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Maya Pentcheva,
Todor Shopov
Whole Language, Whole Person
A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Edited by Filomena Capucho and
Peter Hanenberg
Sofia, Viseu, 1999
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Chapter 1: Principles of Teaching
1.1. Cognitive Principles
1.2. Social Principles
1.3. Linguistic Principles
Chapter 2: Exploring Language Teaching Methods
2.1. Period I: Direct Language Teaching
2.2. Period II: Audio-lingual Teaching and the Innovative Methods of
the 1970s
2.3. Period III: Communicative Language Teaching
Chapter 3: Paradigm Shift in Education
3.1. Changing the Focus of Education
3.2. A Teaching Paradigm to Meet Psychosocial Needs
3.3. Factors of Cooperative Learning 53
3.4. Cooperative Language Learning 56
Chapter 4: The Language Curriculum
4.1. Constructivism
4.2. The General versus Specific Course Conjecture 63
4.3. Random Access Instruction in Complex and Ill-structured
4.4. Language Curriculum as a Knowledge Strategic Hypertext 66
4.5. Instead of a Conclusion
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
This book is written within the framework of the Exchange to Change
Project. We have been trying the find out what the methodological
implications of the awareness resulting from reflective mobility are. Is there
any “methodological value” added in result of the visiting and welcoming
experiences of language teachers and learners in mobility? Our aim is to
offer some orientation into the general educational concerns of the Project.
The task is formidable. It is the focus of many different lines of exploration.
In his poem “Little Gidding” in Four Quarters, T. S. Eliot puts it in this
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Yet, this is an optimistic book. At some moments in history, professional
spheres are susceptible to important change. We believe that we want and
can cross the threshold of “exchange to change” and step into the realm of
educational promises fulfilled.
The title indicates our holistic approach to the analysis and synthesis of the
concepts of language, personality, methodology, communication and intercomprehension, etc. This approach emphasizes the priority of the whole over
its parts. We hold that language teaching and learning is a complex
knowledge domain, characterized by network of relationships in a social and
cultural context. In addition, we believe that methodology is an
interdisciplinary field, which cannot be understood in isolation. Our
perspective sees it in terms of its relations to other knowledge domains.
We shall look into a range of issues, which are not only interesting
themselves, but also relevant to the objectives of the Project and, hopefully,
to the Reader. The nature and extent of the relevance is difficult, if not
impossible, to determine a priori. However, the book supplements the
Project Modules and serves as a concise reference material on the theory of
the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages. Methodological
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
literature is of course extensive, so we shall be pointing out some of the
good books on the topics presented.
We have just mentioned the term “foreign language”; throughout the book
we shall use it interchangeably with the term “second language”. Here, we
shall consider them synonymous albeit we realize that they can be easily
distinguished. In the literature, “second language” usually refers to a target
language that is being taught in the country where it is the dominant
language, whereas “foreign language” usually refers to a target language that
is being taught in the country where it is not the dominant language.
However, we do not find this distinction quite relevant for the focus of this
A decade ago, N. S. Prabhu, the famous Indian methodologist, pointed out
that language teaching faced three major problems, “(1) the measurement of
language competence involves elicitation (in some form) of specific
language behaviour but the relationship between such elicited behaviour and
language competence which manifests itself in natural use is unclear, (2)
given the view that the development of linguistic competence is a holistic
process, there is not enough knowledge available either to identify and
assess different intermediate stages of that development or to relate those
stages to some table of norms which can be said to represent expectations,
and (3) there is, ultimately, no way of attributing with any certainty any
specific piece of learning to any specific teaching: language learning can
take place independently of teaching intentions and it is impossible to tell
what has been learnt because of some teaching, and what in spite of it”
(Prabhu 1987, 8). Many things have happened in the field of language
teaching methodology since then. For example, the Common European
Framework of Reference (Council of Europe 1996 and 1998) was published,
European Language Council (http://www.fu-berlin.de/elc) was founded,
European Language Portfolio (Scharer 1999) was launched and so on.
Nonetheless, Prabhu’s claims are still valid. We shall focus on a range of
questions in the light of modern methodological developments trying to state
the scientific facts. Our own opinion emerges in the discussion now and
then, though. We hope our fortuitous academic bias will be understood.
The book is written in English and our examples come from English but we
do not intend to promote a lingua Adamica restituta. We believe in
plurilingualism and pluriculturalism and our inadequacy is only because of
our teleological prudence. The book is a collaborative effort but the
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
responsibility of the authors is individual. Maya Pencheva wrote Chapter 1
and Todor Shopov prepared Chapters 2, 3 and 4.
Chapter 1 offers a theoretical orientation into the philosophical foundations
of methodology. Cognitive and other principles of language teaching and
learning are discussed. It is claimed that the Picture of the World, which we
all keep in our minds, determines the way we speak. This relativistic
perspective and other ideas have found different applications in teaching.
They are explored in Chapter 2. It is a brief historical overview of teaching
methods. The three major periods of the development of methodology in the
twentieth century are presented. Chapter 3 discusses the more specific theme
of the approach level of teaching methods. The authors argue that
educational paradigm shift has had a pronounced impact on language
methodology. Particular plans for a language curriculum, which constitutes
the relatively concrete design level of teaching methods, are made in
Chapter 4. The question of modern curriculum design and development is
examined in it. The book functions as a whole text. We recommend that the
reader speed-read the book first. Then, the appropriate readings can be
selected easily. However, the reader can approach it as a compendium,
browsing only through the relevant sections.
We want to acknowledge the encouragement and support extended to us by
many people. We have had the good fortune to work with Filomena
Capucho of Universidade Catolica Portuguesa – Centro Regional das Beiras
Polo de Viseu, PT, Project General Coordinator, and our Partners from
Hogskolan Kalmar, SE, Centro de Professores y Recursos de Salamanca,
ES, Centro de Professores y Recursos de Vitigudino, ES, Institut Universaire
de Formation des Maitres d’Auvergne, FR, Skarup Statsseminarium, DK
and Universitat Salzburg, AT. We also wish to acknowledge our deep sense
of indebtedness to our colleagues at the Faculty of Classical and Modern
Philology, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, BG. Our work would have
hardly been possible without the order introduced in the system by Alex
Fedotoff. We are especially grateful to Peter Hanenberg of Universidade
Catolica Portuguesa – Centro Regional das Beiras Polo de Viseu, PT, who
had the idea of this book first, for his example and help.
To all these people, many thanks.
Sofia, December 1999
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Chapter 1: Principles of Teaching
In his Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, H. Douglas Brown
notes that there are “…best of times and worst of times” in the language
teaching profession (Brown 1994a). We can safely say that this is the best of
times for the foreign language teacher. Today, we know much about foreign
language acquisition, about child acquisition of language, about cognitive
processes, etc. It is also very important that we have come to an appreciation
of the extreme complexity of this field. This gives us cautious optimism to
plunge even deeper into the problems.
Foreign language teachers and educators are often confronted with the
question "What method or what system do you use in teaching a foreign
language?" Most often the answer does not come easily or if one gives a
straightforward answer, he risks to be subjected to criticism. Teachers
always have to make choices. These choices are motivated by the fact that
they rest on certain principles of language learning and teaching. Now that
we know much more about human language and its various aspects, we can
make the next step and formulate at least some of these principles, which are
based on what we know about language itself. Often, swept by fashionable
theories or a desire to sound “scholarly”, we forget a simple truth – we, as
human beings, teach a human language to human beings. “Students and
teachers of language”, says Osgood, “will discover the principles of their
science in the universalities of humanness” (Osgood et al. 1957, 301). A
concise but true definition of man will probably include three major
characteristics: (i) one who can reflect and interpret the world around him;
(ii) one who can express feelings; and (iii) one who can use language. These
characteristics underlie three major principles of language teaching and
learning. Well known and novice teaching techniques can be subsumed
under these three headings. Multiplicity of techniques can be brought down
to a number of methods and the methods reduced to a number of principles.
Mastering a great number of teaching techniques will not save you in new
situations, “not predicted” by the theory but predictable. It will not give you
the all-important ability to rationalize what you are doing and why are you
doing it. To do that one must be aware of deeper principles of language
acquisition and use, stemming from the foundations of human language as
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Cognitive Principles
We shall call the first set of principles “cognitive” because they relate to
mental, intellectual and psychological faculties in operating with language. It
should be made clear, however, that the three types of principles described
in this chapter, cognitive, social and linguistic principles, do not exist as if in
three watertight compartments but rather spill across each other to make up
the most remarkable ability of man – the linguistic ability.
It is no wonder that the achievements of modern cognitive science have
found such a warm and fast response in linguistics. Some of the postulates of
cognitive science today are crucial to our understanding of how language
operates and how we acquire this ability, respectively. Because one of the
most difficult questions in foreign language acquisition and child acquisition
of language is, How is it possible that children at an early age and adults,
late in their life, can master a system of such immense complexity? Is it only
a matter of memory capacity and automatic reproduction or is there
something else that helps us acquire a language?
Let us begin with some long established postulates of foreign language
acquisition and see what cognitive theory has to say about them.
(1) Automaticity of Acquisition
No one can dispute the fact that children acquire a foreign language quickly
and successfully. This ease is commonly attributed to children’s ability to
acquire language structures automatically and subconsciously, that is,
without actually analyzing the forms of language themselves. They appear to
learn languages without “thinking” about them. This has been called by B.
McLaughlin “automatic processing” (McLaughlin 1990). In order to operate
with the incredible complexity of language both children and adult learners
do not process language “unit by unit” but employ operations in which
language structures and forms (words, affixes, endings, word order,
grammatical rules, etc.) are peripheral. The Principle of Automaticity, as
stated above, aims at an “automatic processing of a relatively unlimited
number of language forms”. Overanalyzing language, thinking too much
about its forms tend to impede the acquisition process. This leads to the
recommendation to teachers to focus on the use of language and its
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
functional aspects. But focus on use and functionality presupposes
meaningful learning, which is in strong contradiction with automaticity.
What is more, one major characteristic both of child acquisition and adult
learning of foreign languages is the phenomenon called hypercorrection.
Again hypercorrection cannot exist without meaningful analysis of language
structures and their “classification” into “regular patterns” and “exceptions”
with respect to a language function.
(2) Meaningful Learning
Meaningful learning “subsumes” new information into existing structures
and memory systems. The resulting associative links create stronger
retention. “Children are good meaningful acquirers of language because they
associate…words, structures and discourse elements with that which is
relevant and important in their daily quest for knowledge and survival”
(Brown 1994b, 18). We must pay special attention to this sentence of H. D.
Brown, especially the last words, underlined here. It will be relevant in our
argument in favor of the cognitive principles of language acquisition. One of
the recommendations for classroom application of Meaningful Learning is
also of relevance to our further argument in this direction. It states
“Whenever a new topic or concept is introduced, attempt to anchor it in
students’ existing knowledge and background so that it gets associated with
something they already know”.
Some thirty-five years ago, a new science was born. Now called “Cognitive
Science”, it combines tools from psychology, computer science, linguistics,
philosophy, child psychology, and neurobiology to explain the workings of
human intelligence. Linguistics, in particular, has seen spectacular advances
in the years since. There are many phenomena of language that we are
coming to understand.
Language is not a cultural artifact that we learn the way we learn to tell the
time. Instead, it is a distinct characteristic of our brains. Language is a
complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child. For that reason
cognitive scientists have described language as a psychological and mental
faculty. The idea that thought is the same thing as language is an example of
what can be called a conventional absurdity. Now that cognitive scientists
know how to think about thinking, there is less of a temptation to equate it
with language and we are in a better position to understand how language
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
In essence, to reason is to deduce new pieces of knowledge from old ones.
But “knowledge” is something complex, the product of social and cultural
experience from living in a particular “world”. In his Philosophy of
Language, Wilhelm von Humboldt claims that speaking a language means
living in a specific conceptual domain. Acquiring a foreign language means
entering a new conceptual domain. This statement poses a major problem or
perhaps the major problem of acquiring a foreign language – are these
conceptual domains so different that they are incompatible? Or there are
certain mechanisms by which we can make transitions from the one into the
We shall present arguments in support of the second decision. The pivotal
question is how we interpret Humboldt’s conceptual domains. We will refer
to them by the term Picture of the World, initially used in analyzing
mythology and today employed by cognitive science. The word “picture”,
though usually used metaphorically, expresses truly the essence of the
phenomenon – it is a picture, not a mirror reflection, or a snapshot of the
world around us. Like any other picture, it presupposes a definite point of
view or the attitude of its creator. It involves interpretation, representations
of the world from various angles (the so- called “facet viewing”). This of
course implies the possibility to have a number of different pictures of one
object. What is important here is that our conceptualization of the world is
not “an objective reflection of reality”, but a subjective picture, which
reflects our views, beliefs, and attitudes. “Subjective” in the sense of the
collective interpretation or point of view of a society or cultural and
linguistic community. This picture explicates the relativity of human
cognition. In semiotics it goes under the name of “passive” cultural
memory. Cognitive science, however, rejects the qualification “passive” and
claims that Pictures of the World are actively and currently structured by
common cognitive models. In connection with Humboldt’s statement, it is
possible to pass from one picture of the world into another by means of a set
of universal cognitive mechanisms. This is crucial for explaining foreign
language acquisition. But what are those mechanisms? And what is the
nature of the evidence?
