Glossary of basic terms in TEFL studies.


Academic language: language used in the learning of academic subject matter in formal schooling context; aspects of language strongly associated with literacy and academic achievement, including specific academic terms or technical language, and speech registers related to each field of study

Accent: This can mean word stress - control has the accent on the second syllable but we use it to mean the pronunciation used by some speakers - a regional or class accent.

Acculturation: The process of adapting to a new culture. This involves understanding different systems of thought, beliefs, emotions, and communication systems. Acculturation is an important concept for understanding SLA, since successful learning is more likely when learners succeed in acculturating.

Accuracy order: Learners learn and produce the L2 with varying degrees of accuracy at different stages of development, perhaps corresponding to the acquisition order.

Acquisition: A term used to describe language being absorbed without conscious effort; i.e. the way children pick up their mother tongue.  Language acquisition is often contrasted with language learning. The internalization of rules and formulas which are then used to communicate in the L2. For some researchers, such as Krashen, 'acquisition' is unconscious and spontaneous, and 'learning' is conscious, developing through formal study.

Acquisition device: Nativist theories of language acquisition claim that each language learner has an 'acquisition device' which controls the process of acquisition. This device contains information about possible universal grammars

Active Vocabulary: The words and phrases which a learner is able to use in speech and writing.  Contrasted with Passive Vocabulary.

Additive bilingualism: a process by which individuals develop proficiency in a second language after or at the same time as the development of proficiency in the primary language (L1), without loss of the primary language; a bilingual situation where the addition of a second language and culture are unlikely to replace or displace the first language and culture

A level of attainment where the learner has mastered most of the structures and functions of the language and is able to move freely through several registers - there may be a working vocabulary of in excess of 3000 words.

Aids to Teaching
(a)  Visual: Blackboard, whiteboard, overhead projector, realia, posters, wallcharts, flipcharts, maps, plans, flashcards, wordcards, puppets.

(b)  Electronic:Tape recorder, TV or video player, computer, CD Rom, language laboratory.

Applied Linguistics
The study of the relationship between theory and practice.  The main emphasis is usually on language teaching, but can also be applied to translation, lexicology etc.

Aptitude: The specific ability a learner has for learning a second language. This is separate from intelligence.

Assessment standards: statements that establish guidelines for evaluating student performance and attainment of content standards; often include philosophical statements of good assessment practice (see performance standards)

Attitudes: Learners possess sets of beliefs about language learning, the target culture, their culture, the teacher, the learning tasks, etc. These beliefs are referred to as attitudes. They influence learning in a number of ways.

Audio-Lingual Method
Listen and speak:  this method considers listening and speaking the first tasks in language learning, followed by reading and writing.  There is considerable emphasis on learning sentence patterns, memorization of dialogues and   extensive use of drills.

Authentic Language: real or natural language, as used by native speakers of a language in real-life contexts; not artificial or contrived for purposes of learning grammatical forms or vocabulary

Authentic Materials
Unscripted materials o
r those which have not been specially written for classroom use, though they may have been edited.  Examples include newspaper texts and TV broadcasts.

Authentic Task: A task which involves lerners in using language in a way that replicates its use in the 'real world' outside the language classroom. Filling in blanks, changing verbs from the simple past to the simple present and completing substitution tables are, therefore, not authentic tasks. Examples of authentic tasks would be answering a letter addressed to the lerner, arguing a particular point of view and comparing various holiday brochures in order to decide where to go for a holiday.

See pedagogic task.

Authentic Text: A text which is not written or spoken for language teaching purposes. A newspaper article, a rock song, a novel, a radio interview and a traditional fairy tale are examples of authentic texts. A story written to exemplify the use of reported speech, a dialogue scripted to exemplify ways of inviting and a linguistically simplified version of a novel wold not be authentic texts.

See simplified texts; text.

Auxiliary Verbs
Forms of the verbs be, do and have which are used to create the different tenses in English: am/is/are/was/were eating/ being eaten; do/does/did eat; has/have/had eaten/ been eaten.

