ELT terms - defined and referenced!


Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary

   

scroll  books  digital

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

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




Currently sorted By creation date ascending Sort chronologically: By last update | By creation date change to descending

Page: (Previous)   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...  16  (Next)
  ALL

Functional language

This is language which is an exponent (expression) of a particular language function. For example, if you consider language from a grammatical perspective, Why don’t you get a haircut? is, of course, an example of a negative question form. But it is also a functional exponent of suggesting. The function of a piece of language is the communicative purpose for which it was produced e.g. to invite, to hypothesise, to describe, to greet.

Example

"When I learnt French at school I was taught loads of grammar and vocabulary but very little functional language that would help me get things done through the language."

Further reading

Green, A. (2012). Language Functions Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1994) An Introduction to Functional Grammar, 2nd edition. London: Edward Arnold.

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. 4th edition. Harlow: Pearson.

Wilkins, D. (1976). Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Authentic task

An authentic task is a task carried out in the classroom that has all the characteristics of a real-life task carried out outside the classroom i.e. it is done for a purpose unrelated to language learning, and language is used purely in order to get the task done. Some people are strong advocates of using only authentic tasks in the classroom, while some believe authentic tasks need to be balanced with tasks that focus on language. Others think it is difficult to achieve a truly authentic task in the classroom as the tasks will have been contrived in some way by the teacher. Examples of authentic tasks are project work, carrying out surveys, group presentations.

Example

"Authentic tasks work very well with some learners. Others prefer more structured activities. It depends a lot on their learning style."

Further reading

Bachman, L. (1990). Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gilmore, A. (2004). A comparison of textbook and authentic interactions. ELT Journal 58/4. Oxford University Press.

Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ur, P.  (1999). A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

Authentic text

An authentic text is a written or spoken text produced to be read/heard by proficient language users and not altered in any way to aid language learning. An authentic text is unchanged for learning, preserving its features of genre, style, layout, discourse. In the 1980s and 1990’s it was considered very important in the communicative approach to only use authentic texts as they represented what learners needed to cope with in real life and provided them with exposure to genuine language features.

Example

"I generally prefer using authentic texts with my learners as they think they are real and interesting. But sometimes the texts are quite difficult as they aren’t adapted at all for language learning."

Further reading

Jolly, D., & Bolitho, R. (1998). A framework for materials writing. In B. Tomlinson (Ed.), Materials Development for Language Teaching (pp. 90-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Guariento, W. and Morley, J. (2001).  Text and task authenticity in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal 55/4. Oxford University Press.

Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Porter D & Roberts, J (1980) Authentic listening  activities. ELT Journal 36/1. Oxford University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/forum-topic/authentic-texts

 

 

Threshold level

This term is used with two principal meanings in ELT. The first is to refer to the work by J.K. Van Ek and John Trim ‘The Threshold Level’ which was first published by the Council of Europe in 1989. This publication was amongst the first to specify per learning level the situations in which learners need to use English, and what grammar, vocabulary and functions they require to do so. The focus of the Threshold Level was mainly on survival language and it was very influential in syllabus and course book design in the 1980s and 1990s. The Threshold Level was considered to be the minimal level at which learners achieved functional ability in the language.

The other meaning for threshold level is the minimal level that learners need to be at in order to do something e.g. An IELTS band 5.5 is often given as the threshold level for university study through the medium of English.

Example

"Some people say that to start learning through CLIL learners must have reached threshold level in their own language first."

Further reading

Bialystok, E. (2001. Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cummins, J. (1984) Bilingualism and Special Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2000) Language, Power and Pegagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Rampton, B. (1990) Displacing the "native speaker": Expertise, affiliation and inheritance in ELT Journal 44/2.

Van Ek, J.K. and Trim J. (1998) Threshold 1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://www.englishprofile.org/index.php/resources/t-series

 

 

L1, L2

An L1 is your mother tongue, the first language you learn in your home environment. L2 has various meanings. It can refer to any language learnt after learning L1.

It also refers to the language learnt after the L1 and that is used in the learner’s environment (e.g. learning Greek as a child while living in Greece, having first learnt English from your English-speaking parents).

A third meaning is for languages widely used in countries or regions but not recognised as official languages. For example, in Guyana, English is the official language but Guyanese Creole is an L2 widely used by many people.

Example

"Nowadays, with so many people being bilingual, it is not always simple to say which is their L1 and which is their L2."

