Chapter?1?Involved Knowledge in Learning a Language
1.1?The nature of language
1.2?Different views of language
1.3?Views of language and teaching methods
1.4?What to know when learning a language
Chapter?2?Language Learning Methodology
2.1?The definition of learning
2.2?Mother tongue learning and foreign language learning
2.3?Elements necessary for successful language learning in the classroom
2.4?Other elements for successful language learning
2.5?The principles of helping learners be successful in language learning
3.1?Reasons for tasks in the EFL classroom
3.2?Types of tasks in the task-based instruction
3.3?Methodological procedures of the task-based instruction
3.4?The principles for the implementation of the task-based instruction
4.1?The purpose of instructional design
4.2?The components of instructional design
4.3?The tools used in the instructional design
4.4?The principles behind instructional design
4.5?The ingredients of a lesson plan
Chapter?5?The Sequence of a Lesson
5.1?The meaning of a lesson sequence
5.2?Elements of effective language learning in classrooms
5.3?Current formats of the sequence of a lesson used by teachers
5.4?The principles for designing the sequence of a lesson
Chapter?6?How to Teach Listening
6.1?Listening goals and objectives
6.2?Reasons for the necessity of listening
6.3?Some special points about listening
6.4?The principles of teaching listening
6.5?Different stages in the process of listening
6.6?Tasks for teaching listening
Chapter?7?How to Teach Speaking
7.1?Speaking goals and objectives
7.2?The present situation of speaking learning
7.3?The role of the teacher in speaking teaching
7.4?The basic principles of choosing topics for speaking lessons
7.5?The ways to develop speaking competence
7.6?Performance of a fluent speaker
Chapter?8?How to Teach Reading
8.1?Reading goals and objectives
8.4?The sequence of an intensive reading lesson
Chapter?9?How to Teach Writing
9.1?Writing goals and objectives
9.2?The importance of writing
9.3?The product-oriented method and the process approach
9.4?The sequence of a writing lesson
9.5?The standard of good writing
9.6?The basic principles of teachers’ feedback on students’ writing
10.1?The goals and objectives of pronunciation learning
10.3?The importance of cultivating phonological awareness
10.4?The principles of training phonological awareness
10.5?The training on phonological awareness—different aspects
10.6?The training tasks of phonological awareness
11.1?The goals and objectives of vocabulary learning
11.2?The nine best vocabulary learning tips
11.3?Different approaches to teaching vocabulary
12.1?The goals and objectives of grammar learning
12.2?The importance of teaching grammar
12.3?The principles of teaching grammar
12.4?Different kinds of tasks for teaching grammar
12.5?Advice on planning grammar lessons
12.6?The attitude to grammar in reading materials
Chapter?13?Classroom Organization and Management
13.1?The role of an English teacher
13.2?Generating a relaxing atmosphere
13.3?Organizing classroom activities
13.4?Managing classes with mixed abilities
13.5?Dealing with discipline problems
14.1?The goals and objectives of assessment
14.2?The meaning of assessment
14.3?The purposes of assessmen
14.4?The kinds and techniques of assessment
14.5?The basic principles for assessment
Involved Knowledge in Learning a Language
In this chapter, we are going to discuss what is involved in learning a language. We’ll focus on the following:
●?the nature of language;
●?different views of language;
●?views of language and teaching methods;
●?what to know when learning a language.
