segunda-feira, 29 de novembro de 2010

The English major at UFMG provides students with a vast range of areas of study and research. For this reason, many FALE students often find themselves rather confused about which paths to take and they just do not know how to set about it. The field of applied linguistics is related to language learning and teaching, translation, language technologies among other areas and it is one of those many options available that a great number of students would like to go into. However, it can be very daunting for undergraduates who want to pursue a career in language teaching because most of the times they simply do not know what awaits them when they finally become a language teacher. Those students usually wonder which teaching methods and approaches they should apply and most importantly, how they could be applied.

The Natural Approach

Jack Richards and Theodore Rodgers, based on Terrel and Krashens’ theories, affirm that the Natural Approach is an acquisition process that does not focus much on practice, but on exposure or input to the target language. The purpose of this theory is to enable students to acquire a second language. Its creators use the term “natural” because it has to do with the natural process of how children learn their first language. It is based on these five main hypotheses: the acquisition/learning, the monitor, the natural order hypothesis, the input and the effective filter.
The Acquisition is distinguished from Learning.  Acquisition is the unconscious part of language. It is a natural process that focuses on transmission of a message, in other words, meaningful communication. On contrast, Learning has to do with conscious processes of language that is constructed by grammatical rules in order to verbalize the knowledge concerning these grammatical rules and forms.
The Monitor hypothesis supports that conscious learning works as a way to correct our mistakes when we create utterances in the learner language when communicating. It functions as an editor since the learner has been taught about grammatical structures of the language in vogue. It has been defended that it works well since the learner has enough time at his/her disposal;  he/she focus on form to correct his/hers mistakes and on knowledge of rules.
The Natural Order claims that the structure of language, regardless of what your mother tongue is, follows a predictable “natural order”. As it was proved by studies, morphemes are learned first than other structures. Trial and error occur during language acquisition and naturalistic developmental process, but it does not occur in the learning.
The Input Hypothesis seeks to explain how a person acquires language and for this purpose Krashen suggests that acquiring a second language involves the ‘natural communicative input’, in other words, the form like children acquire their mother tongue. They use extralinguistic information, context and knowledge of the world around them as an attempt to make comprehension. It is relevant to point out that these processes do not happen all of a sudden.
The Effective Filter has to do with the learner emotional attitude toward language acquisition. There are three kinds of ‘effective variables’ that facilitate language acquisition which are: self confidence, motivation and anxiety. Krashen believes that people with low effective filter make the input possible, in addition, receive and seek it. It is possible because they “interact with more confidence” (pg.133). In contrast, people with high affective filter block or impede the input, preventing it.
In conclusion, the Natural Approach is not a method in which starts from the acquisition process and goes to the learning process. It was created to help beginners start the learning process of a desirable second language. It is an attempt to enable students to understand the speaker of the target language. This method is not based on grammar or syntax, but on meaning, and communication. If a learner creates a non grammatical utterance it does not matter. The purpose is to have in mind some lexicon that can make communication possible, even if it occurs in a primary way.

(Posted by: Denise Esteves)

RICHARDS, Jack C; RODGERS, Theodore S. Approaches and methods in language teaching: a description and analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995. 171p. ((Cambridge Language Teaching Library)) ISBN 052132558

domingo, 28 de novembro de 2010

The Communicative Approach

In 1970 teachers and linguistics were dissatisfied about the learning process of English as a second language. The Audio - lingual Method and the grammar – translation method weren’t successful to the learning and teaching approach. These methods didn’t interact the student with language in a realistic way, so students had difficult when they were exposed to real life situations.  Through this fact, teachers and linguistics developed the method that will make students participate to real situations activities and the language will be a way to interact to the world, the communicative approach.

The Communicative Approach

In the past, the learning process of a second language (L2) was restricted to rules of grammar and the student were guide by the teacher to learn a correct structure of the L2. The communicative approach changed the learning method, now students are more free to lead the classes and be more closed to the reality of the L2.

The interaction must to be simple and direct, student can speak in their first day if they want to. Read, write and listening are mechanisms are learning that are taught together.

Teachers become facilitator’s rather leading classes; the main point is to interact student to situations that they live. Dialogues are stimulated to be focus on their interaction to the world and the grammar is not evaluated separately.

The objective is to make students feel comfortable to the language and be able to communicate without the focus on grammar meaning and use. Even when students commit common errors of collocations, they are not corrected since in real life situations common error can happened all the time.

The pronunciation is as important as the speaking process. Songs and games make student feel more secure when they deal with exercises, the main goal is to students don’t be afraid of take a conversation.

Activities are taught in pair or groups, the interaction to language is preparing them to interact with the society.