Further reading

Cook, V.J., Long, J., & McDonough, S. (1979), First and Second Language Learning, in G.E. Perren (ed.)The Mother Tongue and Other Languages in Education, CILTR.

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kachru, B. (1992). World Englishes: approaches, issues and resources. Language Teaching, 25. Cambridge University Press.

Kachru, B. B. (1997). World Englishes and English-using communities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 17.

 

 

Target language

This term is used in two different ways. One use is to identify the language, e.g. Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, English etc that a learner is trying to learn.

Another use is to refer to the particular item(s) of language that a teacher selects for learners to learn in a particular lesson and which the activities and materials in a lesson aim to teach.

Example

Some target language for a lesson for elementary learners might be:

the irregular past tenses went, took, came, sold, bought, saw, said, found in affirmative, negative and interrogative forms

or

exponents for suggesting: why don’t we../ how about +gerund/ we could…./ what about + gerund

or

vocabulary from the lexical set of clothes: jeans, top, shoes, sandals, sweat-shirt, jacket, scarf, coat.

Further reading

Bolton, K. and Kachru, B. (2006). World Englishes, Critical Concepts in Linguistics, Volume 5.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. London: Macmillan.

http://www.willis-elt.co.uk/taskbased.html

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/target-language

https://www.cambridge.org/elt/resources/appliedlinguistics/reading/WorldEnglishes_Sample_Ch3.pdf

 

 

 

 

Affordance/affordances

The learning potential of a text, a context or a situation which provides the learner with the opportunity acquire – or learn – new language. The term often occurs in its plural form. The classroom, too, can provide the learner with affordances for learning e.g. when learners gradually pick up and identify moments for use of classroom language such as ‘I don’t understand’, ‘I have a question’, ‘Please, can you help me’.

Example

"With the spread of English as a global language, a learner these days can be presented with many affordances to acquire English in everyday life. Similarly, in the classroom, children with English as an L1 can provide the others with many affordances for learning English in group work and general chit chat."

Further reading

Gibson, J.J. (1977). In R. Shaw and J. Bransford (ed.s). Perceiving, Acting and Knowing, Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Singleton, D. and Aronin, L. (2007). Multiple Language Learning in the Light of the Theory of Affordances. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1/1.

Van Lier, L. (2000). From input to affordance: Social-interactive learning from an ecological perspective. In Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/a-is-for-affordance/

 

 

Interlanguage

The version of the target language spoken by a learner at any given time during the period of learning . A learner’s interlanguage will change and develop as they become more proficient. Some aspects of it may fossilize as their proficiency develops.

Example

"Learners’ interlanguage can develop quickly if they get enough exposure – you see the way they use different grammatical structures with more precision, the range and appropriateness of vocabulary use and the clarity of their pronunciation really changing fast."

Further reading

Batstone, R. (1994). Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brown, H.D. (1994). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Lightbown, P. and Spada, S.  (2006). How Languages are Learned, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pitt Corder, S. (1991). Error Analysis and Interlanguage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rutherford, W.E. (1987). Second Language Grammar: Learning and Teaching. Harlow: Longman.

Skehan, P. (1994.) Second language acquisition strategies, interlanguage development and task-based learning, in Bygate, M., A. Tonkyn, and E. Williams, Grammar and The Language Teacher. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.

 

 

CCQ/ICQ

These are two kinds of questions the teacher asks in the classroom. CCQs refer to Concept Checking Questions and are used by a teacher to check that students have understood the meaning of new language (word, grammar, function etc) or the form. CCQs need not necessarily in fact be questions; they might, for example, be gestures, sentences for completion or pictures but their purpose is to check understanding. They also aim at getting the student to think about new language and draw conclusions about it, thus encouraging inductive learning. Is it talking about the past or now?  is an example of a CCQ that a teacher might ask when introducing the past tense to learners.

ICQs are Instruction Checking Questions. These are used after a teacher has given instructions to make sure students have understood what they need to do. They might refer to the language to be used in the activity or to the procedure to use. They aim to ensure that students are on track before they begin an activity so as not to waste time or be confused. Like CCQs, ICQs are often phrased as binary choices e.g. Must you write or talk first? Should you tick or underline the new words?

Example

I try to use different ways of checking concepts e.g. asking students to mime, asking them to explain the meaning in their own words, eliciting examples – in this way the CCQs don’t become routine or meaningless. With ICQs I only ask them when the task is a bit complicated and could be misunderstood. Otherwise students can feel they’re being patronised.