1.1?The nature of language
What is language? Some may say “Language is a set of rules, i.e. language is systematic.” while others say “Language is used for communication.” (Brown, 2000, p.5). However, linguists are in broad agreement about some of the important characteristics of human language, and most of them would accept a tentative definition like the following: “Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication” (Hu, 1988, p.3). According to this understanding, first, language must be a system, since elements in it are arranged according to certain rules. They cannot be combined at will. Second, language is arbitrary in the sense that there is no intrinsic connection between the word “pen” and the thing we use to write with. This also explains the symbolic nature of language: words are associated with objects, actions, ideas by convention. We say language is vocal because the primary medium is sound for all languages, no matter how well developed are their writing systems. All evidence shows that writing systems come much later than the spoken forms and they are only attempts to capture sounds and meaning on paper. The fact that children acquire spoken language first before they can read or write also indicates that language is primarily vocal. The term “human” in the definition is meant to specify that language is human-specific. According to the above analysis, we get to know that language has the following characteristics:
1) arbitrariness(任意性): there is no logical connection between meanings and sounds;
2) duality(二元性): language is a system which has two sets of structures, one of sounds and the other of meaning;
3) productivity(能产性): language is productive in the sense that users can understand and produce sentences they have never heard before;
4) displacement(移位性): language can refer to contexts removed from the immediate situations of the speaker;
5) cultural transmission(文化传播性): language is passed on from one generation to the next by teaching and learning, rather than by instinct. A Chinese speaker and an English speaker are not mutually intelligible;
6) interchangeability(互易性): any human being can be both a producer and a receiver of messages.
(Hu, 1988, p.6)
1.2?Different views of language
Linguistic theory is also divided into two contrasting schools of thought. One contends that linguistics’ primary focus should be language elements, while the other insists that it is equally important to study language in use. Chomsky, a proponent of the elemental approach, distinguishes competence and performance. He claims that competence is the internalized linguistic system of an ideal native speaker of a given language. “Performance concerns linguistically irrelevant psychological factors involved in the perception and production of speech including perceptual strategies, memory limitations, and emotional factors.” (Canale & Swain, 1980, p.3).
Other linguists, however, do not accept that language can be studied in a way that is abstracted from situational use. Halliday developed the alternative school of Functional Linguistics. Feez (1995) describes the key ideas of this perspective: Every time we use language we make meanings by representing our experience about the world (experiential meanings) and meanings which are to someone else by establishing a relationship with them (interpersonal meanings) and we make meanings which are relevant and meaningful in the context (textual meaning). We also make meanings, which are logical... From the point of view of systematic functional linguists, when language users require language to do something, it is never in a vacuum. Language is a social semiotic (p.27).
It may be inferred from this perspective that language use must be understood in terms of context. Since language does not occur in a social vacuum it is pointless to study it as if it did.
Systematic Functional Linguistics considers that the very nature of language is determined by the uses people have for it.
Along this line, Campbell and Wales (1970) state, “By far the most important linguistic ability is that of being able to produce or understand utterances which are not so much grammatical but, more important, appropriate to the context in which they are made.” They proposed the notion of communicative competence. This includes contextual or sociolinguistic competence, as well as, grammatical competence. Hymes, as well, asserts, “There are rules of use without which the rules of grammar would be useless.” (cited in Canale & Swain, 1980, p. 4).
Richards and Sukwiwat (1982) use the term conversational competence in a similar way to the previous definition of communicative competence: Grammatical competence describes a speaker’s knowledge of the underlying system of morphology, and syntax, which are required to construct grammatical sentences in a language. The sentence is the unit of descriptions for grammatical competence. Conversational competence, however, is defined not with reference to the sentence, but to the utterance. This refers to the speaker’s knowledge of how speech acts are used in social situations (p. 113).
Canale’s and Swain’s (1980) theory of communicative competence includes three main competencies: grammatical competence (knowledge of the rules of grammar), socio-linguistic competence (knowledge of the rules of language use), and strategic competence (verbal and non-verbal communication strategies that compensate for breakdowns in communication due to performance variables or to insufficient competence). Canale extends his model to include discourse competence (mastery of how to combine grammatical forms and meanings to achieve unity of a spoken or written text).
Accordingly, knowledge of the grammatical system is necessary, but not sufficient for language proficiency. The ability to comprehend the intended meaning of something that is heard or read in context and the ability to use language to do things in context are equally important. Communicative Language Teaching assumes this model of language.
Let’s look at the most notable one of these views of language: the grammatical view and the functional view (figure 1).
