Monday, May 24, 2010

Second guest post - Paul Rowe, author of Multifunctional Activities

This week, Paul Rowe, an ELT expert working in Vietnam explains why he self-published his e-books, The Little EFL Book and Multifunctional Activities. (There's even a third title on the way, Multifunctional Activities for Crowded Classrooms.) He gives some very persuasive reasons why self-publishing can be a highly rewarding option for ELT authors.

As promised, I will write something about being an author of EFL books. If you don’t mind I would like to look at ‘why’ we might write books.

Aren’t there enough EFL/ESL books already written? Book stores, the internet, libraries, English schools, TESOL conferences, all endlessly dispensing the latest books to cure non-English. Teaching English to non speakers of English is a billion dollar industry. The use of books makes this industry possible. The sale of books makes this industry obscenely wealthy. But does the industry need more books? The industry would say “of course”. Teachers might have another opinion.

Hall’s series is focused on self publishing. We usually write because we genuinely feel we have something of value to pass onto our fellow teachers. Or maybe we are not happy with the support, resources and books available at the moment. Either way, authors are usually trying to help teachers make teaching a more enjoyable experience.

This is exactly how I got into writing my EFL books. I definitely was not impressed by what was happening in EFL teaching. To me it seemed that across time the process of teaching ESL had become very confused and complicated. There were so many options that teachers were swamped with choices. This seemed to be at odds with nature’s way of teaching/learning languages.

I have always been a minimalist. I don’t like long words, complicated ever- changing theories and endless, inconclusive research. Busy teachers don’t have the time for this. More importantly, most EFL teachers only spend a year or two overseas teaching, and then they head back to their REAL job. So getting straight to the absolute basics of being a successful EFL teacher is critical. I found no books which could do this. Therefore I set out to write an EFL teaching for dummies. This turned out to be much harder than I initially thought. It was only a chance meeting with Professor Paul Nation, while accidentally crashing a speakers’ dinner, that moved this idea forward. Paul Nation mentioned three actions of a successful ESL teacher. To my knowledge he has never written anything on this. I was very excited about this and questioned him more about it. I instantly realized that if teaching was based on proven actions, then endless theories, both educational and linguistic, could be thrown out of the equation. I did this with great delight. The moment I drop-kicked the theories and started using the actions of successful esl teachers, everything felt right. I felt confident and knowledgeable. After my illegal dinner with Paul Nation I headed for home. By the time I finished my short subway ride home, the book, now known as The Little EFL Book, had been completely outlined.

It took a couple of years to finish off, and to get brave enough to release it. It took some friends to point out to me that I had in fact written a completely new way to teach another language. I was stunned by this. Overtime I realise that I had also written the world’s simplest approach to teaching another language. I consider this to be of great benefit to the typical here-today-gone-tomorrow EFL teacher who wants to do a great job teaching.

This has only ever been released as an e-book, through A huge advantage of an e-book, is that it can be easily updated by the author. The ability to do this is very comforting. If you change your mind on something, just change it. No one will know. I am so happy with the e-book format that I have never had to seriously think about hard copy sales. Of course, I can at any time get into this aspect of publishing, with just a couple of mouse clicks in my Lulu account.

Another exciting reason why we write books is because something we wrote about in a former book, triggers a line of thoughts and actions. In The Little EFL Book I started discovering a notion which I called ‘multifunctionalism’. It seemed essential to good quality EFL teaching and learning. No sooner was book one finished, than I started on Multifunctional Activities. It was also released as an e-book. Multifunctional Activities for Crowded Classrooms is on its way as we speak. Another e-book.

I have been very fortunate. Because the first book was so different to anything on the market, and so well received by teachers, it seems that any subsequent books will also be highly regarded.

So in ending, if you can help fellow teachers in their struggle to make the world a better place, go ahead and write. We need more of these kinds of books.

Good luck.

Paul Rowe

An EFL teacher living and working in Viet Nam.
Masters of TESOL, B. of Educ., B of Arts, Dip Teaching, IELT, PELT, ISLPR.

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