ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


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We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)

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Perfect aspect

See Aspect

Entry link: Perfect aspect

can-do statements


Entry link: can-do statements


Analytic and holistic assessment are two ways of evaluating the performance of learners in order to give grades. In analytic assessment, separate grades are awarded to different typical features of a performance, whereas in holistic assessment markers give a grade based on their evaluation of a learner’s overall performance.


When I marked my students’ interviews, I did so analytically, giving them a separate mark for fluency, accuracy, discourse management and pronunciation. Later, I discovered that my colleague marked hers holistically, using descriptions of general performance at particular levels. I think I’ll try doing that next time, then see which seems better for me and my students.

Further reading

Bachman, L. and Palmer, A. (1997). Language Testing in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hamp-Lyons, L. (ed.) (1991). Assessing Second -language Writing in Academic Contexts. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Hughes, A. (2003).Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Entry link: Analytic/holistic

Assessment and testing

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the collection of data about and awarding of marks to learner performance. Sometimes, however, testing is used just to refer to evaluation involving tests, whereas assessment encompasses not only tests but also other means of assessment such as observation, portfolios, case studies, interviews etc.


Some people argue that you get a fairer and more accurate picture of learner performance using the wide range of techniques available through assessment. They think that the results obtained from tests provide a less comprehensive picture of what the learner can do.

Further reading

Bachman, L. and Palmer, A. (1997). Language Testing in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cummins, J. and Davison, C. (2007). International Handbook of English Language Teaching.New York, USA, :Springer.

Hughes, A. (2003).Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




Entry link: Assessment and testing

Assessment criteria

These are levels or qualities of performance that markers use consciously or unconsciously to grade learners’ performance. To prevent assessment criteria being used randomly or unreliably and to guide markers, assessment criteria are very often written out in the form of analytic or holistic (See analytic/holistic) band descriptors or checklists.


If you look at https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/ielts_task_1_writing_band_descriptors.pdf you will see examples of assessment criteria for writing (Task Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy). These have been fleshed out to provide band descriptors for nine levels of language proficiency for IELTS writing.

Further reading

Dictionary of Language Testing (1999). Studies in Language Testing 7.Cambridge: University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate.

Hughes, A. (2003).Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spratt, M., Pulverness, A., Williams, M. (2011). The TKT Course Modules 1, 2 and 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




Entry link: Assessment criteria

Discrete-item and Integrative tests

Discrete-item tests focus on eliciting and evaluating parts of language proficiency separately, e.g. grammar, lexis, pronunciation. Integrative tests aim to elicit and assess language use as a whole. Multiple choice grammar items are an example of discrete-item testing, whereas interviews are integrative tests.


It is often easier to design and mark discrete-item tests because they focus on just one thing e.g. tenses. Integrative tests, which focus on assessing e.g. learners’ ability to speak or write are more complex to mark reliably.

Further reading

H.D. Brown (2004). Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices. Harlow: Pearson Longman.

Hughes, A. (2003).Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oller J.W. (1983). Issues in Language Testing Research. Rowley MA: Newbury House.



Entry link: Discrete-item and Integrative tests


This is the process in which particular sounds are omitted in connected speech because they are followed by another similar sound. In English, elision often happens between plosive sounds and with the vowel sound schwa /ə/. Elision helps speakers to produce sounds more smoothly and efficiently.


Many people pronounce ‘chocolate’ as /tʃɒklət/ eliding the schwa before /l/. ‘He went to the cinema’ can give an example of an elided plosive with ‘went to’ pronounced as ‘/wentu:/.

Further reading

Dalton, C. and Seidlhofer, B. (2004) Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hancock, M. (1995). Pronunciation Games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kenworthy, J. (1987). Teaching English Pronunciation. Harlow: Longman.

Marks, J. (2012). Delta Teacher Development: Pronunciation Book. Peaslake, Surrey: Delta.

Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations. Oxford: MacMillan.





