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U.Birmingham M.A. in Applied Linguistics: how good is it?

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  • U.Birmingham M.A. in Applied Linguistics: how good is it?

    I'm thinking of doing an M.A. to further my career here. I've been looking at the Birmingham U. M.A. course in applied linguistics, you know, the one to do with David English House. It looks fairly cool, but a tad steep. I'm wondering: is there anyone out there who's doing this course? How do you feel about it? Any strong feelings either way?

  • #2
    Originally posted by slimjim
    I'm thinking of doing an M.A. to further my career here. I've been looking at the Birmingham U. M.A. course in applied linguistics, you know, the one to do with David English House. It looks fairly cool, but a tad steep. I'm wondering: is there anyone out there who's doing this course? How do you feel about it? Any strong feelings either way?
    Im not doing the MA but I am enrolled in the Phd at Birmingham. I have just come back from the main campus in the UK.

    PM me if you want further info. (Masters people do their residency in Hiroshima, not the main campus in the UK).

    Comment


    • #3
      Pros and Cons

      Not doing the program and have no intention of doing so, but I have some knowledge of it from a former connection to the school offering it. Here are a few pros and cons that I can think of:

      Pros
      -gets you a MA from a western university, which gives you a leg up in the teaching industry here, and possibly abroad too. I`d suggest, however, that if you plan to stay in Japan and already have an MA in any other field that to take this one wouldn`t be worth the effort in time or money. It probably wouldn`t add any appreciable value in the labor market over and above the MA you already have. A good TESOL\TEFL certificate, solid work experience here, and good Japanese ability would probably get you further.

      Cons
      -it`s expensive.
      -it takes a long time.
      Which means that you`d have to be really enjoy the theory behind teaching English as a foreign language in order to put yourself thru the study. Take the time to read thru stuff like JALT Journal or any TESL-related journal on the internet to see if it`s the sort of thing you could handle studying for 2+ years.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jacque_S
        Cons
        -it`s expensive.
        -it takes a long time.
        Which means that you`d have to be really enjoy the theory behind teaching English as a foreign language in order to put yourself thru the study. Take the time to read thru stuff like JALT Journal or any TESL-related journal on the internet to see if it`s the sort of thing you could handle studying for 2+ years.
        Yes it is expensive but you have to weigh up whether you want to stay on the same salary and conditions you are now. or have a degree paid off in 6-12 months and possibly earn twice the salary a NOVA or dispatch teacher makes.

        2 years is a lot shorter than a 15-20 year teaching career working at a conversation school on entry level wages or working 50-60 hours a week at 3-4 schools.

        Comment


        • #5
          Dear Friends,

          Thanks to the MA I received from the University of Birmingham, I am now teaching at four universities. True, I am just a part-timr lecturer, but the pay and holidays are much better than anything I could expect from a conversation school. It takes time, money, and a lot of effort to get the MA, but once you have it in hand the possibilities of gainful employment in Japan should increase dramatically. If you are planning on staying in Japan for a long time, I would recommend that you seriously consider getting an MA. If you are not into doing a distance learning course, there are other programs available. The more you have, the more you can get. It's all up to what you want to do and where you want to go. Also, I am really happy with my work and I am very satisfied with my life in Japan. This probably has a lot to do with my opinions.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jacque_S
            NWhich means that you`d have to be really enjoy the theory behind teaching English as a foreign language in order to put yourself thru the study. Take the time to read thru stuff like JALT Journal or any TESL-related journal on the internet to see if it`s the sort of thing you could handle studying for 2+ years.
            Jacques

            you dont do it becuase you enjoy it but becuase you want a higher salary and more job security. Im not crazy about what I have to read and study but you somehow make yourself do it. Its better than considering the alternative of NOT doing it and staying where you are or treading water for the rest of your time in Japan.

            PS If you plan on staying in Japan teaching at a university you will have to write articles and publish and do research like that anyway, and you should at least be interested in teaching TESL and how to improve your skills. The Masters (and to some extent, the phD) shows you how to do that by teaching you how to do research.

            A Bachelors is really just a foundation, a Masters is still taught and you are spoonfed classes and courses etc by your tutor. Handholding all the way. the phD is where you conduct your own research question with no taught classes whatsoever.

            Comment


            • #7
              Not for everyone,

              Not everyone can grind their way thru a graduate degree course in the hope of making extra money. Especially considering the cost, in money and time, specifically associated with the Birmingham MA, I think the OP needs to think about whether or not they can or need to go thru it. I`d tell the OP not to do the Birmingham MA (or any TESL/TESOL related MA for that matter) if s/he already has a Master`s in any subject. A 2nd masters, even if more related to teaching English, will not add much value to her/his resume.

