Learning language and content through tasks: Exploring the interfaces

 
Author María del Pilar García Mayo (Guest Editor)
Year 2015
Publisher Elsevier
ISBN ISSN: 0346-251X

Abstract  As is well known, task-based language teaching (TBLT) is an important approach in second language (L2) instruction (Ellis, 2003; García Mayo, 2007; Nunan, 2004; Van den Branden, Bygate and Norris, 2009). Its central component, task, has been defined in various ways in numerous publications but most researchers would agree that it can be considered as a language learning activity which is focused on meaning, has a clear goal or outcome and fosters authentic language use. Ogilvie and Dunn (2010:162) claim that TBLT represents innovation both at a philosophical and at a methodological level. At the philosophical level TBLT views second language acquisition (SLA) as a process not directly influenced by formal instruction but which is fostered through the meaningful use of language. At the methodological level, TBLT invites students to act as language users rather than learners, with the explicit analysis of language structures and forms emerging from difficulties experienced during the completion of tasks. Content-based instruction (CBI) has been defined as “[…] an instructional approach in which non-linguistic curricular content such as geography or science is taught to students through the medium of a language that they are concurrently learning as an additional language.“ (Lyster and Ballinger, 2011: 279). CBI is designed to help learners to (i) construct knowledge and develop understanding about a topic; (ii) use language meaningfully and (iii) learn about language in the context of learning through language. Content in CBI represents material that is cognitively engaging and demanding for the learner (Met 1991: 150). CBI finds support from SLA research because it provides a context for meaningful communication to occur and it promotes negotiation of meaning, which has been claimed to facilitate SLA (Long, 1996; Pica 2013). CBI is well-established in some parts of the world – immersion programs, language across the curriculum (LAC), content-and-language integrated learning (CLIL), sheltered second language education in the USA, Australia and the UK – but there is clearly a need to investigate whether and, if so, to what extent, the use of tasks has been integrated in CBI. Thus, the main goal of this special issue is to explore the interface between tasks and content-based instruction. The papers that comprise the present issue provide information about task implementation in different parts of the world (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Japan and Spain) and with both adult and child populations. The monograph is intended for researchers and practitioners in CBI settings and will be particularly interesting for MA and Ph.D. students who would like to start research on the topics that the different empirical studies will suggest.


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