Entry link: Elision


This is the process of assessing the value of something by collecting data. Evaluation often leads to decision-making. Evaluation can be of teaching, learning, curricula, methods, exam impact, materials or other areas related to teaching and learning.


When evaluating materials it is useful to collect not just teachers’ opinions but those of learners, too.

Further reading

Alderson, C. and Clapham, C. (1995).Language Test Construction and Evaluation. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

Cunningsworth, A. (1984). Evaluating and Selecting ELT Materials. Heineman.

Cunningsworth, A. (1995). Choosing your Coursebook. Macmillan Heineman.

Kiely, R. N. &Rea-Dickins, P. M.(2005). Programme Evaluation in Language Education. Oxford: Palgrave Macmillan.

McDonough, J. and Shaw, C. (1993). Materials and Methods in ELT. Oxford: Blackwell.

Murphy. D (2000). Key Concepts in ELT: Evaluation. ELT Journal 54/2.

Sheldon, L. (1988). Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials.  ELT Journal 37/3.

Weir, C. and Roberts, J. (1994). Evaluation in ELT. NJ: Wiley

Williams, M and Burden, R. (1993) The role of evaluation in ELT project design. ELT Journal 48/1.





Entry link: Evaluation


This refers to a feature of written and spoken discourse in which the writer/ speaker tones down the definiteness of what they are saying either as an expression of their unsureness or for interpersonal reasons. There are many linguistic items available to express hedging.


Some people don’t like appearing very definite in their opinions so they use expressions like: it could be/ maybe/ there’s a possibility that/to a certain extent/ arguably to hedge their opinions i.e. to soften the strength of the opinion they are expressing.

Further reading

Bygate, M. (1987) Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hyland, K. (1994) Hedging in academic writing and EAF textbooks. English for Specific Purposes.13/3.

Thornbury, S. (2005). Beyond the Sentence. Oxford: MacMillan.






Entry link: Hedging

Hot/cold correction

Hot correction is when the teacher (or a peer) corrects the learner during an activity. Cold correction is when the teacher presents the learners with their mistakes for correction after an activity has taken place.


We are often told to avoid hot correction as it interrupts learners’ fluency. But I think that a teacher can interrupt subtly by using gestures or facial expressions. Students can often relate to this kind of hot correction better than to the more detached presentation of their errors in cold correction at the end of an activity.

Further reading

Bartram, M. and Walton, R. (1991) Correction. Stamford, CT: Cengage.

Li, S. (2014). Key Concepts in ELT: Oral Corrective Feedback. ELT Journal 68 (2): 196-198

Lightbown and Spada (2006). How languages are learned, 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Seidlhofer, B. (2011) Understanding English as a Lingua Franca: A Complete Introduction to the Theoretical Nature and Practical Implications of English used as a Lingua Franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press.





Entry link: Hot/cold correction


This is someone with whom a speaker talks and interacts. An interlocutor participates in a conversation or dialogue.

In speaking tests the interlocutor is the person with whom the candidate speaks.


Interlocutors interact in different ways in different cultures. One of the things to learn when learning a foreign language is how to act as an interlocutor e.g. how far away from the speaker to stand, when and whether to interrupt. Otherwise you may not get your message across successfully.

Further reading

Cribb, M. (2009). Discourse and the Non-Native English Speaker. New York: Cambria.

Stenstrom, A. (1994). An Introduction to Spoken Interaction. Harlow: Longman.

Thornbury, S. (2005). Beyond the Sentence. Oxford: MacMillan.

Thornbury, S. (2005) How to Teach Speaking. Harlow: Pearson.

Tsui, A. (1994). Introducing Classroom Interaction. London: Penguin.




Entry link: Interlocutor

Intrusive /r/ /w/ /j/

Intrusive /r/ /w/ and /j/ are sounds used in English to help with linking words in connected speech. They are inserted at word boundaries.


