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Components of Ideal Foreign Language Teaching

Language Learning Theories and ELT Methodology Asst. Prof. Dr. Turan PAKER
Serkan Coskun

Denizli 2010

Table of Contents
Introduction............................................................................................................................................. 3 Planning ................................................................................................................................................... 4 Teaching Procedures ............................................................................................................................... 7 Materials.................................................................................................................................................. 8 Testing ................................................................................................................................................... 10 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................. 10 Works Cited ........................................................................................................................................... 11


Language is a complex part of the human nature. People spend, may be, their whole life to learn a second/foreign language and even sometimes their mother tongue in details. There are lots of reasons for people to learn a new language other than their mother tongue such as trade, migration, love affairs, interest, adventure, etc. However, each person has his/her own pace or in a better term, development rate of language learning process. In addition, the results of this process may not always be as in the first language acquisition that children reach mastery in their mother tongue without having formal instruction (The Logical Problem of Language Acquisition, Ellis, 2008: 591-592). In second/foreign language learning, success is not taken for granted. Some people reach high levels but still may not speak like native speakers, and some do not learn anything after trying many ways to learn the target language, and there are some in between. This is because of many variables that influence language learning process. Those can be the input and/or language itself structurally, the approaches and methods, techniques, strategies, psychological, physical and social factors, and etc. Therefore, there are a lot of things to be considered while teaching or learning a new language. It can be mentioned that there are two main contexts available as language learning environments. The first one, which is the setting that target language is used officially in state and educational, and etc. institutions, is English as a Second Language (ESL). The second one, which is the setting that the target language is neither the mother tongue of people nor the officially accepted language in that country, is English as a Foreign Language (EFL). (English as a foreign or second language, 2003) When we focus the subject to our country, we can say that Turkey is an EFL country and language learning settings should be designed in respect of the criteria of EFL. There are lots of approaches, methods and techniques of these methods to realize learning of a new language. However, there is not such a method solely effective on learning process and lead total success. Currently, in many EFL and ESL countries, researchers suggest using an eclectic method that contains the relevant parts of the other methods in terms of learners needs, goals, ages, levels and at the same time societies and so institutions needs, goals, and etc. to maximize the level of language learning. Therefore, there is a big responsibility on the shoulders of teachers to choose best ways of teaching a foreign language. S/he should analyse the conditions, determine the techniques, and operate them in the classroom to get the best results as much as possible to the fullest. The answers to what can be the components for an ideal foreign language teaching can be various because of the variables mentioned above. However, one can still define the ideal components for different variables and the paper will try to define some of them in respect of the context of Turkey in terms of planning, teaching procedures, materials and testing.


Some of the early methods designed just to teach how to read the literature of the target language by using translation techniques (Grammar Translation Method) or to communicate in the target language and think in L2 by using only the target language with the help of demonstration and imitation and memorization in the classroom (Audiolingual Method). On the other hand, some of the later methods focused on communication, social interaction, cooperative learning, etc. to foster language learning (Communicative Language Teaching, Suggestopedia, Community Language Learning, Cooperative Language Learning, etc.). However, those are just the parts of the whole puzzle. If they are compiled together in a smooth and logical way, you can solve the puzzle easily. As it is known, language is a tool for communication and interaction between human beings and this is how language is developed and used naturally as Community Language Learning suggests (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 91). Therefore, in language teaching it should be the case. Learners can progress in the target language while communicating and interacting with each other. To allow them to communicate, teacher should provide the necessary things components of foreign language teaching into the learning environment. While providing the necessary elements, s/he should be the resource that learners can trust the knowledge and accept. For lower level learners, this is so important that they see the teacher as a model for themselves, but while the level is going upward, learners start to understand that teacher also may not know everything. Learners and the teacher can accept with their weaknesses should be constructive about those. Therefore, mutual trust and tolerance is important between learners and teacher to benefit from the process (Community Language Learning and Suggestopedia). One of the components can be the input that will nurture the learners. However, any input may not guarantee the nurturing act. The input should be comprehensible by the learners so that it can be both meaningful and challenging at the same time (Krashen & Terrell, 1983 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 180). That can make them to build connections between their current knowledge (i) and new knowledge that is slightly above their present level (i+1) (Krashen & Terrell, 1983 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 180). Benefiting from the authentic language, considering the levels of learners, can provide the challenge and motivation for the learners through the new knowledge (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 229). Without comprehensible input, learners may not conceptualize the language in their minds (Krashen & Terrell, 1983 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 180). It can be hard for them to build connections between unknown and known. Thus, learner may go into a floundered mood and this can hinder learning process. However, comprehensible input may not be enough on its own. Using tasks, situations, and functions can be very helpful in language learning because they have the real life in themselves (Skehan, 1996b cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 224) and they are more naturalistic and meaningful than form-based settings (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 223). With tasks, learners try to solve a problem, with situations learners learn how to behave in a specific condition, and with functions, learners learn practical and useful language that can be used in daily speech. That is, learners are exposed to the active language, which is used generally in real life. 4|Page

