glossary-dictionary-of-linguistic-terms

ESL Glossary and Terminology

When learning a second language does not interfere with the learning of a first language. Both languages are developed. This can be contrasted to subtractive bilingualism.

audiolingual approach (method): Language learning is a matter of habit formation. Drill! Drill! Drill! Audiolingualism is based on behaviorism. Error correction is considered important to prevent bad habits. As well, a structural syllabus is used in class. As a result grammatical structures are brought to the forefront with meaning being neglected.

CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. This accreditation is comparable to a TEFL certificate. It is offered by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES). Generally, it has a good reputation This course is usually offered on a part-time basis over several months or a full-time basis over four weeks.

direct method: A method of language learning associated with Francois Gouin and Charles Berlitz. Second language learning should model first language learning in that it should be learned ‘directly’; grammar is taught inductively with no explanations, the learner’s first language is not used in the class, and new vocabulary is introduced by demonstration. This method came about as a much needed replacement for the grammar-translation method (classical method) in the late 1800s. It faded in the early 1900s as it was not practical in classroom settings, and then saw a comeback under the name of the audiolingual method after World War II.

EFL: English as a foreign language. Originally this term referred to non-native speakers who are learning English language in a non-native English environment, for example, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese learning English in Korea, China, and Japan. This can be contrasted to ESL.

However, now ESL has become a standard term to mean learning English by a non-native speaker regardless of the environment.

ESL: English as a second language. Originally this term referred to non-native speakers who are learning English language in an English language environment, for example, immigrants to the U.K., Canada, or the U.S. This can be contrasted to EFL.

However, now it has become a standard term to mean learning English by a non-native speaker regardless of the environment.

ESOL: English for Speakers of Other Languages.

ESP: English for Specific Purposes. This includes English for scientists, English for academic purposes, English for doctors/health care workers, tourism English, and English for international conferences.

fluency: Fluency refers to the ability to produce rapid, flowing, natural speech, but not necessarily grammatically correct speech. This is often contrasted with accuracy.

fossilization: When an error becomes a habit of speech in a second language learner. This happens especially when the error does not interfere with communication, and hence, the speaker does not get corrective feedback.

functional English: Teaching English according to the function it used for, as opposed to its grammatical complexity. For example, a lesson based on functional English might group together the phrases:

Why don’t you . . .?

I think you should . . .

If I were you, I would . . .

All of these phrases, have differing grammatical complexity, but serve the same function of giving advice.

Other common functions include: asking for advice, asking for directions, offering help, telling stories, talking about the past, talking about obligations.

grammar translation method: A dull, dry, and ineffective teaching method completely devoid of theoretical justification. The method has its roots in the teaching of latin. The method focuses on translating grammatical forms, memorizing vocabulary, learning rules, and studying conjugations. Its focus is on accuracy and not fluency. Emphasis is on form and not on meaning. Paragraphs are dissected for form, while students and teacher could care less if the paragraph actually has anything worth saying. Another problem with this method is that most of the teaching is done through explanation in the learner’s first language.

Much scholarship has been spent on debunking this form of teaching. Sadly, it is still in use in some parts of Asia. It has produced generations of students who could trip up native-speaking teachers on questions of grammar, yet couldn’t engage in simple conversations.

However, no method should be entirely discarded. Some have claimed that aspects of this method are useful in teaching writing.

interlanguage: In the process of acquiring a second language, a language learner may acquire forms of language that are in between their first language and their target language. This can happen when, for example, they incorrectly apply rules of their native language to the target language, or they have not completely learned the full extent or limitations of a rule’s use and so misapply it systematically.

Interlanguage may seem completely logical and correct in the mind of a language learner. It may also be a part of a natural learning process where rules get more refined as more input is received. However, if learners fail to receive corrective feedback, these interlanguage forms may fossilize.

student-centered, learner-centered: Language activities, techniques, methods where the students/learners are the focus and the teacher plays only a peripheral role. Students are allowed some control over the activity or some input into the curriculum. These activities encourage student creativity. Group work is one kind of student-centered activity. Having students design their own test is another learner-centered activity. Individual styles and needs of the learners are taken into account. Learner-centered education is thought to be intrinsically motivating and thus beneficial. This can be contrasted to teacher-centered learning.

lexical approach: An approach to teaching languages that has a lot in common with the communicative approach, but also examines how lexical phrases, prefabricated chunks of language, play an important role in producing fluent speech. The lexical approach was first coined by Michael Lewis. The fundamental principle of the lexical approach is “language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar.” What this means is that lexical phrases offer far more language generative power than grammatical structures. Accordingly, advocates of this kind of approach argue that lexis should move to the center of language syllabuses. Justification for this theory comes from statistical analysis of language which shows that we do indeed speak in chunks and collocations.

limited bilingualism: When a learner acquires conversational proficiency in both languages but does not attain native-like proficiency in either language.

realia: Props or other physical items which are used to increase the realism of role-plays. Fake menus, fake contracts, and costumes are examples of realia.