1) Listen to a real conversation and take notes about what you're listenig and answer the questions:

a)What was the main point of the conversation?
b)How old do you think they were?
c)How many people were involved in the subject?

The communicative approach is a revolutionary approach which makes students interact with language not in a superficial way. Its focus is on grammar and its main goal is to prepare students for communication with the real world.
(Posted by: Ludmila)

 1- SHASTRI, Dr. Pratima Dave. Communicative Approach To The Teaching Of English As A Second Language. Students First Edition
2- RICHARDS, Jack C. and RODGERS, .Theodore S. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, A description and analysis. Cambridge University Pree, 1986

terça-feira, 23 de novembro de 2010

The Audiolingual Method

The Audiolingual Method (ALM) has its emphasis on mastering the building blocks of language and learning the rules for combining them, and it is aimed squarely at communicative competence. One of its principles is that language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form. The ALM is still used in some programs today, in situations where one of the prime objectives of learning English is to take and achieve successful results in a variety of tests.

The Audio-lingual Method

The Audiolingual Method (ALM) was widely used in the United States and other countries in the 1950's and 1960's. Particular emphasis was laid on mastering the building blocks of language and learning the rules for combining them. The theory of learning was the Behaviorism, including the principles that language learning is habit-formation, that mistakes are bad and should be avoided, as they make bad habits; that language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form; that analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis, and that the meanings of words can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context, according to Lingua Links Library(1).
This method, the ALM, is still used in some programs today, in situations where one of the prime objectives of learning English is to take and achieve successful results in a variety of tests, and where many learners are not intrinsically motivated to learn English but do so because they need to, the method is not without merits, according to English Raven(2).
The Audiolingual Method represents a major step in language teaching methodology that is aimed squarely at communicative competence. The behavioral psychologists dictated the various ways for the drills to be repeated in order to create an effective habit-forming process. The extensive and elaborate drills designed to facilitate overlearning and good language habit forming are important parts of communicative processes in general, according to English Raven(2).
Some of the objectives of the audio-lingual method are: build communicative competence in translators through very intensive language courses focusing on aural/oral skills, create communicative competence in learners through extensive repetition and a variety of elaborate drills, project the linguistic patterns of the language into the minds of the learners in a way that made responses automatic and "habitual", and facilitate the learning of a new set of "habits" appropriate linguistically to the language being studied, according to Lingua Links Library(1).
The types of learning techniques and activities in an audio-lingual course are the dialogues and the drills (instruction, exercise; training). Some key structures from the dialogue below* serve as the basis for pattern drills of different kinds, according to Lingua Links Library(1):
Repetition : where the student repeats an utterance as soon as he hears it
Inflection: Where one word in a sentence appears in another form when repeated
Replacement: Where one word is replaced by another
Restatement: The student re-phrases an utterance
          Inflection :        Teacher:   I ate the sandwich.
                                    Student:   I ate the sandwiches.
         Replacement:    Teacher:  He bought the car for half-price.
                                    Student :  He bought it for half-price.
         Restatement:     Teacher:  Tell me not to smoke so often.
                                    Student :  Don't smoke so often!
Drills and pattern practice, by Richards, J.C. et-al. 1986(3).
The typical procedure of the ALM would be:
> Students hear a model dialogue
> Students repeat each line of the dialogue
> Students practice substitutions in the pattern drills (key words or phrases in the dialogue).
The following examples illustrates how more than one sort of drill can be incorporated into one practice session:
Teacher:  There's a cup on the table ... repeat.                
Students: There's a cup on the table.
Teacher:  Spoon.                                                             
Students: There's a spoon on the table.
Teacher:  Book.                                                               
Students: There's a book on the table.
Teacher:  On the chair.                                                    
Students: There's a book on the chair.
Drills and pattern practice, by Richards, J.C. et-al. 1986(3).
This method can be appropriate in certain learning contexts, as in situations where one of the main objectives of learning English is to take and achieve immediate and successful results in a variety of tests, so the method has its merits. There are ways, also, in which the practice involved in the Audiolingual Method can be applied to approach the objectives of those people who want to learn the deep structure of a language, as Audiolingual-based drills can be adapted and used in combination with an appropriate range of other activities, and effective error correction techniques, to create a more independent experimentation and application.   
(Posted by: Rosemary M Monsalve)
1 – The Audio-Lingual Method. Lingua Links. Available at: [This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. Page content last modified: 21 March 1999. Accessed on November 8th, 2010.
2 - The Audio-lingual Method. English Raven. Available at: Accessed on November 4th, 2010.
3 – RICHARDS, J.C. et-al. 1986. Audio-lingual Method: Oral Drills. Examples. Available at: Accessed on November 4th, 2010. 