(Joanna Baker and Heather Westrup, 2000, p.15)
The Grammatical View
The grammatical view is based on the idea that language is a linguistic system which consists of words and grammar. Words change according to certain rules, and grammar puts words into the correct order by following certain rules. When students know the words and understand the rules of grammar, then the meaning of the language becomes clear. Then, students can create an endless variety of sentences and it is possible to translate from one language to another easily. In order to study grammar, students need to know the labels which describe different kinds of words (parts of speech) and their place in a sentence (grammatical function). For students, when learning a language, they should know each language has a finite number of such structural items. To learn a language means to learn these structural items so as to be able to understand and produce language. Let’s have a look at the sentence following:
Parts of speech:????N??V??PR??Infinitive???Adv
Grammatical function:?S??V???O???OC???? O???Adv
According to the grammatical view, knowing a language means knowing the form of a language. For supporters of such view, a person who knows a language acquires the linguistic competence coined by Norm Chomsky. For Chomsky, the focus of linguistic theory is to characterize the abstract abilities speakers possess that enable them to produce grammatically correct sentences in a language. Widdowson (1978) supports him, saying that language is a formal system that has the following linguistic categories as its cohesion: correctness, usage, signification, sentence, proposition, cohesion, and linguistic skills.
The Functional View
Dell Hymes, a sociolinguist, who was convinced that Chomsky’s notion of competence was limited, coined the term “Communicative Competence”. Hymes’ theory of communicative competence was a definition of what a speaker needs to know in order to be communicatively competent in a speech community. In Hymes’ view, a person who acquires communicative competence acquires both knowledge and ability for language use with respect to
a. Whether (and to what degree) something is formally possible.
b. Whether (and to what degree) something is feasible in virtue of the means of implementation available.
c. Whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate (adequate, happy, successful) in relation to a context in which it is used and evaluated.
d. Whether (and to what degree) something is in fact done, actually performed, and what its doing entails.
(from Hymes, 1971. cited from Brumfit and Johnson, 1979:21)
Halliday’s functional account of language use complements Hymes’ view of Communicative Competence. In 1972, Halliday developed a socio-semantic approach to language and the speaker’s use of language. At the heart of this approach is his language-defining notion of “meaning potential”, the sets of options in meaning that are available to the speaker-hearer. This meaning potential relates behavior potential to lexicon-grammatical potential: what the speaker can do—can mean—can say. These stages display systematic options at the disposal of the speaker. That is, a social theory determines behavior options (what the speaker can do) which are translated linguistically as semantic options (what he can mean) which are encoded as options in linguistic forms (what he can say). The options at each stage are organized as networks of systems. The study of language as a social behavior is in the last resort as account of semantic options deriving from the social structure (Halliday 1972, from Brumfit and Johnson, 1979, PP.27- 47). Halliday’s meaning potential is like Dell Hymes notion “communicative competence”.
Under the heading of communicative competence, two sorts of knowledge can be included. The first, the traditional competence, is the knowledge of the structure and formal properties of language, including referential meaning, while the second includes all types of knowledge necessary for the use of the language effectively in real world. The rules of appropriacy, which constitute the second sort of knowledge, pose particular problems for the language teacher, however, for they are concerned with the interaction between the language system and the real world. For this reason, students of a language are going to be taught and possibly tested on, an ability to interact with other people in particular situations, which may in fact reflect certain personal abilities, rather than abilities related to the target language as such. Now of course, an extended definition of communicative competence has important implications to discourse analysis and registers (Brown, 1987: 200).
Such studies can give us useful information about the structure of interactions between speakers and the organization of long texts, whether spoken monologue or written text. From such studies, we are beginning to understand the rule systems, which operate above sentence level, both within the language, and in interaction with the situational constraints imposed by the environment.
The functional view is based on analyzing how people use language. It categorizes language depending upon the context of the communication, according to what we are using language to do. To perform functions, learners need to know how to combine the grammatical rules and the vocabulary to express notions that perform the functions. Examples of notions are the concept of present, past and future time, the expressions of certainty and possibility, the roles of agent and instrument within a sentence, and special relationships between people and objects. Most of our day-to-day language use involves functional activities: offering, suggesting, advising, apologizing, etc. Here are some examples of language functions:
Inviting someone to do something:
Would you please have another cup of tea?