Behaviorist learning theory: This a general theory of learning, developed by B F Skinner. It sees learning as the formation of habits. Environmental factors (input, teacher, classroom, etc.) are seen as more important than the student's mental, internal factors.

Biculturalism: near nativelike knowledge of two cultures; includes the ability to respond effectively to the different demands of these two cultures

Bilingual instruction: provision of instruction in school settings through the medium of two languages, usually a native and a second language; the proportion of the instructional day delivered in each language varies by the type of the bilingual education program in which instruction is offered and the goals of said program

Being able to communicate effectively in two or more languages, with more or less the same degree of proficiency.

Body language: the gestures and mannerisms by which a person communicates with others

Bottom-up approach to language comprehension and production: This approach teaches the microskills first (e.g. grammar, vocabulary, sentince structure), before asking learners to use the language (communication). The focus is on the various components of the language first. Students then have to fit these together in comprehending or producing language.

See top-down task.

CALL: Computer Assisted Language Learning.

CAT: Computer Adaptive Testing.

CBT: Computer Based Testing.

Cloze Procedure: An exercise where every fifth word (or sixth or seventh etc) is deleted rom a text. The interval between the deleted words should remain the samethroughout the text.  The student then supplies the missing words, often       relying on contextualization for help.

Cognate: Cognates are words from different languages which are related historically, eg English bath - German bad or English yoke - Hindi yoga.  Beware FalseFriends however.

Cognitive Code: An approach in which a conscious effort is made to understand the Learning rules when learning a new item.  There is little concern with the formation of  habits as in the audio-lingual and direct methods; can be seen as deductive learning, cf inductive learning.

Collocation: The tendency for words to occur regularly with others: sit/chair, house/garage.

Common Core: The central part of the course or syllabus; or the elements of a language vital to any teaching programme.

Communication Strategies: Strategies for using L2 knowledge. These are used when learners do not have the correct language for the concept they wish to express. Thus they use strategies such as paraphrase and mime.

See learner strategies and production strategies

Communicative Approaches: Approaches to language teaching which aim to help learners to develop communicative competence (i.e. the ability to use the language effectively for communication). A weak communicative approach includes overt teaching of language forms and functions in order to help learners to develop the ability to use them for communication. A strong communicative approach relies on providing learners with experience of using language as the main means of learning to usse the language. In suchas approach, learners, for example, talk to learn rather than learn to talk.

Communicative Competence: The ability to use the language effectively for communication. Gaining such competence involves acquiring both sociolinguistic and linguistic knowledge (or , in other words, developing the ability to use the language accurately, appropriately, and efectively).

Communicative Functions: purposes for which language is used; includes three broad functions: communicative, integrative, and expressive; where language aids the transmission of information, aids affiliation and belonging to a particular social group, and allows the display of individual feelings, ideas, and personality

Communicative Language Teaching: An approach concerned with the needs of students to communicate outside the classroom; teaching techniques reflect this in the choice of language content and materials, with emphasis on role play, pair and group work etc.

Comprehensible Input: When native speakers and teachers speak to L2 learners, they often adjust their speech to make it more comprehensible. Such comprehensible input may be a necessary condition for acquisition to occur.

Comprehensible Output: The language produced by the learner (the 'output') may be comprehensible or incomprehensible. The efforts learners make to be comprehensible may play a part in acquisition.

Concordances (or concordance lines): A list of authentic utterances each containing the same focused word or phrase e.g.:

The bus driver still didn't have any change so he made me wait.
I really don't mind which one. Any newspaper will do. I just
...know what they are saying. Any teacher will tell you that it's

See authentic.

