The United States today is truly a land of immigrants. Currently, the number of foreign-born, non-native English speakers, as a percentage of the total population, is at the highest levels in over a hundred years (Kindler, 2002). This large growth in immigration has increased the demand for English language training and has affected ESL programs nationwide.
In the book Teaching Adult English Language Learners, Richard Orem examines a wide variety of important issues facing the ESL field today. Using his experiences as an ESL teacher in the Peace Corps, a teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools, a faculty member in continuing education at Northern Illinois University, and an ESL program administrator, Orem clearly outlines ESL policy, second language acquisition theory and research, cross-cultural issues, and program design. The book is designed for experienced faculty, graduate students, ESL program directors, and policy makers, yet it is also a valuable resource for professionals new to the field.
The book begins with a definition of terms that sets the foundation for later chapters. Chapters 2 and 3 explore organizing instruction. In chapter 2, the author provides an introduction to several broad categories of adult ESL instructional approaches. Chapter 3 examines three approaches to teaching literacy skills. Competency based programs, participatory approaches, and whole language are discussed.
Chapter 4 examines program planning. The characteristics of traditional and nontraditional curriculum development approaches are discussed. The focus of chapter 5 is on the importance of cross-cultural skills in the teacher-learner relationship.
Lastly, chapter 6 examines the future of the profession of adult English language teaching. Recent efforts at improving the research base in the field, the impact of professional standards, and accountability in the profession are outlined.
The book offers the reader an excellent overview of the ESL field. Drawing on his 35 years of experience, Orem clearly describes the foundational aspects of the field. He examines the diversity of teaching methods in ESL programs, curriculum design, and theory in a practical and useful fashion. He offers the reader his insight on the importance of cross-cultural awareness for instructors and administrators and gives the ESL professional a "heads up" on the future of adult English language teaching. His book is a valuable resource for faculty, students, administrators, and educators at all levels.