a leak of insight: the ‘task’ of language learning

To achieve the benefits of task-based practice, we must first accept that language develops not as accretion of discrete bits of knowledge but through a series of holistic experiences.

That holism also translates into the development of language education programs. Thus, just as task instantiates and facilitates the organic interaction of form, meaning, and function, so too do task-based programs enable learning on the basis of a holistic educational ecology wherein curriculum, instruction, assessment, and other processes interact to bring about learning.

Though challenging, this vision of task-based language learning offers one comprehensive alternative to the status quo. That alternative may help us realize a language education practice that is valuable to a variety of discourse communities, the language learners who need and want to interact with them, and the language teaching profession whose job it is to facilitate their doing so.

– John Norris: Task Based Teaching and Testing

Can knowledge be learned independently of its use, of its application?  Can we build up bits and bits of the kaleidescopic array of ‘language’ and, piecing it together in one grand moment, use it as we interact with the overflowing varieties of human experience? Or rather, is it in action, in the ‘doing,’ whereby the organic flowering of linguistic ability begins to flourish? If we want to become proficient in a language, what as learners should we conceive of language learning to be? And what as teachers of a language should we ask ourselves we are trying to do?

Communicating is a fundamental fact of human cultures, and learning to communicate – learning to use language to do things – in another language offers considerable value from instrumental, aesthetic, moral, cognitive, and other perspectives. A basic question that must be answered by all language educators, then, is “what do our learners learn how to do, and how do they learn to do it”?

Resources used in this post:

Norris, John (2009) Task based teaching and testing, Chapter 30. In The Handbook of Language Teaching (eds.) Michael H. Long and Catherine J. Doughty.

The featured image is a painting by the Californian artist Drew Brophy

I can’t find the source for the ‘tree in the library’ picture for the life of me, if you know, let me know:)

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