Our conceptual system or Picture of the World is not something that we are
normally aware of. But human language is an important source of evidence
for what a picture of the world is like. On the basis of linguistic evidence we
can say that most of our everyday conceptual system is metaphorical in
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
nature. Cognitive science explains the essence of metaphor as understanding
and experiencing one thing in terms of another. The first thing is called
Target Domain (what we want to express) and the second one is called
Source Domain (by means of which we express the first). We can use, as an
example, the way we conceive of time in our everyday life. Let us have the
following linguistic expressions:
You are wasting my time.
This gadget will save you hours.
How do you spend your time?
That flat tyre will cost me an hour.
I’m running out of time.
The central postulate of cognitive science is that metaphorical transfer is not
just a matter of language, of mere words. Human thought processes are
largely metaphorical. Metaphor means metaphorical concepts. And these are
specifically structured. If we generalize the examples above, we come up
with the metaphor /TIME IS MONEY/. This metaphor entails the treatment
of time as a limited resource and a valuable commodity. The examples
demonstrate one type of metaphorical transfer – structural metaphor.
On the more linguistic side of the problem, when metaphorical concepts
become lexicalized, they help a variety of people understand what the
concepts mean. In other words, they have a certain didactic role. Metaphors
in computer terminology, for example, aid users speaking different
languages but using English to understand and remember new concepts. At
the same time they allow users to associate unfamiliar concepts with old
ones, thereby helping to palliate technostress. “User friendliness” of
computer metaphorical terms can be illustrated by the numerous examples
found in the vocabulary of user interfaces – e.g. desktop, wallpaper, and
menu, to mention just a few. It appears that conceptual domains are shaped
by several themes. The domain of the Internet features several conceptual
themes. Most of these are based on the functions that the Internet is
perceived to have: (1) helping people “move” across vast distances; (2)
facilitate communication; and (3) send and store data. The following
metaphorical domains can present these themes:
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
1. Transportation
The theme of transportation dominates Internet terminology, specified
sometimes as marine navigation, highway transportation:
to navigate/cruise/surf the Internet (or the Web)
information highway, data highway
to ride/get on the Internet
ramp/on-ramp, access ramp
2. Mail and Postal Services
virtual postcard
3. Architecture
4. The Printed Medium
Web page
White pages
to browse
carbon copy
Some metaphorical terms have spawned numerous conceptually related ones
by metaphorical extension. Gopher, for example, has given rise to
Gopherspace, Gopher hole. The famous desktop metaphor has given rise to
files, folders, trash cans. The mouse metaphor has generated mouse trails
and so on.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
A different type of metaphorical model is the second one, which organizes a
whole system of concepts with respect to one another – the so-called
orientation metaphor. They rely on bodily experience: up-down, in-out,
front-back, deep-shallow, center-periphery, etc. Such orientation metaphors
are grounded in physical perception and hence universal. For example:
I’m feeling up.
I’m in high spirits.
Thinking about her gives me a lift.
I’m down today.
My spirits sank.
I’m depressed.
good health
He is in top shape.
He is at the peak of health.
He fell ill.
He came down with a
have control over
He is in a superior position.
I have control over the situation.
be subject to control
He is my social inferior.
He is under my control.
high status
He’s climbing the social ladder fast.
low status
He is at the bottom of the
social hierarchy.
He is an upstanding citizen.
She is high-minded.
I wouldn’t stoop to that.
That’s beneath me.
His arguments rose above emotions.
Discussion fell to the
emotional level.
The third type of metaphor is called ontological. Cognitive science has it
that we understand our experience in terms of objects and substances. This
allows us to pick fragments of our experience and treat them as discrete
entities or substances. Thus, we interpret the human mind as a material
object with specific properties - the /MIND IS A MACHINE/ metaphor:
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
My mind just isn’t operating today.
I’m a little rusty today.
The experience shattered her.
He is easily crushed.
He broke under cross-examination.
The conception of /MIND IS A MACHINE/ also enables us to view mind
as having an off-state, a level of efficiency, productive capacity, internal
mechanisms, etc. What is more, and it is very important, we view both
conceptual domains (The Mind and The Machine) as internally structured,
so that we can make transfers not only between the domains as a whole but
also between parts of these domains. This process is known as “metaphorical
mapping”. In this way, when we use a metaphorical model, we can also use
elements of that model with the same effect. Let’s illustrate this with an
The mapping between the two domains is not simple. The structure of
Journey includes, for example, point of departure, path to destination, means
of transportation, co-travelers, obstacles along the way to destination,
crossroads, etc. It is amazing how our concept of life repeats all the details
of our concept of journeys. What is much more amazing, however, is not
that we have many metaphors for life, but that we have just a few. They are
among the basic metaphors we live by.
Basic metaphors are limited in number. Among them are:
By means of them we can interpret all existing metaphorical models:
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
We understand the Source Domains of basic metaphors relying on our
everyday experience – bodily experience and social experience. This means
that they are not independent of thinking and cognition.
What motivates our ability to create and understand metaphorical structures?
According to cognitive science, these are cognitive and psychological
characteristics, which are elements of our species specific as human beings.
They are:
(1) Our ability to create structures in concepts that do not exist
independent of the metaphor, i.e. our ability for modeling,
(2) Our ability to choose and explicate optional elements from
conceptual structures,
(3) Our ability to make conclusions and inferences,
(4) Our ability to evaluate and transfer evaluations of elements of the
Source Domain onto the Target Domain.
Our mental ability for modeling enables us to operate easily with extremely
complex conceptual structures. A very good example is the notion of
‘mother’. It comprises six sub-models:
Mother is the one who gives birth to a child.
Mother is the one who carries the embryo.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Mother is the one who feeds and cares for the baby.
Mother is the one who is married to the child’s father.
Mother is the closest female relative.
(vi) Housewife
Mothers stay at home and care for the family.
Sub-models (i), (iii), and (iv) form the core of the concept. They build the
stereotype image of a mother. Sub-models (i), (ii), and (v) describe what a
mother is “objectively” (biologically). And (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) describe
what a mother normally is, i.e. the prototypical mother. This prototype
remains stable cross-culturally. All six sub-models describe the ideal
mother. This ideal changes historically and across cultures.
Thus, we operate with several images. The most important are the stereotype
and the ideal. Very often they have separate linguistic expressions. Thus in
English we distinguish between the biological and the ideal father. We can
normally ask
Who is the child’s father?
but not
*Who is the child’s daddy?
because the ideal implies caring for the family and being married to the
child’s mother. In the ‘mother’ concept the biological and the social are
inseparable. All deviations from the model are interpreted as highly marked,
i.e. exceptions from the ideal. For that reason they are consistently marked
surrogate mother
foster mother
adoptive mother
donor mother
biological mother
We can summarize all metaphorical models into a small number of Basic
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
How can we apply these principles, mechanisms and models in teaching a
language and teaching about language? We can do that in a number of ways:
I. On the diachronic level
There is a marked parallelism between current English metaphors and
models of semantic change. Living metaphors and semantic change are
related and mutually reinforcing. This explains the commonality of such
metaphors in the Indo-European languages through time. By using cognitive
models we can explain but also teach the established one-way directions of
semantic change. For example, Indo-European languages follow consistently
certain metaphorical transfers:
< Latin ‘carry back’
This direction of semantic change is paralleled by the existence of
synchronic metaphorical schemes in which physical motion is used as the
Source Domain for more abstract notions like ‘time’ or ‘mental activity’.
Shifts in the opposite direction are unknown.
know < ‘see’
remark < observe < ‘look closely at’
e.g. suppose ‘understand’ < Latin sub + ponere ‘put under’
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
comprehend < Latin ‘seize’
grasp2 ‘understand’ < grasp1 ‘ seize in the hand’
get2 ‘understand’ < get1 ‘acquire a physical entity’
decide < Latin de + caedo ‘cut off from’
confuse < Latin con + fundere ‘pour together, mix’
prefer < Latin prae + ferre ‘carry before’
deduce < Latin de + ducere ‘lead out from’
infer < Latin in + fere ‘carry in’
presume < Latin prae + sumere ‘take before’
This is the most productive metaphor with ‘Mental state’ verbs in English.
The manipulation with ideas is seen as holding, touching, moving, uniting,
separating, arranging, and re-ordering them, like physical objects.
propose < Latin pro + ponere ‘put forward’
Data demonstrate a stable direction in meaning change: a) verbs of ‘Physical
motion/location’ > verbs of ‘Mental state’/’Speech acts’; b) verbs of ‘Mental
state’ > verbs of ‘Speech acts’, but never in the opposite direction. Therefore
semantic change tends to move towards more personal meanings, meanings
closer to the Self.
admit < Latin ad + mittere ‘send to’
assert < Latin ad + serere ‘connect to’
ad- expressing ‘direction from speaker to hearer’
reply < Latin re + plicare ‘feed back’
refuse < Latin re + futare ‘beat back’
re- expressing ‘direction from hearer to speaker’
We haven’t got anywhere in this conversation.
Now we must go back to the main issue.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Notice also the use of spatial prepositions both with ‘Speech act’ and
‘Mental activity’ verbs:
e.g. talk
This shows that we conceive of a speech act as a distance between the two
communicating parties, a route along which ideas=objects can travel or be
exchanged. This is a replica of the model of ‘Physical action’ verbs, with
their regular contrast between to and at prepositions:
throw to
talk to
shout to
to, expressing active participation on the part of the receiver=hearer, a
successful completion of the trajectory of the action, and at, expressing an
inactive receiver=hearer.
Since ‘Speech act’ verbs involve exchange between two parties, i.e. action,
they can also have a metaphorical variant like /SPEECH ACTS ARE
e.g. concede < Latin con + cedere ‘give up’
insist < Latin in + sistere ‘stand in’
convince < Latin con + vincere ‘conquer together’.
II. On the synchronic level
Synchronically, we can employ metaphorical transfer models to teach
semantic fields and explain semantic extension. Thus, ‘Human emotions’
can be explained through ‘Temperature’, ‘Cooking activities’, or ‘Colours’,
hot temper
warm friendship
boil with indignation
burn with emotion
simmer with anger
be in a stew.
cold person
our friendship has cooled
take it cool
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Other spheres of language teaching or linguistic analysis where we can apply
the same mechanism of explanation are synonymy, phraseology,
development of grammatical categories and forms of their expression,
predominant word order, etc. We shall demonstrate the validity of this
approach in teaching grammar, using auxiliary verbs as an example.
There is a stable tendency for a limited set of notional verbs, with specific
meaning, to turn, over time, into auxiliary verbs of analytical constructions
(the perfect tenses, the progressive tenses, and the future tense). The lexical
sources for auxiliaries in such constructions usually include notions like:
PHYSICAL LOCATION: be + on/at/in + nominal form
MOVEMENT TO A GOAL: go(to)/come(to) + nominal form
DEVELOPMENT OF ACTION IN TIME: begin/become/finish +
nominal form
VOLITION: want/will + nominal form
OBLIGATION: must + verbal form
PERMISSION: let + verbal form.
In other words, there is a “selectivity” with respect to the initial lexical
meaning of verbs that are likely to evolve into auxiliaries of analytical
constructions across languages. Thus the initial meaning of 117 auxiliaries
from 15 languages involve 20 lexical sources:
be at/on
be + adjective/participle
take care, put
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
There are a number of immediate questions that arise. Is this “rule of
auxiliation” due to pure coincidence; does it result from geographic or
genetic closeness of languages; or could this be the reflection of some
fundamental cognitive principle that gets actualized in linguistic structure?
We can postulate that this process of auxiliation is the reflection of a basic
principle in human conceptualization, namely that abstract notions are
conceptualized by means of a limited number of concrete basic concepts.
We can make an even stronger claim that lexical sources for grammatization
in general involve notions basic to human experience (bodily and social) that
provide central reference points.
1.2. Social Principles
We now turn our attention to those principles of language acquisition that
are central to human beings as social entities. We shall look at the concept of
self and self-awareness, at relationships in a community (of speakers and
learners), at the relationships between language and culture.
In speaking, learning and teaching a language we are taking part in one of
the wonders of the world. For we all belong to a species with a remarkable
ability: we can shape events and ideas in each other’s brains. The ability is
language. Language is not just any cultural invention but the product of
society and culture, and the ability of man to cope with them and to create
them. But it is much more than that. There must be something, then, that
makes language accessible to all, manageable and flexible enough to
accommodate various cultures and societies, and to be the most widely used
instrument in interpersonal relations.
(1) The Self and Self-awareness
One of the products of social development is the formation of the concept
of self and awareness of the ego, which model a specific pattern of linguistic
behaviour and structure of linguistic categories. In the context of the
problems discussed here, this touches onto the old and widely disputed idea
of language relativity, i.e. the idea that the structure of our mother tongue
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
and its categories, which are a reflection of our way of life and the
environment, give particular shape to our way of thinking. That is, speaking
a particular language, you are also a particular linguistic self. As human
beings learn a foreign language, they also develop a new mode of thinking
and acting – they enter a new identity. But this new “language ego”,
intertwined with the new language itself, can create a sense of uncertainty,
defensiveness, even humiliation, and raise inhibitions. Learners can feel this
because the arsenals of their native-language egos may be suddenly useless
in developing a “second self”.
The foreign language teacher is the major factor in the formation of this
“second self”. His choice of techniques needs to be cognitively challenging
to achieve the accommodation of the learner to his “new world”. If the
student is learning the foreign language in the milieu of the country where it
is spoken, then he is likely to experience an “identity crisis”. To avoid this
the teacher must “create” appropriate “natural” situations for the learner so
that he can practice his new identity.
