Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Textuality Oriented or Grammaticality Oriented Focus on Form Tasks?

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Textuality Oriented or Grammaticality Oriented Focus on Form Tasks?

Article excerpt


As an offshoot of communicative language teaching, task based language teaching was developed in reaction to the traditional dominant approach in language teaching and syllabus design which mainly emphasized a discrete approach in presenting the skills and components of language for instruction. Unlike the traditional grammar translation and audio-lingual approaches which were essentially a linguistic approach focusing on translation and surface representation of language in teaching, task-based language teaching and all other similar meaning-focused approaches following communicative language teaching principles, had the common goal of presenting meaningful language in the process of instruction. Tasks were defined as "activities which required learners to use language with emphasis on meaning to attain an objective"(Bygate, Skehan and Swain, 2001, cited in Skehan, 2003, p.3). Tasks were considered meaning-based activity units which had the major aim of engaging students in achieving certain real-world or pedagogical outcome. It was different from all sorts of traditional exercises which treated aspects of language as separate and devoid of any context or meaning. Overall the essential idea in this strong version of CLT approach was that students will learn a foreign language naturally as their first language when their attention is focused on meaning. It was believed that language can develop by itself when their attention is focused on something else (for example the content). In fact this was also the idea underlying a content- based approach to teaching, emphasizing teaching a language through using the foreign language as a medium of presenting the content. Another similar meaning-based approach, Krashen and Terrel's Natural Approach also emphasized the importance of "comprehensible input' allowing the learner's competence to be developing by itself without any explicit instruction.

In general, in the literature of language teaching, CLT with its different varieties of meaningbased approaches to language teaching were in fact revolutionary in liberating us from the traditional, structural and habit-formation approaches to teaching where meaning and contextual factors had no place in language instruction.

2.Review of literature

Due to some problems with a purely meaning-based instruction (the strong version of TBLT included among them), scholars in the field of SLA later came to a consensus that a weak version of TBLT, namely, "focus on form" (FonF), may prove to be much more helpful. Among the problems cited for a purely meaning-based approach to instruction are:

* Students do not gain high levels of language proficiency; i.e. studies have shown that the rate of acquisition would be higher if formal language instruction were used.

* Fossilization will occur when incorrect form of language of students are not corrected

* It ignores the role of negative evidence in 2nd language learning.

These problems led the SLA researchers to search for terms to cover this neglected aspect of meaning-based approaches to teaching, namely the forms or the language aspect. The terminologies used in recent SLA researches and literature of language teaching will be a proof to the above claim; terms such as: "Consciousness-Raising" (Ellis, 2003), "Input Enhancement" (Sharwood Smith, 1993 in Ellis, 2003), and "Focus on Form" (Long, 1991; Fotos and Nassaji, 2007).

As a result, SLA researchers and practitioners in the field of language teaching all seem to agree on the idea of tasks as not only essentially a meaning-based activity, but also having a form-focused component, emphasizing on the linguistic aspect of the task. Terms such as " Interaction", "Output", "Negative Evidence", "Attention", " Consciousness- Raising" and " Focus on Form" ( Long, 1996;Swain, 1985& 1995; Schmidt, 1990, 1994, 2001; and Carrol, 2001) all believe in some degree of attention to grammar and accuracy while, of course emphasizing the primacy of communication, focus on meaning and appropriacy. …

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