Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning

By Michael Byram | Go to book overview

B
Beginner language learnersA term applied to language learners of any AGE in the initial stages of acquisition of a language other than their MOTHER TONGUE. A distinction can be made between 'absolute or real' beginners, who exhibit no knowledge of the language (what Stevick, 1986, terms 'pre-beginners') and 'false beginners', who may have experienced previous instruction, incidental exposure to the language, or be self-taught. Their knowledge is 'dormant'. Beginner learners are by no means a homogeneous group but bring to the classroom diverse backgrounds and highly varied personal characteristics and learning factors. These include:
• the extent of previous experience of second/ foreign language learning;
• age at the time of learning;
• cognitive development;
• existing abilities and knowledge in first and second languages;
SPEAKING and literacy;
• familiarity with the script of the language;
ATTITUDES and expectations about the language and its culture;
• understandings about the 'distance' of the first from the second language;
• affective factors;
• existing LEARNING STYLES and STRATEGIES.

The learning context may also vary according to time, intensity and duration of the learning experience; location (in the home country or overseas, in second or foreign language settings); the requirement to follow prescribed SYLLABUS guidelines; and the demands for internal and external ASSESSMENT and examination.

Significant work in identifying the communicative needs of ADULT beginner learners was conducted through the COUNCIL OF EUROPE from 1971, resulting in THRESHOLD LEVEL (T-Level) specifications for ENGLISH (van Ek, 1975), French (1976), Spanish (1979), German (1980) and Italian (1981). T-level referred to the 'common core' of language items and functions which beginner learners would need to acquire before moving on to more advanced courses related to professional or personal goals.

See also: Age factors; Attitudes and language learning; Council of Europe Modern Languages Projects; Gender and language learning; Learning styles; Mother tongue; Psychology; Second language acquisition theories; Threshold level


References

s
Stevick, E.W. (1986) Images and options in the language classroom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

v
van Ek, J.A. (1975) The Threshold Level in a European unit/credit system for modern language learning by adults, Strasbourg: The Council of Europe.

Further reading

a
Arthur, B.M. (1991) 'Working with new ESL students in a junior high school reading class', Journal of Reading 34, 8:628-31.

b
Brumfit, C., Moon, J. and Tongue, R. (eds) (1995)

-73-

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Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vi
  • Editorial Team vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Thematic List of Entries xviii
  • A 1
  • B 73
  • C 90
  • D 169
  • E 188
  • F 217
  • G 228
  • H 254
  • Bibliography 259
  • I 288
  • J 316
  • L 325
  • M 394
  • N 436
  • O 452
  • P 458
  • Q 499
  • R 504
  • S 522
  • Bibliography 577
  • T 595
  • Bibliography 643
  • U 644
  • V 658
  • W 673
  • Index 679
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