Achievement Profile: David Nunan
Setting the Standard for ESL Professionalism
David Nunan has published over 100 books and
articles in the areas of curriculum and materials
development, classroom-based research and discourse
analysis. He served as President of International TESOL
from 1999 to 2000. His efforts have raised the level
of consciousness among many ESL/EFL professionals regarding
how to determine the effectiveness of classroom activities
and how to make discussions of teaching more realistic and
more constructive. Professor Nunan delivered an unforgettable
and powerfully inspirational keynote speech about
teacher autonomy at the 1990 annual convention of JALT
(Japanese Association of Language Teachers) at Omiya, Japan,
when he was working at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
The ESL MiniConference Online is honored to share the following
comments from David Nunan with our readers.
Some David Nunan links:
David Nunan's Home Page (www.nunan.info)
PowerPoint Presentations by David Nunan (www.nunan.info/presentations.htm)
English Centre, Hong Kong University (ec.hku.hk)
The Self-Directed Teacher
Go For It! Series ( (Heinle & Heinle / Thomson Learning)
International TESOL (www.tesol.org)
Master of Science in TESOL(Anaheim University Online)
An ESL MiniConference Online interview
with David Nunan:
What is your main ESL activity now? What are your
principal projects, and what is on the back burner?
I wear several 'hats' at present. At Hong Kong U., as Chair Professor
Applied Linguistics, I run Doctoral and Masters programs in TESOL and
Director of the English Centre, I develop, teach and evaluate EAP and
programs. As Dean of Education at Anaheim University (formerly Newport
Asia Pacific University) I run a Master of Science program in TESOL -
is a virtual program that this largely web-based. I am also Senior
Academic Advisor to GlobalEnglish Corporation, a company that runs
language training programs through the Internet. Current projects
writing the second edition of my Middle School series Go For It and
carrying out an R and D project into Task-based Assessment for the
Kong Education Department. On the back burner is the Great Australian
How did you start your ESL career? Who influenced your decision? What were some important formative experiences in the early stages of your development?
I started my ESL carrer by 'default'. Having graduated as a teacher of
English to native speakers, I was sent to an inner city high school in
Sydney in which none of the kids spoke English. Subsequently, I moved
around a lot, principally in Asia and Europe, and experienced a wide
diversity of EFL / ESL teaching situations and contexts.
What are the four or five language/culture backgrounds with which you are most familiar as a teacher? Which ones are you familiar with from the perspective of a language learner yourself? What insights have you gained in how to meet the needs of English learners from these cultures and language backgrounds?
Having taught, done research, and worked as a consultant in Thailand,
Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong, I am most familiar with Asian
although I have also spent quite a lot of time in Latin America -
Mexico and Brazil. As a learner I have studied Thai and Cantonese. My
language learning experiences have taught me the importance of
factors in language learning, the role of the teacher in either
or crushing the learner, and the importance of developing a flexible
of learning strategies.
If you had to give three pieces of advice to a new ESL
teacher, what would they be?
My advice to a new teacher would be find an experienced mentor to give
advice, and if possible observe your teaching and give feedback, seek
several good textbooks and other resources that seem to fit with your
teaching style as well as the needs of the learners, and take control
your own professional development. Finding out as much as you can
your learners and working hard to relate to them as individuals also
What do you see as the most important issue facing the ESL/EFL teaching profession today?
The most important issue facing the ESL/EFL profession is the
"deprofessionalization" of what we do. Individuals who see English as
commodity to be exploited for their own personal gain, who set up
largely to rip off students, education departments and governments
unwilling to put resources into ELT in the form of appropriate
curricula and materials etc. and bringing our profession into
Ironically, these trends are partly a result in the global explosion
demand for English language teaching.
Interviewed by Robb Scott
2003 ESL MiniConference Online