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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can-do statements


Entry link: can-do statements


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?


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.




Entry link: CCQ/ICQ


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.


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.






Entry link: CEFR


Chunks are longer stretches of language that frequently occur together. They include collocations, phrasal verbs, social formulae, sentence frames, idioms and discourse markers. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with collocation.


"When students learn fixed expressions such as despite the fact that, in my opinion, to summarise or by the way as chunks, they often find them easier to remember."

Further reading

Lewis, M. (1993). The Lexical Approach. Brighton: Language Teaching Publications.

Lindstromberg, S. and Boers, F. (2008). Teaching Chunks of Language. London: Helbling Languages.

Schmidt, N. (2000). Key concepts in ELT: chunks. ELT Journal 54/4. Oxford University Press.

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



Entry link: Chunk

Citation form/dictionary form

A citation form is the form of a word that is found as a headword in a dictionary. A citation form represents other forms of the same word. Citation forms are pronounced as full forms. These may sound different when said in connected speech.


Take is the citation form for takes, taking, taken, took

Further reading

Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (1994). Grammar and the spoken language. Applied Linguistics, 16/2.

Nation, Paul & Waring, Robin (1997). Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists. In

Schmitt, Norbert & McCarthy (eds) Vocabulary: description, acquisition and pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Entry link: Citation form/dictionary form


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.


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.



Entry link: Clause


CLIL (content and language integrated learning) refers to an educational practice in primary, secondary and tertiary contexts where subject teaching and learning take place in a non-native language. The acronym CLIL was first used in 1994 and by 2006 it was recognized as ‘an innovative methodological approach of far broader scope than language teaching.’ (Eurydice 2006: 7) Content was placed before language in the acronym because subject content determines the choice of language used to teach subject matter as well as the language which learners use in order to communicate their knowledge and ideas about curricular content. What differentiates CLIL from ELT and approaches such as content-based instruction is ‘the planned pedagogic integration of contextualised content, cognition, communication and culture into teaching and learning practice.’ (Coyle 2002 in Coyle et.al. 2010: 6) There are different types of CLIL practice depending on the country, region or sometimes the school where it is being implemented.


Subject and language teachers often work together to deliver CLIL classes to support the two core strands of CLIL, content and language.

Further reading

Bentley, K. (2010). The TKT Course CLIL Module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coyle, D., Hood, P. and Marsh, D. (2010) CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Eurydice (2006) Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) at School in Europe

European Commission





Entry link: CLIL


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. 


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.




Entry link: CLT


Related to mental abilities or skills. Cognitive is the adjective from cognition which refers to the mental processes of perception and thinking that our brains engage in.


"Cognitive skills such as remembering, evaluating, analysing and creating are often classified into higher and lower-order thinking skills."

Further reading

Anderson, L.W. (Ed.), Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.), Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Complete edition). New York: Longman.

Bentley, K. (2010). The TKT Course CLIL Module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1997). Second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.





Entry link: Cognitive


In English language teaching coherence refers to the ways in which a piece of discourse ‘makes sense’ through links in meaning. It does this by using various internal devices such as logical sequencing, adherence to a particular genre, accepted forms of text structuring, but also by referring to accepted external conventions and ways of thinking and experiencing in the outside world, such as adherence to one topic, relevance between topics, shared knowledge.


"A: That's the telephone.

B: I'm in the bath.

A: O.K."

(Widdowson, H. 1978, p. 12)

Further reading

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

McCarthy, M. (1991). Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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





Entry link: Coherence


This is the way in which language is used in written or spoken discourse to make it link together. Cohesion is achieved by using lexical or grammatical devices such as lexical fields, substitution, ellipsis, linking words, discourse markers, back (anaphoric) and forward (cataphoric) reference.


"'I never understand what he’s saying, so I bought a tennis racket.'

This sentence is cohesive through its use of a lexical field and linking words, but it’s not coherent – it just doesn’t make sense."

Further reading

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

Cook, G. (1989). Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Halliday M. A. K. and Hasan R. (1976) Cohesion in English Harlow: Longman

Hoey, M. (1991). Patterns of Lexis in Text. Oxford: Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McCarthy, M. (1991). Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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






Entry link: Cohesion


This simply means working together with others. Learners can work together to achieve their learning aims by supporting one another in various ways. Teachers can also collaborate e.g. colleagues working together on assessment, lesson planning or course book selection. Collaboration amongst teachers and also amongst learners is a feature of CLIL.


"In some classrooms you can see a collaborative approach to learning. Learners help one another by becoming ‘study buddies’ out of class, and in class they work together on tasks, helped by their teacher to develop collaborative learning strategies."