Content-based ESL: a model of language education that integrates language and content instruction in the second language classroom; a second language learning approach where second language teachers use instructional materials, learning tasks, and classroom techniques from academic content areas as the vehicle for developing second language, content, cognitive and study skills

Content Standards: statements that define what one is expected to know and be able to do in a content area; the knowledge, skills, processes, and other understandings that schools should teach in order for students to attain high levels of competency in challenging subject matter; the subject-specific knowledge, processes, and skills that schools are expected to teach and students are expected to learn

Content Words: Words with a full meaning of their own; nouns, main verbs (ie not auxiliary or modal verbs), adjectives and many adverbs.  Contrasted with structurewords.

Context: the 'context' of an utterance can mean: i) 'situational context' - the situation in which the utterance is produced; ii) 'linguistic context' - the linguistic environment (the surrounding language).

Contextualization: Placing the target language in a realistic setting, so as to be meaningful to thestudent.

Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis: According to this hypothesis, L2 errors are the result of differences between the learner's first language and the target language, and these differences can be used to identify or predict errors that will occur.

Cooperative/Collaborative Group: a grouping arrangement in which positive interdependence and shared responsibility for task completion are established among group members; the type of organizational structure encouraging heterogeneous grouping, shared leadership, and social skills development

Corpus: A bank of authentic texts collected in ordr to find out how language is actually used. Usually a corpus is restricted to a particular type of language use, for example, a corpus of newspaper English, a corpus of legal documents, or a corpus of informal spoken English.

See text.

Coursebook: A textbook which provides the core materials for a course. It aims to provide as much as posiible in one book and is designed so that it could serve as the only book which the learners necessarily use during a course. Such a book usually focuses on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, functions and the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

See supplementary materials.

Cross-Cultural Competence: ability to function according to the cultural rules of more than one cultural system; ability to respond in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways according to the cultural demands of a given situation

Cue Cards: Cards with words or pictures on them which are used to encourage student response, or pair and group work.

Culture: the sum total of the ways of life of a people; includes norms, learned behavior patterns, attitudes, and artifacts; also involves traditions, habits or customs; how people behave, feel and interact; the means by which they order and interpret the world; ways of perceiving, relating and interpreting events based on established social norms; a system of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, and acting

Descriptors: broad categories of discrete, representative behaviors that students exhibit when they meet a standard

Dialect: The regional variety of a language, differing from the standard language, in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or idiomatic usage.

Direct Method: The most common approach in TEFL, where language is taught through listening and speaking.  There may be little or no explicit explanation of grammatical rules, nor translation into the mother tongue of the student - inductive learning rather than deductive.

Discourse: A unit of language greater than a sentence.

Discovery activity: An activity which involves learners in investing energy and attention in order to discover something about the language for themselves. Getting learners to wotk out the rules of direct speech from examples, asking learners to investigate when and why a character uses the modal 'must' in a story and getting learners to notice and explain the use of ellipsis in a recorded conversation would be examples of discovery activities.

Drilling: The intensive and repetitive practice of the target language, which may be choral or individual.

EFL: English as a foreign language

Elementary: Students at this level may have a vocabulary of up to 1000 words and will probably be learning or practising present simple and continuous tenses, past simple and present perfect, will/shall, 'going to' futures.  They should be able to hold simple conversations and survive in everyday situations.

Error analysis: In this procedure, samples of learner language are collected and the errors are identified, described, and classified according to their hypothesized causes. The errors are then evaluated for relative seriousness.

ESL/E2L: English as a Second Language.The field of English as a second language; courses, classes and/or programs designed for students learning English as an additional language

ESOL: English to/for Speakers of Other Languages.

ESOL student: English to speakers of other languages; refers to learners who are identified as still in the process of acquiring English as an additional language; students who may not speak English at all or, at least, do not speak, understand, and write English with the same facility as their classmates because they did not grow up speaking English (rather they primarily spoke another language at home)

ESP: English for Special Purposes; eg for business, science and technology,   medicine etc.

Experiential: Refferring to ways of learning language through experiencing itin use rather than through focusing conscious attention on language items. Reading a novel, listening to a song and taking part in a project are experiential ways of learning a language.