In addition, learners should also be able to negotiate the meanings of messages to understand them better and notice the gap between the target language and their interlanguage (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 228). Tasks can provide the necessary setting for the negotiation. This will allow them to check their hypotheses about their interlanguage and modify if it is necessary (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 228). However, negotiating the meaning act can be suitable for intermediate and higher levels of learners because it may need some higher order thinking skills that may not be available for beginner and elementary level learners. There can be, still, question and answer sessions for beginner and elementary level learners that can make them to notice gaps. Formulaic sentences and functional expressions can be suitable for lower level learners. Because these are simple, and short, and about Routines and Patterns that can be easily memorized and these may not require so much cognitive work for learners (Ellis, 2008: 75) Lexicon can be referred as a kind of sine qua non in language learning, and lexical development is important in understanding the messages and negotiating the meanings; that is, lexicon with a wider scope let learners free and productive while they are working on language (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 227, 228). In addition, a large lexicon can make the learners more fluent in their speech (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 227). For lower levels, lexical development should focus on more concrete entities because those learners in lower levels have not reach the psychological maturity to understand the abstract ones, and for upper levels it should go through more abstract entities (Revision history of "Contemporary Educational Psychology/Chapter 3: Student Development/Cognitive Development: The Theory of Jean Piaget", 2007). Integration of four skills is another important factor (Communicative Language Teaching, Task-based Language Teaching). Giving importance to just receptive skills (listening, reading) as in Grammar Translation Method or to just productive skills (speaking, writing) as in Direct Method will help partial development of learners in terms of capable communicators in all ways. Therefore, the design of the learning process should contain all skills but in respect of the subject of the lesson, teacher may adjust the balance between them. Development in language can lead learners to think in L2 (Silent Way, Suggestopedia). While they are sending or receiving messages if they have the image of what they want to say or of the idea that is sent to them in their minds, this refers to thinking in L2. Thinking in L2 may help learners to be more successful in the target language. Hence, this will require productive output besides comprehensible input as in Competence-based Language Teaching (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 141). Learners should try to use the language that they have already to communicate in the target language, negotiate the meanings. However, there is an important thing that must be remembered. Sufficient production cannot occur easily. Learners should pass a nurturing and successful process while learning the language so that production can be handled easily. In the natural language learning process as in first language acquisition, silent phases (Ellis, 2008: 73) and errors (Ellis, 2008: 46) can possibly occur. Teacher should let them feel secure by tolerating those acts until learners come to a certain level (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 95). In error correction, however, teacher should decide immediate or delayed correction when it is necessary (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 132). If the focus of the lesson is fluency, for example, teacher may avoid correcting grammatical errors or if the focus is on structures, teacher may feel to correct the errors that can possibly be fossilized.