Expressing and finding out attitude:
What do you think of the weather here?
I can’t agree with the word “fantastic”.
Who likes watching football?
I’m really sorry about it.
I can’t stand it.
Getting things done:
Give us a hand, will you?
Everyone, line up over there.
You are invited to our 70th wedding anniversary.
It is nice seeing you.
How is your new car?
See you next week.
According to the functional view, people use languages to communicate meanings. Sometimes you should first listen to others for some information, and then you should give some answers in return. At this time what you need to know about the language is its pronunciation and intonation. You should also know something about the sentence structure. Besides, you need to know something about the culture of the language so that what you say meets the situation. Sometimes you should use languages to write a letter or something else. At this time, you should first know how to make sentences by putting words together to express your idea. To sum up, language has to serve various purposes as there are different types of occasions for using it. From what is written in Professor Hu Zhuanglin’s book, we know that language has at least seven basic functions: phatic, directive, informative, interrogative, expressive, evocative and performative.
1) Phatic(交互性): language is used to establish an atmosphere or maintain social contact rather than exchange information or ideas;
2) Directive(指令性): language is used to get the hearer do something;
3) Informative(信息性): language can be used to tell what the speaker believes, to give information about facts, or to reason things out;
4) Interrogative(询问性): language is used to get information from others;
5) Expressive(表达性): language is used to reveal something about the feelings and attitudes of the speakers;
6) Evocative(召唤性): language is used to create certain feelings in the hearer;
7) Performative(成事性): language is used to do things, or perform actions.
(Hu Zhuanglin, 1988, p.15)
1.3?Views of language and teaching methods
The understanding of the nature of language may provide the basis for particular teaching (Richards and Rodgers, 1986). If language is considered to have a finite number of structural items, language teaching probably means teaching these items. If language is more than just a system of structure, i. e. it is more importantly a tool, then we should teach that part of the language that will be used (rather than all arts of the language), and we should teach language in the way that is used in real world (Wang Qiang, 2000). For instance, there is a very close link between the grammatical view of describing language and the Grammar Translation method of teaching it. A fundamental purpose of teachers who use this method is to let students be able to read literature written in the target language. To do this, teachers should teach the grammar rules and the vocabulary of the target language. So teachers who teach using this method need to have a wide knowledge of vocabulary, a good knowledge of sentence structure and how texts are formed. Teachers need to know how to describe all this to students in their first or main language. Teachers and students use translation to understand the meaning of a text, so lessons focus mainly on reading texts and writing down the translation. The primary skills to be developed are reading and writing. Little attention is paid to speaking and listening, and almost none to pronunciation (Diane Larsen-Freeman, 2000:16). The functional view of language looks at how people use language to communicate meanings. The meaning of the language is usually clear because of the context in which the language is. You can see how Direct Methods, with the emphasis on memorizing phrases and dialogues, and Communicative Language Teaching, with the emphasis on communication, are related to this view of language. Take Communicative Language Teaching for example. The purpose of Communicative Language Teaching is to develop the students’ communicative competence, i.e. to teach students how to use the language to communicate meanings, so in classroom practice, whenever possible, “authentic language”—language as it is used in a real context—should be introduced. Since the focus of the course is on the real language use, a variety of linguistic forms are presented together. The emphasis is on the process of communication rather than just mastery of language forms, so the grammar and vocabulary that the students learn should follow from the function, situational context, and the roles of the interlocutors. In classroom, students should be given opportunities to use the language they are learning to express their ideas and opinions.
Our understanding of the language determines to a large extent how we teach a language. If, for example, we believe that nonverbal communication is a key to successful second language learning, we will devote some attention to nonverbal systems and cues. If we perceive language as a phenomenon that can be dismantled into thousands of discrete pieces and those pieces are programmatically taught one by one, we will attend carefully to an understanding of the separability of the forms of language. If we think language is essentially cultural and interaction, our classroom methodology will be imbued with sociolinguistic strategies and communicative tasks.