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2012). Essential Teacher Knowledge. Harlow: Pearson.

Thornbury, S. and Watkins, P. (2007) The CELTA Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/concept-checking

 

 

CEFR

This stands for the Common European Frame of Reference. It was compiled by the Council of Europe and contains a series of descriptors of learners’ language performance at six different levels of proficiency, A1-C2, across the different language skills. The descriptors are expressed as ‘can-do’ statements. They can be used to set goals for learning or teaching and also to assess students’ proficiency.

Example

A lot of course books these days use the CEFR to define the level of the learners they are intended for and to design their syllabus around.

Further reading

Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heyworth, F. (2006). Key concepts in ELT: The Common European Framework. ELTJournal 60/2.

https://www.eaquals.org/our-expertise/cefr/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages

https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-tests/cefr/

 

 

Clause

Clause is a grammatical term that refers to a sentence or part of sentence containing in English a subject and a finite verb at least. A clause may be main or subordinate.

Example

Here is an example of a main clause: Judy wrote her friend an email. Here is an example of the same main clause together with three subordinate clauses, one of time, one of reason and one of concession.  After she got home, Judy sent her friend an email because she needed some information urgently, even though it was late at night.

Further reading

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (1997).  About Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

 

 

CLT

This stands for Communicative Language Teaching. There is not full agreement as to the meaning of communicative language teaching. It is generally agreed that it refers to teaching language for use in communication rather than as an object of study. There is much disagreement, however, as to the methodology it should involve, with some experts advocating that the only way to teach communication is to put learners in situations where they need to communicate, while others believe that language study can also aid communication. Use of pair and group work and free use of language are typical of a communicative classroom. 

Example

When I first started teaching we used the structural approach, teaching vocabulary and structures mainly through drilling and exercises. When the communicative approach came along, we were expected to focus on functions, too, and also to use pair and group work and get students to use the language to communicate with one another. It was quite a challenge!

Further reading

Burns, A. and Richards, J. (2012). Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carter, R. and Nunan, D. (2001). Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. and Thornbury, S. Communicative Language Teaching

Howatt, A.P.R. with Widdowson H.G. (2004). A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Widdowson, H. G. (1978). Teaching Language as Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/c-is-for-communicative/

 

 

EFL/ESL

EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language. Generally speaking, it refers to learners learning English in an environment where English is not used, or to learners studying English on brief trips to an Anglophone country. ESL stands for English as a Second Language and has generally been used to refer to learners who have another mother tongue, learning English while living in an English-speaking environment. In the UK nowadays this tends to be called ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). ESOL or ESL classes are likely to include a focus on language and communication, but also on the cultural practices of the Anglophone country the students are living in. With globalisation and the increased movement of people and immigration, the distinction between EFL and ESL is becoming less clear.

Example

I teach French in French Guyana where the official language is French. Most of my students speak very little French, though. Their mother tongue might be Portuguese and/or an Indian language. In the street they often hear and speak French Creole. So, am I teaching EFL or ESL?

Further reading

Kachru, B. (1997) World Englishes and English-Using Communities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

http://www.englishclub.com/tefl-training/efl-esl.htm

http://www.macmillanglobal.com/blog/author-blog/dispatch-from-the-uk-%E2%80%93-esol-efl-esl%E2%80%A6-what%E2%80%99s-the-difference

http://oupeltglobalblog.com/2011/07/12/how-esl-and-efl-classrooms-differ/

 

 

Morpheme

Morphemes are the smallest meaningful and grammatical units in a word.  A morpheme ‘cannot be divided without altering or destroying its meaning’ (Longman Dictionary of Teaching and Applied Linguistics, p.375). For example, phones contains two morphemes – phone and s; helpless contains two morphemes – help and less; table contains only one morpheme. Many morphemes are suffixes or prefixes, but there are also grammatical morphemes in English such as 3rd person singular s,  past tense –ed, and –ing in a gerund or present participle.

Example

In many vocabulary books you can find activities on word formation that in fact are based on morphemes e.g. deciding on the right prefix, matching parts of compound words, making opposites by adding the correct suffix.

Further reading

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Longman Dictionary of Teaching and Applied Linguistics (2010). Harlow: Pearson.

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/morpheme

 

 

Phrase

A phrase is a group of words making up a meaningful unit in a clause. There are different kinds of phrases such as a verb phrase, a prepositional phrase, an adverbial phrase, a noun phrase. A phrase may or may not contain a verb.