Further reading

Charles Hirsch, C. and Beres Supple, D.  (1996). 61 Cooperative Learning Activities in ESL. Walch Publishing.

Nunan, D. (1992). Collaborative Language Learning and Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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




Entry link: Collaborate


A type of collocation in which words are linked together at the level of grammar rather than meaning e.g. in a hurry, what about sending an email (what + about + gerund).  Michael Hoey says ‘The basic idea of colligation is that just as a lexical item may be primed to co-occur with another lexical item, so also it may be primed to occur in or with a particular grammatical function. Alternatively, it may be primed to avoid appearance in or co-occurrence with a particular grammatical function.’ (Hoey 2005:43).


"Students sometimes make mistakes of colligation, for example: I know what do you mean; I don’t mind go work on Sundays."

Further reading

Hoey. M. (2005). Lexical Priming. London: Routledge.

Mitchell, T. (1971).Linguistic ‘goings-on’: collocations and other lexical matters arising on the linguistic record, Archivum Linguisticum 2.

O’Keefe, A., McCarthy, M., Carter, R. (2007). From Corpus to Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, S. (2002). How to Teach Vocabulary. Oxford: Macmillan.



Entry link: Colligation


Two or more words that occur together more often than on a random basis are said to collocate or to be collocations. Collocations may be strong e.g. blond hair. In strong collocations the words can rarely, if ever, be replaced by other words. Other collocations are weaker or weak e.g. grey hair. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with chunk. In this sense collocation can cover e.g.: phrasal verbs, compound words, idioms, fixed expressions.

Others use collocation to refer mainly to two- or three-word groups that frequently occur together. Corpora making use of concordance programmes have helped linguists find collocations in language and realise how very common they are.


"To have a shower is a collocation in UK English and Australian, whereas to take a shower is a much more common collocation in the USA."

Further reading

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

McCarthy, M. and O’Dell, F. (2005). Collocations in Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Keefe, A., McCarthy, M., Carter, R. (2007). From Corpus to Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walter, E. and Woodford, K. (2010).Collocations Extra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Entry link: Collocation

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.


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.




Entry link: Communicative competence

Componential analysis

This term refers to a way of classifying vocabulary. The Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics defines it as follows:

An approach to the study of meaning which analyses a word into a set of meaning components or semantic features. For example, the meaning of the English word boy may be shown as:

<+human> <+male> <- adult>

(Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics)


Sometimes you see exercises, like this one, in ELT materials based on componential analysis:






with difficulty


in a military context

in the countryside

in the city / at the seaside









































































































































Further reading

Channel, J. (1981). Applying Semantic Theory to Vocabulary Teaching. ELT Journal /35.

Gairnes, R. and Redman, S. (1986). Working with Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goddard, C. (2011). Semantic Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Richards, J. and Schmidt, R. (2010). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 4th edition. Harlow: Pearson.

Rudzka, B.,.Channell, J.,  Putseys Y. and. Ostyn P. (1981). The Words You Need. Oxford:MacMillan.

Rudzka, B.,.Channell, J.,  Putseys Y. and. Ostyn P. (1985). More Words You Need. Oxford:MacMillan.



Entry link: Componential analysis

Compound words

Compound words are combinations of words which together form one part of speech and have one meaning. They are written as one word, hyphenated or as separate words. Compound words can be different parts of speech e.g. nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives.


Some people don’t realise that groups of words like in spite of and without are compound words.

 Further reading

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

Lieber, R. & Štekauer P. eds. (2009).The Oxford Handbook of Compounding, eds. Oxford:

Oxford University Press.

Plag, I. (2003) Word-formation in English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, D. (1990). Compound Word Stress. ELT Journal 45/1.

Roach, P. English Phonetics and Phonology. Glossary: https://www.peterroach.net/glossary.html

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



Entry link: Compound words

Comprehensible input

See Input hypothesis

Entry link: Comprehensible input


A software programme that displays the words with which a word collocates.  The programme presents the words, usually listed alphabetically, in lines giving linguistic context with collocations to the left or the right of the word, as in this example:

Concordancers can be based on different sizes and kinds of texts. They allow researchers to study authentic language use.                           They can also be used by learners to see patterns, frequencies and possibilities of collocation in their own or others’ language output.


"Once students get used to working with a concordancer they can find it really useful for spotting patterns and possibilities in                        language chunking."

Concordancers can be based on different sizes and kinds of texts. They allow researchers to study authentic language use.                             They can also be used by learners to see patterns, frequencies and possibilities of collocation in their own or others’ language output.

