Explicit Instruction in Task-Based Language Teaching

Topics: Second language acquisition, Language education, Language acquisition Pages: 22 (7030 words) Published: July 13, 2013
Explicit Instruction in Task-Based Language Teaching


How to teach grammar has always been a controversial topic in the history of second language acquisition. In recent years, the discussion has been focused on whether to use explicit or implicit way to teach grammar. The on-going trend of language teaching is to combine communicative skills and language forms together. But how to immerse the focus on form into communicative language teaching is still an unsolved problem. I joined a teaching experiment about explicit and implicit instruction when I was working in Michigan State University Confucius Institute. 40 American high school students were divided into two groups and each group were under explicit or implicit instruction. We compared and analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of these two teaching methods in Chinese language class at beginner level. This paper expects to give out some useful opinions in how to effectively use explicit instruction in communicative language teaching.

KEY WORDS:Grammar Instruction, Explicit, Implicit, Task-Based Language Teaching

Discussion about implicit and explicit instruction

In the field of second language teaching and learning, the role of grammar instruction has always been questioned. Researchers who support grammar instruction suggest that it is necessary to master the grammar in order to study a foreign language and grammar can be passed on through ways such as analyzing and explaining. The acquisition of grammar rules can be transformed to language using ability. Researchers who oppose grammar instruction, however, hold that grammar teaching impedes the language acquisition. They believe that grammar cannot be taught, but only be acquired unconsciously by practice and communication. Currently the discussion on grammar teaching is much more focused on whether we should teach grammar explicitly or implicitly. In order to demonstrate the superior of one approach over another, many researchers have engaged in implicit versus explicit studies.

1 Implicit instruction

Implicit instruction emphasize on avoiding the discussion about grammar rules in L2 teaching and learning. The students must be put into a meaningful, understandable language environment in order to acquire the grammar as naturally as possible. Under implicit instruction, teachers should lead the students to experience and use the target language and generally internalize it. In classroom teaching, implicit instruction usually adopts the way of induction, which is to summarize the rules of language from large number of language materials and practices in the natural environment. The most typical theory was Krashen’s (1981) “Monitor Model” hypothesis, in which he differentiated conscious learning and unconscious acquisition of language. Krashen claimed that language should be acquired through natural exposure instead of learning through formal instruction. He therefore believed that there was no interface between the knowledge of grammar structure and the ability to use the language correctly. Krashen also claimed that large amount of comprehensible input (i+1) in a low affective filter is very important in developing L2 influence. Whereas providing grammar rules in class can interfere the natural process of acquisition (Krashen, 1981; Krashen & Terrell, 1983). This position was supported by evidence from studies that compared the effects of implicit and explicit instructions. Researchers found during the studies that speakers of different ages and different first languages learn certain English morphemes and grammatical forms in a similar order (Dulay & Burt, 1974; Schumann, 1979). These result led to the hypothesis that similar process underlie both L1 and L2 learning. Therefore, if L1 learners do not learn the language through explicit instruction, neither should L2 learners. Dulay claims that in a meaning-oriented language...
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