Let us take one ordinary example – learning to write compositions in
English. Students whose teachers urge them to reduce the number of times
they use the pronoun “I” in their essays (or, conversely, encourage the use of
“I”) may be surprised to discover that in some cultures this grammatical
choice has profound cultural and even political connotations. A Chinese
student is taught to use always “we” instead of “I” lest he give the
impression of being selfish and individualistic. Starting to study English he
required to “imagine looking at the world with his head upside down” and to
invent a new “English self” that could use the pronoun “I”. Learning to write
an essay in English is not an isolated classroom activity, but a social and
cultural experience. Learning the rules of English essay writing is, to a
certain extent, learning the values of Anglo-American society. Writing
essays in English, a Chinese student has to “reprogram” his mind, to
redefine some of the basic concepts and values that he had about himself,
about society.
Rule number one in English composition writing is: “Be yourself”. But
writing many “I’s” is only the beginning of the process of redefining oneself.
By such a redefinition is meant not only the change of how one envisioned
oneself, but also a change in how he perceived the world. The Chinese
student gradually creates his new “English Self”.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
(2) The Language-Culture Connection
Everyone knows what is supposed to happen when two Englishmen who
have never met before come face to face in a railway compartment – they
start talking about the weather. By talking to the other person about some
neutral topic like the weather, it is possible to strike up a relationship with
him without actually having to say very much. Conversations of this kind are
a good example of the sort of important social function that is often fulfilled
by language. By trying to master this function of language, the learner is
building part of his new language identity.
It is well known, and often humorously exaggerated, that the British always
talk about the weather. In his famous book, How To Be an Alien, George
Mikes (1970) discusses the weather as the first and most important topic for
a person who wants to learn English. Here is his comment:
“This is the most important topic in the land. Do not be misled by memories
of your youth when, on the Continent, wanting to describe someone as
exceptionally dull, you remarked: ‘He is the type who would discuss the
weather with you.’ In England, this is an ever-interesting, even thrilling
topic, and you must be good at discussing the weather.
For Good Weather
‘Lovely day, isn’t it?’
‘Isn’t it beautiful?’
‘The sun…’
‘Isn’t it gorgeous?’
‘Wonderful, isn’t it?’
‘It’s so nice and hot…’
‘Personally, I think it’s so nice when it’s hot – isn’t it?’
‘I adore it – don’t you?’
For Bad Weather
‘Nasty day, isn’t it?’
‘Isn’t it dreadful?’
‘The rain…I hate rain…’
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
‘I don’t like it at all. Do you?’
‘Fancy such a day in July. Rain in the morning, then a bit of sunshine, and
then rain, rain, rain, all day long.’
‘I remember exactly the same July in 1936.’
‘Yes, I remember too.’
‘Or was it in 1928?’
‘Yes, it was.’
‘Or in 1939?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
Now, observe the last few sentences of this conversation. A very important
rule emerges from it. You must never contradict anybody when discussing
the weather in England. Should it hail and snow, should hurricanes uproot
trees, and should someone remark to you: ‘Nice day, isn’t it?’ – answer
without hesitation: ‘Isn’t it lovely?’”
And here is Mikes’ advice to the learner of English:
“Learn the above conversations by heart. If you are a bit slow in picking
things up, learn at least one conversation, it would do wonderfully for any
All this is of course a very good joke but it says much about the British and
their social behaviour. Whenever you teach a language, you also teach a
complex system of cultural customs, values, and ways of thinking, feeling
and acting. A teacher must necessarily attract his students’ attention to the
cultural connotations, especially of socio-linguistic aspects of language. An
easy way to do this is to discuss cross-cultural differences with the students,
emphasising that no culture is “better” than another. What is important in
such a discussion is to make them aware that they will never master the
foreign language without “entering a new world” or “acquiring a new self”.
A second aspect of the language – culture connection is the extent to which
the students will be affected by the process of acculturation, which will vary
with the context and the goals of learning. In many language-learning
contexts such as ESL, students are faced with the full-blown realities of
adapting to life in a foreign country, complete with varying stages of
acculturation. Then, cultural adaptation, social distance, and psychological
adjustment are also factors to deal with. The success with which learners
adapt to a new cultural milieu will affect their language acquisition success,
and vice versa, in some significant ways.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
We cannot be certain that all the functions of language described in
linguistic literature are to be found in all cultures. The relative importance of
these different functions may vary from culture to culture, their distribution
may vary. For anyone to participate in the life of a community he has to be
able to communicate and be communicated to. That is why the learner is
learning a language. This does not mean that the range of functions aimed at
by a foreign language learner will be that at the command of the native
speaker. A language learner may know exactly what he wants the foreign
language for, or he may have no clear idea at all. But for many teaching
operations we need to specify the aims.
Our ability to participate as members of social and language communities
depends upon our control of linguistic and other behaviour considered
appropriate. The learner of a foreign language is preparing to use that
language for certain purposes, in certain roles and in certain situations. Many
writers speak of the linguistic needs of the learner in terms of roles he may
assume. The primary role ascribed to him will be that of foreigner, in which
his communicative needs are normally going to be more restricted than those
of the native speaker. In preparing a teaching programme or choosing a
teaching strategy, we have to take into account what the learner’s needs may
be and we must do so in terms of the social situations she is going to have to
participate in, perhaps not as a “full member” but as a “foreign associate”. In
this connection, it is appropriate to remind again of the wonderful book of
George Mikes containing valuable advice to foreigners not to pretend to be
native speakers. Here is what Mikes says about foreigners, trying to acquire
“perfect” English and sound like native speakers.
“In the first week after my coming to England I picked up a tolerable
working knowledge of the language and the next seven years convinced me
gradually but thoroughly that I would never know it really well, let alone
perfectly. This is sad. My only consolation being that nobody speaks English
If you live here long enough you will find out to your greatest
amazement that the adjective nice is not the only adjective the language
possesses, in spite of the fact that in the first three years you do not need to
learn or use any other adjective.
Then you have to decide on your accent. You will have your foreign
accent all right, but many people like to mix it with something else. The
easiest way to give the impression of having a good accent or no foreign
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
accent at all is to hold an unlit pipe in your mouth, to mutter between your
teeth and finish your sentences with the question: ‘isn’t it?’ People will not
understand much, but they are accustomed to that and they will get the most
excellent impression.
The most successful attempts to put on a highly cultured air have been
on the polysyllabic line. Many foreigners, who have learned Latin and Greek
in school, discover with amazement and satisfaction that the English
language has absorbed a huge amount of ancient Greek and Latin
expressions, and they realize that (a) it is much easier to learn these
expressions than the much simpler English words; (b) that these words are as
a rule interminably long and make a simply superb impression when talking
to the greengrocer…”
1.3. Linguistic Principles
The last category of principles of language learning and teaching centres on
language itself and on how learners deal with this complex and ill-formed
system (see Chapter 4).
Earlier in this century, Edward Sapir wrote: “When it comes to linguistic
form, Plato walks with the Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the headhunting savage of Assam.” There is a considerable knowledge available
about the nature of human language. Linguistics provides a growing body of
scientific knowledge about language, which can guide the activity of the
language teacher. Linguists can make and have made great contributions to
the solution of some of the problems.
Language is such a complex phenomenon that it cannot be fully accounted
for within one consistent and comprehensive theory. For this reason, when
asked the question "What is language?" the linguist is likely to reply by
asking another question "Why do you want to know?" If we teach language,
the way we approach the task will be influenced, or even determined, by
what we believe language to be. There is generally a close connection
between the way we talk about something and the way we regard it.
Linguists, especially, often talk about how language “works”. The linguistic
approach to language is the most “objectivising” approach: it is concerned
with language as a system; it aims to elucidate the structure of language. To
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
do this it has set up various “levels of description”. These levels bear such
familiar names as syntax, morphology, phonology and phonetics, lexis and
semantics, pragmatics, etc.
The study of language is beset by the difficulty that it deals with something
utterly familiar. Everybody “knows” about language, because they use it all
the time. The problem of studying phenomena like language is to separate it
from ourselves, to achieve a “psychic distance” (Chomsky 1968).
Perhaps the most cogent criticism of traditional language teaching with its
insistence on correctness, the rules of grammar, and its limited objectives, is
that it lacked the socio-cultural dimension. Little thought seems to have been
given to the notion of appropriateness, to the way that language behaviour is
responsive to differing social situations. It is one of the great values of
modern language teaching that it adopts a more social approach to language,
and it is concerned with the problems of its communicative function.
The relevance of the linguistic approach to language teaching is too obvious
to need much discussion here. One point must be mentioned, however.
Modern teachers of language are actually teaching their students not only the
language but also about language. Modern linguistics requires that a
grammar should accord with a native speaker’s intuitions about language.
This formulates a new goal for linguistic theory. Now linguists describe
what native speakers conceive to be the nature of their language. The
emphasis has shifted from the nature of language data to the nature of the
human capacity, which makes it possible to produce the language data.
Some linguists, Chomsky among them, would claim that the objectives of
the linguistic study of language have always implicitly been the
characterization of the internalized set of rules by a speaker-hearer (and
learner) when he uses language. Such linguists do not study what people do
when they speak and understand language, but seek to discover the rules
underlying this performance. This is what Chomsky calls competence
(1966a, 9): "A distinction must be made between what the speaker of a
language knows implicitly (what we may call his competence) and what he
does (his performance). A grammar, in the traditional view, is an account of
The speaker’s competence, then, can be characterized as a set of rules for
producing and understanding sentences in a language. The grammar of a
language, thus, in its linguistic sense, is a characterization of the native
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
speaker’s competence. All speakers of a language vary slightly in the rules
they follow, as well, of course, as in their performance. When we are
teaching a foreign language, we are trying to develop in the learner not just
grammatical competence, in the Chomskyan sense, but communicative
competence. We are teaching him or her not only what we call “the
formation rules” of the language, but also in addition, what Hymes has
called “the speaking rules”. The learner must develop the ability to
distinguish grammatical from ungrammatical sequences, but he must also
know when to select a particular grammatical sequence, appropriate to the
context, both linguistic and situational.
Different functions of language can be associated with the factors involved
in a speech act – the speaker, the hearer, contact between them, the linguistic
code used, the topic and the form of the message. If the orientation is
towards the speaker, then we have the personal function of language. It is
through this function that the speaker reveals his attitude towards what he is
speaking about. It is not just that he expresses his thoughts and emotions
through language, but his emotions and attitudes at what he is talking about.
Hearer-oriented speech acts involve the directive function of language. It is
the function of controlling the behaviour of a participant. This can be done
by command, request or warning, or by some general admonitory statement,
by invoking legal, moral or customary rules of society.
Where the focus is on the contact between the participants, speech functions
to establish relations, maintain them, or promote social solidarity. These are
typically ritual, or formulaic speech acts: leave-taking, greetings, remarks
about the weather, inquiries about health, etc. This function, sometimes
called phatic, is also performed or supported by gestures, facial expression.
The topic-oriented function of speech, often called the referential function,
is that which usually stands first in people’s minds. It is the function that
gave rise to the traditional notion that language was created solely for the
communication of thought, for making statements about how the speaker
perceives the way things in the world are.
There are two more functions, associated with the code used and the
message. They are the most difficult to formulate. We usually test them by
asking the questions "Do you hear me?" and "Do you follow?"
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
(1) The Native Language Effect
S. Pit Corder claims that when people learn a second language they are not
acquiring language, they already possess it. The learning of a second
language is rather a question of increasing a repertoire, or learning a set of
alternatives for something they already know. The assumption then is that
some of the rules they already know are also used in the production and
understanding of the second language. This is what is meant by “transfer”.
Learners transfer what they already know. Making errors in the second
language can, in part, be explained by the notion of transfer. It is also called
“negative transfer” or interference. But this tendency of transfer can be also
positive (facilitation). It is just as well that different languages do, in fact,
have resemblances to each other. On this account, it has to be established
what is different between the mother tongue and the foreign language.
Describing language, or part of language, is part of the process of
developing linguistic theory itself. But we must now outline the hierarchy of
applications of linguistics to language teaching. There are a number of
stages in the application of linguistics to language teaching. The first has
already been identified as that of linguistic description. The second is
concerned with operations performed on the descriptions of language. Each
stage has the function of answering some questions or solving some
problems relevant to language teaching. Thus, the application of first order
answers the very general question: what is the nature of the language, which
is to be taught? The next stage answers the question: what is to be taught and
how is it to be taught? The criteria for selecting material for language
teaching are various: utility to the learner, that is, selecting what he needs to
know, his proposed repertoire – those varieties of the language which will
be useful to him, those speech functions which he will need to command. Or
we can invoke the criterion of difference. In a sense, all parts of the foreign
language are different from the mother tongue. But difference is relative
Some parts will be more different than others. For example, if the learner’s
mother tongue has no grammatical system of aspect, the learning of such a
system presents a serious learning task. Where the learner’s mother tongue,
however, has such a system, the size of the learning problem will depend on
the nature and degree of difference. A third criterion might be difficulty.
What is different in the foreign language does not necessarily in all cases
represent a difficulty. For example, at the phonological level, what is so
totally different from anything encountered in the mother tongue does not
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
seem to be so difficult to learn as something, which is liable to confusion
with some similar feature in the mother tongue.
The procedures and techniques involved in all these cases of application of
linguistics to foreign language teaching are comparative. This is called
interlingual comparison, or “contrastive” comparison (Contrastive
Analysis). The other type of comparison is often called Error Analysis. The
errors performed by the learners may be an important part of the data on
which the comparison is made. But what is being compared in this case is
not two existing and already known languages, but the language of the
learner at some particular point in the process of learning, with the target
language. A learner’s so called errors are systematic, and it is precisely this
regularity which shows that the learner is following a set of rules. These
rules are not those of the target language but a “transitional” from of
language, similar to the target language, but also similar to the learner’s
mother tongue (what Larry Selinker calls “interlanguage”).