TTT and STT: Teacher Talking Time. The trend in ESL/EFL pedagogy has been to limit the amount of time that the teacher is talking and increase STT (Student Talking Time). TTT is often associated with a teacher-centered classroom and STT with a student-centered classroom.

However, there are some problems with the view that student talking is good for students. For one, communication should be meaningful. Two, at the lowest levels, students may not be able to communicate effectively with each other. Three students may teach or reinforce each other’s bad habits or incorrect expressions and grammar. Four, students will lack pragmatic competence in English and will not be able to pick it up from each other. A lot of research has shown that language is for the most part input driven. That is students learn most when they are being given sufficient comprehensible input.

subtractive bilingualism: When learning a second language interferes with the learning of a first language. The second language replaces the first language. This is commonly found in children who emigrate to a foreign country when they are young, especially in cases of orphans who are deprived of their first language input. This can be contrasted to additive bilingualism.

task-based learning: Teaching/learning a language by using language to accomplish open-ended tasks. Learners are given a problem or objective to accomplish, but are left with some freedom in approaching this problem or objective.

teacher talk: The time when the teacher is speaking. H. Douglas Brown, in Teaching by Principles, recommends that teachers articulate their language, slow it down, use simpler vocabulary, and speak in structures just above the student’s level. He warns against speaking loudly as the students have no problems hearing.

Some authors think that teacher talk outside of discussing the lesson material may be the most effective input a teacher can give, as it is the most authentic and meaningful exchange between student and teacher.

TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language.

TESOL,TESL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

TOEIC: Test of English for International Communication. A standardized test that is used to prove proficiency in English. The test is given several times a year on preannounced dates. This test has become a worldwide standard. However, in recent year, country specific organizations are gaining acceptance (TEPS in Korea for example).

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL is supposed to test English proficiency for international students who want to study abroad. Many academic programs require a high TOEFL score to be admitted. For more information visit the TOEFL organization homepage. TOEFL has come under criticism as being an inaccurate test of English communicative ability.

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL is supposed to test English proficiency for international students who want to study abroad. Many academic programs require a high TOEFL score to be admitted. For more information visit the TOEFL organization homepage. TOEFL has come under criticism as being an inaccurate test of English communicative ability.

TTT and STT: Teacher Talking Time. The trend in ESL/EFL pedagogy has been to limit the amount of time that the teacher is talking and increase STT (Student Talking Time). TTT is often associated with a teacher-centered classroom and STT with a student-centered classroom.

However, there are some problems with the view that student talking is good for students. For one, communication should be meaningful. Two, at the lowest levels, students may not be able to communicate effectively with each other. Three students may teach or reinforce each other’s bad habits or incorrect expressions and grammar. Four, students will lack pragmatic competence in English and will not be able to pick it up from each other. A lot of research has shown that language is for the most part input driven. That is students learn most when they are being given sufficient comprehensible input.

universal grammar: This is an innatist view that all people are born with some knowledge of language. Linguists use this hypothesis to explain how it is we can acquire a language with a ‘poverty of stimulus’ or not enough input to account for the complexity of output. Essentially, we are all born with the capacity for any kind of language. This is not to say we are born with knowledge of the particular rules of our own language, but rather general or universal principles of all languages. This innate knowledge allows us to select a particular language based on a few instances of input and produce very complex output that we he have never encountered as input. One example of a kind of principle proposed by universal grammar theorists is the innate parameter. Essentially, we are born with parameters of language and minimal instances of input will allow us to figure out how to set the parameters for our own language (keep in mind this is a subconscious process). Evidence for this is found in the head-first or head-last parameter of language, which has been uncovered: In English, phrases are head-first: that means that a noun is at the head of a noun phrase, a preposition is at the head of a prepositional phrase, and verb is at the head of a verb phrase. Our innate parameter is such that if one of these phrases is head-first, they all will be. And hence a few utterances whereby a child understands that a preposition heads a prepositional phrase will allow the child to correctly construct other phrases too. In Korean and Japanese, prepositional phrases are head-last and accordingly, so are the other phrases. This will resonate well with any English speaker who has studied Japanese or Korean and discovered that everything seems to be backwards. The innatists claim that this is an example of the parameter having been set differently.