Task-Based Learning Method - TBL

This article focus on the Task-Based Learning Method (TBL) and it brings readers both theory and short examples about this teaching procedure.

The Task-Based Learning Method: an overview

Choosing a method is a difficult decision for English teachers since there are many options available. In this article, we will provide our readers with the basic features of the Task- Based Learning method, known as TBL. In general lines, the procedure goes like the following: the teacher gives learners a task to perform and they are not supposed to discuss language until the task has been completed. Then, usually, the teacher analyzes the language and makes corrections based on what the students’ performance showed to be necessary.

According to Jeremy Harmer (2007) there are two versions of the Task-Based Learning method. In one of them, students perform the tasks and focus on language form while they do the tasks and/or as a result of having done them. In the second one, the teacher provides students with some of the language to do the tasks before they perform them. Despite the differences, both TBL approaches have got the performance of meaningful tasks as a central feature to the learning process. The idea is that students are able to learn if they are focused on the completion of a task as effectively as if they were focused on language form. As a consequence, instead of concentrating on language structure and function, in TBL students face a task to do or a problem to solve.

Nonetheless, it is important to point out that TBL is not just about doing a task after another, as Jane Willis (1996) asserts. Otherwise, students would gain fluency but not accuracy. It is crucial for the success of the method that the teacher follows the three basic stages that compose the method as carefully as possible.

First of all, there is the Pre-Task stage which consists of the teacher introducing and exploring the topic as well as highlighting useful words and phrases. For that, techniques such as brainstorming, mind maps, matching phases to pictures, classifying words and phrases and choosing the odd one out can be used. Some very effective materials are recordings and videos of native speakers performing a similar task, which may also be used to give instructions. Texts related to the topic are another alternative. By using these, TBL promotes exposure, one of the four basic conditions for learning a language.

The second stage is the Task Cycle. It offers students the chance of using language they already know while performing the task. They are also given the opportunity of improving that language as they plan their reports of the task to the classroom. Students do the task in pairs or in small groups while the teacher monitors them. It is crucial that the teacher, especially if not used to TBL, does not teach during the task stage, unless there is a major communication problem. To avoid that, instructions must have been very clear during the first stage, as well as the topic introduction. If necessary, students might be exposed to useful language during the planning and the reporting phases, after the task has been completed. By this time, students will have experienced other two basic conditions for learning: motivation and use.

The last part of the Task Cycle is reporting to others how the task went and what students have accomplished. Reports are important because that is when students start worrying more about accuracy rather than fluency, because they must produce an intelligible discourse.  Reports might be written or oral and some purpose ideas for them are:

·         creativity: students say what they have most enjoyed about the other groups’ work;
·         listing: student can vote for the most comprehensive list;
·         comparing: students see how the other groups performed the task and check if they went the same way;
·         problem solving: students compare strategies, evaluate solutions, vote for the best solution an recommend solutions;

For example, if the task was giving a girl who is travelling abroad for the first time and all by herself some advice, students can compare their advice and choose the best and most useful ones.

The last stage is called Language Focus and it is when the fourth condition for learning is fulfilled because it concentrates on studying language form. The teacher then can examine and discuss specific structures that were used during the task and correct students’ mistakes and slips. The teacher gives students practice on these features, such as drillings, listening and completing, gap-filling, progressive deletion, unpacking a sentence, memory challenge, dictionary exercises and computer games.

Since we have discussed the Presentation-Practice-Production method (PPP) in this blog, it might be interesting to point out the core difference between it and the TBL. According to the last one, only after the Task Cycle students’ attention is directed to language form, whereas in PPP it comes first. Another difference is that in PPP a context for grammar teaching must be invented and in TBL it is already provided since students have already worked on its meaning and usage. Plus, the PPP method goes from accuracy to fluency. On the other hand, TBL goes from fluency to accuracy which might be more interesting and funnier to students. 

Some teachers may argue that using TBL with beginners and young learners would be too complicated. However, there are some simple activities, such as bingo, memory game, odd one out, “Simon Says”, classifying and guessing games that can be used and do not require complex structures.

In spite of many critiques related to timing and whether an entire course based on TBL would be effective, some TBL features are undoubtedly interesting, such as providing students with opportunities for trying out new language and doing more free practice rather than the controlled one.

(Posted by: Luciane Scarato)


Jane Willis. A framework for Task-Based Learning. Oxford: Longman, 1996.
Jeremy Harmer. The practice of English Language Teaching. England: Pearson Education Limited, 2007.