Philippa Kruger | Language Learning Specialist
One of the biggest challenges as a language teacher is getting our students to speak in the target language and communicate. Indeed, it is often suggested that speaking is the most “anxiety-provoking aspect in a second language learning situation” (Cheng, Horwitz, and Schallert, 1999: 420).
Speaking confidently and simultaneously in the target language is the ultimate goal for language teaching and learning.
Reluctance to produce orally in the target language often negatively impacts on student attitudes towards learning and their own ability, creating a flow-on effect that negatively impacts reflection on their progress, that is so necessary in a modern classroom. Research has shown that anxiety related to speaking in the target language can not only hinder students success but also contributes to the high attrition rates amongst senior specialised learners, which in turn leads to smaller class sizes, and programmes at risk of being discontinued. This then causes a ripple effect whereby language learning is no longer an option for students in all schools. Wesely (2010) suggests that high levels of student anxiety around language classes lead to students discontinuing, and that this should be dealt with through an examination of the instructional style and assessment procedures.
Researcher Rod Ellis, Professor of Applied Linguistics, has compiled the 10 Principles of Instructed Language Learning which bring together decades of Second Language (L2) Acquisition research and offer some helpful guidelines which, when combined, create the ultimate environment to encourage our students to communicate in the target language that they are learning.
The 10 principles are as follows:
These principles provide a great guide when planning a programme, unit of work or individual lesson. They encourage us to provide the students with a bank of formulaic expressions to help them to communicate in the target language and to expose them to a variety of rich content in the target language. They also highlight the need to teach grammar explicitly and to take into account the individual student needs. Ellis also reminds us that we need to provide the students with lots of varied opportunities for communicating in the language. It is important that these opportunities are non-threatening so that the students build their confidence.
If you are looking for some new learning material which incorporates these principles and provides learners with lots of rich oral and written input in the target language, check out the Languages in Action programme in Language Perfect for a non-threatening environment to practise their speaking skills.
Ellis, R (2008) Principles of Instructed Second Language Acquisition. Cal Digest
Cheng, Y., E. K. Horwitz, & D. L. Schallert. (1999). Language Anxiety: Differentiating Writing and Speaking Components. Language Learning
Wesely, P. M. (2010). Student attrition from traditional and immersion foreign language programs. Language and Linguistics Compass
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