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In recent years, several debates have been held to discuss the right approach to structuring, preparing, and applying lessons. After much debate, one of the findings that have been reached is that task-based language instruction has proven to be a realistic solution to such learning. Task-based language instruction is a communicative method derivative and a second language learning review. Following various debates on the aspects of language learning and acquisition, it is clear that, with proper organization and established parameters, the different communicative learning practices could lead to a better acquisition, especially of the second language (Long, 2016). Thus, task-based learning can be said to focus mainly on the use of authentic language that involves the engagement of meaningful tasks. This paper analyzes different literature on the issue of task-based language teaching from the contributions of various authors while equally determining the similarities and differences between the different kinds of research.
For long periods now, a significant majority of learners and teachers have majorly engaged in the traditional textbook-based style of learning, which in most instances has only prepared students for the standardized language tests. From the application of conventional textbook-based approach, the outcome has been not only the bored nature of the learners and their teachers but also the loss of willingness to effective communication in the study language as attributed to a problematic approach (Nourzad Haradasht & Baradaran, 2013). A contrast to such a scenario is the application of the task-based language teaching, a concept that in-depth research has found to be a needs-based approach to learning, involving the use of authentic texts, and an interactive format of communication (Calvert & Sheen, 2015). Whereas research states that the various activities performed by students while in the classroom settings are termed tasks, it is critical to note that task-based language learning approach establishes a focus on the concentration to content to aid in the development of second language proficiency (Long, 2016).
Acquisition of the second language has been the focus of most studies in the field of languages. Despite being a young field of study, there has been an intense research focusing on the development of advanced understanding and practical contribution towards instructed language learning, Task-based language teaching is a practical student-centred approach to the instruction of acquiring the second language. As a sub-branch of the communicative approach to effective learning, task-based language teaching integrates the completion of meaningful tasks during the learning process, most especially on the situations encountered by the learners in the real world perspective as well as other project-based assignments (Mudra, 2016). One essential element about the task-based language teaching is the fact that the focus shifts to students, thus allowing them the opportunity of realization that language in its proper application is an effective tool towards effective tackling and resolution of real-world problems.
The learning process in itself equips students with essential skills on ways of interacting and working within groups, negotiation of meaning, and asking questions for enhanced understanding. Acquisition of such skills is necessary towards success in the real world, regardless of the language used in a particular place. While mechanical drills that are associated with traditional language learning techniques still apply such as in the learning of highly inflected languages, task-based language learning moves from such mechanical drills to focus on the use of appropriate language at the desired time, as well as an in-depth, interactive communication process (Long, 2016). Whenever questions arise on language, one of the most common responses that a linguist would provide is an element related to speaking (Nourzad Haradasht & Baradaran, 2013). From such a perspective, it is evident that, to many people, speaking stands as an essential activity of language, though a majority of people still face numerous with it. Such an aspect is of vital importance because people’s knowledge of the language is usually judged based on their proficiency and competence of their speaking on a particular target language. Besides, among the four skills taught to students on language, speaking proves to be the most demanding, thus the reason for most people’s focus towards it.
Ideally, a learner’s ability to speak indicates the success attributed to the learning and teaching processes in the classroom contexts. Attribution of speaking as a productive skill is a motivation towards a further indulgence in the acquisition of second language (Long, 2016).
Research has shown that the reading skill in a foreign language is increasingly gaining importance lately. One viable concern that comes to mind is whether task-based language teaching can help in bridging such a need. The task is the core concept in the second language research as well as in language teaching. Task-based language teaching involves the use of tasks as the central units both for the planning and instruction in the learning of language. According to Calvert & Sheen (2015), the use of task-based language teaching approach assists the learners in making real communication efforts in the best possible means while learning foreign languages. Ideally, task-based instruction in its use for purposeful communication in the actual world use of language, establishes a meaning-focused approach, thus enhancing understanding (Mudra, 2016). Based on such a perspective, it is critical that language can then be transferred to the various real-world activities and tasks that are readily applicable in the classroom context. Task-based language teaching in such a case alters the classroom setting into a real-world situation requiring the use of language for both authentic materials and communication (Calvert & Sheen, 2015).