Extensive Reading: Reading for general or global understanding, often of longer texts.

False Friends: Cognate words, or words acidentally similar in form, whose meaning is rather different in the two languages, eg English gentle - French gentil.

Feedback: The response learners get when they attempt to communicate. This can involve correction, acknowledgement, requests for clarification, backchannel cues (e.g. "Mmm"). Feedback plays an important role in helping learners to test their ideas about the target language.

Field dependence/independence: Language learners differin the way in which they perceive, conceptualize, organize and recall information. 'Field dependents' operate holistically (they see the field as a whole), whereas 'field independents' operate analytically (they perceive the field in terms of its componenet parts). This distinction helps in the understanding of how learners acquire a second language (L2).

Filter: Learners do not attend to all the unput they receive. They attend to some features, and 'filter' other features out. This often depends on affective factors such as motivation, attitudes, emotions, and anxiety.

Finely-tuned Language: Language which is equivalent to the students' knowledge, which they should readily understand.

First Certificate: Cambridge First Certificate: an examination which may be taken by students of a good intermediate level.

Foreign language: A language which is not normally used for communication in a particular society. Thus English is a foreign language in France and Spanish is a foreign language in Germany.

Formal instruction: This occurs in classrooms when teachers try to aid learning by raising the learners' consciousness about the target language rules. Formal instruction can be deductive (the learners are told the rules) or inductive (learners develop a knowledge of the rules through carrying out language tasks).

Form-focused tasks: These tasks have a linguistic focus (grammar, vocabulary, etc.). According to this approach, a linguitic focus, in the form of grammatical consciousness-raising activities, should be incorporated into task design.
See Meaning-focused tasks

Formulaic speech: This consists of phrases and expressions learned as wholes and used on particular occasions.

See patterns and routines

Fossilization: Most L2 learners fail to reach target language competence. They stop learning when their internalized rule system contains rules difference from those of the target language. This is referred to as 'fossilization'.

Frequency: The input language contains a range of linguistic forms which occur with varying frequency. The learner's output also contains a range of linguistic forms used with varying frequency. There is evidence to show that input frequency matches output frequency.

Function Words: See Structure Words

Functional Approach
A course based on a functional approach would take as its starting point for language development, what the learner wants to do through language.  Common functions include identifying oneself and giving personal facts about oneself; expressing moods and emotions.

Genre: a category of literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content (e.g., an historical novel is one fictional genre)

General Service List: A standard list of 2000 frequently used words as compiled by Michael West.  Regarded as a language core by many syllabus designers.

Global coursebook: A coursebook which is not written for learners from a particular culture or country but which is intended for use by any class of learners in the specified level anywhere in the world.

Grading: The order in which language items are taught.  Systematic grading may   reduce the difficulties of language learning by introducing the language in steps or stages.

Grammar-Translation: A method based upon memorizing the rules and logic of a language and the practice of translation.  Traditionally the means by which Latin and Greek have been taught.

Grapheme: The written symbols for sounds in language; ie letters of the alphabet or a character in picture writing (as in Japanese kange).

Home language: language(s) spoken in the home by significant others (e.g., family members, caregivers) who reside in the child's home; sometimes used as a synonym for first language, primary language, or native language

Hypothesis formation: According to this concept, the learner forms hypotheses about the target-language rules, and then tests them out. These are internalized rules, which are used in L2 communication.

IATEFL: International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language.

Idiom: an expression in the usage of a language that has a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (e.g., raining cats and dogs)

Immersion Method: This simulates the way in which children acquire their mother tongue.  The learner is surrounded by the foreign language, with no deliberate or organized teaching programme.  The learner absorbs the target language naturally  without conscious effort.

Inductive Learning: Learning to apply the rules of a language by experiencing the language in use, rather than by having the rules explained or by consciously deducing the rules.

Inflection: The change in form of a word, which indicates a grammatical change:eg. behave - behaved - behaviour - misbehave.