Further reading

Concordancers in ELT, Nick Peachey, https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/concordancers-elt

Cobb, T. (1997) The compleat lexical tutor http://www.lextutor.ca/



Entry link: Concordancer


A conjunct is another term for a linker. A conjunct is a word or phrase which links a previous sentence or utterance to the next one by showing the sense relationship between them. Conjuncts may be conjunctions, adverbs or discourse markers.

A disjunct is an adverb used in a sentence as an attitude marker to indicate the speaker’s or writer’s point of view. A disjunct often modifies the meaning of the whole sentence. Confusingly, it is sometimes also referred to as a discourse marker.


Then, however, in other words, as I was saying, but, although are all examples of kinds of conjuncts. They show different kinds of relationship between two sentences e.g. concession, contrast, result, summation. Here is an example of a conjunct showing a relationship of time: She filled up her car with petrol then went to the bank.

In the following sentence ‘Actually’ is an example of a disjunct: Actually, I’ve no idea what he meant.  It shows the speaker’s attitude to the rest of the sentence. Some other examples of disjuncts are frankly, to be honest, honestly, personally, fortunately.

Further reading

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

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

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



Entry link: Conjunct/Disjunct


A conjunction is a class of word which joins words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs. There are two types of conjunction: coordinating and subordinating. The former join equal components whereas the latter join a main and a dependent component. Conjunctions, unlike conjuncts, are part of the sentence they appear in.


Here is an example of a coordinating conjunction in a sentence: I went to the shops and bought something to eat. And, but, and or are common coordinating conjunctions.

Here is an example of a subordinating conjunction in a sentence: After I had gone to the shops I bought something to eat. There are many examples of subordinating conjunctions e.g. after, before, when, although, because, as a result of, due to.

Further reading

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

University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers, 2ndedition. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

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



Entry link: Conjunction

Connected speech

This refers to the production of speech as a continuous stream rather than as a sequence of separate sounds. In connected speech, individual sounds may be different from their citation pronunciation, as they are affected by processes such as assimilation, elision, liaison (linking) and shortening.


It’s often quite easy to understand words in isolation, but when they’re part of connected speech they can be much more difficult to recognise. A classic example of this is ‘What do you…?’, which becomes /wɒdʒə/ in connected speech.

Further reading

Celce Murcia, M. Brinton, D., Goodwin, J. (1996). Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

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



Learning English – I would like to buy a hamburger. Retrieved from



Entry link: Connected speech


A connotation is the emotional association attached to a word collectively or by an individual. For examples, dogs in some cultures have the connotation of being soft, loyal creatures. In other cultures they are considered dangerous and dirty. Knowing the connotation of a word is part of knowing a word.


"My personal connotation for yoghurt is as something healthy, light and eaten at breakfast. For my mother it was something weird and unfamiliar."

Further reading

Gairns, R. and Redman, S. (1986). Working with Words: a guide to teaching and learning vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Klippel, F. (1994). Cultural aspects in foreign language teaching.  Journal for the Study of British Cultures. I/1.

Schmitt, N. and  McCarthy, M.  (ed.s) (1997). Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, Pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tomalin, B. and Stempleski, S. (1993). Cultural Awareness.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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




Entry link: Connotation


When teachers or learners strengthen or reinforce previous learning they consolidate it. For example, a learner may go home and do memory games on the vocabulary they learnt in class that day, or a teacher might do a revision activity of a newly learnt skill. Lessons often contain a consolidation stage during which the teacher aims to reinforce new language or ideas introduced earlier on in the lesson.


"I never remember language if I just meet it once. I always need to do additional activities that help me consolidate my learning."

Further reading

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





Entry link: Consolidate


A consonant is a speech sound made when the air we breathe out is in some way blocked by an articulator (See Articulator). There are 24 consonant sounds in English, produced in eight different places in the mouth, as can be seen on the Phonemic Chart (See Phonemic Chart).


I never think of / ŋ/ as being a consonant. It sounds more like a vowel. But in fact when you say it you can feel your glottis moving in and blocking the outcoming air.

Further reading

Roach, P. (2009). English Phonetics and Phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

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






Entry link: Consonant


This is the theory that knowledge is actively constructed by individuals rather than being the fruit of passive absorption of facts. According to constructivist theory each individual interprets and organises the knowledge they receive according to their own prior knowledge and experience of the world. This theory supports a learner-centred classroom in which learners are given the opportunity to explore, personalise and apply knowledge.


CLIL often adopts a constructivist approach to learning through its adoption of group work, problem-solving and interactive learning.

Further reading

Dale, L. and Tanner, R. (2012). CLIL Activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mercer, S., Ryan, S., Williams, M. (2012). Psychology for Language Learning: Insights from Research, Theory and Practice.  

