Friday, July 15, 2005



A STUDY OF THE LANGUAGEIn some more traditional or academic contexts a foreign language was studied not as a means of communication but as a means of mastering a set of grammatical rules and perhaps also as a foundation for the translation of academic texts into the mother tongue.

ACCURACY In some language teaching and learning contexts accuracy is very important. In others however - such as CLT - the teacher will be more concerned to encourage fluency and task completion and, especially during oral work, will not want to interrupt the learner to correct some faulty construction. See: fluency

A learner's active vocabulary is that collection of words which that learner actually uses in writing or in speaking. This contrasts with the learner's passive vocabulary which is made up of words which he or she may recognise but does not currently use. Most language teachers would see growth in active vocabulary as an important goal in relation to language learning activities.

Authentic language is the language that people actually use in real-life communication and is not the sort of language that can exist in grammar books or in dictionaries. Communicative language teachers will want to expose their learners to authentic language because they feel that this sort of language represents the realities of day-to-day communication. Teachers exploiting a communicative approach will also want to exploit authentic materials such as newspapers, videos, radio programmes and so on.

This refers to the very important way in which the contents of the examination determine - or at least strongly influence - the sorts of activities which take place in the classroom. Where the examination is grammar-based, it is likely that activities in the classroom will have a very strong grammar focus. If the examination has a more communicative focus, communicative activities are likely to dominate the learning and teaching experience.

Teaching circumstances - or context vary enormously. Some of the factors that are important are: the country private or public institution levels of government or central involvement social, political or religious ethos classroom environment availability of (all kinds of) resources individual (and national) teacher roles learner expectations parental expectations the examination number of teaching hours the teacher's contract extra-mural activities the number of learners space within the classroom time available for teaching frequency of classes age and gender of learners.

Classrooms can be laid out in a number of ways. Desks can be placed together in such a way that the learners can work together to complete language tasks. Pair work will be easier if pairs of desks are placed together. If the class is laid out in rows then communication is unlikely to take place as the learners will all be somewhat isolated from each other.

This refers to those activities in a language learning programme which allow the learner to actually communicate ideas, feelings, information and so on. If communicative activities are to be effective there must be a desire on the part of the learner to communicate using whatever language he or she has available.

An approach to language teaching which stresses language function (or use) as opposed to grammar or vocabulary. This approach sees exposure to and use of language as more effective than the formal teaching of structures etc.: communication in authentic contexts is important.

This is an important ingredient in the successful language class and is encouraged by activities such as problem-solving and task-based learning. See problem-solving activities and task-based learning.

A course book presents the language to be learned within some sort of framework and tends to be organised in terms of topic units which each contain a series of activities designed to develop language awareness in certain areas such as grammar, vocabulary, reading, listening and speaking, and writing. Some course books have a grammatical focus but others are more concerned with communicative tasks and language in use.

This relates to the idea that it is perhaps best for a teacher to exploit elements from a variety of different approaches or methodologies than to stick slavishly to one single approach.

Most language learning and teaching contexts involve some sort of test at the end. It is often very difficult for the teacher to ignore the content of that examination when he or she is planning activities for the classroom.

With a communicative approach the teacher will want to encourage learners to communicate as much as possible even if the grammar (or structure) of that communication is not completely accurate. The teacher will be keen to encourage the learners to use language in a natural, flowing and spontaneous way. See, accuracy

Approaches such as these are the result of the belief that language is best taught through the presentation and subsequent practice of grammatical forms. Work will be centered around a particular tense or around certain word patterns. See, communicative language teaching, grammatical awareness, communicative activities and grammar-dominated approaches.

Some language learners - for a variety of reasons - will expect their language classes to involve activities which will allow them to acquire a knowledge of grammatical terminology. This terminology, and its related grammatical knowledge, will form an important part of classroom activities: learners may be asked to comment on the suitability of certain tenses in certain situations or to convert a statement in the active voice into the passive voice
This is an important element in the creation of successful language learners. Good teachers will encourage their learners to guess the meaning of words from elements such as word structure, context and so on.

