Why teach grammar?

I

Implicit language learning is learning by doing, learning how the language works by engaging in relevant communicative tasks. The learners’ focus is on meaning, with occasional, short, teacher-instigated focuses on form. SLA research findings make it clear that implicit learning is more basic, more important and superior to explicit learning. Implicit learning is the result of deeper processing, and thus is more durable. It results in automatic, fast access to interlanguage knowledge, and it underlies listening comprehension, spontaneous speech, and fluency.

That’s why those of us involved in the SLB TBLT course are against explicit grammar teaching of the sort found in coursebooks. Such explicit grammar teaching takes up a lot of time; it crowds out the real communicative practice needed to achieve communicative competence, it slows up implicit learning. It’s a question of efficacy, especially in teaching environments where opportunities for practice outside the classroom are limited. You can help students reach their goals more efficiently and effectively by finding out what they need to do in the L2 and by then giving them tasks to do which help them reach their objectives. The needs analysis is not difficult, and apart from a bit of heavy lifting at the start, TBLT courses are no more demanding than coursebook-driven ones, but they’re certainly more efficacious, as Bryfonski & McKay’s 2017 review shows.

It’s not that grammar teaching is completely useless. But since using a coursebook to teach grammar fails to respect the restraints imposed by interlanguage development, students often fail to learn what they’re taught. And anyway, since it’s been demonstrated that with the right kind of input and scaffolding, students can work the grammar out for themselves in their own way, why bother?

I spent 30 years teaching English as an L2, and I’ve spent almost that long reading the SLA literature, talking to SLA scholars, teaching in an MA programme, and trying to make my own sense of how people learn an L2 and the implications for teaching. But while it all seems fairly clear to me, I’m aware that it doesn’t seem at all clear to most people currently working in ELT, a fact which  was brought home to me recently when I got involved in a thread on Twitter. Matthew Ellman kicked off:

Coursebook authors! Changing active sentences into the passive voice and vice versa is a complete waste of time and doesn’t teach learners anything.

Most people who joined in the discussion agreed with this opinion, and suggested various other bits of English which might or might not benefit from explicit teaching. There was general agreement that explicit grammar teaching was a good thing. I suggested that it wasn’t a good thing, which led Steve Smith to give a link to this article by Catherine Walter, published in 2012 in The Guardian, a UK newspaper:

Walter confidently claims that, while grammar teaching has been under attack for years,

evidence trumps argument, and the evidence is now in. Rigorously conducted meta-analyses of a wide range of studies have shown that, within a generally communicative approach, explicit teaching of grammar rules leads to better learning and to unconscious knowledge, and this knowledge lasts over time.

She goes on:

Teaching grammar explicitly is more effective than not teaching it, or than teaching it implicitly; that is now clear. What this implies is that the grammar in a course should be planned, to ensure coverage of the structures learners will need. Teachers cannot depend on a range of texts or a range of topics or a range of tasks to yield all the grammar in a course. Taking each class as it comes is not an option. A grammar syllabus is needed, along with the other syllabuses and word lists that structure a course.

I replied to Steve, saying that Walter’s piece was “a disgraceful misrepresentation of the evidence”, that no meta-analysis ever published made such claims, and that there were severe reservations about pre 2015 meta-analyses which looked at studies on teaching very simple forms and testing by gap filling & multiple choice questions soon after the teaching had been done. I also referred to newer studies and to the meta-analysis by Kang et al in 2018. Steve Smith replied that he’d read it, adding:

My reading of the article is that it confirms the well-known Norris and Ortega study, with a particular advantage for instruction for beginners.

Wrong!, I yelled. The article did no such thing – see Kang et al 2018, p. 13:

 “implicit instruction (g = 1.76) appeared to have a significantly longer lasting impact on learning … than explicit instruction (g = 0.77). This finding, consistent with Goo et al. (2015), was a major reversal of that of Norris and Ortega (2000).

By this time I’d realised, once again, how deeply entrenched explicit grammar teaching had become. Leading teacher trainers must take some of the credit or blame for this state of affairs, because they encourage teachers to use coursebooks and to see themselves as teachers of the code; teachers who must first tell their students about the language, bit by bit; then get them to practice the bits by doing lots of focused exercises; and then, finally do short bits of “freer” practice. Where did this view come from? We have to go back a while to get the answer.