(2) Language Universals
In the context of discussing similarities and differences between languages,
we must touch upon the theme of language universals and their place in
foreign language teaching. The 4,000 to 6,000 languages of the world do
look impressively different from English and from one another. On the other
hand, one can also find striking uniformities. In 1963 the linguist Joseph
Greenberg examined a sample of 30 far-flung languages from five
continents. Greenberg wanted to see if any properties of grammar could be
found in all these languages. In the first investigation, which focused on the
order of words and morphemes, he found no fewer than forty-five universal
Since then, many other surveys have been conducted, involving scores of
languages from every part of the world, and literally hundreds of universal
patterns have been documented. Some hold absolutely. For example, no
language forms questions by reversing the order within a sentence, like
*Built Jack that house the this is? Some universals are statistical: subjects
normally precede objects in almost all languages, and verbs and their objects
tend to be adjacent. Thus most languages have SVO or SOV word order;
fewer have VSO; VOS and OVS are rare (less than 1%); and OSV may be
non-existent. The largest number of universals involve implications: if a
language has X, it will also have Y. Universal implications are found in all
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
aspects of language, from phonology (if a language has nasal vowels, it will
have non-nasal vowels) to word meanings (if a language has a word for
‘purple’, it will also have a word for ‘red’; if a language has a word for ‘leg’,
it will also have a word for ‘arm’).
The knowledge of the existence of language universals may save some
procedures of comparison between the mother tongue and the foreign
language taught. In the second place, it can be part of the teaching material
(mostly implicitly) and the methods of explanation.
(3) Linguistics in Structuring the Syllabus
A finished syllabus (cf. Chapter 4) is the overall plan for the learning
process. It must specify what components must be available, or learned by a
certain time line; what is the most efficient sequence in which they are
learned; what items can be learned “simultaneously”; what items are already
The structure of language is a “system of systems”, or a “network” of
interrelated categories, no part of which is wholly independent or wholly
dependent upon another. In language, nothing is learned completely until
everything is learned. If this is so, then no simple linear sequence for a
syllabus is appropriate. A logical solution to this problem seems to be a
cyclic, or spiral, structure, which requires the learner to return time and
again to some aspects of language structure, language process, or domain of
language use. Language learning is not just cumulative, it is an integrative
process. In Chapter 4, we shall offer a new approach to syllabus/curriculum
The major problem that faces us in syllabus organisation is whether to take
the formal criteria as dominant, leaving alternative ways of expressing the
same idea to some other part of the syllabus, or to base our grouping on
semantic criteria. The teaching of modal verbs is a perfect example of the
dilemma. Should we bring all alternative ways of expressing necessity,
obligation, possibility and probability, etc. together into separate single
units? In other words, are we going to regard ‘modal verbs’, or alternatively
‘the expression of obligation’, as a syllabus item?
There is no simple answer to this problem. The more we take account of
semantic considerations, the more evident it becomes that the relationship
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
between meaning and surface form is a complex and indirect one. At the
time when less attention was paid to the whole problem of meaning, and
language learning was thought of as a matter of acquiring the ability to
produce automatically ‘sentence patterns’, it was logical (or was it?) to
group materials in a syllabus on the basis of superficial formal criteria. But
with the increasing emphasis on language learning as training the learner in
communication, the relevance of semantic criteria in organising the
linguistic material increases. We are now trying to classify the linguistic
material in terms of more abstract semantic categories as time, deixis,
modality, aspectuality, futurity, possession, quantification, causation, etc.
We have seen that the systematic interconnectedness of language makes it
unrealistic to think of any item as teachable or learnable in isolation. We
should consider an item in a more general way, i.e. as a process, or as some
grammatical category, such as tense or number.
(a) The syntactic syllabus
Nowadays, descriptions of language give us a relatively satisfactory account
of the structure of the system to be learned, that is, a characterisation of the
‘formation rules’ of the language. But we are concerned with more than this
in language teaching – we are concerned with performance ability. There are
some general types of syntactic processes, such as nominalisation,
relativisation or thematisation, passivisation, interrogativisation, negation,
which could be regarded as ‘items’ of performance ability in a syllabus.
Linguistically speaking, all these involve performing certain operations.
(b) The morphological syllabus
The most frequent claim for the appropriate application of sequencing,
otherwise denied in principle, is made at the level of morphology. For
example, the verb "to have" and "to be" are used as auxiliaries in the
formation of perfect or progressive aspect. Most logically, we must present
and teach these verbs before introducing the formation of these aspectual
forms. This seems a good argument until we specify what we mean by
'‘teaching'’ the verbs to have and to be. Learning a verb involves not only
discovering the relations in enters into with nominals, whether it is transitive
or copulative, but also learning the morphological system together with their
associated meanings: time, duration, completion, frequency, etc. The
learning of something must surely involve the ability to use it acceptably, i.e.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
discover its functions. The function of the auxiliary to be in the progressive
aspect, or passive voice, is different from that of the verb to be in copulative
structures. To say that in teaching copulative sentences one is teaching the
verb "to be" so that it can be available for later auxiliary use is a categorial
(c) The lexical syllabus
In order to present and exemplify grammatical categories and syntactic
structures, we have to use lexical words. This does not mean that the
teaching of vocabulary is logically dependent on the teaching of grammar.
The teaching of vocabulary provides us with another concept of syllabus
grouping – lexico-semantic. An example of this could be the co-occurrence
of adverbs of past time, yesterday, last week, three years ago, etc., with
tense verbs; or co-occurrence of verbs of speaking and believing, say, tell,
cry, believe, hope, expect, etc., with nominalised sentences of different
We must outline ‘the network of relations’ which bind the vocabulary of a
language into a structure. It is possible to isolate ‘sub-fields’ within the
lexical structure of a language. Such groupings of lexical items bearing more
or less close semantic relations to each other are usually called ‘semantic
fields’. Semantic fields provide groupings of the vocabulary, which could
serve as ‘items in a syllabus’. The field of cooking will be used as an
example. Cooking words provide a good source of examples because there
are clear reference relations that one can appeal to; the words do not
normally carry strong connotations, so we can concentrate on the cognitive
The basic words in the culinary field in English are cook, bake, boil, roast,
fry, and broil (or grill for British English). The set also includes steam,
simmer, stew, poach, braise, sauté, French-fry, deep-fry, barbecue, grill and
charcoal. There are, in addition, a number of peripheral words: parboil,
plank, shirr, scallop, flambere, rissoler and several compounds: steam-bake,
pot-roast, oven-poach, pan-broil, pan-fry, oven-fry.
It is more than obvious that not all of the words are widely used and need to
be included in the syllabus. Some are even unknown to ordinary native
speakers of English. Cook can be used in two ways – once as the
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
superordinate term of the field, naming the activity expressed (‘preparing
food’), and second, as a more specific word opposed to bake. Cook and bake
are the most general terms, they appear freely intransitively with human
subjects. Boil and its subordinate terms (simmer, poach, stew, braise) differ
from the others in the field in that water or liquid must be used, whereas the
absence of liquid is necessary for fry, broil, roast and bake.
It is easy to demonstrate the set of words of this kind as they pattern in
semantic fields. But we must also add, and it is very important for language
teaching, that this approach has a strong explanatory value – it enables us to
predict and explain some semantic and cognitive processes in language.
First, it enables us to explain how is it that words come to have new
meanings in certain contexts. Secondly, we can predict what semantic and
syntactic features a totally new word will have when added to a lexical field.
And thirdly, we can offer an explanation as to how we are able to understand
and even offer explanations of our understanding of the meanings of totally
unknown words and expressions.
The first question – the semantic extension of words – can be illustrated by
looking at the items hot-warm-cool-cold. These exhibit more or less the
same relationships to one another: Hot and cold are gradable antonyms at
end points of a scale, and warm and cool are antonyms which are closer to
some centre point that separates hot and cold. All four words are used and
have standard meanings when talking about the weather, psycho-physical
features (I feel cold; This water feels cold to me), emotions (John has a hot
temper; My brother is a cold person; Our former warm friendship has
cooled), guessing games like ‘I spy’, colours (You should paint this room a
warm colour, like orange), etc. Other fields of discourse use only one or two
words from the field: We speak of hot news items but not of a *cold or a
*cool news item, a cold war or a hot war, but not a *cool war or a *warm
war. There is hot jazz and cool jazz but not *warm jazz. One can get a hot tip
on a horse, but not a *cool tip.
Since hot, warm, cool, and cold bear a certain relationship to one another,
even when a word does not possess a certain meaning, it can acquire a new
one in a context by virtue of that relationship. Hence, these new coinages are
so easily understood.
Such extensions of meaning related to semantic fields are usually performed
by means of metaphorical transfer. Cognitive psychologists claim that
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
metaphors are strongly memorable. This is due to the fact that they furnish
conceptually rich, image-evoking conceptualisations. Metaphorical vehicles
facilitate memory to the extent that they evoke vivid mental images. One
question that is central to language learning is whether the occurrence of
imagery with metaphor is simply epiphenomenal to its comprehension or a
key element in understanding and memorising the meaning. Various
empirical studies on the communicative function of metaphor suggest a
number of possibilities about the positive influence of metaphor on learning.
In the next chapter, we shall look at the development of language teaching
methods in the twentieth century.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Chapter 2: Exploring Language Teaching
In the twentieth century, the teaching of modern foreign languages has
progressed through three major periods. In this chapter, we shall briefly
sketch the facts and indicate the salient features of the teaching methods,
which have been designed and implemented by several generations of
methodologists and teachers. Our historical perspective is limited although
we realize that there have been many interesting theories and practices
through the ages. For example, this is what Joseph Aickin wrote in the year
1693: “for no Tongue can be acquired without Grammatical rules; since then
all other Tongues, and Languages are taught by Grammar, why ought not the
English Tongue to be taught so too. Imitation will never do it, under twenty
years; I have known some Foreigners who have been longer in learning to
speak English and yet are far from it: the not learning by Grammar, is the
true cause” (quoted in Yule 1985, 150). Louis Kelly (1969) in his book 25
Centuries of Language Teaching provides an extensive historical analysis of
the development of methodology from the time of Ancient Greece to the
Many scholars have explored the development of language teaching in this
century. Here, we shall mention but a few, whose work we have been using
successfully with our students, William Francis Mackey (1965), H. H. Stern
(1983), Anthony Howatt (1984), Jack T. Richards and Theodore S. Rogers
(1986), Diane Larsen-Freeman (1986), H. Douglas Brown (1987, 1994).
They, and many other colleagues, have inspired the discussion in this
2.1. Period I: Direct Language Teaching
The first half of the century was dominated by the teaching method, which is
known as Direct Language Teaching or Direct Method (DM). It emerged as
a result of the language education reform movement at the end of the
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
nineteenth century and was prominent until the middle of the twentieth
At the beginning of the century, the DM became the only officially approved
method for the teaching of modern foreign languages in France through a
decree of the French Minister of Public Instruction (1902). The term, which
was used in the decree, was "methode directe". The method was soon
established in many European countries and was used with enthusiasm by its
proponents. Some of the commercial ventures in the area were very
successful and became quite popular. For example, in 1878, the German
born Maximilian Delphinus Berlitz opened his first language school in
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A. Today, Berlitz Languages Inc.
(www.berlitz.com/free) is still thriving.
Direct Method is of course only a general term, which covers a range of
different teaching methods. We shall mention two of them, which have been
influencing language methodology to present. In 1923, Harold Palmer
developed his Oral Method to be adapted some fifty years later in the
innovative approaches of the 1970s as the Total Physical Response Method
(Asher 1977, 1982). The second one, Michael West’s Reading Method, was
designed in 1926. And only two years ago, Stephen Krashen revived it in the
method, which he named the Easy Way (1997).
The basic premise of the DM is that a second language should be taught by
making a direct connection in the mind of the learner between what he
thinks and what he says. In other words, no use is made of the learner's own
language. Thus, the target language becomes both the aim and the means of
the teaching and learning process. The following list sums up eight salient
features of direct language teaching:
 Teaching is executed orally through the medium of the target language.
 Teachers should be either native speakers or extremely fluent in the target
 Grammar is taught inductively by situation.
 Concrete vocabulary is taught in context through ostensive definition and
 Abstract vocabulary is taught through association of ideas.
 Language skills are ordered in a “natural way”: listening, speaking,
reading and writing.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
 Pronunciation is emphasized; the first few weeks are devoted to
 All reading matter is first presented orally.
However, in the second quarter of the century, the method began to decline.
Its principles were questioned. A group of prominent American experts
stated that "the ability to converse should not be regarded as a thing of
primary importance for its own sake but as an auxiliary to the higher ends of
linguistic scholarship and literary culture" (Report of the Committee of
Twelve, Modern Language Association of America 1892). Moreover, the
DM demanded highly competent teachers who have always been difficult to
recruit. So by the middle of the twentieth century modern languages were
being taught by the methods, most of which had been developed before the
turn of the century. The era of the Direct Method had ended.
2.2. Period II: Audio-lingual Teaching and the Innovative Methods of
the 1970s
The next stage of development started with the decade of 1940 to 1950 and
continued until the mid-seventies. Language teachers and the general public
were dissatisfied with the methodological theory and practice of the previous
era. For example, Leonard Bloomfield (1942) stated, “Often enough the
student, after two, three, or four years of instruction, cannot really use the
language he has been studying.” In 1943, The American Army initiated the
Army Specialized Training Program (hence, "Army Method") to teach
intensive language courses that focused on aural/oral skills. The “revolution”
in language teaching of that period created a new methodological ideology,
which came to be known in the late fifties as the Audio-lingual Method
(ALM). According to the U.S. Army Language School in California, 1300
hours are sufficient for an adult to attain near-native competence in
Vietnamese (Burke, quoted in Reich 1986).
