This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Volume 8. Issue 3 Article 1
Article Title Task-based language teaching in the Asia context: Defining 'task' Author Professor David Nunan University of Hong Kong
Biography: Professor David Nunan is Director of the English Centre and Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong. He has worked as an ESL/EFL teacher, researcher, curriculum developer, and materials writer in many parts of the world, including Australia, Oman, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and the UK. Professor Nunan has published books on language teaching curriculum development, discourse analysis, second language teacher education, language teaching methodology, and research methods in applied linguistics. Dr. Nunan is on the Advisory Board of the Asian EFL Journal
Confere 2002-20 2007 Jo 2006 Jo 2005 Jo 2004 Jo 2003 Jo 2002 Jo Academ Author I Book Re For Libr Indexes Instituti Intervie Journal Key Wo Subject Teachin Thesis Top 20 Video TESOL C V
Different parts of the language are taught separately and step by step so that acquisition is a process of gradual accumulation of parts until the whole structure of language has been built up. the British applied linguist David Wilkins suggested a basic distinction between what he called 'synthetic approaches' to syllabus design and 'analytical' approaches. indeed. has been. or break them down into their constituent parts. a synthetic one. and text-based syllabuses. Prior analysis of the total language system into a set of discrete pieces of language that is a necessary precondition for the adoption of a synthetic approach is largely superfluous. he suggested. 13) All syllabus proposals that do not depend on a prior analysis of the language belong to this second category. and reflect the common-sense belief that the central role of instruction is to simplify the learning challenge for the student. thematic. A related concept that was popular in the 1960s was that of mastery learning. Having broken the subject matter down and sequenced it from easy to difficult. most of the rest of the world). One way to simplify learning is to break the content down into its constituent parts. they all have one thing in common . (Wilkins.In this short paper. (Wilkins. Wilkins offered an alternative to synthetic approaches. fitted one or other of these approaches. and introduce each part separately and step-by-step. In addition to task-based syllabuses. content-based. The dominant approach to language teaching in Asia (and. however. each item of content was introduced to the learner in a serial fashion. we have project-based. In his book Notional Syllabuses. 2) Such approaches represent the 'traditional' way of organizing the syllabus. and remains. 1976 p. 1976 p. … [Such approaches] are organized in terms of the purposes for which people are learning language and the kinds of language that are necessary to meet these purposes.they do not . These are known as 'analytical' approaches because the learner is presented with holistic 'chunks' of language and is required to analyze them. In 'synthetic' approaches. Teachers who have learned their own languages through a synthetic approach. All syllabuses. Despite their differences. I would like to set out some basic principles of task-based language teaching in the Asia context. In 1976. and see this as the normal and logical way of learning language. and a new item was not supposed to be introduced until the current item had been thoroughly mastered (thus the label 'mastery learning').
and it has influenced educational policy-making in both ESL and EFL settings.rely on prior analysis of the language into its discrete points. "So I can make hotel reservations and buy food when I'm in Mexico". not only on language. filling out a form. the concept of 'task' has become an important element in syllabus design.") Related to . dressing a child. *The linking of classroom language learning with language use outside the classroom. 89) frames his approach to task-based language teaching in terms of target tasks. and in between. making an airline reservation. as the name implies. Long (1985 p. refer to uses of language in the world beyond the classroom. than "So I can master the subjunctive. weighing a patient. *An enhancement of the learner's own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning. writing a cheque. talking a hotel reservation. finding a street destination and helping someone across a road. In other words. then. *The provision of opportunities for learners to focus. grew out of this alternative approach to language pedagogy. (In the same way as learners. Since then. typing a letter. Nunan (2004) draws a basic distinction between real-world or target tasks. borrowing a library book. *A needs-based approach to content selection *An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language. freely or for some reward. Pedagogical tasks are those that occur in the classroom. It underpins several significant research agendas. taking a driving test. Target tasks. and pedagogical tasks. classroom teaching and learner assessment. at play. Thus examples of tasks include painting a fence. task-based language teaching has strengthened the following principles and practices. Task have been defined in various ways. Task-based language teaching. but also on the learning process itself. arguing that a task is a piece of work undertaken for oneself or for others. Pedagogically. It describes the sorts of things that the person-in-the-street would say if asked what they were doing. if asked why they are attending a Spanish course. by 'task' is meant the hundred and one things people do in everyday life. *The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation. sorting letters. are more likely to say. although teachers brought up in tradition methods still struggle with the concept. The first thing to notice about this definition is that it is nontechnical and non-linguistic. at work. buying a pair of shoes.