              Also, it`s important to remember that there are other courses out there. Friends of mine have done Masters in Applied Linguistics from U of Southern Queensland in Oz. From what I understand it`s cheaper than Birmingham. Not to sh&t on the Birmingham degree, but in Japan, it doesn`t really matter where your degree came from, all that matters is the piece of paper and whatever experience you bring with you.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jacque_S
                Not everyone can grind their way thru a graduate degree course in the hope of making extra money. Especially considering the cost, in money and time, specifically associated with the Birmingham MA, I think the OP needs to think about whether or not they can or need to go thru it. I`d tell the OP not to do the Birmingham MA (or any TESL/TESOL related MA for that matter) if s/he already has a Master`s in any subject. A 2nd masters, even if more related to teaching English, will not add much value to her/his resume.

                Also, it`s important to remember that there are other courses out there. Friends of mine have done Masters in Applied Linguistics from U of Southern Queensland in Oz. From what I understand it`s cheaper than Birmingham. Not to sh&t on the Birmingham degree, but in Japan, it doesn`t really matter where your degree came from, all that matters is the piece of paper and whatever experience you bring with you.
                Yes you have a point, but also consider you will disqualify yourself from many openings if you have a non-TESOL,. non linguistics degree. and many schools now ask for a related degree. i guess it comes down to how badly you want to stay here, and if you have spouse and family that is a consideration too. I originally applied to USQ and Temple (my alma mater) but didnt get accepted for the D.Ed. Birmingham accepted my proposal so i went with that. i only really thought about the cost later though.


                Doing the degree will require some extra budgeting belt tightening or taking on a second job, working more hours to pay for it means less time for study too, on top of a full work week.

                I will concur on the recognition factor. No one asks or cares how much it costs. Just that you have something on your wall for all your efforts.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Paul, since you the man and we're on the subject, could i ask you what your thesis is on and how you came about choosing it?
                  since i'm getting close to finishing my MEd i'm considering the options but i'm not sure about finding a topic i feel i could contribute to (in an 80,000 word kind of way)

                  kintarou

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kintarou
                    Paul, since you the man and we're on the subject, could i ask you what your thesis is on and how you came about choosing it?
                    since i'm getting close to finishing my MEd i'm considering the options but i'm not sure about finding a topic i feel i could contribute to (in an 80,000 word kind of way)

                    kintarou
                    My thesis has to do with curriculum change and the teaching of English in Japanese elementary schools under the Period of Integrated Studies. It means talking to ALTS and home room teachers about their classes and lessons.

                    Why? It was timely, no one is actually doing academic research on this topic apart from a few university lecturers for articles and one or two other people I know. ALTs and elementary school teachers are not researchers and are usually too busy with teaching and classes.

                    Lots of stuff on teaching kids in jukus and private language schools but nothing on teaching in the public school system. Seemed like a good idea at the time but the study is littered with obstacles and pot holes.

                    If you want to have a look at my drafts I can send you some of it by email.

                    PS Birmingham was fun, spent 3 weeks there. MA students can do the residency in Hiroshima and dont have to go to the UK.

                    PS my supervisor in the UK had done a similar study on training of japanese high school teachers in the UK on teaching English, and saw the potential for similar work to be done at the elementary school level. You really need a topic that fits in with what your school or department is doing, they have someone knowledgeable in that area and can supervise you.
                    Last edited by paulh; 2005-05-07, 10:26 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Signalman

                      At the risk of injecting myself into a flame war, I have to concur with paulb that a masters degree here is really only used by the employer as a `signal` that the individual is qualified or good enough to hire. That`s true everywhere to a certain extent of all university degrees, of course, but in Japan especially no one really cares about the subject of your advanced degree as long as you can say you have one. That`s why I`d recommend that the OP take the time to decide (a) does s/he really even need a masters, and (b) is the U of Birmingham the one, with its considerable price tag in time and money.

