Task-Based Language Learning
I would rather have a conversation.
I would rather spend time, you know, acquiring information, listening to interesting podcasts and then talk about what I've been listening to and reading. Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here and today I want to talk about task-based language learning. Uh, remember if you enjoy these videos, please subscribe, click on the bell for notifications. Uh, if you follow me on a podcast service, uh, please leave a review. I do appreciate it. So task-based language learning. The really, the reason I raise this subject is because I realized just how important it is in language learning to have specific tasks. Um, I noticed this, that if I assign myself a task or if I feel an obligation to do something, or if someone assigns a task to me, then I'm likely to do it simply because it's, it's easy to have a task. If my wife says, you know, chop these vegetables. Okay, chop the vegetables. It's, it helps it's, you don't have to kind of think what should I be doing now?
You have a task, and the same with language learning. So first thing in the morning, uh, typically I'll listen to a podcast and then I'll try and grab the URL if it's on YouTube and somehow get an MP3 file so that I can get it transcribed. So now I've got this task that's developing, I'm listening to this podcast.
I'm, I've got the transcript. I'm studying a transcript onLingQ without even having to think about it. I have this task that I have to do. Um, if my tutor worked to assign me a task, here are three lessons I want you to read them. I want you to save words and phrases or, uh, when we're on our 90-Day Challenge, I'm trying to keep to a certain level in terms of LingQs created are words known. These are very specific things over and above my general interest in the language, specific tasks that help get me going and like so much in life, life it's important to get going. It's important to do something. If you do something, it leads to other things. So tasks I think are very important to keep us, you know, going forward in our language learning activities. But when you say task-based language learning, if you Google for it, you'll find a different definition. And that task-based language instruction is a method of language instruction, where as I understand it, um, the learner is asked to perform a task in the language, uh, not to worry about grammar structures or vocabulary and to incorporate, you know, hand gestures or whatever in order to accomplish a task in the language. Now, I, I don't know whether this is an effective way of teaching the language. To me, it's a little artificial. Uh, it's a bit like this role playing thing, which I also don't particularly like. I would rather have a conversation.
I would rather spend time, you know, acquiring information, listening to interesting podcasts, and then talk about what I've been listening to and reading and sort of gradually see my vocabulary increase, my comprehension level increase. I'm not that interested in, in engaging in these artificial activities.
The, uh, one example of the application of this task-based language instruction, and of course in the field of language instruction there are all kinds of, you know, the latest, you know, fad, uh, as I see it, uh... I'm with Krashen, I think language instruction comes down to comprehensible, compelling input, massive listening and reading, allowing the brain to get used to the language and everything else is kind of refinements, which are either interesting or not very interesting, but maybe not all that necessary.
One application is in Canada we have a thing called the 12 language benchmarks, which again yet another way of grading people's language skills. So we have TOEFL and TOEIC and IELTS and Cambridge. So there's another one, Canadian Language Benchmarks. There are 12 levels and each level tries to describe in terms of, you know, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing, you know, what the person's level is.
Well, level one, they can't do much. So, you know, can hardly say anything. Okay, that's level one. Level two, can hardly say anything, but can say a little more than level one. In other words, all of the detailed description of what this person is able to do is relatively meaningless to me. The person is gradually getting better, hopefully, and there are no clear, you know, demarcation lines between level three and level four and five. That's why beginner, intermediate and advanced is pretty good because it's simple. It's a fluid thing. It's not like there are steps like this that we go through and we may be progressing more quickly in comprehension, not as quickly in speaking or writing, or we may not even bother with writing.
And so trying to say that at each, you know, benchmark level here is a clear definition of what this person can do. Now, the reason for this is that for this Canadian Language Benchmark system, they, they hope that, um, immigrants, for example, can demonstrate the ability to perform, uh, tasks related to being a clerk, uh, you know, in a supermarket or a receptionist at a hotel, uh, jobs that are considered to be less demanding when it comes to language.
You know, jobs that immigrants could easily fill once they achieved that level. Now of course, here again, uh, I have, uh, met many checkout clerks at supermarkets, many of whom are immigrants, they all speak quite well. I mean, the, the ones that are good at it, they can actually entertain conversations on different subjects.
I don't think it's that useful to try to just train yourself on the limited number of words you need for that. A receptionist at a hotel even more. So I think it's far better to focus on improving your overall level in the language, acquiring more words, doing more listening and reading and not pretending that just because you act out certain roles or certain tasks that that's going to prepare you for that task. You're better to continue to improve your comprehension through lots of listening and reading. And if you have that base, even if when you start in a particular job, you struggle. If you have that comprehension, you have the vocabulary you will eventually improve. And it really doesn't matter. You know where you are, theoretically in the sort of steps of the 12 language benchmarks, what matters is, how do we get the, get the person?
How do we encourage that person? How do we make it easier for that person to continue to improve and get better and better? And I'm not sure that the sort of Canadian Language Benchmark task-based instruction is the way to go. On the other hand, assigning yourself tasks like doing a lot of listening and reading and speaking is probably going to get you there sooner.
So maybe a little bit controversial. I'm sure I'll get some pushback from professional language teachers. Okay. Thanks for listening. Bye.