for example. of a book. Tasks may or may not involve the production of language. and. Tasks are defined in terms of what the learners will do in class rather than in the world outside the classroom. Non-linguistic outcomes from Long's list above might include a painted fence. 23) This definition is very broad. More circumscribed is the following from Willis (1996). a specified working procedure. as such. to more complex and lengthy activities such as group problem-solving or simulations and decision-making. Here is a definition of a pedagogical task.from the simple and brief exercise type. and a range of outcomes for those who undertake the task. tasks become pedagogical in nature. in fact. is not particularly helpful. tasks have a non-linguistic outcome. In this definition. be used to justify any procedure at all as 'task-based'. we can see that the authors take a pedagogical perspective. 'Task' is therefore assumed to refer to a range of workplans which have the overall purposes of facilitating language learning . When they are transformed from the real world to the classroom. that just about anything the learner does in the classroom qualifies as a task. cited in Willis and Willis (2001). They also emphasize the importance of having a non-language outcome.this is the notion that in contrast with most classroom language exercises. It could. (Breen. For example. appropriate content. 1987 p. drawing a map while listening to a tape. a driver's licence. implying as it does.e. 1986 p. …an activity or action which is carried out as the result of processing or understanding language (i. (Richards. a room in a hotel etc. however temporary. A task usually requires the teacher to specify what will be regarded as successful completion of the task. Finally. as a response). listening to an instruction and performing a command may be referred to as tasks. Here is another definition of a pedagogical task. A classroom undertaking "…where the target language is used by the learner for a communicative . The use of a variety of different kinds of tasks in language teaching is said to make language teaching more communicative … since it provides a purpose for a classroom activity which goes beyond the practice of language for its own sake. Platt and Weber. Another thing to notice is that some of the examples provided may not involve language use at all (it is possible to paint a fence without talking). individual tasks may be part of a larger sequence of tasks. possession. the task of weighing a patient may be a sub-component of the task 'giving a medical examination'. 289). …any structured language learning endeavour which has a particular objective.
While these definitions vary somewhat. Skehan (1998). a middle and an end. direct or indirect. and oral or written skills and also various cognitive processes. also. puts forward five key characteristics of a task. (p. being able to stand alone as a communicative act in its own right with a beginning. they all emphasize the fact that tasks involve communicative language use in which the user's attention is focused on meaning rather than grammatical form. to the way language is used in the real world. although the design of the task may predispose them to choose particular forms.) Finally. Ellis (2003 p. highlighting the fact that meaning and form are highly interrelated. This does not mean that form is not important.purpose (goal) in order to achieve an outcome". and that . a task can engage productive or receptive. producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is focused on mobilizing their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning. it requires them to give primary attention to meaning and to make use of their own linguistic resources. and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipulate form. Here the notion of meaning is subsumed in 'outcome'. My own definition is that a task is a piece of classroom work that involves learners in comprehending. Bygate. Skehan and Swain 2001. Like other language activities. My own definition refers to the deployment of grammatical knowledge to express meaning. who argue that the way we define a task will depend to a certain extent on the purposes to which task are used. manipulating. in a recent book that looks at 'task' more from a language acquisition perspective than a pedagogical one (although it does also deal with aspects of pedagogy). 16) defines task in the following way: A task is a workplan that requires learners to process language pragmatically in order to achieve an outcome that can be evaluated in terms of whether the correct or appropriate propositional content has been conveyed. The task should also have a sense of completeness. A task is intended to result in language use that bears a resemblance. drawing on a number of other writers. (See. *meaning is primary *learners are not given other people's meaning to regurgitate *there is some sort of relationship to comparable real-world activities *task completion has some priority *the assessment of the task is in terms of outcome. 173). To this end. Language in a communicative task is seen as bringing about an outcome through the exchange of meanings.
London: Longman. Oxford: Oxford University Press. R. Wilkins. Swain. M. Candlin and D. Weber. However. London: Longman.) Language Learning Tasks. Platt and H. Willis. In R. D. D.) (2001).. Skehan.... and M. (1985). In K. Communicative language teaching: Making it work. Copyright © 1999-2007 Asian EFL Journal .. 2.Contact Us . Learner contributions to task design. Murphy (eds. 136 .) Modelling and Assessing Second Language Acquisition. London: Longman.. Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second Language Learning. (1996). Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.. 41. J... (1998).grammar exists to enable the language user to express different communicative meanings. Long.. (eds. Skehan. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.. (2003). References Breen. A Framework for Task-Based Learning.. M. Willis. J. D. Clevedon Avon: Multilingual Matters. and J.. Task-based language learning.. pp. P.. (1987).. Bygate.last updated 7th/October/2007 .) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. M.. (1987). Hyltenstam and M. Oxford: Oxford University Press.. Nunan (eds. ELT Journal. Willis. (2001). Nunan.. Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. Task-based Language Teaching.145.. as Willis and Willis (2001) point out. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Ellis. 1986. tasks differ from grammatical exercises in that learners are free to use a range of language structures to achieve task outcomes . Richards. In C.the forms are not specified in advance. Teaching and Testing.. Carter and D.. D. xx Part of the Time-Taylor network From a knowledge and respect of the past moving towards the English International language future. (1976). Pienemann (eds. A role for instruction in second language acquisition.. P.