To make the learners feel secure about the process and/or making errors, teacher should build mutual trust between him/her and learners, and among learners (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 91). Learners may be afraid of making mistakes and humiliating by their teacher or friends. Anxiety level may rise and learning may not occur in a smooth sense or may not occur at all (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 183). Therefore, teacher should desuggest the psychological barriers in learners minds (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 81). In addition, teacher may allow mother tongue use if learners and also the teacher feel the necessity to use it (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 67, 83, 101-102). To use L1 in limits, still, can be the best solution until learners reach a certain level. For upper levels, mother tongue use can be used but in a more restricted way (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 83). Apart from mother tongue use, translation can also be available when it is necessary (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 83). These can make learners feel comfortable about their progress in language and can lower the affective filter of learners and allow them to in a relaxed way (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 101-102). In addition, learners want to be active and participate in the activities because they feel secure (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 91). They can be more attentive, motivated, and productive. Thus, a learner-centred teaching can be foregrounded, as well. That is, to foster active, motivated, productive, and successful learners, the teacher should build up an environment that learners take the responsibility of their own learning (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 99). One of the best ways to help them in language learning process is to teach learning strategies. That is, learning to learn can foster learners development not only in language learning but any kind of learning, as well (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 83). Using strategies can be time saving and fasten the learning pace. In addition, learners can be benefited a lot from the learning act thanks to those strategies. This was generally neglected many times in the language process and teacher just deals with the ways s/he knows best to teach the language as in Direct Method and Audiolingual Method. However, learners ways to learn best can be much more important than teachers ways. A teacher may try to give his/her messages in a way, aimed at teaching language. However, if those do not match with the learners strategies, learners reception process may be hindered easily and they lose motivation (Ellis, 2008, 708-711). Therefore, teacher should be aware of the strategies himself/herself and show learners their best ways of learning and encourage them to use those to get the best from the learning process. Learners experiences are also important to help them to compare between their hypotheses of their interlanguages and actual target language rules (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 228). This can make them to notice the gaps and fix them. Learners can also be able to work on the language, adapt it and experience it to shape their interlanguages (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 228). In that sense, experience gains importance, so if a learner can use the language that s/he learns, his/her language learning becomes meaningful and successful (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 228). Thus, learners should experience the language to negotiate, modify, and rephrase the hypotheses of their interlanguages. This means that they should be risk-takers for further development without hesitating to make errors that can occur naturally in the process (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 129). In addition, as learner-centered language teaching suggests, pair-work and group-work can also be very fruitful to organize more communicative and interactive environments. Peer-work can also provide the scaffolding, which is the help of a more knowledgeable person (teacher, another learner, etc.) to a less knowledgeable learner (Ellis, 2008: 234). The relationship between peers should certainly be based on trust, and so interaction between those two can produce good results. 6|Page

It can be said that language is dialogic in nature (Dialogic, 2004), so pair or group activities make a lot of sense in fostering interaction between learners. Therefore, giving roles, so new identities to learners can make them more flexible about using the language or making mistakes, and reduce their anxiety level (Lozanov, 1978 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 101). Learner can use dialogs in tasks and situations, and functional statements in dialogs as a context to perform the new roles.

Teaching Procedures
When one considers the variety of levels, learners aims, interests, needs, and etc. it may be in a way impossible to outline specific, standard procedural phases that can call upon all kinds of learners. However, there are some activities that can possibly be used with all learners, after necessary adjustments are done, in respect of the characteristics of learners. Lesson may start with a small warm-up activity (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 238). Teacher gives some information by relating it to the prior knowledge of learners. This information includes clues about the new topic. This can make learners build connections between their past experiences and present topic. This section can include brainstorming, question and answer part, and a discussion part. This can make them ready for a following role-play task. Thus, learners can become curious about the subject and feel motivated about it. After the warm-up section, teacher introduces the new topic, gives instructions about the activities and explains objectives of the lesson and possible outcomes (Willis, 1996 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 239). This can help learners to see the road map of the lesson and make them comfortable about what will happen in the class. The unknown may cause stress (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 183). S/he may give the roles to learners to practice the dialogs that are in the task as Suggestopedia supports. Every learner has a role and so a new identity to feel free to use the language (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 84-85). Besides, this activity will give the chance to work on authentic language because of tasks nature, which provides real-life experiences (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 224). With the help of dialogs, learners can try to perform what is asked from them in the task. In addition, if learners feel the necessity, teacher may focus on specific dialogs, functional statements to practice and make them more meaningful for learners. Apart from the use, learners may need to cover structures, if learners will feel comfortable and are willing to learn details, teacher should teach grammar, as well (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 83). This can also lead them to have power on their interlanguage and manipulate it. Later, the learners may be given a video script that shows the real practice of the dialog by native speakers. This can provide the opportunity to compare and contrast the authentic language and the language that learners produce. Setting small group discussions about the task and dialogs will give the chance to analyse the target language uses to learners (Willis, 1996 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 239). Hence, the learners can notice the gaps between L2 and their interlanguage. They can discuss about the experience they have in the role-play and reflect about their feelings, and this provides a kind of meaningful communication both in practice and discussion sections for learners (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 104). Focus should be on fluency rather than accuracy for the beginning stages, but the teacher should check the accuracy at later stages (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 132). 7|Page

