On Teaching Foreign Languages: Linking Theory to Practice

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002 - Education - 175 pages
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The author reports on a qualitative, action-research project on theories and practices in foreign language education. The goal of the study was to relate the knowledge of foreign language teaching, learning, and acquisition gained through research to the beliefs and experiences of expert foreign language teachers. The four participating teachers represent real teachers who distinguish themselves from their peers for their excellence in teaching foreign languages and their success in serving as clinical teachers. Four theoretical issues are discussed in detail: the proficiency movement; the role of input; teaching language in context; and class participation, motivation, and discipline. These aspects were selected because (1) they pose major challenges to foreign language interns and (2) they play an essential role in the learning-acquisition process of second language students.

The major contribution of this study is the integration of the theoretical and practical dimensions. The practical aspect is presented by the expert foreign language teachers who describe in their own words how and explain why they implement a given foreign language theory in their classrooms. This integration provides foreign language teachers with a realistic view of foreign language education and establishes a dialogue between the university and the school communities. A significant number of excerpts from discussion-interview sessions conducted with the teachers are included.


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Page 168 - Opportunities must be provided for active communicative interaction among students. Corollary 3. Creative language practice (as opposed to exclusively manipulative or convergent practice) must be encouraged in the proficiencyoriented classroom. Corollary 4. Authentic language should be used in instruction wherever possible.
Page 169 - ... fashion. Because these guidelines identify stages of proficiency, as opposed to achievement, they are not intended to measure what an individual has achieved through specific classroom instruction but rather to allow assessment of what an individual can and cannot do, regardless of where, when, or how the language has been learned or acquired; thus, the words "learned" and "acquired" are used in the broadest sense.
Page 168 - Hypothesis 1. Opportunities must be provided for students to practice using language in a range of contexts likely to be encountered in the target culture. Corollary 1. Students should be encouraged to express their own meaning as early as possible after productive skills have been introduced in the course of instruction.
Page 168 - As learners produce language, various forms of instruction and evaluative feedback can be useful in facilitating the progression of their skills toward more precise and coherent language use. Hypothesis 4. Instruction should be responsive to the affective as well as the cognitive needs of students, and their different personalities, preferences, and learning styles should be taken into...
Page 169 - Proficiency-oriented approaches should respond to the affective needs of students as well as to their cognitive needs. Students should feel motivated to learn and must be given opportunities to express their own meanings in a nonthreatening environment. Hypothesis 5. Cultural understanding must be promoted in various ways so that students are prepared to live more harmoniously in the target-language community.
Page 168 - School curriculum will have to be restructured to be responsive to the affective as well as the cognitive needs of disadvantaged pupils.

About the author (2002)

MARCELA T. RUIZ-FUNES is Associate Professor, Foreign Languages and Literatures, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

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