Teachers who adopt a communicative approach are likely to see the value of activities which encourage their learners to be more autonomous and independent in their approach to learning the language. In other words these learners should become less dependent on the teacher than has often been the case in the past and will be able to make decisions for themselves as to appropriate language learning contexts, vocabulary, activities and so on.

Information gap work is both common and useful in the communicative language classroom. One learner knows something and the other has to ask a series of questions in order to find out.

This relates to the grammar or structure of a piece of language and is concerned with issues such as tense formation, grammatical agreement, word order, plurality and so on. See. Language function

This term refers to the job or purpose of a piece of language. Every chunk of language whether written or spoken seeks to accomplish some sort of purpose on the part of its speaker/writer. Language functions include things like giving directions, introducing oneself, apologising, describing objects and so on. In emphasising language function, the communicative language teacher is stressing the message of language as opposed to its grammatical structure. See, language form.

This relates to those worksheets, texts, posters, pictures, flash cards and so on through which the teacher hopes to develop greater language use and awareness on the part of his or her learners. Teachers working with a course book will want to supplement that book with purpose-built materials of their own which are a response to the "special" circumstances - that is strengths, weaknesses, interests etc. - of his or her learners. See, course book

This relates to the extent and nature of a learner's will to succeed. There are differing ways of defining motivation but motivation which is "instrumental" is that which sees the language to be learned as a means to an end such as a new job or promotion and so on: motivation which is "integrative" stems from the wish or need to become part of a particular language speaking community. Both these motivations can be very powerful and many learners will have a motivation which involves (shifting) elements of both.

This approach to correction involves the collection of error information on the part of the teacher about the class as a whole as opposed to individuals within it. The idea here is that individual learners will not suffer embarrassment at having their mistakes pointed out in front of the whole group. Personal correction could take place in a quiet, one-to-one context.

This refers to the extent to which learners willingly take part in the activities of the language classroom. Language teachers will want levels of participation to be as high as possible.

Activities such as these are very common within the communicative approach because they involve learners in talking together to solve some sort of appropriate problem. As well as encouraging the exploitation of language these activities foster a very valuable sense of cooperation within the classroom. See, task-based learning and cooperative atmosphere.

A classroom activity where learners pretend to be someone else, for example, a shopkeeper, policeman, neighbour, ambulance driver etc., in order to learn new skills or language. See: simulation

This is an activity which is common in the communicative language teaching context. Learners are given a real-life situation to talk about. This might involve some sort of interview, meeting or confrontation. Ideally with simulation there should be some sort of setting/topic, a group of participants and some sort of purpose. For example: setting/topic - an office, with too many staff; participants - 5 or 6 workers with various skills, responsibilities, lengths of service, personal circumstances and so on; task/purpose - to decide who should be sacked. This sort of technique is valued by teachers because it encourages oral fluency, it brings into the classroom elements from the outside world, it CAN help to overcome shyness and it is fun! See, role play.

There are two aspects to this idea. One refers to the language which is being taught, in this case English. The other use of this term refers to the particular pieces of language which are the focus of a particular lesson and might involve areas such as prepositions, linking devices or the language of persuasion etc.

Task-based learning stems from the idea that learners are capable of learning new language through their involvement in some sort of task. This approach asks learners to undertake the task first and to consider linguistic issues later. See, problem solving activities.

The term "role" refers to how the teacher sees his or her particular purpose at a particular time in the classroom. The descriptions of teacher roles usually involve some sort of metaphor or image indicating that the teacher might be considered as an organiser or an assessor or a performer or as a source of knowledge. Currently the most popular role is that of the "facilitator", that is, the person whose contribution makes language learning possible.

TEFL/TESOLTEFL = the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language. TESOL = the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL = the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. While there is a professional debate in relation to the differences between these two ideas, they are generally used interchangeably in the UK to refer to those situations in which English is taught to a wide range of learners for whom English is not a first language.

This term relates to the verbs in a language and to the time at which they take, took or will take place. Basically, tenses in English are in the past, the present or the future.

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