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Williams, M. And Burden, L.A. (1997). Psychology for Language Teachers: a Social Constructivist Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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




Entry link: Constructivism


This term is used in ELT to refer either to the situational (where and when) context in which something happens, or to the language surrounding words in a sentence or utterance (sometimes called co-text). M.A.K. Halliday proposed that a situational context contains three components: field (subject matter), tenor (social relations between interactants) and mode (the way in which language is used), which strongly influence the register of language. The contexts in which languages are learnt and taught are also much discussed in ELT these days.


"When we teach learners new language it’s important to put it in context – this helps them understand its meaning."

Further reading

Brown, H. Douglas. (1994) Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, 3rd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Celce-Murcia. . (2001) Discourse and Context in Language Teaching: A Guide for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holliday, A. with Martin Hyde and John Kullman (2010). Intercultural communication: an Advanced resource book for students, 2nd edition. Oxford: Routledge.

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



Entry link: Context

Continuous aspect

See Aspect

Entry link: Continuous aspect

Controlled/restricted practice

Controlled/restricted practice is the second stage in Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP). This kind of practice involves students in using target language in a guided and restricted way in which they have little choice over what language to use. Examples of controlled practice activities are repetition and substitution drills. This kind of practice is aimed at providing learners with strongly guided support in their use of newly or poorly learnt language items.


"Sometimes I try to disguise controlled practice in guided role plays or pair work. I give students prompts so they can’t make mistakes. It’s more interesting like that rather than just doing choral drills."

Further reading

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

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

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



Entry link: Controlled/restricted practice


Conversion is a linguistic term that describes a word’s change from one grammatical category to another. An example of this in English is ‘to big something up’ where the adjective ‘big’ is nowadays often combined with ‘up’ to make a phrasal verb meaning ‘to recognise the importance of something’ or ‘to praise’ it.

The term ‘conversion’ is often used interchangeably with ‘functional shift’, though some people say that conversion refers to a change in lexical meaning while functional shift refers to a change in syntactic meaning.


English is full of words that are the result of conversion, for example the verb to hand from the noun hand, using a colour adjective as a noun e.g. the Reds, the Greens, the Blacks, or using up as a verb in e.g. after the meal, they just upped and went home.

Further reading

Crystal, D. (2004). The Stories of English. New York: The Overlook Press.

Fowler, H.W. (2000). Fowler's Modern English Usage. New York: Oxford University Press.

Huddleston, R. & Pullam, G. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.  New York: Cambridge University Press.

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



Entry link: Conversion


Corpora are collections of spoken and/ or written language that are stored and processed electronically. Corpora are used in corpus linguistics to find patterns in language use e.g. the collocations of words, grammatical structures in spoken language, word frequencies, types of error. Corpora in ELT can contain a range of different types of texts or be based on particular genres e.g. ESP texts, or on proficient speaker or learner English.  Examples of English language corpora are the British National Corpus (BNA), Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), Cambridge English Corpus (CEC), the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays (Locness).


"The corpus shows this word collocates more frequently with slightly than with a little."

Further reading

International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, John Benjamin Publishing.

Carter, Ronald & McCarthy, Michael (1995): Grammar and the spoken language. Applied Linguistics 16:2, 141-158.

Cheng, W., Warren, M. & Xu X.F. (2003). The language learner as language researcher: putting corpus linguistics on the timetable. System 31:2, 173-186.

Granger, S.; Hung, J. & Petch-Tyson, S. (eds) (2002). Computer Learner Corpora, Second Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Teaching. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

O’Keefe, A.,  McCarthy, M., Carter, R.  (2007.) From Corpus to classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sinclair, J. ed. (2004) How to Use Corpora in Language Teaching, John Benjamins Publishing.



Entry link: Corpus/corpora

Course of study

This term is used in two different ways. It refers to a set of lessons or workshops making up a whole. In this sense it is synonymous with ‘course’.

It is also used to refer to a programme of study into which different courses are integrated.


In this example course is used in both its meanings, which makes the example potentially a little confusing!

The course I took in Italian at university was made up of lots of different courses e.g. medieval literature, philology, etymology, 19th century history.

Further reading

No further reading is provided for this general word.



Entry link: Course of study


This term is used to refer to syllabus (See syllabus), learning objectives, methods of assessment, teaching methods and materials.

The term is also sometimes used synonymously with syllabus.


Writing a curriculum for a particular learning situation involves understanding a lot about the context in which the teaching and learning will take place.

Further reading

Christison, M and Murray, D. (2014). What English Language Teachers Need to Know,

Volume 3.  New York and London: Routledge.

Graves, K. (1996). Teachers as Course Developers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, I.S.P. and  Macalister, J.(2010). Language Curriculum Design. Oxford: Routledge.

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Entry link: Curriculum

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