Inferencing: This is the means by which the learner forms hypotheses, through attending to input, or using the situational context to interpret the input.

Input: This constitutes the language to which the learner is exposed. It can be spoken or written. It serves as the data which the learner must use to determine the rules of the target language.

Interaction analysis: This is a research procedure used to investigate classroom communication. It involves the use of a system of categories to record and analyse the different ways in which teachers and students use language.

Interactional tasks: Tasks which promote communication and interaction. The idea behind this approach is that he primary purpose of speech is the maintenance of social relationships.

See transactional tasks.

Interactionist learning theory: This theory emphasizes the joint contributions of the linguistic environment and the learner's internal mechanisms in language development. Learning results from an interaction between the learner's mental abilities and the liguistic input.

Interference: According to behviorist learning theory, the patterns of the learner's mother tongue (L1) get in the way of learning the patterns of the L2. This is referred to as 'interference'.

Interlanguage: The learner's knowledge of the L2 which is independent of both the L1 and the actual L2. This term can refer to: i) the series of interlocking systems which characterize acquisition; ii) the system that is observed at a single stage of development (an 'interlanguage'); and iii) particular L1/L2 combinations.

Intermediate:  At this level a student will have a working vocabulary of between 1500 and 2000 words and should be able to cope easily in most everyday situations. There should be an ability to express needs, thoughts and feelings in a    reasonably clear way.

Intensive Reading: Reading for specific understanding of information, usually of shorter texts.

Intonation: The ways in which the voice pitch rises and falls in speech.

L1: The mother tongue.

L2 A term used to refer to both foreign and second languages.

See foreign language; second language.

Language Acquisition Device; a term coined by Noam Chomsky to explain an innate psychological capacity for language acquisition.

Language awareness: Approaches to teaching language which emphasise the value of helping learners to focus attention on features of language in use. Most such approaches emphasise the importance of learners gradually developing their own awareness of how the language is used through discoveries which they make themselves.

See discovery activities.

Language "chunks": short phrases learned as a unit (e.g., thank you very much); patterned language acquired through redundant use, such as refrains and repetitive phrases in stories

Language data: Instances of language use which are used to provide information about how the language is used. Thus a corpus can be said to consist of language data.

See corpus.

Language Laboratory
A room equipped with headphones and booths to enable students to listen to a language teaching programme, while being monitored from a central  console.  Labs may be Audio-Active (AA), where students listen and respond to a tape, or Audio-Active-Comparative (AAC), where they may record their own responses and compare these with a model on the master tape.

Language minority: a student who comes from a home in which a language other than English is primarily spoken; the student may or may not speak English well

Language practice: Activities which involve repetition of the same language point or skill in an environment which is controlled by the framework of the activity. The purpose for language production and the language to be produced are usually predetermined by the task of the teacher. The intention is not to use the language for communication but to strengthen, through successful repetition, the ability to manipulate a particular language form or function. Thus getting all the students in a class who already know each other repeatedly to ask each other their names would be a practice activity.

See language use.

Language proficiency: the level of competence at which an individual is able to use language for both basic communicative tasks and academic purposes

Language use: Activities which involve the production of language in order to communicate. The purpose of the activity might be predetermined but the language which is used is determined by the learners. Thus getting a new class of learners to walk round and introduce themselves to each other would be a language use activity; and so would getting them to complete a story.

Language variety: variations of a language used by particular groups of people, includes regional dialects characterized by distinct vocabularies, speech patterns, grammatical features, and so forth; may also vary by social group (sociolect) or idiosyncratically for a particular individual (idiolect)

Learning: The internalization of rules and formulas which can be used to communicate in the L2. Krashen uses this term for formal learning in the classroom.

Learning strategies: These account for how learners accumulate new L2 rules and how they automatize existing ones. They can be conscious or subconscious. These contrast with communication strategies and production strategies, which account for how the learners use their rule systems, rather than how they acquire them. Learning strategies may include metacognitive strategies (e.g., planning for learning, monitoring one's own comprehension and production, evaluating one's performance); cognitive strategies (e.g., mental or physical manipulation of the material), or social/affective strategies (e.g., interacting with another person to assist learning, using self-talk to persist at a difficult task until resolution).