Two major scientific theories were applied as methodological principles:
linguistic structuralism (e.g. Bloomfield 1933) and psychological neobehaviorism (e.g. Skinner 1957). The proponents of the ALM believed that
language learning was a process of habit formation in which the student
over-learned carefully sequenced lists of set phrases or "base sentences".
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
The method was extremely successful and enjoyed considerable popularity.
Courses like English 901 (Strevens 1964), the British edition of the original
textbook in American English, English 900, and Realistic English (Abbs,
Cook & Underwood 1968) became widely accepted in Europe in the 1960s.
In 1961, the American linguist William Moulton proclaimed the linguistic
principles of ALM: “language is speech, not writing… a language is a set of
habits… teach the language, not about the language… a language is what
native speakers say, not what someone thinks they ought to say… languages
are different” (quoted in Richards & Rogers 1986). The following list sums
up eight salient features of audio-lingual teaching:
 Language input is provided in dialog form.
 Learning activities are based on mimicry and memorization and pattern
 Successful responses are immediately rewarded.
 Mistakes are not tolerated.
 Language structure is taught using pattern drills.
 Vocabulary is strictly controlled and learnt in context.
 Pronunciation is emphasized.
 Audio-visual technology is used extensively, e.g. slide projectors, tape
recorders, language laboratories.
Robert Ian Scott invented a “sentence generator” (1969, quoted in Roberts
1973, 99) as an aid to be used in the teaching of reading. The machine could
be programmed to generate 4-word sentences of the simple, active
declarative type. Words of each syntactic function could be entered on a
separate wheel, the machine consisting of 4 wheels mounted side by side on
a cranking device. The wheels could be turned independently of each other
to make a new sentence at each spin. With 60 words on each wheel, it would
be possible to generate 12960000 sentences, which, assuming that it were
possible to speak one sentence per second, would take about half a year of
talking to get through. The machine did not gain popularity though.
The comparative merits of the ALM and the traditional grammar-translation
instruction were evaluated in a two-year study of beginning students of
German in America (Scherer & Wertheimer 1964, quoted in Reich 1986). At
the end of the two years, the results were that ALM and traditional
instruction were equal on listening, reading and English-to-German
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
translation; ALM was far superior to traditional instruction in speaking but
traditional instruction was superior to ALM in writing and far superior to
ALM in German-to-English translation. Thus neither method is clearly
superior. Which you prefer depends on what you deem most important.
In the late sixties, the ALM was subjected to criticism and its popularity
waned. Controlled studies of the effectiveness of the language laboratories
as actually used in schools in the 1960s found that they were either a not
particularly effective teaching aid or they were actually detrimental to
language learning (Keating 1963, quoted in Reich 1986). Noam Chomsky
openly criticized audio-lingual theory and practice in his address to language
teachers at the Northeast Conference, U.S.A., in 1966, “I am, frankly, rather
skeptical about the significance, for the teaching of languages, of such
insights and understanding as have been attained in linguistics and
psychology”. The pattern practice procedure was rejected together with the
disillusionment over neo-behaviorism as a psychological theory. Structural
linguistics was also denounced and with it the ALM gave way to fresher
teaching methods.
The innovative approaches of the seventies were an attempt to bring
methodology in line with modern scientific developments in the related
areas and to discover the new orientations in the teaching of modern foreign
The theoretical basis of Caleb Gattegno’s method (1972), The Silent Way, is
the idea that teaching must be subordinated to learning and thus students
must develop their own inner criteria for correctness. Learning is facilitated
if the learner discovers and creates in a problem-solving process involving
the material to be learnt. All four skills are taught from the beginning.
Students’ errors are expected as a normal part of learning. The teacher’s
silence helps foster students’ self-reliance and initiative. The teacher is
active in setting up situations using special teaching aids, Fidel charts and
Cuisenaire rods, while the students do most of the talking and interacting.
Georgi Lozanov’s Suggestopedia (1972) seeks to help learners eliminate
psychological barriers to learning. The learning environment is comfortable
and subdued, with low lighting and soft slow music in the background.
Students choose a name and character in the target language and culture and
imagine being that person. Dialogues are presented to the accompaniment of
Baroque concertos. Students are in a relaxed but focused state of “pseudoWhole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
passiveness”. They listen to the dialogues being read aloud with varying
intonations and a coordination of sound and printed word or illustration. The
students are expected to read the texts at home “cursorily once before going
to bed and again before getting up in the morning” (Lozanov 1972).
In Charles Curran’s method (1976), Community Language Learning,
learners become members of a community - their fellow learners and the
teacher - and learn through interacting with the members of that community.
The teacher considers learners as “whole persons” with intellect, feelings,
instincts and a desire to learn. The teacher also recognizes that learning can
be threatening. By understanding and accepting students’ fears, the teacher
helps students feel secure and overcome their fears. The syllabus used is
learner-generated, in that students choose what they want to learn to say in
the target language. Learning is linked to a set of practices granting
“consensual validation” in which mutual warmth and a positive evaluation
of the other person’s worth develops between the teacher and the learner
(Curran 1976).
James Asher’s Total Physical Response (1977) places primary importance
on listening comprehension, emulating the early stages of native language
acquisition, and then moving to speaking, reading and writing. Asher (1977)
claims that “the brain and nervous system are biologically programmed to
acquire language… in a particular sequence and in a particular mode. The
sequence is listening before speaking and the mode is to synchronize
language with the individual’s body”. Students practice their comprehension
by acting out commands issued by the teacher. Activities, including games
and skits, are designed to be fun and to allow students to assume active
learning roles.
2.3. Period III: Communicative Language Teaching
The year 1975 constitutes a “watershed” between the second and the third
period of development of language teaching in this century. That year saw
the publication of The Threshold Level document of the Council for Cultural
Cooperation of the Council of Europe (Van Ek 1975). The document is "a
specification of an elementary level in a unit/credit system for individuals
who, from time to time, have (personal or professional) contacts in the target
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
countries" (Trim 1980, 5). It marks the appearance of a new approach, the
so-called Communicative Language Teaching or the Communicative
Approach (CA). John Trim (1980, 5), Director of the Modern Languages
Project, writes, "the Threshold Level is remarkable for the systematic way in
which the language behavior appropriate to the defined target audience is
specified in its various interrelated parameters".
Since then, the Threshold Level documents for many European languages
have been published, e.g., in alphabetical order, the threshold levels for
French, Un Niveau Seuil (1976), for German, Kontaktschwelle. Deutsch als
Fremdsprache (1981), for Spanish, Un nivel umbral (1981), for Portuguese,
Nivel Limiar (1988), etc. Information on those documents is available on the
web-site: (http://book.coe.fr/lang). On the European level, the most recent work
in this area is the document of the Council of Europe entitled A Common
European Framework of Reference for Language Learning and Teaching
(publicly accessible on the web-site: http://culture.coe.fr/lang). We shall return
to it in Section 4.4.
Many scholars have contributed to the development of the CA. For example,
Dell Hymes introduced the construct of “communicative competence” in his
famous paper, On Communicative Competence (1971). He explores the
influence of the social context in which a language is learnt on the linguistic
competence, which the individual attains. Hymes claims that “a normal child
acquires knowledge of sentences, not only as grammatical, but also as
appropriate. He or she acquires competence as to when to speak, when not,
and as to what to talk about with whom, when, where, in what manner. In
short, a child becomes able to accomplish a repertoire of speech acts, to take
part in speech events, and to evaluate their accomplishment by others”
(1971, 269). In the cited paper, he asks his famous four questions of
“communication culture”:
“1. Whether (and to what degree) something is formally possible;
2. Whether (and to what degree something is feasible in virtue of the means
of implementation available;
3.Whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate (adequate, happy,
successful) in relation to a context in which it is used and evaluated;
4. Whether (and to what degree) something is in fact done, actually
performed, and what it’s doing entails.” (Hymes 1971, 281)
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
The “four questions” prompt a new way of judging utterances in context. In
that sense, Hymes’ paper was programmatic, suggesting a new line of
In the 1960s, Roger Brown studied early development of the mother tongue
of American children. The acquisition of English grammatical morphemes
was tackled through the speech samples of three children, the now famous
Adam, Eve and Sarah Brown. He found that they developed their language
at different chronological ages and at different rates. However, he also found
that they each went through roughly the same sequence of stages. Brown
tried to find the principles underlying the order he discovered and concluded
that a combination of linguistic and semantic complexity must cause it.
Research extended to other language structures. Courtney Cazden and Roger
Brown describe “three major progressions in first language acquisition:
evolution of the basic operations of reference and semantic relations in twoword utterances of very young children; the acquisition of 14 grammatical
morphemes and the modulations of meaning they express; and, still later, the
acquisition of English tag questions like doesn’t it or can’t it” (Cazden &
Brown 1975, 299). The order of acquisition of 14 English grammatical
morphemes and the meanings they express is the following (Cazden &
Brown 1975, 301):
(1) Present Progressive: riding (temporary duration; process, state),
(2-3) in, on (containment, support),
(4) Plural: two dogs (number),
(5) Past, irregular: saw; went (earlierness),
(6) Possessive: Mommy’s hat (possession)
(7) Uncontractible copula: Here I am in response to Where are you?
(number; earlierness),
(8) Articles: a, the (specific-non-specific),
(9) Past, regular: walked, wanted (earlierness),
(10) Third person, regular: goes (number, earlierness),
(11) Third person irregular: has, does (number, earlierness),
(12) Uncontractible auxiliary: I am in response to Who’s coming?
(temporary duration, number, earlierness),
(13) Contractible copula: He’s sick. (number, earlierness),
(14) Contractible auxiliary: He’s running. (temporary duration, number,
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
In the seventies, several investigators of instructional accuracy orders
replicated and extended Brown’s experiments for English as a second
language. In their “morpheme studies”, Heidi Dulay and Marina Burt (1974)
examined the natural sequences in second language acquisition applying the
Bilingual Syntax Measure. They used 151 Spanish-speaking children
learning English. The acquisition sequences obtained from their subjects
were strikingly similar. Other language structures were also investigated. For
example, Fred Eckman, Lawrence Bell and Diane Nelson (1986, 12) tested
the generalization of relative clause instruction in the development of
English as a second language. They found that “maximal generalization of
learning will result from acquisition of relatively more marked structures.
Such generalization will be unidirectional and will be in the direction of
those structures, which are relatively less marked” (Eckman, Bell & Nelson
1986, 12). And they concluded that “if only a single structure of a set of
implicationally related structures is to be taught, maximal generalization will
result from teaching that which is most marked” (op. cit., 12). The first
published adult study of acquisition order (Bailey, Madden & Krashen 1974)
investigated 73 adult students of English at Queens College, New York. The
Bilingual Syntax Measure was applied. The study showed that the contours
for the acquisition sequences of children and adults are very similar. Several
other investigators have looked at acquisition sequences for adults from
different language backgrounds (Krashen et al. 1976, Perkins and LarsenFreeman 1975, Makino 1979, Lee 1981, Pica 1983, etc.).
The general result of the acquisition order research was that a “natural
order” of acquisition of the structure of English as a second language
characteristic of both children and adults and similar for both speaking and
writing was discovered. Some scholars consider this conclusion one of the
most significant outcomes of second language research (Dulay & Burt 1980,
Cook 1989).
In sociology and education, the Futures Movement evolved. Futures research
“concerns itself with conceptualizing and inventing the future by examining
the consequences of various plans of action before they become tomorrow’s
reality” (Pulliam 1987, 261). Educators and politicians agree on the fact that
“the changes currently in progress have improved everyone’s access to
information and knowledge, but have at the same time made considerable
adjustments necessary in the skills required and in working patterns” (White
Paper on Education and Training, European Commission, 1996, 6). They
use different terms to refer to the period of transformation through which we
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
are passing, “post-industrial”, “post-modern” “information age”, “learning
society” and the like. But they all believe in the challenges of the new
reality. We shall look at the educational paradigm shift in Chapter 2.
John Naisbitt (1982) describes the most important trends that shape the
world at the end of the century. His megatrends include shifting from:
an industrial society to an information based society,
a forced technology to a high tech/high touch mode,
a national economy to a truly global economy,
short range planning to long-term planning,
centralization to decentralization,
institutional help to self-help in various fields,
representative democracy to participatory democracy,
authority dominated hierarchies to networking,
single option choices to multiple option choices.
All that facilitated the development of the theory and practice of language
teaching giving it a strong impetus.
Today, numerous methodology textbooks expound on the nature of
communicative language teaching. All the work that has been done on the
CA has led to the evolvement of two quite distinct orientations: a “weak”
version and a “strong” version of the method. Anthony Howatt (1984, 279)
holds that if the former could be described as ‘learning to use’ the target
language, the latter entails ‘using [the target language] to learn it’. The weak
version advances the claim that communicative syllabi and teaching
materials should provide the learner with opportunities to acquire
communicative competence necessary and sufficient to be used in actual
communication. This idea is the basis for the unfolding of a whole new field
of study in language teaching methodology, referred to as communicative
syllabus design, which we shall discuss separately. Howatt (1984, 280)
writes that language teaching requires “a closer study of the language itself
and a return to the traditional concept that utterances carried meaning in
themselves and expressed the meanings and the intentions of the speakers
and writers who created them”.