Back to the bad old, good old days 

We’re back in the 1960s, 1966 to be precise, when John Carroll wrote:

“Once the student has a proper degree of cognitive control over the structure of a language, facility will develop automatically with the use of the language in meaningful situations.”

What he meant was: once you’ve taught the student the grammar of a language, the rest will follow through language use. That was how US teachers did it in the massive foreign language training programmes in the 1960s, and that was how they did it in the UK through the Situational Approach. But the results were very disappointing, even if they were slightly better than the disastrous results of grammar-translation courses and secondary school courses in foreign languages, where after 5 years teaching, students couldn’t hold the most rudimentary conversation in the target language. But they weren’t much better. The problem was that all they had was explcit knowledge of the language; they knew about it, so they could answer questions about it in tests, but their knowledge didn’t enable them to use the language in spontaneous communicative situations. It was these poor results which led to the emergence of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT).

What happened?

In 1967, Pit Corder proposed that we acquire the rules of language in a predictable way (some rules tending to come early and others late) and that the order is independent of the order in which rules are taught in language classes. In 1975 Krashen and Selinger published “The Essential Contributions of Formal Instruction in Adult Second Language Learning”. In 1976, Wilkins made the important distinction between synthetic and analytic syllabuses, and in 1977, Krashen published “The monitor model of adult second language performance”, which made the distinction between acquisition and learning, that is, between implicit and explicit learning. All these advances in the study of SLA were used as steps to build CLT, which rejected the “Teach the grammar first” precept, and adopted the view that students could work the grammar of the target language out for themselves if they were provided with the right input and enough opportunities to engage in scaffolded, meaningful communicative practice, where the teacher organised classroom activities and gave help with the problems they encountered along the way.

Real Change

Teachers were encouraged to stop teaching grammar, to stop telling students about the language, and, instead, to devote classroom time to orgnising activities where students could learn by doing, by practicing using the language. Teachers used written and spoken texts where the language was treated holistically; they organised activities that were task-oriented not exercise-centred and that involved integrating skills not isolating them. Priority was given to student interaction, so the classroom layout changed and students spent time working in pairs and small groups.

More and more research in SLA supported the CLT movement. Most important were the studies of interlanguage development, given a framework by Selinker’s (1972) paper which argues that L2 learners develop their own autonomous mental grammar (interlanguage (IL) grammar) with its own internal organising principles. More work on the acquisition of English morphemes, and then studies of developmental stages of negation in English, developmental stages of word order and questions in English, and then Pienemann’s studies of learning German as an L2 where all learners adhered to a five-stage developmental sequence (see Ortega, 2009, for a review) put together an increasingly clear picture of interlanguage development.

Putting all the research together, it was clear, even by the mid 1980s, that learning an L2 is a process whereby learners slowly develop their own autonomous mental grammar with its own internal organising principles. Development of individual structures is not categorical or linear; rather interlanguage development is dynamic, so that at any one time, lots of different parts of the mental grammar are being revised and refined. Learners pass through well-attested developmental sequences on their way to different end-state proficiency levels, slowly mastering the L2 in roughly the same way, regardless of the order or manner in which target-language structures are presented by teachers. Teaching can affect the rate but not the route of IL development. The acquisition sequences displayed in IL development are impervious to explicit teaching. SLA shares many features of L1 learning: it is predominantly a matter of implicit learning, and explicit instruction about the L2 is constrained by the learners’ interlanguage development.

Now you see it, now you don’t 

And yet, just as it was really taking off, along came coursebooks, which, by 1995 had succeeded in throwing CLT into the dustbin of history. The myth lingers that we’re still in the era of CLT, but we’re not, we’re in the era of coursebook-driven ELT, and we’ve been here for decades. OUP celebrated the 40th birthday of the Headway series in 2017, now in its 4th edition. A cursory look at any of the most popular General English coursebooks will reveal the demise of CLT: there’s little to distinguish these coursebooks from the Kernel English series which used a no-nonsense Situational Approach 40 years ago.

On we go, then 

The reason why so many teachers associate their jobs with grammar teaching is because that’s what they’ve been trained to do and because they’ve been given little encouragement to critically evaluate the syllabuses and the methodology imposed by using coursebooks which enshrine explicit grammar teaching. The argument that this is an inefficacious way of going about ELT, and that there are viable, better ways, hardly gets heard. So on we go, stumbling on, putting too much faith in teacher trainers, most of whom refuse to give serious consideration to the weaknesses of coursebook-driven ELT or to alternatives.