Teaching and learning processes have usually taken a single monotonous approach and method of study as is the case with most teachers of English. However, for an effective learning process in a speaking course, there is a need for inclusion of a constructive and communicative method, which task-based language learning usually brings into play. Task-based language teaching is an effective approach towards the enhancement of students’ speaking skills. The importance of listening cannot be underestimated in task-based language teaching considering that listening skills are as good as speaking skills. Indeed, speaking in itself does not constitute communication unless that which is spoken is efficiently comprehended by another individual (Mudra, 2016). To reach the aim of communication, comprehension of spoken speech becomes of primary importance to the learning process.
For students to learn to speak, they must in the first instance learn to comprehend that which they hear efficiently. The scenario becomes of much higher importance, especially when second language acquisition is involved. Proper and effective communication with native speakers, therefore, demands that students learn to understand enough of real language situations for the comprehension of the gist of what the speakers say (Long, 2016).
Speaking remains as one of the essential language activity, and which perhaps remains the most problematic skill as well. Most people judge other people’s language competence and proficiency based on how well such an individual’s performance on the target language, and usually ignored in the classroom setting. Despite such considerations, it is evidently clear that speaking still stands as the most difficult skill to master (Liton & Ali, 2011). Mastery of oral proficiency happens for varied reasons among the task-based language learners. While some use it to keep up a rapport in relationships, others do it for influencing others, win or even lose negotiations. The application of the different forms and tasks involving the use of an oral activity, most especially in the classroom settings requires the maximization in the learning of this particular highly cognitive skill involving different mechanisms (Nourzad Haradasht, P & Baradaran, 2013).
The different teaching and learning modalities, as well as personality variables, remain a consideration in the enhancement of task-based language teaching within the various classroom settings. Over the past decades, task-based language learning has become the attraction of many people within the sector of second language acquisition; from researchers to educationalists, teacher trainers and language teachers among others. Mudra 2016), in writing gives support of giving functional tasks for students during their learning processes as a means of inviting their focus to stand primarily on the exchange of meaning and real-world use of language. Comprehension reading is another skill considered to be of vital importance in the learning of foreign languages. In the nations in which foreign language learners lack the opportunity of interaction with the native speakers reading becomes an essential skill for use when the foreign language speakers can get access to the written form of the language (Liton, 2013). Similarly, task-based language learning and teaching processes make reading a critical factor of consideration.
Previously, language teachers used reading as a mechanism for teaching vocabulary and grammar. However, today, reading has become more of a communicative process, with the reading for meaning aspect being the core object of the process (Long, 2014). Largely, reading is considered a pleasurable activity, source of information, and a means of extending one’s knowledge and proficiency of language. It is critical that in task-based language teaching there should be purpose and challenge, lest reading and teaching pose the danger of taking the place of void. In such instances, task-based language teaching must design tasks that provide contexts for both the written and spoken texts (Haradasht & Baradaran, 2013). Developing of tasks is essential in the provision of challenge or purpose valuable in learning activities amongst themselves in the provision of context, thus making reading and listening meaning-focused activities (Gilabert, 2016). Reading and listening with a purpose in them enhance learning and teaching activities.
While the above discussed points given by the different literature give accounts of the most essential elements towards the enhancement of task-based language teaching and learning, little research has touched on the uniform account of how instruction works in the facilitation of language learning. Ideally, there has been great controversy on the particular approach that instruction should take in the facilitation role of language learning. While one side of the discussion states that instruction for language learning is based on traditional focus-on-forms approach, involving the systematic teaching of grammatical features as per the structural syllabus, a different perspective; the focus-on-form approach involves attention to linguistics features in the context of communicative activities (Long, 2014). Such complexities provide a reflection on the aspect of enquiry. Moreover, the controversies bring a difficulty in the making of attempts to formulate the general principles of instructed language enquiry (Liton & Ali, 2011).