The strong version of the CA, on the other hand, has given rise to the
planning and implementation of realistic communicative tasks, which give
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
the learner a chance to acquire the target language itself while using it. The
proponents of the strong version did not go to the radical solution of
“deschooling” language learning altogether but they advocated real
communication within the language classroom. If the teacher shows genuine
interest in the concerns and activities of the students, and if the students can
talk to each other and share their thoughts and feelings, real communication
is likely to occur.
The CA stresses the need to teach communicative competence, i.e. the
ability to use the target language effectively and appropriately, as opposed to
linguistic competence. Thus, language functions are emphasized over
language forms. Students usually work in small groups on communicative
activities, during which they receive practice in negotiating meaning.
Authentic teaching materials are used. Opportunities are provided for the
students to deal with unrehearsed situations under the guidance, not control,
of the teacher. The teacher’s role changes from being “the sage on the stage”
to becoming “a guide on the side” (Mowrer 1996). Ken Goodman
(Goodman et al. 1991) expands on this idea, suggesting four roles for
teachers: (1) kid-watchers, who observe the students, watching for signs of
growth, need and potential, (2) mediators, who offer guidance, support and
resources for learning, (3) liberators, who help students take ownership of
their own learning, and finally, (4) initiators, who rely on their professional
knowledge and creativity to create exciting learning environments.
The following list sums up eight salient features of communicative language
 Communicative competence is the desired goal (“learning to use”).
 Minimum general intelligibility is sought in the teaching of
 Use of the native language and translation is accepted where feasible.
 Fluency is emphasized over accuracy.
 Students cooperate in the classroom, using the language in unrehearsed
contexts (“using to learn”).
 Systematic attention is paid to functional as well as structural aspects of
 Drilling occurs peripherally.
 Discourse is at the center of attention.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
In summary, the Communicative Approach and the other language teaching
methods can be seen as specific teaching proposals in which learning content
is critical for the achievement of the educational aims. We believe that the
aims and content of language courses are determined by the overall
educational philosophy prominent in the community. That constitutes the
relatively abstract approach level of teaching methods, which refers to the
theories about the nature of language education and other theories. Chapter 3
presents a discussion on this theme.
Concrete plans for a language curriculum, which constitutes the relatively
concrete design level of teaching methods, are made in Chapter 4. In it, we
shall examine the question of language curriculum design and development.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Chapter 3: Paradigm Shift in Education
That language teaching should be democratic has long become a fact of life.
That it is democratic has yet to become a reality. Our claim is that, at the end
of the twentieth century, we are experiencing an educational paradigm shift,
in which language teaching has its share. First, we shall look into the change
in the overall concept of the complex process of education.
3.1. Changing the Focus of Education
The mission of educational institutions is to educate people. As John Dewey
(1933) noted, “A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be
aware of the general principles of the shaping of actual experience by
environing conditions but that they also recognize in the concrete what
surroundings are conductive to having experiences that lead to growth.
Above all, they should know how to utilize the surroundings, physical and
social, that exist so as to extract from them all that they have to contribute to
building up experiences that are worthwhile”. But what constitutes an
educated person? To the business world, an well-educated person is one who
has the skills required to succeed on the job. The lay public’s view of an
educated person is one who has accumulated a large body of information.
None of these views seems really acceptable though. A saying is circulating
in the universities these days:
Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away,
Guess what, Georgie Porgie,
We have a sexual harassment subpoena for you, Georgie Porgie.
The times, they are a-changing.
Indeed, the times are changing rapidly. In the age of the learning society,
education is seen as a process, not a product. During the teaching and
learning process, the student should learn how to think and to listen, how to
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
participate in dialogue, how to analyze issues and how to read critically.
Students should learn how to write so that others can follow their thinking.
Fifteen years ago, A. McLeod pointed out that “Being literate in the 1980s
means having the power to use language – writing and reading, speaking and
listening – for our own purposes, as well as those that the institutions of
society require of us. The classroom processes by which that power is
achieved include the first exercise of that power” (1986, 37). In our opinion,
that is true about both first and second language development circumstances.
Students should learn to take responsibility for their own learning, to find
joy in learning and to open their minds to new ideas. They should learn the
skills and attitudes necessary to achieve lasting success during the remainder
of their lives no matter what their goals are. The learning process should
continue throughout their lifetime, not just while attending formal schooling.
Educators emphasize that one of the most important things students should
learn is how to think for themselves. Students must learn how to choose
consciously what direction their lives should take professionally as well as
personally. They need to be able to solve problems in a rational manner, to
experience compassion toward others and to be willing and able to
acknowledge conflict and contradiction and resolve differences satisfactorily.
John Pulliam (1987) suggests several specific characteristics of the
educational paradigm shift. We shall present them below and return to the
most important issues in the following section.
Replacing linear with synergetic processes is the first one. Linear
organizations can only make linear decisions. Thus, the school can only
receive information that it is designed to receive. It tends to repress
unfavorable information. The teachers cannot make decisions from the
perspective of the students. Alternatively, a synergetic system is perceived
as an “ad-hocracy” (Toffler 1985). It is based on the cooperation of
individuals to complete temporary tasks.
Education is more than training. This is the second feature of the new focus
of education. Education is process-oriented; if students are asked questions
for which the answers are known, the system is training.
Thirdly, students need education for the unknown. In the past, students
attended schools to learn what they did not know from teachers who were
presumed to know. Now, focus should be on cooperative problem analysis
and sharing of sources of information. The school should move away from
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
the exclusive treatment of what is well understood towards helping students
cope with the unknown.
The fourth characteristic is the structural versus sapiential authority
controversy. Structural authority, which is he dominant pattern in schools, is
derived from one’s title or rank in the institution. Position rather than
competence establishes the authority of the teacher. Sapiential authority, on
the other hand, is based on the possession of wisdom and knowledge which
finds support among others. Both teachers and students have the opportunity
for critical analysis of any given piece of information. Sapiential authority is
considered a necessary part of education for future survival.
Fifth, lifelong learning is an important characteristic of the new educational
paradigm. Preparation for a life of learning should replace the idea of
terminal schooling.
Sixth, there should be an end to zero sum games in education. Competitive
teaching modes promote the “I win – you lose” structure. The winners, the
good learners, are also losers because they will perpetuate competition in
their lives. This is a zero sum game in which everyone eventually loses.
Therefore, an educational mode of cooperation should substitute competition
among students.
Seventh, students in the twenty-first century will need a well-developed skill
in evaluation and critical thinking.
Eighth, the future school must become a resource distribution center for
creating and spreading unbiased information. Modern information and
communication technology has changed the focus of education from the
input of information to the application of data to problem situations in a
cooperative and action-oriented environment.
In a word, what schools should help students acquire is a wisdom that they
will continue to develop for the rest of their lives (see Section 3.5). To
reduce all the experiences that lead to it to mastering skills for satisfactorily
answering long series of test questions to obtain a certificate stating that a
required curriculum has been met is a shallow and inaccurate representation
of education.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
3.2. A Teaching Paradigm to Meet Psychosocial Needs
The overused traditional frontal teaching paradigm places responsibility for
the student learning solely upon the shoulders of the teacher. The instructor
writes the curriculum and the syllabus, selects the readings, delivers the
information via lectures and prepares evaluative instruments. She or he
presents the same information, lectures to and tests all students regardless of
individual differences among them. Little or no concern is given to the
individual psychosocial needs of the individual.
We know, however, that students are social individuals each with vastly
different needs, learning styles, goals and abilities. Some students have
inadequate reading skills. Some have computer phobia or “keyboard fright”.
Some have difficulty constructing simple sentences. Many have “library
anxiety” or have not the slightest clue of how to find information. A few
continue to experience difficulty with computational skills. Is it any wonder
that the “sacred” bell-shaped curve of the normal distribution of
achievement predominates in the teacher’s grade book if the students receive
the same information via lectures and all read the same textbooks?
Most students play a passive role in the classroom. Action flows from the
teacher to the students and seldom vice versa. Some students, especially
minority students, are isolated from positive social contacts with their
classmates or their instructor. Others are shy and seldom if ever speak in
class. For example, Karp and Yoels (1987) found that in classes of less than
40 members, four to five students accounted for 75 percent of all interactions
and in classes of over 40, two to three students accounted for over 50 percent
of all interactions.
Rather than continue the traditional teaching strategy that selects the best
students and weeds out the poorer ones, we can use a system that cultivates
and develops the talents of every student. We cannot permit students to leave
our classes with an inferior grasp of the subject matter. Every student, not
just the elite few, must reach the competency levels set by the teacher. This
is not to suggest that educators should produce student robots. The point is
that we cannot be content with inferior teaching and inferior learning. We
cannot be content with a teaching approach that is only partly effective.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
If we wish to help students learn how to think critically, to work
constructively with members of their community, to enjoy scholarly
activities and how to embellish their learning experiences when they leave
the school, we must focus our attention on the individual needs of the
student. This shift from simply providing decomposed language and inert
course content to meeting psychosocial needs of the individual student is
what the new teaching paradigm is about.
David Johnson (Johnson et al. 1991) lists five principal activities that should
be incorporated in a new teaching paradigm structured to increase student
achievement and, at the same time, meet psychosocial needs of students.
Firstly, teachers must structure the learning environment to help students
construct, transform and extend knowledge. Knowledge is not a static entity.
It is an ever-changing variable. This is not to infer that “anything goes”, that
there is no “right” or “wrong”. Relativism in this context refers to helping
students to keep an open mind, to be willing to listen and to learn, to discuss
and argue and to counteract the dogmatism of the moment.
Students must construct their own knowledge and understanding through
active social interaction with their peers and teachers. Learning occurs when
the student activates her or his existing cognitive schemata by applying new
knowledge to practical situations. Students gather information from their
courses so they can utilize it in their professional careers as well a their life
as citizens. Unfortunately, possession of knowledge and skills alone does not
guarantee comprehension. Without understanding, rote knowledge and
routine skills serves students poorly. David Perkins and his colleagues at the
Harvard Graduate School of Education have adopted a “performance
perspective” on understanding that involves generative performances, where
learners “go beyond the information given”, which “demand somewhat
different kinds of thinking” and which are organized in an incremental
fashion. “Understanding is not a matter of ‘either you get it or you don’t’. It
is open ended and a matter of degree. You can understand a little about
something (you can display a few understanding performances) or a lot more
about something (you can display many varied understanding
performances), but you cannot understand everything about something
because there are always more extrapolations that you might not have
explored and might not be able to make” (Perkins 1992, 78).
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Understanding a concept involves being able to execute a number of
“performances” that demonstrate the concept in new and novel ways. These
performances must consist of applications that take the students far beyond
what they already know. Traditional measures of comprehension such as
multiple-choice questions, true/false quizzes and conventional short essay
questions, while easy to mark and assess, do not even begin to tap into a
student’s understanding of a topic or concept. One demonstrates one’s
ability to swim not by answering questions about swimming but by
performing the act. The teacher must closely monitor student learning to
ensure that each competency level is met.
Education is a social process that involves frequent student-to-student and
teacher-to-student interaction. Learning is increased when individuals work
with one another in a caring environment that helps each student gain
understanding of the course material. Interactional peer support is needed to
encourage achievement and proper orientation to learning tasks. Shopov and
Fedotoff (in press) conclude, after examining students’ course evaluation
reports, that group dynamic structuring interaction between learners can
provide the conditions, which have been thought to facilitate learning.
Thomas and Stock (1988) in their study of what makes people happy
observe that young adults associate the word “friendship” with heir concept
of happiness. Bonding friendships promote student achievement while
isolation, competition and individualistic classroom activities demote
achievement and lower self-esteem.
Lastly, the use of a variety of small-group cooperative activities is the most
effective procedure to encourage students to think creatively in divergent
ways that foster new and novel solutions to problems. Bligh (1972), in his
review of about 100 studies of college teaching methods, found that students
who participate actively in discussions with classmates spend more time
synthesizing and integrating concepts than do students who simply listen to
lectures. In almost every study, the cooperative learning format was far
superior to competitive and individualistic learning models (Johnson,
Johnson and Smith 1991).
Implementing cooperative learning is not an easy task nor is it without
problems. The authors caution that simply assigning students to small
groups with the instruction to begin discussing a topic or work on a project
may result in little or no student learning. Left unsupervised within a loosely
structured environment, some students may choose to be uncooperative
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
forcing other group members to complete the work. More conscientious
students may feel compelled to complete the work on their own and act
independently of the group. Insecure students may assume a “back bench”
attitude. Often, ingroup struggles for power develop. Feichtner and Davis
(1985) concluded, after interviewing students who reported negative
experiences with cooperative learning, that an instructor’s misuse of and
lack of knowledge about structuring effective cooperative learning activities
is responsible for student dissatisfaction.
3.3. Factors of Cooperative Learning
A number of factors or essential elements of cooperative learning, according
to Donna Johnson and her colleagues at the University of Arizona, Tucson
(1991), who have conducted extensive research concerning effective group
management, are necessary to make cooperative learning successful.
The first factor, positive interdependence, means that each group member
depends upon every other group member to achieve a goal. If other members
have little or nothing to contribute, then there is no reason for the group to
exist. For example, to score points in a basketball game, each member
depends upon the skills and abilities of the other players. One or two players
alone cannot win games. The team sinks or swims together as a group. If one
member can accomplish a task satisfactorily without the aid of others, then
there is no reason to form a group.