Meanwhile, some of us, a merry, motley crew, are breaking away, sailing the good ship TBLT out into open seas. No coursebooks, no grammar teaching, just a commitment to the principles of learning by doing and learner-centred teaching. Everybody welcome!

References 

Bryfonski, L., & McKay, T. H. (2017). TBLT implementation and evaluation: A meta-analysis. Language Teaching Research

Corder, S. P. (1967) The significance of learners’ errors.International Review of Applied Linguistics 5, 161-9.

Eun Yung Kang, Sarah Sok, Zhao Hong (2018) Thirty-five years of ISLA research on form-focused instruction: A meta-analysis. Language Teaching Research

Krashen, S. (1977) The monitor model of adult second language performance. In Burt, M., Dulay, H. and Finocchiaro, M. (eds.) Viewpoints on English as a second language. New York: Regents, 152-61.

Ortega, L. (2009) Sequences and Processes in Language Learning. In Long, M. and Doughty, C. Handbook of Language Teaching. Oxford, Wiley

Seliger, H. (1979) On the nature and function of language rules in language teaching. TESOL Quarterly 13, 359-369.

Selinker, L. (1972) Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics 10, 209-231.

Wilkins, D. A. (1976) Notional syllabuses. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

15 thoughts on “Why teach grammar?

  1. Thanks for another informative and thought-provoking read, Geoff. Stumbling across your blog a few months ago has reinvigorated my teaching and posed a number of burning questions that I am enjoying discussing with friends and colleagues.
    One thing that has been knocking around in my head as I explore TBLT and the arguments for its use is the context that I work in. Working in a private language school UK means that all the learners in my class have direct access to infinite opportunities for interaction in English outside the classroom. It´s my understanding that there are three main ingredients needed for effective language acquisition: interaction in English, negative feedback, and some explicit instruction.
    If, as is the case with a couple of my classes, the learners only have access to a teacher for a couple of hours per week, could the argument be made that this class time would be best spent on explicit instruction, as both the other needs are being met outside the classroom?
    Thanks,
    Aidan

  2. The entire purpose of grammar in any language should be effective communication. When I first attempted book writing, I learned from other writers. That taught me a great lesson. All the rules I learned in grade school were not necessarily correct. Why can’t a sentence end in a preposition? Who decides what a paragraph can be? Effective communication, getting ideas across to others, in my view, is more important that rules created by those who don’t live by writing. There are different purposes to writing of course, and I adapt my writing depending upon the purpose. If I’m writing a business letter, applying for employment, then my writing becomes more consistent with norms, and my punctuation is more accurate with traditional forms. If I’m writing a poem or story, then I’m still concerned with punctuation, but moreso for the reader. And sometimes, in order to effectively communicate a thought or idea, I must break with traditional thinking. Thanks for your article. I found it thoughtful.

  3. Hi Aidan,

    I’m very pleased to hear that the blog has had such a positive affect on someone 🙂 Thanks for your kind words.

    The classes where you meet your sudents 2 hours a week should not, in my opinion be given over to explicit instruction. Lots of people who do English as an L2 courses in the UK (or the US, or Australia, etc) don’t make much use of the limitless opportunities offered by their surroundings. It’s thus wrong to assume that they’re geting the practice they need. The only way to find out is to ask them. Ask them about their needs and about what they do all day. Once you’ve identified what they want to use English to do (i.e. you’ve identified target tasks), you can, if you want, design a series of pedagogic tasks for them. You no doubt already have an impression of how proficient they are at doing the things they need to do, and this will help you find the right materials and design the appropriate pedagogic tasks. If they can already do the things they need to do in English to their own satisfaction, then I’d advise them to stop coming to class.

    I think the argument I made in this post still holds in this scenario. If you dedicate class time to explicit instruction, you’re not helping them as much as you could by doing relevant tasks to develop their listening comprehension, or their ability to deal confidently with communicative situations which happen in real time.

    Best,

    Geoff

  4. Hi “Dolphinwrite” ,

    Thanks for these interesting remarks. I agree with everything you say.

    Best,

    Geoff

  5. Geoff. I was wondering if you’d read Uncovering Grammar by Scott Thornbury, and if so, what you thought of it. For me, it highlights to idea of grammar being something you do rather than a set of rules to memorize, and that students should be given practice ‘grammaring’ rather than the traditional presenting and practice of individual areas of grammar.