Later, learners should have the chance to practice the language they work on in a similar or different task (Willis, 1996 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 240). That is, practicing the communicative expressions in the dialogs in different contexts. This may help them to internalize the language, manipulate it, and develop their own lexicon with the help of various materials such as pictures, realia, computer, games, internet and etc. (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 236-237) Oral production activities should progress from guided to freer practices (Finocchiaro & Brumfit, 1983 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 171). Thus, at first, learners should have the chance to try to understand underlying rules of target language and then work on it, and make it their own language. In the following stage, teacher should let the learners reflect on their own learning process and make comments on the teaching act, subject, and materials (Stroinigg cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 97). Peer-feedback should be supported and teacher should give the sense that learners comments and feedback are worth to share (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 199, 201). This can make the learners feel as they really are participating in all levels of their own language learning process and, in a way, directing it. This can motivate them, and make them feel responsible, active, and autonomous. Teacher himself/herself should share his/her ideas with the learners, and this should be more constructive rather than corrective (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 104). Thus, learners will feel the security of having a more knowledgeable person in the class when they flounder (Ellis, 2008: 234). In the last stage, teacher may give homework that require cooperation of a group of learners coming together, which is the core of Cooperative Language Learning, analysing the homework, sharing ideas and discussing, and preparing a final product as in Task-based Language Teaching (Willis, 1996). This should require them to speak in the target language throughout the process but not in a forcibly manner. Teacher should make the learners believe that s/he trust them about their study as Community Language Learning suggests (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 91). However, in every level or with every learner, cooperation may not be possible because of various reasons. Then, teacher can give homework that requires creative production that learners can use four skills, can benefit from their dominant intelligences and the other abilities together as far as possible. This may help personal language development of learners in with all the angles possibly powerful for them.

Materials are the supporting elements of language education as one of the sources of input, practice, world knowledge, etc. teacher and learners can benefit a lot from carefully selected materials. To make this careful selection, teacher should do needs analysis with the learners to collect data about their levels, needs, interests, motivations, learning strategies, dominant intelligences, and anything more that can affect the learning/teaching process. When we focus on the input factor, materials can be divided as authentic ones that provide real-life productions of target language by native speakers (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 132-133), and created ones as in Community Language Learning (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 95), which are modified and adapted and may be simplified in respect of the receiver of the input. Authentic materials can be, in one way, the real language practice tools as in native language instruction and in another way, they can be newspapers, magazine articles, books that are not produced for teaching language 8|Page

(Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 236-237). Created materials can be seen as teacher created sources and the textbooks that are purposefully designed for language teaching. Authentic materials are generally preferred by language teaching methodologists, teachers, and learners because they provide real and meaningful communication opportunities as in many communicative methods (CLT, NA, TBLT, CBLT, etc.). However, created materials may only be preferred in certain circumstances when using authentic material is useless and meaningless or if there is a need to teach a specific knowledge to learners by teacher. There is an important thing to mention here; whatever the material type is (authentic or created), the input that is provided via should be comprehensible for learners (Krashen & Terrell, 1983 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 180). If the complexity is above the levels of learners, learners may not understand and work on the language, lose their motivation, concentration and at the end there may be no product at all. If it is below, learners may not find it challenging, worth to study and even they may feel as if they are treated like children. This can be annoying for them. For lower level learners, teacher may not prefer to use any materials but himself/herself as the source of content, practice and feedback (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 95). In addition, the text books, which are available for beginner level learners may not be suitable for their levels all the time. Then, teacher may prefer to use story books, poems, songs, comics, games, etc. as the sources of input, content and activity for the lesson. These materials can be more interesting, attractive, motivating and suitable for lower level learners, especially for youngsters, who can easily get bored and lose concentration, and even sometimes for adults. In addition to these materials, arts and crafts projects can be incorporated into the teaching act. For younger leaners, the activities that require action can provide better results, which Total Physical Response suggests and supports (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 76). The motto is learning by doing, which may be one of the best ways of teaching to younger learners, who are always active and in action. While the level is going upward, teacher should focus on variety in materials as audial, visual, and audio-visual materials (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 117, 120), such as cassettes, CDs, DVDs, videos, pictures, maps, charts and etc. This can call on different sensory systems of learners. This should be done because each learner has his/her individual features, differences, and strategies to use (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 115). Teachers job should be providing various materials as much as possible. In addition to those, realia, which are not produced for language teaching purpose, such as newspaper, TV, radio, internet can be effectively used in classes after careful selection of content. Games can also be very useful materials, because language is not the aim but the tool to reach the goal, so learners will want to use the language properly to win the game (Terrell, 1982 cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 188). Plays may be, for all levels of learners, a good chance to practice and check their language skills at the stage interactively communicating with the other characters in a real, meaningful context. In a play, learner feels free to use language with a new identity that is separate from his/her real identity. This can reduce the anxiety level and production can possibly become smoother.


Referring to the information that is given above, it can be said that testing is certainly about what you give to the learners in the classroom. This is not only the content the teacher teach but anything that is used to develop language skills. In testing, the criteria should be based on communicative target language use and the strategies that provide successful language learning to the learners (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 132). However, there is one important thing here; teacher should avoid decontextualization of test items as in Audiolingual Method (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 47). This may cause problems for both the learners and the teacher. The learners may not easily build connections between the questions and what they have learnt in the lesson and all the teaching process is bound to learners memorization ability. In addition, it can be such an arduous ta sk for teacher to prepare these kinds of tests. To avoid this, teacher should look for real-life contexts that are familiar to the learner and then s/he can adapt them, if necessary, to include linguistic and lexical items that is required to construct answers. Knowing that the focus is communicative and meaningful language competence and pragmatic use of language, test items should be presented in a context. Then, the teacher may apply communicative evaluation tools that require creative productions. Those can be integrative tests with open ended questions, interviews, essays, presentations, etc. (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 102, 132). This type of evaluation can show if the process is successful to make the learners learn the target language and produce it smoothly. That is, not only accuracy but also fluency is important. Assessment should be qualitative rather than quantitative that learners can easily understand what is going wrong with their language learning process or what is going smoothly. Teacher should be constructive while giving feedback to learners (Richards & Rodgers, 2002: 104). This can not only encourage them but also make them feel that they are respected. Methods like Community Language Learning and Communicative Language Learning suggests peer-evaluation and self-evaluation to make both the learners be aware of their overall progress together and self-progress. This is parallel with the idea of learners having responsibility of their own learning (Larsen-Freeman, 2003: 99). Learners can have the chance to see their weaknesses and strengths, what is important in terms of self-development, as well.

In this paper, it is tried to describe the components that may suit to an ideal foreign language teaching setting. The principles, techniques, materials and evaluation tools that are thought important explained briefly, referring to the original principles of methods. There may be many more techniques and principles, and ways to build successful language learning environment, however, those should be selected and constructed in terms of the context they are used.

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Works Cited
English as a foreign or second language. (2003, December 30). Retrieved January 10, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_as_a_foreign_or_second_language Dialogic. (2004, April 28). Retrieved January 10, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogic Revision history of "Contemporary Educational Psychology/Chapter 3: Student Development/Cognitive Development: The Theory of Jean Piaget". (2007, August 10). Retrieved January 10, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Contemporary_Educational_Psychology/Chapter_3:_Student_ Development/Cognitive_Development:_The_Theory_of_Jean_Piaget Ellis, R. (2008). The Study of Second Language Acquisition Second Edition. China: Oxford University Press. Larsen-Freeman, D. (2003). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. China: Oxford University Press. Richards, J. C. (2002). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. United States of America: Cambridge University Press.

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