In the history of language teaching, according to Diane Larsen-Freeman, many kinds of methods have been used. They are the Grammar-Translation Method, Direct Method, the Audio-Lingual Method, the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, Community Language Learning, Total Physical Response and Communicative Language Teaching. In the following, we will go over some of them.
1) The Grammar-Translation Method
Principles: A fundamental purpose of learning a foreign language is to be able to read literature written in the target language. To do this, students need to learn about the grammar rules and vocabulary of the target language. In addition, it is believed that studying a foreign language provides students with good mental exercise which helps develop their minds.
Characteristics: Vocabulary and grammar are emphasized. Students are taught to translate from one language to another. They study grammar deductively; that is, they are given the grammar rules and examples, are told to memorize them, and then are asked to apply the rules to other examples. They also learn grammatical paradigms such as verb conjugations. Reading and writing are the primary skills that students work on. There is much less attention paid to speaking and listening. Pronunciation receives little, if any, attention.
2) Direct Method
Principles: Emphasis is on how to communicate in the target language. In order to do this successfully, students should learn to think in the target language.
Characteristics: Vocabulary is emphasized over grammar. Although work on all four skills occurs from the start, oral communication is seen as basis. Thus the reading and writing exercises are based upon what the students practice orally first. Pronunciation also receives attention right from the beginning of a course. When introducing the target language, the teacher needs to associate meaning and the target language directly. He demonstrates the meaning through the use of realia, pictures, or pantomime; he never translates it to the students’ native language. Grammar is taught inductively; that is, the students are presented with examples and they figure out the rule or generalization from the examples. An explicit grammar rule may never be given.
3) The Audio-Lingual Method
Principles: The purpose of learning a foreign language is to use the target language communicatively. In order to do this, teachers believe students need to overlearn the target language and to learn to use it automatically without stopping to think. The students achieve this by forming new habits in the target language and overcoming the old habits of their native language.
Characteristics: New vocabulary and structural patterns are presented through dialogues. The dialogues are learned through imitation and repetition. Drills are conducted based upon the patterns present in the dialogue. Students’ successful responses are positively reinforced. Grammar is induced from the examples given; explicit grammar rules are not provided. Cultural information is contextualized in the dialogues or presented by the teacher. Students’ reading and written work is based upon the oral work they did earlier. Vocabulary is kept to a minimum while the students are mastering the sound system and grammatical patterns.
4) Communicative Language Teaching
Principles: The purpose of learning a foreign language is to enable students to communicate in the target language. To do this, students need knowledge of the linguistic forms, meanings and functions. They need to know that many different forms can be used to perform a function and also that a single form can often serve a variety of functions. They must be able to choose the most appropriate form, given the social context and the roles of the interlocutors. They must also be able to manage the process of negotiating meaning with their interlocutors. Communication is a process; knowledge of the forms of language is insufficient.
Characteristics: Language functions might be emphasized over forms, so the most obvious characteristic of CLT is that almost everything that is done is done with a communicative intent. Students use the language a great deal through communicative activities such as games, role plays, and problem-solving tasks. Another characteristic of CLT is the use of authentic materials. It is considered desirable to give students an opportunity to develop strategies for understanding language as it is actually used.
(adapted from Diane Larsen-Freeman, 2000. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press.)
From the above analysis, we have seen how the different views of language affect the teaching methods which teachers use in the classroom, so it is useful for teachers to know about these different ways of analyzing and labeling language so as to make sure that they can use a variety of teaching methods to meet their students’ needs. At the same time, teachers of English should keep it in mind that for teaching purpose, an eclectic attitude is needed. That’s to say, in English teaching, three appeals are particularly important: vocabulary and structures are what is said; pronunciation, stress, and intonation are how it is said; and function is why it is said (Luo Yingru, 2004, p.13). Language teachers should need to maintain a balance so students are aware of, and practise each of the structure, stress and intonation and most importantly, its function.