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Appears in:
Pages: 3966-3973
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1946

Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain

SHOULD FOREIGN/SECOND LANGUAGES BE TAUGHT IMPLICITLY OR EXPLICITLY? HOW CAN THE PAST ENLIGHTEN THE PRESENT?

C. Besnard

York University (Glendon College), Toronto (CANADA)
For the last 5000 years, specialists have been trying to figure out what is the best way to teach foreign/second languages (L2). In the Ancient times, L2 learning was based on the explicit memorization of lists of words and dialogues while in the Classical world, Latin was taught by taking Classic writings as explicit models for reading and writing. It is not until the 17th century in Europe that philosophers and humanists like Locke, de Montaigne, and Comenius wrote influential essays on how foreign languages should be taught. Their unconventional views laid the foundations of modern language Didactics as they stated that L2 teaching needed to be done implicitly through experience, human interaction and travel. Despite these advancements, and until mid-20th century, we fell back to a more classical and explicit way of teaching L2 by focusing on grammar rules, on the translation of literary texts, and on the memorization of vocabulary. L2 teaching was thoroughly explicit as it focused on reading and writing, and it excluded the orality of languages. In the 60ies, with the birth of the European Union, a number of audio-lingual and audio-visual methods like the Audio-Lingual Method and the Structural Global Audio-Visual Method were created. But schools and universities remained very traditional, with an explicit focus on grammar, literature and translation. And so, in the 70ties, Hymes revolutionized the field of L2 teaching when he coined the term “communicative competence” that, he believed, should be the main aim of language education. This was a defining moment as it paved the way to the Communicative approach. In that new perspective, communicative competence would be taught implicitly through real communicative language activities embedded in authentic life situations. In the 80ies, this perspective led to the emergence of unconventional language methods which believed that a massive exposition to the L2 through reading, speaking and listening would suffice, and that there was no need to work explicitly on grammar, structures and vocabulary. But in the 90ies, given the mediocre outcomes of these methods, and the weak language skills displayed by the students who were more fluent than accurate in their use of the L2, the teaching community was reminded that Communicative Competence was comprised of four competences (linguistic, sociolinguistic, strategic and discursive) that had to be developed equally. Grammar and vocabulary had to be taught more explicitly and yet communicatively. At the same time, research started to focus on the language learners, and on their learning styles and learning strategies (Oxford, O’Malley and Chamot), and so, good language learning strategies were taught explicitly. More recently, language teachers have been encouraged to help students explicitly develop their linguistic and metalinguistic awareness. And yet, we have also entered a phase of L2 teaching which is becoming task-based and action-oriented, and where all aspects of L2 are implicit.
This historical overview of L2 teaching clearly shows that the pendulum that has been swinging from one extreme to another over the centuries should stabilize in the middle of the spectrum in order for L2 teaching to combine moments of implicit learning when learning lends itself to more natural practices (Ellis, Piccardo), and moments of explicit learning when learning needs to be conscious (Ammar et al, Folse, Vandergrift) as both yield great benefits.
@InProceedings{BESNARD2016SHO,
author = {Besnard, C.},
title = {SHOULD FOREIGN/SECOND LANGUAGES BE TAUGHT IMPLICITLY OR EXPLICITLY? HOW CAN THE PAST ENLIGHTEN THE PRESENT?},
series = {8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN16 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-8860-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2016.1946},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2016.1946},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {3966-3973}}
TY - CONF
AU - C. Besnard
TI - SHOULD FOREIGN/SECOND LANGUAGES BE TAUGHT IMPLICITLY OR EXPLICITLY? HOW CAN THE PAST ENLIGHTEN THE PRESENT?
SN - 978-84-608-8860-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1946
PY - 2016
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2016
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN16 Proceedings
SP - 3966
EP - 3973
ER -
C. Besnard (2016) SHOULD FOREIGN/SECOND LANGUAGES BE TAUGHT IMPLICITLY OR EXPLICITLY? HOW CAN THE PAST ENLIGHTEN THE PRESENT?, EDULEARN16 Proceedings, pp. 3966-3973.
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