    With that in mind, let’s imagine you’re adopting a task-based approach and during a storytelling task, you identify that a better grasp of the various past-tense forms would enable them to more effectively tell a story, what would your next step be? Would you then design a specific activity that effectively forces the accurate use of those particular forms (perhaps a dictagloss that involves those forms), or would you simply give them feedback and go again at the whole task? Obviously the same question could be asked of pronunciation, or any other specific area of language. In your view of best practice, how does the teacher respond to a shortcoming in a specific area of the students’ language. Is it useful to isolate and practise an individual item of grammar after you’ve identified is as an area in specific need of improvement, or is that just as ineffective (comparatively) as picking it out before the lesson?

  6. Hi Joe,

    I’ve read Thornbury’s Uncovering Grammar and I think it’s both mistaken in its view of grammar and unhelpful for teachers. I wonder if any teacher has actually worked their way right the way through this book; did you?

    If you adopt the TBLT approach that I’ve outlined, based on Long’s 2015 book SLA and TBLT, then storytelling isn’t a task. I think it’s better seen as an activity which might be done for a variety of reasons, but probably for no particular purpose. If you use a task-based syllabus, you lead students through a series of pedagogic tasks aimed at helping students to use the L2 competently and confidently to do that task – for example, to report about a trip they made to New York, or to describe what action they took when faced with an emergency at a hospital. In this kind of course, in principle, you don’t address problems of use of the simple past tense or pronunciation by designing activities that isolate and practice them. You concentrate on working through tasks where such problems are dealt with through various types of feedback. However, when it comes down to you in the classroom, you have to decide what to do about all the errors and gaps you see when students are engaged in tasks. If you get the general idea of the TBLT approach, you’ll be reluctant to spend too much time on expliv¡cit teaching, but it’s your call.

  7. Hi Geoff,

    I find grammar lessons extremely boring. No doubt. But interlanguage and implicit learning are not altogether satisfying yet.

    I began reading the Interlanguage material. I cannot see how Interlanguage is an actual theory of language acquisition, if the theory indeed should explain how we acquire a language (“…learners build an independent linguistic system driven by a powerful internal, interfacing mechanism that, in turn, interacts with the environment in which learning occurs” Han and Tarone in Interlanguage 40 Years Later p.5). IL seems to describe an evolving learner grammar. To understand acquisition, we would need to ask what makes language evolve along this apparently fixed path, i.e. identify this very same “powerful mechanism”. I guess that question could be answered by claims like learners access their innate grammar, etc.

    About implicit language learning:
    “Implicit language learning is learning by doing, learning how the language works by engaging in relevant communicative tasks.”

    ‘Learning by doing’ and ‘how language works’ are puzzling terms. Learning by doing seems to recall more an educational philosophy than acquisition theory. A lot of implicit learning happens by doing nothing as when people are expanding their language skills through reading, watching TV, listen to a story, etc.

    It seems that implicit learning here stands for the outcome of an accumulative impression on the mind in regards to the more formal aspects of a language. But that is not all the learning task, right? Are advanced learners still trying to get a better hold of the structure of a language? How does this take into account the insight that lexis and grammar are intertwined? Fluency is not only a structural issue but, in my experience, depending on lexical agility.

    What does “deeper processing” mean? In what sense is implicit learning be deeper?
    I do not understand what you mean when you write that implicit learning allows fast access to interlanguage knowledge.

    best,

    Thom

  8. Hi Thomas,

    You’re right: interlanguage development isn’t a theory of SLA. The question “What explains it?” remains. Nativists and emergentists suggest different answers.

    Learning by doing = doing things in the L2 focused on meaning, i.e., you’re not consciously thinking about the formnal aspects of the language. That’s what those from foreign countries who go to (eg) the UK to work often do – they don’t go to a school, they learn English “on the job”, and many get very proficient indeed.

    When tallking about different levels of proficiency, let’s just take a common sense view. I’m not in favour of using the CEFR.

    The best case for explicit instruction is telling real beginners about simple rules in the language. The more advanced, the more complicated, the more difficult, and possibly the more confusing the “explanation” becomes. Evidence shows that learners can work it out for themselves, unconsciously, with enough input and practice. On the other hand, there are learners who like, and who benefit from, instruction and from paying attention to formal aspects of the L2.

    Q: Are advanced learners still trying to get a better hold of the structure of a language?