Learning styles: The way(s) that particular learners prefer to learn a language. Some have a preference for hearing the language (auditory learners), some for seeing it written down (visual learners), some for learning it in discrete bits (analytic learners), some for experiencing it in large chunks (global or holistic or experiential learners) and many prefer to do something physical whilst experiencing the language (kinaesthetic learners).

Lexical item
An item of vocabulary which has a single element of meaning. It may be a  compound or phrase: bookcase, post office, put up with. Some single words may initiate several lexical items; eg letter: a letter of the alphabet / posting a letter.

Lexical Set
A group or family of words related to one another by some semantic principle:  eg lamb, pork, chicken, beef are all different types of meat and form a lexical set.

Linguistic competence: a broad term used to describe the totality of a given individual's language ability; the underlying language system believed to exist as inferred from an individual's language performance

Materials: Anything which is used to help to teach language learners. Materials can be in the form of a textbook, a workbook, a cassette, a CD-Rom, a video, a photocopied handout, a newspaper, a paragraph written on a whiteboard: anything which presents of informs about the language being learned.

Materials adaptation: Making changes to materials in order to improve them or to make them more suitable for a particular type of learner. Adaptation can include reducing, adding, omitting, modifing and supplementing. Most teachers adapt materials every time they use a textbook in order to maximise the value of the book for their particular learners.

Materials evaluation: The systematic appraisal of the value of materials in relation to their objectives and to the objectives of the learners using them. Evaluation can be pre-use and therefore focused on predictions of potential value. It can be whilst-use and therefore focused on awareness and description of what the learners are actually doing whilst the materials are being used. And it can also be post-use and therefore focused on analysis of what happened as a result of using the materials.

Meaning-focused tasks: These tasks focus on communication of meaning. Meaning-focused tasks do not provide practice activities which focus on individual linguistic components as a preliminary to engagement in communicative tasks. According to the meaning-focused approach, involvement in communicative tasks is all that is necessary to develop competence in a second language. See Form-focused tasks

Micro-teaching: A technique used on teacher training courses: a part of a lesson is taught to  a small number of students.  A variation of this is 'peer teaching', where the 'students' are often peers of the trainee teacher attending the same course.

Minimal Pair: A pair of items differing by one phonological feature; eg sit/set, ship/sheep, pen/pan, fan/pan, pan/pat etc.

Modal Verb: Verbs which express the mood of another verb: will/would; shall/should; may/might; can/could; must, ought, need, dare, used to.

Monitor: Language learners and native speakers typically try to correct any erros in what they have just said. This is referred to as 'monitoring'. The learner can monitor vocabulary, phonology, or discourse. Krashen uses'Monitoring' to refer the way the learner uses 'learnt' knowledge to improve naturally 'acquired' knowledge.

Morpheme: The smallest unit of language that is grammatically significant.  Morphemes may be bound, ie they cannot exist on their own; eg -er,un-, -ed, mis- ; or they can be free, as is ball in football.

Morphology: The branch of linguistics which studies how words change their forms when they change grammatical function, ie their inflections swim -swam - swum - swimming - swimmer; cat - cats; mouse - mice; happy - happier - happily etc.  See also Syntax.

Motivation: This can be defined in terms of the learner's overall goal or orientation. 'Instrumental' motivation occurs when the learner's goal is functional (e.g. to get a job or pass an examination), and 'integrative' motivation occurs when the learner wishes to identify with the culture of the L2 group. 'Task" motivation is the interest felt by the learner in performing different learning tasks.

Multilingualism: ability to speak more than two languages; proficiency in many languages

Multi-media materials: Materials which make use of a number of different media. Often they are available on a CD-Rom which makes use of print, graphics, video and sound. Usually such materials are interactive and enable the learner to receive feedback on the written or spoken language which they produce.

