USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Tunisia:
January 30- February 13, 1999

By James Coady , Ohio University
(With Dr. Fredricka Stoller)

About the Specialist

Dr. James Coady is an associate professor of Linguistics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where he teaches in the Linguistics Department. He received his Ph.d. from Indiana University in 1973. He has been engaged in teacher training for twenty eight years and specializes in training TESOL teachers. He has lectured in Japan, Germany, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Brazil, and Lebanon. He has co-edited two books on vocabulary acquisition and teaching. They are Second Language Reading and Vocabulary Learning, 1993, ABLEX; and Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition, 1997, Cambridge. He is a member of the Linguistics Society of America, the American Association of Applied Linguistics, and TESOL. He has been a visiting professor at Chubu University in Japan and the University of Paris in France.


Areas of Specialization

Dr. Coady has published and lectured extensively on issues related to the teaching of reading and vocabulary in a foreign language to adults as well as the teaching of listening/speaking to adults in English as a Second or Foreign Language.


Trip Report

Dr. Stoller and I co-presented a series of lectures and workshops during a series of teacher training seminars on the teaching and learning of vocabulary in English. This seminar was originally proposed by the Tunisian Inspectors of English because of the perceived needs of both students and teachers in this area of instruction.

The seminars were jointly sponsored by the Tunisian Ministry of Education and the United States Information Agency. They were carried out at five different sites, Sfax, Tozeur, Sousse, Beja, ;and Tunis. The co-presenters met with over 350 teachers at these sites which constituted a significant sample of the country's English Language Teaching Professionals. The Tunisian English Language Inspectors organized each session and chose those attending from among the teachers in their respective districts. Each inspector nominated between 30-40 teachers to attend. Moreover, at each site one of the inspectors gave the initial presentation and set the stage for the workshop. There was close collaboration and sharing between the inspectors and the lecturers throughout the process including a preliminary meeting at the very beginning to plan the overall process.

One of the goals of the seminars was to make the teachers aware of the fact that "not all words are equal". That is, there are several levels or layers of vocabulary in any language ranging from the highly frequent (3-5000), academic words, and low frequency words. Good instructional practice does not treat these words the same but instead put appropriate emphasis on each type. Moreover, there are certain strategies and techniques which should be modeled for the students in terms of learning each type well. Some practical activities were carried out in the last third of each seminar which were designed to reinforce the above concepts. In sum, there was some new information imparted to the teachers as well as some reinforcement of good teaching techniques.

The teachers were then asked to take these ideas back to their classrooms and their peers. The inspectors themselves intend to use the ideas and materials of the seminars in their own teacher training activities. Therefore the accomplishments of the seminar have a great chance of spreading throughout the Tunisian English Language curriculum. Indeed, my own personal experience is that is indeed the case. I participated in an earlier workshop in 1992 which focused on the teaching of reading. I was extremely pleased to see that in 1999 a great number of the somewhat novel ideas that were proposed then are now "established practice".


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