One way to structure an assignment to foster a positive interdependent
relationship is to give the students more work to do than any single
individual could complete within the time limits allotted. Another way to
encourage interdependence is to provide specific information to two of the
group members and different information to other two members. This, two
of the members will depend upon the information possessed by the other two
A valuable technique to promote interdependence is to assign each member
a role to perform within the group (see Section 3.4). A group leader is
appointed to organize, manage and direct activities. A recorder takes
accurate notes and records data for group activities. A checker assures that
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
each member understands the tasks or concepts. An encourager is appointed
to make sure that each member has ample opportunity to contribute to the
group. Finally, part of the final grade is derived from the group’s
performance on the task. Thus, if one member of the group does not
understand the concepts to be learnt, the assessment scores of the other
group members will suffer.
The second factor needed to make cooperative learning successful is face-toface promotive interaction. Promotive interaction occurs as students
encourage each other, reward one another, provide assistance to help each
other learn, exchange information and ideas and challenge ideas of other
group members. This may be accomplished through trusting and caring
relationships formed within each group as students interact. If one student
attempts to impress other students with his or her knowledge to increase his
or her self-esteem, positive interaction does not occur. There must be a
caring attitude of concern for the learning of their peers and a genuine
willingness to share information through a helping relationship before
positive interactions can occur.
Individual students must learn that they are responsible for understanding
the course content. This third factor, referred to as individual accountability,
must be assessed frequently. The teacher may call at random upon individual
students to answer questions. Also, individual tests are given periodically to
evaluate students’ achievement. Inevitably, some students exploit the group
structure to avoid working and let the others do the bulk of the work. This
behavior is called “social loafing". Group members can monitor individual
accountability by constructing quizzes to each other. Records can be kept of
the frequency and quality of each group member’s contribution during a
cooperative learning assignment. The important point is that there must be a
system to continually assess each student’s knowledge and contribution to
insure that learning is occurring.
Building social collaborative skills is the fourth important factor. We cannot
assume that each student possesses well-developed interpersonal and group
communication skills. A large proportion of students has not had the
experience of working with other students in small group activities. Some
students distrust others; some feel uncomfortable working with minority
students. Others, to avoid verbal interaction with peers, prefer to listen rather
than participate, especially when they are among aggressive peers.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
The cooperative learning environment, if well organized, provides an
opportunity for students to grow socially and learn effective group
communication skills. The importance of mastering these skills is
undeniable. If one of the most important missions of the school is to help
students develop wisdom, then certainly helping them to acquire effective
interactive social skills is an important activity. Teachers should encourage
students to develop these skills by identifying, explaining and rewarding
students for engaging in effective social interaction activities. Skills such as
active listening, turn-taking, offering constructive and encouraging criticism,
showing concern for the feelings of others and actively participating in
group discussions are but a few important skills students must learn by
participating in a promotive interactive framework. David Johnson and
Roger Johnson (1989) report research findings showing that the combination
of positive interdependence and the use of effective social skills promotes
highest achievement among students within a cooperative learning
The last factor, group processing, describes the group’s self-evaluation of
each member’s contribution. Individual contributions either help or hinder
achievement of the desired goals. Group processing also includes an analysis
of improvements that could be made to help the group function more
effectively in the future. A combination of teacher and student processing
results in significant improvement and success within a cooperative learning
format. Student interactive evaluations provide a way to maintain good
working relationships among group members and ensure that individual
members receive feedback about the quality of their participation. Group
processing also occurs when the instructor provides feedback to the class
based on observations of individual student contributions. This processing
serves as a model for students who are learning how to critique peers
effectively. Positive feedback for work well done creates a feeling of
enthusiasm, of being successful and of increased elf-esteem among students.
It is not possible to incorporate all these factors within each group encounter
but the greater the number of features used, the greater the learning.
Cooperative learning fosters growth in many areas: learning to use
interpersonal skills effectively, understanding and applying the course
content to life situations, developing self-esteem and ability to explain
concepts to others. These are only a few of the outcomes resulting from
well-structured small group cooperative activities. However they are
sufficient to distinguish positively the cooperative learning paradigm from
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
the traditional individualistic and competitive “lecture only” teaching.
Johnson and Johnson (1989) report that in almost every study conducted
during this century that compares the effectiveness of cooperative and
competitive learning formats, the cooperative model results in higher
achievement and greater productivity, more caring committed interpersonal
relationships, greater psychological health and social competence.
3.4. Cooperative Language Learning
In her book Second Language Learning through Cooperative Learning, Julie
High (1993) reports her discovery that effective language learning depends
on structuring social interaction to maximize the need to communicate in the
target language. We have always accepted this principle; for example, it is
behind the theory and practice of the immersion programs in North America,
the “foreign language medium schools” in Bulgaria, the “cognitive academic
language learning approach” (Chamot & O’Malley 1994), etc. We have
always believed that memorizing conjugations, grammar structures and
vocabulary produces at best some knowledge about a language. Knowledge
about a language, however, is very different from acquiring the language.
Julie High describes a number of classroom activities, which structure social
interaction in the classroom. They are based on a simple formula:
Structure + Content = Activity.
In fact, Julie High adapts Spencer Kagan’s original ideas about cooperative
learning structures which he calls “co-op structures” in his book,
Cooperative Learning (1992) published by his Californian company, Kagan
Cooperative Learning Co. Several such participation structures, we have
been using in our language classes. Our students love them, confiding that
achievement should not be divorced from enjoyment.
4-S Brainstorming. This structure is based on speed, synergy, silliness and
support. The class is divided into teams of four students. Each team member
has a special role to facilitate the creative potential of brainstorming and has
a phrase to say in the target language that encourages her or his partners:
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Speed: “Let’s hurry!”
Synergy: “Let’s build on that!”
Silly: “Let’s get crazy!”
Support: “All ideas help!”
Students brainstorm an idea for a while and then all teams pair up and
interview each other.
Pairs Check. Teams break into two sets of pairs each of which works on a
worksheet. One student is the problem solver and the other one is the coach.
The coach helps and checks his or her partner’s work. After a while, the
teams reunite and the pairs on the team compare answers. If the team
disagrees, they ask the teacher to help them. If the team agrees on the
answer, they do a team handshake. Pairs Check is a particularly good
structure for practicing new skills.
Numbered Heads Together. This is a four-step cooperative structure, which
can be used with any language teaching content and at various places in a
(1) Students number off,
(2) Teacher asks a question,
(3) Heads together,
(4) Teacher calls a number.
Each student on a team has a different number. He or she will answer to that
number when it is called. The teacher formulates a question as a directive,
e.g. “Make sure everyone on your team can…” The students put their heads
together and discuss the question until everyone knows the answer. After a
while, the teacher will call a number at random and the students with that
number raise their hands to be called upon, as in the traditional classroom.
Co-op Co-op. The emphasis in this structure is on bringing out and
nourishing the natural intelligence, creativeness and expressiveness of
students. In Co-op Co-op, the structure indicates that we value the interests
and abilities of the students. This cooperative language learning structure has
ten steps:
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
(1) Student-centered class discussion. This discussion leads to an
understanding among the teacher and the class about what the students
want to learn and experience in relation to the topic or unit to be covered.
(2) Selection of student learning teams.
(3) Teambuilding and cooperative skill development. This is an important
phase in which the members of each team feel they are a “we” and have
developed trust and communication skills.
(4) Team topic selection. The team members settle on the topic of most
interest to themselves as a group.
(5) Mini-topic selection. The team members divide the topic of the team into
mini-topics for each member to work on.
(6) Mini-topic preparation. Individual students work on their own topics.
(7) Mini-topic presentations. Individual students present their own topics to
their teammates.
(8) Preparation of team presentations. The team discusses and integrates the
material presented in the previous step in order to prepare their team
(9) Team presentations.
(10) Reflection and evaluation. Students reflect on their work and their
achievements. The whole class evaluates team presentations. Individual
presentations are evaluated by teammates.
Research on teaching has shown that whole-class discussion, individual
seatwork and lecture prevail as the favorite organizational structures in the
traditional classroom. In relation to participation structures which promote
meaningful interaction, Spencer Kagan maintains that by participating in
planned formats “students become responsible for learning and sharing what
they have learnt. The structure prepares students for participation in a
democratic society” (Kagan 1992). And he goes on, “How we structure a
classroom is an important, perhaps the most important, form of
communication we make to students. If we structure the classroom so that
the goal of learning is a good team score, we communicate that the most
important value is a competitive victory. If we structure so that the teacher is
in full control of what and how students study, we communicate that
students are empty or that their intelligence and curiosity are not valued. If
we choose an autocratic authority structure, we communicate a lack of faith
in the potential of students to choose positive directions for development. By
taking full responsibility for students’ learning, we leave them none. We do
not leave students room to come out and become fully engaged in the
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
learning process”. Thus, planning participation structures at the micro-level
of language teaching is seen as an aspect of “precision teaching”.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Chapter 4: The Language Curriculum
The term curriculum has been in English usage for a long time (see Josef
Dolch 1959, quoted in Kansanen 1995, 101). In German, it was substituted
for the term Plan and later in the eighteenth century, for the term Lehrplan
(see Kansanen 1995 for a detailed study of the development of this
construct). “Curriculum” comes from Latin and means “a running, course,
race”. The noun is related to the verb “currere” which means, “to run”. A
Modern English dictionary defines “curriculum” in the following way: “all
of the courses, collectively, offered in a school, college, etc. or in a
particular subject” (Webster’s New World Dictionary 1988). As is seen from
the definition, the term is commonly used in two related senses. It refers to
(a) a programme of study at an educational institution or system and (b)
content in a particular subject or course of studies. In the latter sense,
“curriculum” is synonymous with the British term “syllabus”. In fact, the use
of the two terms in Europe and North America has caused a great deal of
confusion in second language teaching. Within the framework of the
Tempus Scheme of the Commission of the European Communities, DG
XXII – Education, Training and Youth, the following definitions for the
terms, curriculum, course and syllabus are used. Curriculum is the totality
of an organised learning experience; it provides the conceptual structure and
a set time frame to acquire a recognisable degree, and describes its overall
content, e.g. the curriculum of a five-year degree programme in “Mechanical
Engineering” at a certain higher education institution. Course is the totality
of an organised learning experience in a precisely defined area, e.g. the
course on “Fluid Dynamics” within the curriculum “Mechanical
Engineering”. Syllabus is the prescription of details on a specific course,
such as what will be learnt (and when) the texts to be read, the areas in
which expertise is expected to be demonstrated.
We need to establish a clear distinction between the terms. Here is a
definition by J. P. B. Allen, which is adequate to our purposes: “curriculum
is a very general concept which involves considerations of the whole
complex of philosophical, social and administrative factors which contribute
to the planning of an educational programme; syllabus, on the other hand,
refers to that subpart of curriculum which is concerned with a specification
of what units will be taught”.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Here, we are interested in the educational aspects of curriculum design and
development. But let us consider an example from recent history of
education first.
Here is an excerpt from the so-called Siman Act, Nebraska Legislature,
U.S.A., April 1919, “No person shall … teach any subject to any person in
any language other than the English language. Languages other than the
English language may be taught as language only after a pupil shall have …
passed the eighth grade”. The case of Meyer versus State of Nebraska was
based on the Siman Act. Robert T. Meyer was arrested for teaching German
to a ten-year-old boy in Nebraska on 25 May 1920. His case reached the
U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on 4 June 1923 that anti-foreign-language
laws were in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The
majority decision stated, “No emergency has arisen which renders
knowledge by a child of some language other than English so clearly
harmful as to justify its inhibition”.
This and many other examples indicate that modern foreign languages, and
all other disciplines for that matter, as a school subject should not be taken
for granted. In relation to that, John Clark (1987) asks several important
questions: “whether to include languages other than the mother tongue in the
school curriculum; which languages to include; to whom to teach them and
for how long; what objectives to seek to achieve”. The answers, according to
him, should be sought in the particular educational value system of society at
a particular moment in time. Bednar et al. (1992, 19) propose that
“Instructional design and development must be based upon some theory of
learning and/or cognition; effective design is possible only if the developer
has developed reflexive awareness of the theoretical basis underlying the
4.1. Constructivism
Constructivism is a theory of leaning and instruction that “emphasizes the
real-world complexity and ill-structuredness of many knowledge domains”
(Spiro et al. 1992, 57). Constructivist view of cognition contends that
learning is a process of personal interpretation of experience and
construction of knowledge. Constructivists adopt the notion of Wittgenstein
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
that context is an integral part of meaning. “Learning is an active process in
which meaning is developed on the basis of experience” (Bednar et al. 1992,
21). Constructivism is an alternative epistemological perspective to
objectivism (see Lakoff 1987).
Constructivism in language education has been explored extensively by
Seppo Tella and his colleagues at the Media Education Center, University of
Helsinki. They relate constructivism to the concept of dialogism: “dialogue
is a crucial element in the creation of any language organization and
especially in establishing an open mulimedia based collaborative and
networked learning environment. It suggests that the learning environment
in the framework of dialogism cannot be a physical space, a classroom, nor
any particular media education tool. The learning environment is – dialogue”
(Tella & Mononen-Aaltonen 1998, 103). Tella (1998, 117) cites seven
ingredients needed to promote dialogic education: (a) presence, (b)
unanticipated consequences, (c) otherness, (d) vulnerability, (e) mutual
implication, (f) temporal flow, (g) authenticity.