Intrusive /r/-her efforts (/hɜ:refəts/), law and order (/lɔ:rəndɔ:də/)

Intrusive /w/ - you are (/ju:wɑ:/), go on /gʊəwɒn/

Intrusive /j/ - they are (/ðeɪjɑ:/), she is (/ʃi:jɪz/)

Further reading

Hancock, M. (1995). Pronunciation Games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kenworthy, J. (1987). Teaching English Pronunciation. Harlow: Longman.

Marks, J. (2012). Delta Teacher Development: Pronunciation Book. Peaslake, Surrey: Delta.

Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations. Oxford: MacMillan.



Entry link: Intrusive /r/ /w/ /j/

Negotiating Meaning

This refers to the process readers, writers, speakers and interlocutors engage in in order to make sense of and clarify what is being said/ written. It can involve asking for clarification, repeating, paraphrasing, checking understanding.


Information gap activities help learners to learn and practise negotiating meaning, as they often find themselves not fully understanding what their partner has said or not being able to express themselves clearly. As a result the listener may ask for clarification or question what was said, and the speaker may paraphrase or repeat to get their message across more successfully.

Further reading

Bygate, M. (1987). Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philp, J., Oliver, R. , Mackey, A.  (2008). Second Language Acquisition and the Younger Learner. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Johnson, K. (1995). Understanding Communication in Second language Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Young, R. (1983). The negotiation of meaning in children's foreign language acquisition. ELT Journal 37/3.




Entry link: Negotiating Meaning

Running dictation

In a running dictation the teacher divides the class into groups of e.g. 3-5 students, then places on the wall copies of a text. Members of each group then take it in turns to go (run) to the text and memorise a piece of it, then run back to their group and dictate it to them. Group members must write it down correctly. The activity continues until one group shouts ‘Stop’ after all the text has been dictated and written down. The winning group will have written down the text more quickly and more correctly than the others. Running dictation is believed to encourage speed reading, clear enunciation, careful listening and a focus on spelling and accuracy in writing.


You may need to convince some learners of the value of running dictation. Some see it as just a game with no obvious learning purpose. Others love it, of course!

Further reading

Davis, P. & Rinvolucri, M. (1988). Dictation: New methods, new possibilities. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.





Entry link: Running dictation

Slot and filler

This term refers to a description of how elements of language can be organised and used to substitute for one another. These elements may be grammatical, functional or lexical.

The term is also used to refer to a technique for laying-out language on a page to prompt exercises or aid guided writing or speaking.


This is an example of a slot and filler table for use in the classroom.

There are










can be


(Language for Thinking, John Clegg)

Further reading

Krashen, S., & Terrell, T. (1983). The Natural Approach. Oxford: Pergamon.

Lewis, M. (1996). The Lexical Approach. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

Lewis, M. (1997). Implementing the Lexical Approach. Boston, Mass.: Thomson Heinle.

Thornbury, S. (1997). Reformulation and reconstruction: tasks that promote ‘noticing’. ELT Journal 51/4.

Willis, J. and Willis, D. (1996). Challenge and Change in Language Teaching. Oxford:Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching.


Cook, V.J. (1989). The relevance of grammar in the applied linguistics of language teaching. Trinity College Dublin Occasional Papers, 22




Entry link: Slot and filler


A warmer, or warm-up activity, is an activity which takes place at the beginning of a lesson and aims to ‘warm the learners up’ i.e. to get them focussed on and energised for a lesson in general or its specific content.

Further reading

Malderez, A., Bodsczky, C. (1999) Mentor Courses: A Resource Book for Trainer-Trainers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scrivener, J. (2012). Classroom Management Techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ur, P. (1992). 5 minute Activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.





Entry link: Warmer

Integrative tests

See Discrete-item and integrative tests

Entry link: Integrative tests

Principled eclecticism

See Eclecticism

Entry link: Principled eclecticism



Entry link: ESOL



Entry link: ESL

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