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Bài báo - Tạp chí
In Teresa Cadierno and Søren Wind Eskildsen (2015) Trang: 305-328
Tạp chí: Usage-Based Perspectives on Second Language Learning

Spada and Lightbown (2013, Chapter 6) give a solid and nuanced overview of how different linguistic and psychological theories have influenced second language teaching approaches over the last 60 years, ending each section with a review of empirical studies that do or do not support these approaches. They finally conclude that a communicative approach has the best chance to be effective in language teaching, when language is used meaningfully, is taught with a large amount of input – preferably as authentic as possible – and some attention to form is given. Moreover, they provide several examples of effective approaches: the reading comprehension approach, in which learners read books instead of receiving explicit instruction; and a content language integrated learning (CLIL) approach, in which the learners concentrate on subject content (such as history) instead of the language, which is merely a tool to study the subject matter. Overall, these truly communicative methods were much more effective than structurebased programs. However, the reading comprehension approach lost its initial advantage after several years and although CLIL learners become very fluent and proficient, a few specific form errors tend to remain in the learners’ language. Still, the communicative methods retain their effectiveness over the traditional structure based methods, especially for the first few years of teaching. Despite the evidence of the efficacy of approaches that focus on input and meaning, Spada and Lightbown (2013) point out that the use of truly communicative approaches remains rare in the foreign language classroom, while the use of structure-based teaching methods remains widespread. This definitely holds true for foreign language teaching in the Netherlands and other European countries (Bonnet 2002) and even in the so-called communicative and task-based teaching approach used at the Cantho University in Vietnam, where we conducted our experiment. For example, the textbook at Can Tho University contains rather artificial texts written by the teachers themselves, focus on a specific aspect of grammar every lesson, have a few rather artificial listening exercises, and provide tasks for the learners in which they speak with each other in pairs or small groups. The problem with such an approach is that students do receive hardly any authentic input. This raises some questions: Why do structure-based approaches remain so widespread? And what are the beliefs upon which they are built? We assume that implicit in such approaches is the strong belief that grammar forms the core of language and without such core elements, the language cannot be learned. Implicit is also the strong belief that language is a highly ordered system, so once the system has been discovered successfully – often in carefully thought-out sequences that match the average learner’s learning path – the learner is ready to communicate in the foreign language. However, the strong focus on the systematic aspects of language, usually accompanied by a focus on accuracy, comes at the expense of exposure to meaningful and authentic input in which the learning of pronunciation and intonation, vocabulary and chunks, and the pragmatic uses of all such forms can take place. In the current paper we would like to present a totally different view of language, a dynamic usage-based (DUB) view, which holds that learning is not linear and the core of language is not grammar or syntax. Language is nothing but a large array of meaningful units at all levels, and what is traditionally considered grammar or syntax consists only ofsome of the most regular patterns that have emerged through use. Such a view of language has strong implications for teaching, which are in line with truly communicative approaches or a lexical approach as described by Lewis (1993). Nevertheless, the approach is different in that there is also a strong focus on frequency of input as well as on form, which were defined as forms at all levels of the language. Especially in the foreign language classroom, where there is little access to the target language in the environment, the approach needs to include enough meaningful, authentic input. Moreover, relevant units should be made clear through scaffolding and should be encountered often enough to be remembered. After explaining the general principles of the dynamic usage based (DUB) view of language, the theory will be further illustrated by a summary of an empirical study. In this study, DUB principles were applied to a truly communicative approach, in our case with the help of video input, used for teaching in a university in Vietnam. This method proved to be more effective than a semi-communicative approach which is structure-based, even with regards to grammar.


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