Theory of constructivism has been developing and new versions have been
emerging. Neo-constructivists of the cognitive school believe that “(a)
understandings are constructed by using prior knowledge to go beyond the
information given; and (b) the prior knowledge that is brought to bear is
itself constructed, rather than retrieved from memory, on a case-by-case
basis” (Spiro et al. 1992, 64). Social constructivists focus on social
interaction in the community as a source of knowledge. Social
constructivism has been described by Burton, Moore and Magliaro (1996,
Jim Cummins (1994, 48) describes the pedagogical and social assumptions
underlying educator role definitions in language teaching (Figure 1 and
Figure 2). He distinguishes the objectivist from the constructivist positions
in methodology (the transmission versus critical orientation) and in
sociology (the social control versus social transformation orientation).
Cummins concludes, “Educators’ role definitions reflect their vision of
society, and implicated in that societal vision are their own identities and
those of the students with whom they interact. The outcome of this process
for both educator and student can be described in terms of empowerment.
Empowerment can thus be regarded as the collaborative creation of power
insofar as it constitutes the process whereby students and educators
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
collaboratively create knowledge and identity through action focused on
personal and social transformation” (Cummins 1994, 55).
Transmission Orientation:
Language – Decomposed,
Knowledge – Inert,
Learning – Hierarchical internalization from simple to complex.
Critical Orientation:
Language – Meaningful,
Knowledge – Catalytic,
Learning – Joint interactive construction through critical inquiry within the
zone of proximal development.
Figure 1: Educator Pedagogical Assumptions (Cummins 1994, 48)
Social Control Orientation:
Curricular Topics – Neutralized with respect to societal power relations,
Student Outcomes – Compliant and uncritical.
Social Transformation Orientation:
Curricular Topics – Focussed on issues relevant to societal power relations,
Student Outcomes – Empowered, critical.
Figure 2: Educator Social Assumptions (Cummins 1994, 48)
Nicholas Burbules (1997, 8) maintains that teaching “is not a process of
conversion, but of translation: of making sufficient associations between the
familiar and the foreign to allow the learner to make further associations, to
find other paths, and eventually to become a translator, a path-maker, on
their own. Learning how to ask a good question is in one sense the central
task, yet one that is almost never taught explicitly, and rarely taught at all.”
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
In conclusion, we claim that the implications for language curriculum design
are quite straightforward. One is that content cannot be predetermined.
Perhaps learning objectives cannot be pre-specified either. The curriculum
developer cannot define the boundaries of what may be relevant. All he or
she can do is plan authentic, real-world tasks, which will provide the
necessary and sufficient contexts for the learners to realize their objectives
and construct their knowledge. This can be achieved by providing a
collaborative learning environment based on communicative interaction
containing sufficient comprehensible language input and output.
4.2. The General versus Specific Courses Conjecture
In the early seventies, Anthony Howatt stated, “Special courses have fairly
specific objectives and are rather simpler to discuss. General courses tend to
be diffuse in their aims and take their overall shape more from tradition,
contemporary fashion and the vague but powerful influences exerted by the
social attitudes and economic needs of the community” (1974). In fact, the
distinction is embedded in the objectivist tradition of language teaching. It is
best expressed by William Mackey (1965) in his famous claim that there is
no language teaching without “selection, gradation, presentation and
repetition” of the content. In that period, techniques like frequency, coverage
and availability were applied in the process of choosing common everyday
language for “communicative syllabi”. In addition, the notion of
“appropriate language” was used as a criterion of usefulness. The
organization of the course was based on a priori decisions on the order in
which “new teaching points should come” and on “how much to teach”. The
method of needs identification was developed by a Swiss scholar, Rene
Richterich (Richterich & Chancerel 1977). A British linguist, John Munby
(1978), elaborated the theory and methodology of language needs analysis
and curriculum design. Language courses for specific purposes (e.g. English
for Specific Purposes or “ESP”) were represented by their proponents as an
alternative to general courses.
The English in Focus series of “specialist English materials for students who
use English as the medium of instruction for the subject they are studying”
was published in England in the seventies (e.g. Allen & Widdowson 1994).
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
The authors wrote, “The series assumes that students have already
completed a basic course in English and that they have some knowledge of
their specialist subject. This course is therefore intended for students […]
who already know how to handle the common English sentence patterns and
who need to learn how these sentences are used in scientific writing to
convey information…” (op. cit.). The course had a great success because the
approach adopted was new.
Peter Strevens outlined the “new orientations in the teaching of English” and
of any language for that matter in the mid-seventies. Some ten years before,
he had published one of the most successful audio-lingual textbooks, English
901 (see Section 1.2.). The times had changed though. Strevens argued,
“Broadly defined, ESP courses are those in which the aims and the content
are determined, principally or wholly, not by criteria of general education
(as when ‘English’ is a foreign language subject in school) but by functional
and practical English language requirements of the learner” (Strevens 1977,
90). This was certainly new a quarter of a century ago but today we find the
conjecture rather misleading.
It seems to us, at this junction, that the methodological opposition of
“general purposes” to “specific purposes” in language teaching is inadequate
and inappropriate. We do not think that “the aims and the content are
determined” a priori by any criteria. They cannot be precompiled or
prepackaged. We can discern two arguments in the literature to support this
strong claim. One refers to the fact that language teaching is a complex
process characterized by network of relationships in a social and cultural
context and the other to the idea that language teaching is an ill-structured
knowledge domain. We claim that a holistic approach, which emphasizes
the priority of the whole over its parts, can solve the problem of curriculum
In that respect, an improvement on the theory of curriculum design has been
offered by Rand Spiro and his colleagues at the University of Illinois in their
theory of Random Access Instruction (Spiro et al. 1992). We shall discuss
this theory in the next section.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
4.3. Random Access Instruction in Complex and Ill-Structured
Knowledge Domains
Random Access Instruction is a theory, which accounts for the complexity of
the process of language learning and the ill-structuredness of the domain of
language knowledge and/or proficiency.
Eve Sweetser and Gilles Fauconnier (1996) maintain that “The initially
overwhelming complexity of linguistic usages is, then, not an independent
and autonomous complexity. It is a reflection of the complex – and
economically interrelated – structure of cognition”.
Eric Lenneberg sees language proficiency as a process of “(a) extracting
relations from (or computing relations in) the physical environment, and (b)
of relating these relationships” (Lenneberg 1975, 17). Continuous, not
discrete, cognitive and physiological processes produce those relationships.
Lenneberg argues persuasively that “These deeper continuities [the
continuous cognitive and physiological processes] are reflected in the
“fuzzy” nature of semantic, syntactic and phonological categories, making
sharp, formal distinctions and decisions difficult” (op. cit., 17). He concludes
that “everything in language is of relational nature and what has to be learnt
in language acquisition is how to relate, or how to compute a relationship
upon given physical data” (op. cit., 32).
Constructivists hold that “Characteristics of ill-structuredness found in most
knowledge domains (especially when knowledge application is considered)
lead to serious obstacles to the attainment of advanced learning goals (such
as the mastery of conceptual complexity and the ability to independently use
instructed knowledge in new situations that differ from the conditions of
initial instruction). These obstacles can be overcome by shifting from a
constructive orientation that emphasizes the retrieval from memory of intact
preexisting knowledge to an alternative constructivist stance which stresses
the flexible reassembling of preexisting knowledge to adaptively fit the
needs of a new situation. Instruction based on this new constructivist
orientation can promote the development of cognitive flexibility using
theory-based hypertext systems that themselves possess characteristics of
flexibility that mirror those desired for the learner” (Spiro et al. 1992, 59).
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
Complex and ill-structured domains have two properties: “(a) each case or
example of knowledge application typically involves the simultaneous
interactive involvement of multiple, wide-application conceptual structures
(multiple schemas, perspectives, organizational principles and so on), each
of which is individually complex (i.e. the domain involves concept- and
case-complexity); and (b) the pattern of conceptual incidence and interaction
varies substantially across cases nominally of the same type (i.e. the domain
involves across-case irregularity)” (Spiro et al. 1992, 60). For example, basic
grammar is well structured, while the process of applying grammar rules in
real-world communication is ill structured.
Random Access Instruction can be represented by the metaphor of a
rhizome, spreading in all directions. It was first used by Gilles Deleuze and
Felix Guattari in the book On the Line as a method of organizing
information (quoted in Burbules 1997). Seppo Tella uses it to describe open
learning environments based on a communal educational value system. He
maintains that “it [rhizome] transmits the idea of something growing,
something developing, yet it gives ample scope for individual action and
decision-making” and suggests that “a rhizome is a rhizome is a rhizome…”
(Tella et al. 1998, 132). Nicholas Burbules (1997, 3) holds that “Each
particular step or link within a rhizomatic whole can be conceived as a line
between two points, but the overall pattern is not linear, because there is no
beginning and end, no center and periphery, to be traced”.
Random Access Instruction is a rhizomatic system. It can be applied in the
design of nonlinear learning environments, which we shall present in the
next section.
4.4. Language Curriculum as a Knowledge Strategic Hypertext
What is “knowledge” and what does “knowledge strategy” mean? Tella
(Tella et al. 1998, 26) maintains that knowledge is to be “understood as
mental information structures modified by the individual on the basis of
thinking and earlier knowledge”. Clearly, knowledge is not simply data and
information. Tella defines knowledge strategy as the “long-term methodical
reflection […], which finds concrete expression as operational procedures or
tactical measures, slogans, goals, forms of operation, working methods
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
arising from discussion about values, and evaluation measures connected
with them”. He emphasizes the view that “instead of simply reforming their
curriculum, we think schools and municipalities should progress towards
developing their knowledge strategic thinking” (Tella et al. 1998, 25).
We define the Knowledge Strategic Hypertext (KSH) as a nonlinear and
non-sequential language curriculum model based on constructivist
epistemology and the idea of knowledge strategy (Figure 3). The term model
is employed here somewhat loosely. It is a way to make clear how our
hypothesis hangs together to make a coherent explanation. As far as the
components of the KSH are concerned, their number is unlimited. That
reflects the complexity and ill-structuredness of the language proficiency
domain. In such a nonlinear and non-sequential learning environment, each
element is related to all other elements. The KSH is a network model, which
allows the user to move from node to node following the links between
them. Nodes store linguistic, etc., information and links represent semantic
associations between the nodes. Learning is seen as a process that modifies
the information structures in specified ways under specified conditions.
The semantic nature of the links in the KSH forms the basis of the model.
This is supported by scientific research, which has shown that the mind
holds memories semantically, according to meaning (Fauconnier &
The model accommodates two conditions for learning, which are necessary
and sufficient. The first is the automatic processing passively invoked by the
incoming data. And the second is the active control of the incoming data.
Thus, the KSH can predict what parts of the input would be accepted and
what would be tuned out. The constructive process leads the user “beyond
the information given” (Perkins 1992) by reconstructing information itself.
In Figure 3, we present our KSH language curriculum model including
communicative language competence, language activities, domains, etc. It
has been developed under the LAC 2000 Project (Shopov 1999). The model
contains components derived from the definition of language behaviour in
Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, and Assessment: A Common
European Framework of Reference (CEF). It is publicly accessible on the
web-site http://culture.coe.fr/lang.
The CEF provides:
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
“(a) A descriptive scheme, presenting and exemplifying the parameters and
categories needed to describe, first, what a language user has to do in order
to communicate in its situational context, then the role of the texts, which
carry the message from producer to receiver, then the underlying
competences, which enable a language user to perform acts of
communication, and finally the strategies, which enable the language user to
bring those competences to bear in action;
(b) A survey of the approaches to language learning and teaching, providing
options for users to consider in relation to their existing practice;
(c) A set of scales for describing proficiency in language use, both globally
and in relation to the categories of the descriptive scheme at a series of
(d) A discussion of the issues raised for curricular design in different
educational contexts, with particular reference to the development of
plurilingualism in the learner” (Trim 1999, 9).
In the CEF, the general competences of the individual are defined by “the
knowledge, skills and existential competence (savoir-etre) he or she
possesses, and the ability to learn”.
Three components constitute communicative language competence. They are
the linguistic component, the socio-linguistic component and the pragmatic
Language activities are the actual behaviors in which language is used. They
are reception, production, interaction or mediation (in particular interpreting
or translating) in oral or written form, or both.
The domains, in which activities are contextualized, are the public domain,
the personal domain, the educational domain and the occupational domain.
Tasks, strategies and texts complete this model of language use and learning.
All these constructs are defined in Chapter 3 of the CEF.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Starting level of L2 proficiency ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
model is
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Starting level of L2 proficiency ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Figure 3: The KSH curriculum model, including the nodes and links of
communicative language competence, language activities, domains, etc.
Whole Language, Whole Person: A Handbook of Language Teaching Methodology
This is obviously a comprehensive and exhaustive model. However, with its
18 elements in 7 categories, it is a complex one. Stochastic theory estimates
the possible combinations of the elements at 163 (18 times 17, divided by 1
time 2). These 163 combinations produce an infinite number of concrete
instances of language use. Therefore, in our opinion, only a KSH approach
to curriculum design can guarantee quality in second language development.
The model proposed is based on the idea of whole language development.
The KSH includes language styles and registers incorporating them into “a
form of metalinguistic, interlinguistic or so to speak ‘hyperlinguistic’
awareness” (CEF, 97). This leads to a better perception of what is general
and what is specific concerning the linguistic organization of the target
language. So each component of the model may become the starting point
for the use of the KSH.
4.5. Instead of a Conclusion
“Whatever the style, there are ample opportunities to orient instruction
toward higher levels of understanding, introduce and exercise languages of
thinking, cultivate intellectual passions, seek out integrative mental images,
foster learning to learn and teach for transfer. The smart school makes the
most of these opportunities. It informs and energizes teaching by giving
teachers time and support to learn about the opportunities and by arranging
curriculum, assessment and scheduling to encourage tapping them.” (Perkins
1992, 130)
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