Randolph, lecturer, got the nod from TESOL at the recent international convention in Philadelphia.  The call for book submissions asked for an authored title on teaching idioms, with topics founded in research-based classroom practices. 

TESOL calls for proposals are, by nature, competitive, with TESOL-affiliated scholars the world over eligible to submit proposals in response to a proposal call.  TESOL selected McPherron’s and Randolph’s proposal from a batch of scholarly proposals; this book will be an official TESOL publication and as such, become part of standard teaching resources.

Randolph said the call for proposals caught his attention in part because of the requirement to focus both on theory and practice.  In addition, he noted, idioms often present comprehension difficulty for non-native speakers not only because they don’t mean what the words literally say, but also because of the proliferation of idioms even in scholarly English.  He referred to a neuro-science textbook that used such phrases as “shed light on,” and “make way for.”

“We go through definitions of idioms, and also address the possibility that an idiom can be a single word, like ‘dough,’ or ‘buck,’” he said.  “What constitutes an idiom (as opposed to slang) is rather difficult.  We can say that it is a word or a group of words that cannot be understood by the sum of its parts.”

This book is not limited to an examination of American English only.  The authors will examine differences in idiom usage in British, Australian, and Canadian English as well.  And, they will also survey TESOL instructors in several countries to incorporate an international approach to English idiom instruction, as well as promoting the successful lesson plans already in place at SIU Carbondale.  The authors will also interview students to discover more information about how students learn, and which approaches they favor.

That’s the practical side.  On the theoretical side, the authors will include some new theories about teaching vocabulary based on brain function.

Randolph said he and McPherron emphasized defining idioms and organizing the book in a classroom-friendly manner. 

“Our ‘user-friendly’ method is the main reason that TESOL chose our (proposal) over others,” he said.

“TESOL’s selection of the book proposal from Paul McPherron and Patrick Randolph is a testament to the fact that we have talented writers and researchers here at SIU Carbondale,” Cheryl Ernst, director of the Center for English as a Second Language, said, adding that it proves the University “can compete on the international level.”

TESOL notes that the “Teaching Idioms” volume -- which McPherron and Randolph titled “Cat Got Your Tongue?” -- may become the first in a series “aiming to provide innovative ideas for teachers to put into practice in the classroom.”

Publication is set for March 2014.