    A: A lot of people don’t get beyond a certain level, for lots of reasons, Some people keep learning more and more, getting better and better, through practice, without any explicit teaching or paying explicit attention. Others advanced learners get better by doing a course aimed at preparing for the Cambridge Proficiency exam, for example. IMO, the best way to help students at all levels to improve is through a TBLT course, where explicit focus on form instruction is limited in the way I’ve suggested.

    Q: How does this take into account the insight that lexis and grammar are intertwined? Fluency is not only a structural issue but, in my experience, depending on lexical agility.

    A: Using the language to work through tasks means using it holistically without regard to this distinction. Fluency certainly depends on good implicit (procedural) knowledge of both grammar and lexis and the connections between them. Knowledge of collocations is essential. Students can learn how to deal fluently with relevant (for them) communicative situations by working through tasks – IMO, the better designed the tasks, the more efficacious they will be, and I think the kind of pedagogic tasks Long proposes are much better than the kinds of tasks (activities) Willis or Rod Ellis propose.

    Still, how one best (most efficaciously) helps students to get the knowledge needed for fluent communication in the L2 is a vital, and somewhat unresolved question, Mike Long tells me that there are increasing indications that even the kind of focus on form that is an essential part of his TBLT approach might not be necessary – work Nick Ellis is doing suggests that…. Well, I’ll leave that till articles in the pipeline are published. Whatever happens, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Dellar’s approach (present and practice as many collocations as possible, and work with some hopelessly muddled concept of “bottom-up grammar) is efficacious, or that devoting a course to explicitly teaching “advanced” grammar and collocation is either.

    Q: What does “deeper processing” mean? In what sense is implicit learning be deeper?
    I do not understand what you mean when you write that implicit learning allows fast access to interlanguage knowledge.

    A: When you talk to somebody you have to process what whey’re saying to you and what you say to them. Some of this processing goes on in working memory, which we’re conscious of, but this has a very limited capacity (the famous Miller paper suggested 7 ± 2 items), so we have to resort to long term memory. We can divide long-term memory into explicit (or declarative) memory and implicit (or procedural) memory.

    Declarative (explicit) memory is memory of facts and events which can be consciously recalled (or “declared”). It’s information that is explicitly stored and retrieved.

    Procedural (Implicit) memory is the unconscious knowledge of skills and how to do things, including swimming, playing the piano, and using language (for communicative purposes). The learner’s dynamic, evolving interlanguage system is part of implicit knowledge. This implicit memory allows for the “automatic” performance of tasks without explicit and conscious awareness.

    It seems that these different types of long-term memory are stored in different regions of the brain and go thru different processes. I won’t elaborate (Google it!) , but the result is, that implicit knowledge is said to be more deeply processed, more embedded, and capable of being used without conscious effort. If you’re talking to someone and all is going well, you’re using implicit knowledge of the language to understand what’s being said, and to talk. If you can’t parse the signal, you resort to explicit knowledge and processing, it might work, but it slows things down or makes them difficult. And, regarding output, if you can’t remember a word, or you struggle to express yourself clearly, you again have to resort to explicit knowledge. If it helps, you’ll find the word, or the phone number or the way to say it in explicit memory, and it will take time.

    So scholars who are divided into more or less nativist or emergentist views of SLA, are united in their acceptance of the view that implicit knowledge is what you need most in language learning, and that the best way to get it is through implicit learning. As you know, I’m sure, there are different positions taken on the interface between the 2 types of knowledge and learning. Strong interface: explicit learning easily leads to implicit knowledge. No interface: explicit learning doesn’t lead to implicit knowledge. Weak interface: some kinds of explicit learning (directed at parts of the language that are more difficult to pick up, because they have low salience or some other characteristic) can lead to implicit knowledge.

    Hope this helps, as they say 🙂 And forgive no doubt numerous typos, spelling mistakes, etc. 😦

  9. Hi Geoff,
    Thanks for your reply that I guess was for me? Or Patrick?

    Some thoughts:
    IL not quite an SLA theory = ok, good. I got that sorted out.

    For low level, give simple rules. = Yes, I fully agree with that.

    It seems to me that advanced grammar becomes increasingly a mesh of lexis and structure and because of that “language features” become more and more idiosyncratic and less generalizable; thus explanations become useless. I would need to teach a ton of rules that apply to a reduced set of cases.

    Personally, I found that “feeling your way through” as a grammar heuristic works ok. That is, reading a lot my ear gets tuned to what sounds (looks) right. In doubt, I check Google or a concordancing software for confirmation before I look at a reference grammar.

