Article | Language Teaching Methodologies

The micro-innovation article posted this week (MI Monday I Teaching English as a Foreign Language) described how Dr. Indira, a Grade 1 teacher uses different teaching aids such as pictures, phonic sounds, and songs to help students learn sounds and words that make up the English language. Teaching a language has always been a challenging task, and different teachers deploy different methods of teaching.

Children learn their first language subconsciously with relative ease and little if any stress. When all circumstances are normal, most children learn the basic structures and vocabulary of their first language within the first four years of their life. The language continues to develop through life in sophistication and complexity depending primarily on the child’s eventual level of education and use of the language in question. Generally speaking, all people are successful in the acquisition of their first language, and their speech tends to be marked by the accent and regional expressions of the area where they grow up.

Cummins (1988) in his classic work has separated language skills into two major categories of proficiency.

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) typically requires a few years to develop. This means that the language learner is able to converse about every day affairs and often appears to be a competent user of the language, being fluent and able to respond to most concrete stimuli.

However, according to Cummins,Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), the ability which allows the learner to discuss and study conceptual, academic, material in the second language takes several years longer, being the result of years of extended study in the target language.

In other words, although a person may be perfectly capable of carrying on a conversation in the target language, that same individual may not be equipped with the skills needed to study abstract concepts in the same language. That requires academic knowledge of complex sentence structures, understanding of the written and spoken rhetoric of the language, and possession of a sophisticated fine-tuned vocabulary. This level of language proficiency is attainable only through directed academic study and, therefore, can be achieved only through hard work, native speakers included.

Some Fundamental Principles Of Language Teaching And Learning Dr. Marjo Mitsutomi,School of Education,University of Redlands


While there are many instructional methods that lay guidelines on how languages should be taught, it is important to keep in mind, that language should be taught in relevant context. This means that students should not only learn about the language, but they should be given a fair chance to use the language.

The methodology used to teach a language should be based on the needs and ability of students in class. Often times, teachers will be required to tailor the methodology or even mix two methodology to create an instructional approach that works best for their students. At the end, the experience of learning a new language should be pleasant for the students and the teachers.

In this article, we have shared resources that describe different methodologies to teach a language.

Resource: Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, Diane Larsen-Freeman [PDF] – In this book, Diane Larsen-Freeman describes different language teaching methods and provides a comparison summary at the end of the book.

Resource: Principles of Communicative Language Teaching and Task-Based Instruction [PDF] – This book emphasizes the importance of using pedagogical and real-life tasks and provides guidelines along with sample lesson plans.

Resource: Summary of Principles in Language Teaching [Webpage] – This resource provides a comparative analysis of some of the popular methods for teaching languages.

Video: Diane Larsen-Freeman on Techniques & Principles in Language Teaching – In this video, Diane Larsen-Freeman explains the guiding principles for language teaching.

Video: Marti Anderson on Techniques & Principles in Language Teaching – In this video, Marti Anderson describes how teachers can compare and select the best method for teaching language.


Video: Teaching English (ESL) to children ages 3-6. Lesson 1 – In this video, Steve Peterson, an ESL teacher explains how he uses sign language to teach English to students in Japan.


Kanchan Shine

Kanchan Shine

Passionate about everything related to education. I believe that the best kind of learning happens through play, experiments and fun! I love watching how children learn and love to implement play-based, hands-on teaching approaches. I get my thrill by planning activities for my children (6 yo girl & 3 yo boy) and watching them learn while having fun!

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