                      I also think paulh has a little too much faith in the willingness of Japanese universities to obey laws, and I expect that in the next few years most English university classes here will for all intents and purposes be dispatched. As an example, a former employer of mine (perhaps not unrelated to the school offering the U of Birmingham degree) & a `highly regarded` uni got around this burdensome technicality by having us signed up as individual part-time teachers, even though we were being dispatched in. The tax records for my municipality did not list me as an employee of %&% English '&%, but as an employee of ______ University. In fact, that municipality is still trying to collect the taxes I `owe` as a former employee of the university. Where there`s a will, there`s a way.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jacque_S
                        A
                        I also think paulh has a little too much faith in the willingness of Japanese universities to obey laws, and I expect that in the next few years most English university classes here will for all intents and purposes be dispatched. As an example, a former employer of mine (perhaps not unrelated to the school offering the U of Birmingham degree) & a `highly regarded` uni got around this burdensome technicality by having us signed up as individual part-time teachers, even though we were being dispatched in. The tax records for my municipality did not list me as an employee of %&% English '&%, but as an employee of ______ University. In fact, that municipality is still trying to collect the taxes I `owe` as a former employee of the university. Where there`s a will, there`s a way.
                        I agree with what you are saying, that a person can spend thousands of dollars on a degree and then find that hs job is being taken away by dispatch and westgate type teachers working on half the salary. Depending on where you go there will always be a few universities around (the big private ones that have more applicants than places and not worried about going bankrupt) that have solid teaching programs and require skilled people. I am at R. University in Kyoto PT for example and they only hire teachers with Masters degrees. I am currently a tokunin at my university and there are no dispatch teachers here either. You have to choose where you want to work and pick your battles.


                        Its getting harder to find work overall , but I would feel much more comfortable going into an interview with half a dozen publications under my belt, a few degrees, than a guy who doesnt have these. The university may not necessarily need them or see them as valuable (a better one might though) and I would rather have the ammunition needed. Its a matter of personal choice.

                        Some will make the choice not to do the Birmingham degree because of cost (mine costs about 50K a year, which is why I work 6 days a week as well as travel to the UK) and other factors. I simply see it as an insurance policy, than a guaranteed sure thing that i will get hired someplace. Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and there are a lot of wannabes out there. You can not really call yourself an educator if you are not prepared to do the work anyway, IMO.

                        PS I will assume the (the other Paul) is still a young single guy with only himself to feed and worry about. If only we were all so lucky. Try telling your wife you cant get hired because everyone is more qualified than you and being a dispatch teacher working for peanuts is not your idea of a teaching career.
                        Last edited by paulh; 2005-05-12, 06:14 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          potters in print

                          so where exactly is it you guys are publishing all these articles - if i may be so bold as to ask?
                          and further more, where's a good place to get your first article published?

                          kintarou

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            When you are doing your M.A. it is good to send some of your assignments to the ERIC clearinghouse for languague and linguistics. Send three or so. That's enough for these minimum standards at Japanese universities. Choose a journal and do a couple reviews (JALT is good for that I guess) so that you have something tangible saying "yes, I want to do that gakkai thing". Depending on what your research area is you'll have to submit your work to a journal in that area. For me, Research on Language and Social Interaction was the one to submit to. Getting a PhD in applied linguistics is worth the time and money I think. There are lots of things to do other than teaching. At present, I am on the Birmingham PhD course and working as a research assistant in Canada. The research is in the area of couples' therapy.

                            When I did my M.A., I just thought why waste this time teaching and not get something out of it? An M.A. in another subject will help in Japan, but I had a good look at the world and thought that everybody is learning English, even the North Koreans. There will be a demand for higher level skills I thought to myself. There was and there is. For example, I worked in Africa doing teacher training on some grant I was awarded and then went back to Japan. I could have done a couple more graduate degrees in something like politics or sociology, but I have always wanted to be able to travel around the world and stay somewhere if I liked it. I guess some peope want to be lawyers or business executives. That's great. I saw a few folks apply to those programs and get accepted while working at NOVA.

                            Yeah, teaching English seems pretty crappy at times when working in a lot of places in Japan, but teaching in universities in Canada and the States has been a good experience. I haven't worked at a university in Japan for a number of years so I don't know what it's like. I find it hard to believe that it could be worse than NOVA or GEOS. Perhaps it could be these days. If so, then get the hell out of Japan if you can.
                            Last edited by Hal Sidewinder; 2005-05-14, 03:06 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              publishing

                              Originally posted by kintarou
                              so where exactly is it you guys are publishing all these articles - if i may be so bold as to ask?
                              and further more, where's a good place to get your first article published?

                              kintarou
                              It depends on what kind of article you've written, but there's a journal for just about anything. Doesn't matter if you've published before or what your affiliation is, if it's relevant and well-done, most of the international refereed journals will consider it. Some might advise to take the local JALT route or submit to a mag like Modern English Teacher, but I say shoot the moon, try for one of the big boys, TESOL Quarterly (US) or ELT Journal (UK). If it's too specialized or otherwise rejected by them, try one of the dozens of other journals (http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss....D=334&DID=1940). But beware that it may take several months for a journal to let you know if they accept your article, and in the meantime you can't submit the same article anywhere else, plus it may take another 6 mos. to re-write it once it's accepted, then it may not actually see print for another 6 mos.-1 yr., so the whole process can literally take years for a single article, but keep shopping around and you'll get published eventually. In Japan you usually need at least 2-3 pubs to qualify for FT at uni.

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