    I think Task-Based might not be the best method once students have reached a “certain” level. If implicit learning should kick in, one needs to get just so much more language exposure than a typical ELT classroom would allow. I cannot imagine writing a paper in Tasked Based fashion. I do most my Spanish by doing, and I am far less proficient in it than in English where I get better by the solitary work of reading, writing, and listening to audio books. I think the only way I could break through my Spanish ceiling would be by working much more with text.

    To me it seems that fluency develops along a student’s strongest lexical memory. That is the whole trick of collocations. Collocations to the learner are just randoms sets. But to the native-like speaker, sets of words have acquired this psychological phenomenon that allows the propelled production of language (won’t go into the red flag of priming). It seems the concept of fluency can somewhat erroneously be applied across a person’s language skills. We are fluent in those areas where we have background knowledge and the necessary vocabulary.

    The analogy with piano playing is telling. I play the piano and don’t think one can say that one is fluent in playing the piano. One is fluent in the pieces one has studied. Piano mastery begins with explicit and declarative knowledge (I guess that is to show that I believe in the open gate between explicit and implicit knowledge). One could argue that improvising is a free expression that does not rely on explicit knowledge. Have to think about that some more. Maybe I need a weak interface theory for piano playing.

    The part on memory is a hard nut to crack. I was “shocked”, reading Stevick years ago, when I came to see how we remember meaning but discard the carrier, hence we remember that a joke was funny, but can’t re-tell it without bodging it. This is really quite something. We go through life hanging on to things that make sense and ignore almost all the surface details. That to me captures and justifies the need for explicit attention to Form. So, I’d defend noticing as a good strategy until memory traces are firm enough to allow easy recall.

    Anyway, interesting post.

    Thomas

  10. In college, some friends of mine were trying to become successful writers. For fun, I attempted to write a book, seriously working it for a year, and had a couple of agents write back, but I decided to focus on becoming a teacher, but the practice was useful. Here’s what I learned. Although grade school and community college improved my grammar, the book writing sent the grammar skills way upwards. Why? Because I was learning from other book writers, using them for comparison, and practicing without knowing the terminologies. The reason school is so boring is they focus on hammering nails rather than teaching kids to write, practicing their writing in a variety of modes, then correcting when mistakes are made. More work for the teacher, but more effective.

  11. Hi Thomas,

    Sorry I confused you with Patrick.

    You say you can’t imagine writing a paper in Tasked Based fashion, but writing a paper IS a task – the solitary work of reading, writing, and listening to audio books are all parts of that task. If you think improving in Spanish involves working much more with text, well DO it. Lots of good TBLT courses in “EAP” (“EAP” is often poorly approached in PPP fashion), focus on writing, when that’s identified as the most imortant “need”.

    Stevick admitted to not being exactly a scholar when it came to memory (we used to call that book “Memory Meaning and Madness”), and I’m not sure he gets it right in the bit you refer to.

    As for noticing, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not sure what noticing refers to, or where the common ground is among those who use the term.

    Thanks very much for your comments; always good to see you here – come back soon 🙂

  12. Thanks for this. I think your reflection highlights the chicken and egg problem. In coursebook-driven ELT, the grammar – or lexical chunks, or whatever they’ve decided o present – comes first. They think they need to teach you some bit of the target language first, then carefully practice it and only finally let you off the leash and spend what’s left of class time on “free” practice. Much better to spend just a short time getting ready to do something, and the rest of time doing it, getting help along the way.

    I think I just hijacked the much less “obvious”, more nuanced point you made. Sorry!

  13. Hi again
    Yes, I understand that Stevick stated his limits and I think it made him the more likable as a person. The piece of insight on retaining meaning came from Images and Options. I remember your post on noticing, I’ll check it out again.

    With running the risk of calling anything we DO in language learning a Task, as writing a paper, which to me lacks the notion of hands-on, manual, doing, the idea Long seems to stress, it seems that purpose is the crucial ingredient, hence the needs analysis.
    best,
    TK

  14. Hi Thomas,

    Our version of TBLT (based firmly on Long 2015) sees ELT as concerned with helping learners do things in English, and that includes helping learners who only want to understand written texts, or spoken texts; who only want to answer calls in a call centre, or talk to pilots approaching their aiport, or read and write short texts on line; who only want to use English in a carefully defined professional context, and so on. The point is to get away from English for Nebulous Purposes and to base ELT on a NA which identifies people’s Target Tasks – those things that they want to do with English.

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