Native language: primary or first language spoken by an individual

(See L1)

Natural Approach: Pioneered by Krashen, this approach combines acquisition and learning as a  means of facilitating language development in adults.

Negotiation of Meaning: When learners interact with native speakers or other learners, they often have problems in communicating. This leads to interactional efforts to make mutual understanding. This is called 'negotiation of meaning'.

Nonverbal Communication: paralinguistic and nonlinguistic messages that can be transmitted in conjunction with language or without the aid of language; paralinguistic mechanisms include intonation, stress, rate of speech, and pauses or hesitations; nonlinguistic behaviors include gestures, facial expressions, and body language, among others

Order of development: This refers to the order in which specific grammatical features are acquired in SLA. These vary according to factors such as the learner's L1 background and the learning context.

Over-generalization: Language learners often produce errors which are extensions of general rules to items not covered by the rules, e.g. 'I comed home'. this is called 'over-generalization.

PPP: An approach to teaching langauge items which follows a sequence of presentation of the item, practice of the item and the production of the items. This is the approach currently followed by most commercially produced textbooks and has the advantage of apparent systematicity and economy. However, it is based on the "linear" and "behaviorist" view of language learning, which researchers have shown to be incorrect. This approach ignores the cyclic nature of learning, and treats learning as a series of "knowable facts".

See language practice; SLA; language use.

Pair Work: A process in which students work in pairs for practice or discussion.

Passive Vocabulary: The vocabulary that students are able to understand compared to that which  they are able to use.  Contrasted with Active Vocabulary.

Patterns: These are a type of formulaic speech. They are unanalysed units which have open slots, e.g. 'Can i have a .......?'

See formulaic speech and routines

Pedagogic task: In pedagogic tasks, learners are required to do things which it is extremely unlikely they would be called upon to do outside of the classroom. Completing one half of a dialogue, filling in the blanks in a story and working out the meaning of ten nonsense words from clues in a text would be examples of pedagogic tasks.

See real-world tasks.

Peer Group
Usually refers to people working or studying at the same level or in the same grouping; one's colleagues or fellow students.

Performance standards: statements that refer to how well students are meeting a content standard; specify the quality and effect of student performance at various levels of competency (benchmarks) in the subject matter; specify how students must demonstrate their knowledge and skills and can show student progress toward meeting a standard

Phatic Communion
Phrases used to convey sociability rather than meaning.

The smallest unit of sound which causes a change of meaning:  

            cattle - kettle /kę

Process approach: The process approach focuses on the means whereby learning occurs. The process is more important than the product. In terms of writing, the important aspect is the way in which completed text was created. The act of composing evolves through several stages as writers discover, through the process, what it is that they are trying to say.

See product approach.

Product approach: The product approach focuses on the end result of teaching/learning. In terms of writing, there should be something "resulting" from the composition lesson (e.g. letter, essay, story, etc.). This result should be readable, grammatically correct and obeying discourse conventions relating to main points, supporting details and so on.

See process approach.

Production strategies: These refer to utilization of linguistic knowledge in communication. They do not imply any communcation problem (cf. communication strategies ) and they operate largely unconsciously.

See communication strategies and learning strategies

Psychological distance: The term used to refer to the learner's overall psychological set with regard to the target language and its community. This is determined by factors such as language shock and motivation.

Rate of acquisition: The speed at which the learner develops L2 proficiency. This is different to the 'route of acquisition'.

Real-world tasks: These are tasks which use "authentic" materials and situations. Learners are required to approximate, in class, the sorts of behaviors required of them in the world beyond the classroom.

See pedagogic tasks.

Route of development: L2 learners go through a number of trnsitional states en route to acquiring the target language rules. This is referred to as the 'route of development'.

Routines: These are a type of formulaic speech. They are units that are totally unanalysed and are learnt as wholes, e.g. "I don't know'.