Example

In this sentence there are four phrases all marked in different colours: Nobody wearing sandals will be allowed into the restaurant after 8 o’clock.

Further reading

Batstone, R. (1994) Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Thornbury, S. (1997).  About Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/clause-phrase-and-sentence

 

 

Sentence

A sentence is a group of words which in English contains at least a subject and a verb and which is independent as it does not need completion to make sense. A sentence contains a main clause and possibly subordinate clauses, too. In writing, sentences start with a capital letter and end with a full stop.

Example

These phrases don’t make sense by themselves so they’re not sentences: in the park, arriving late, while they were waiting, whose glasses are black, she put her…

These are sentences: They played in the park. Tthe bell rang while they were waiting. The woman whose glasses are black never speaks. She put her hand up.

Further reading

Batstone, R. (1994) Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Thornbury, S. (1997).  About Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/clause-phrase-and-sentence/sentence-structure

 

 

Tense

Tense is the grammatical form used in a verb to show the time of occurrence of an event or action.

Example

There are only two tenses in English, present and past. In They study English, study is an example of the present simple tense. In They studied English last year, studied  is an example of the past simple tense.

Further reading

Batstone, R. (1994) Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Thornbury, S. (1997).  About Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

Top down/bottom up

These terms are used to refer to strategies we use when listening and reading in order to get meaning from a text. Top down skills involve using our knowledge of the world, such as topic knowledge, familiarity with the speaker, familiarity with the genre, to make sense of what we are hearing or reading. Bottom up skills involve using the language in the text, such as the meaning of words or the grammar of a sentence, to make sense of what we are hearing or reading. Good readers or listeners are believed to make use of the two strategies interactively.

Example

When we read a text in class I always do a warmer to find out what the learners know about the topic and get them to predict its content. In that way they make use of their top down strategies. Then I often do reading for detail as well, as this kind of reading really requires them to read the language in the text to suck out its meaning. This gives them practice in using their bottom up strategies.

Further reading

Brown, S. (2006). Teaching Listening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Field, J. (1999). Key concepts in ELT: ‘Bottom up’ and ‘top down’.  ELTJournal 53/4.

Hedge, Tricia. (2003): Teaching & Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McDonough J. and Shaw, C. (2003). Materials and Methods in ELT. Oxford: Blackwell.

Scrivener, J. (2011). Learning Teaching, 3rd edition. Oxford: Macmillan.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/listening-top-down-bottom

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/bottom

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/top-down

 

 

TPR

TPR stands for Total Physical Response, and is a way of teaching language developed by James Asher. It involves learners in responding physically to instructions spoken or stories told by the teacher. Learners are not expected to speak until they feel ready to do so. TPR is often used for teaching younger children.

Example

Last lesson I told my class the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. As I told it they acted out what they heard as I was telling it. They loved it, and so did I!

Further reading

Asher, J. J., "What is TPR?" in TPR-World. https://www.tpr-world.com/

Cook, V. (2008). Second Language Learning and Language Teaching. London: Hodder Education.

Larsen-Freeman, Diane (2000).Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Richards, J. and Rodgers, T.S. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_physical_response

 

 

Communicative competence

Communicative competence refers to an ability to communicate that depends not just on linguistic ability but also sociolinguistic ability, including appropriate use of language, management of discourse and recognising cultural practices in communication e.g. who makes eye contact with who. The growing awareness of communicative as opposed to linguistic competence had a big impact on language teaching and was behind the development of the communicative approach.

Example

The use of video in the classroom has made it easier for teachers to focus on communicative competence, as they can show clips in which communication becomes problematic, for example, because the participants don’t follow cultural norms for turn taking, or use the wrong register and give offence. Video shows language in context and can lead to awareness and discussion of appropriacy.

Further reading

Bachman, Lyle (1990).Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Canale, M., Swain, M (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics (1).

Hymes, D. H. (1972). On Communicative Competence. In Pride, J. B., & Holmes, J. (Eds.),Sociolinguistics, Baltimore, USA: Penguin Education.

Richards, J. and Rodgers, T.S. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Savignon, Sandra (1997).Communicative Competence: theory and classroom practice: texts and contexts in second language learning (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Skehan, P. (1998). A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/knowledge-database/communicative-competence

 

 


Page: (Previous)   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...  16  (Next)
  ALL