See formulaic speech and patterns

Scripts: These can be considered a type of formulaic speech. They are are memorized sequences of utterances which are more or less fixed and predictable, e.g. 'How do you do?'

Second language: The term is used to refer to a language which is not a mother tongue but which is used for certain communicative functions in a society. Thus English is a second language in Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Singapore. French is a second language in Senegal, Cameroon and Tahiti.

See foreign language.

Self-access materials: Materials designed for learners to use indepently (i.e. on their own without access to a teacher or a classroom). They are normally used by the learner at home, in a library or in a self-study centre.

Simplification: This refers to the way in which learners try to make L2 learning easier by limiting the number of hypotheses they form at any one stage of development, or by omitting grammar and/or prepositional elements in production.

Simplified texts: These are texts which have been made simpler so as to make it easier for learners to read them. The usual principles of simplification involve reduction in length of the text, shortening of sentences, omission or replacement of difficult words or structures, omission of qualifying clauses and omission of non-essential detail. It is arguable, however, that such simplification might make the words easier to understand but could make it more difficult for the learners to achieve global understanding of a text which is now dense with important information. It might be more profitable to cimplify texts by adding examples, by using repetition and paraphrase and by increasing redundant information. In other words, by lengthening rather than shortening the text.

SLA: This is an abbreviatoin for Second Language Acquistion and is normally used to refer to research and theory related to the learning of second and foreign languages.

Social distance: This refers to the position of the learner with respect to the target language community.

Success of acquisition: This has to do with the level of proficiency that the learner finally achieves.

See fossilization

Supplementary materials: Materials designed to be used in addition to the core materials of a course. They are usually related to the development of skills of reading, writing, listening or speaking rather than to the learning of language items.

See coursebook.

Target language: This is the language that the learner is attempting to learn. It comprises the native speaker's grammar.

Task based: This refers to materials or courses which are designed around a series of authentic tasks which give learners experience of using the language in ways in which it is used in the 'real world' outside the classroom. They have no pre-determined language syllabus and the aim is for learners to learn from the tasks the language they need to participate successfully in them. Examples of such tasks would bes working out the itinerary of a journey from a timetable, completing a passport application form, ordering a product from a catalogue and giving directions to the post office.

See authentic tasks.

Teacher talk: Teachers make adjustments to both language form and language function in order to help communication in the classroom. These adjustments are called 'teacher talk'.

Text: Any scripted or recorded production of a language presented to learners of that language. A text can be written or spoken and could be, for example, a poem, a newspaper article, a passage about pollution, a song, a film, an extrac from a novel or a play, a passage written to exemplify the use of the past perfect, a recorded telephone conversation, a scripted dialogue or a speech by a politician.

Top-down approach to language comprehension and production: The top-down view of language learning starts from use of the language. Study of grammar, vocabulary, etc. come later, once the learner has started using the language for communication. This utilizes knowledge of the larger picture, as it were, to assist in comprehending or using smaller elements.

See bottom-up task.

Transactional tasks: These tasks are primarily concerned with the transfer of information.

See interactional tasks.

Transfer: Knowledge of the L1 is used to help in learning the L2. Transfer can be positive, when the two language have similar structures, or it can be negative, when the two languages are different, and L1-induced errors occur.

Universal grammar: A set of general principles that apply to all languages, rather than a set of particular rules.

Universal hypothesis: This states that certain universal linguistic properties determine the order in which the rules of a specific language are acquired. Thus, linguistic rather than cognitive factors determine acquisition.

Variability: Language learners vary in the use they make of their linguistic knowledge. This can be systematic or unsystematic.

Vernacular style: When language users attend to what they wish to say rather than how they want to say it, and when they are performing spontaneously, they use their vernacular style. This is usually seen in everyday conversations.

Workbook: A book which contains extra practic activities for learners to work on in their own time. Usually the book is designed so that learners can write in it and often there is an answer jey procided in the back of the book to give feedback to the learners.

Most recently updated on February 16, 2002