Based on the consideration that task-based language teaching remains critical towards foreign language acquisition, it is important to establish certain set of generalizations, which would then work as the foundation towards language teaching. Collentine (2016), on the same perspective states clearly that successful task-based language teaching requires some steps. The first stage is the pre-task activity, which involves the language instructor explaining what the task cycle involves and the post-review stages. If in the lowest levels, the first stage involves reviewing the vocabulary and key concepts in grammar, for both reading and listening. The second stage is following the actual task cycle, which the students complete task within small groups with instruction only limited to instances in which students seem to be going astray (International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 2009). Once the students have successfully completed the tasks, the third stage comes into action, which involves the end to classroom work and the presentation of work in a certain format or fashion. Performing of such tasks involves the use of dialogues and skits while equally sharing their written stories and other contributions with the classmates. In instances of available time and vision for the tasks, students could participate in certain peer assessment tasks, an aspect that confirms the students pay attention to the classmates’ presentations (Shaban & Ghasemi, 2014). The final stage involves giving of relevant tasks in the form of assignments for the students to successful complete. Such a stage is important in providing a reflective perspective and self-critique of what they have previously learnt.
Calvert & Sheen (2015), in their study focused on the students’ ability to effectively communicate while also making viable descriptions of the finished and unfinished tasks. While many people despise it, the concept of task remains critical component in the designing of syllabus, teaching in the classroom and in learner assessment (Shaban & Ghasemi, 2014). The task activity is one performed in the processing and language understanding perspectives. Considering that tasks could either engage or fail to engage the production of language, the activity demands that language teachers must therefore specify what would be termed a successful completion of task. The more the use of a variety of different kinds of tasks while teaching language, the more the session becomes communicative and interactive, which is ideally the essence of having task-based learning (Gilabert, 2016). The application of task-based language teaching intends to result in language use with the bearing of both direct and indirect resemblance with the use of language in real-world scenarios (Long, 2016). Similar to the case with other activities of language, tasks ensure a constant engagement of productive or the receptive of oral and written skills in certain cognitive processes. It is however, important to state categorically that a task in its solitary state, never guarantees any success in the execution perspective, unless the facilitator has an in-depth understanding on the workings of the task in the classroom setting.
Having task-based learning as an instructional method involves more than just giving of tasks to the language learners and evaluating them over the same, rather, the teacher with the mandate of performing such a task must have sufficient knowledge on the instructional framework in relation to the particular plan of implementation (Salimi & Fatollahnejad, 2012). When it comes to issues of instruction in task-based language teaching, one question that comes is one that seeks to determine the most appropriate means of ensuring that instruction ascertains successful language learning. It is obvious that finding an appropriate answer to such a question is never easy considering the numerous theories that compete in offering the varied perspectives on the use of instruction for the improvement of language learning (Ellis, 2005). It is evident that such an occurrence is common as the previously performed empirical research does not offer any clear findings on such a research (Ellis, 2005). Based on such incidences, it is important that these kind of studies focus on the identifying the general principles from both theory and research that would work in providing guideline for the use by designers of language curricula.
It is evident that the current research results fail to provide the viable and definitive specification on the approach to teaching language, most especially on task-based language learning. From such a viewpoint, it is critical that the principles attributed to instruction in teaching language be viewed as provisional specifications, which can then be tried and carried out by teachers in the individual teacher contexts (Collentine, 2016). Unlike the other teaching methods that apply passive methods, task-based language teaching is an active approach to learning. As such, the teacher should be in a position of taking the role of an expert and knower in allowing of relevant discussions and offering the necessary support to the learners whenever needed. Despite such an approach, it is equally important that task-based learning have a structural hierarchy. The teacher’s role remains of vital importance as the most privileged converser. As the in-charge, the teacher should ensure that the learners are motivated well enough to spend their intensive energies in terminating of the different tasks given (Long, 2015).
From the critical analysis of the various kinds of literature, it is evident that different authors discuss and analyze task-based language teaching from various perspectives. While there are cases in which different authors offer similar thoughts in addressing task-based language learning, there are certain instances in which differences in opinion emerge. Ellis, 2005), (Shaban & Ghasemi, 2014), and Calvert & Sheen, 2015) all address the importance of instruction in task-based language learning. In each instance, the authors bring different perspectives on how instruction could be used to help improve the language learning dynamics. Similarly, (Ellis, 2005), (Collentine, K. 2016), (Long, 2015), and (Long, 2014) all address the issue of task-based language teaching from the aspect of a second language. Learning a second language is an uphill task to many and as such the appropriate means of ensuring success in learning the languages requires an in-depth engagement of tasks during the learning sessions. The involvement of tasks ensures that both written and oral mastery of foreign language becomes easy as the tasks bring more communication and interaction among the learners.
Shaban & Ghasemi (2014) in their case bring about the social and behavioural perspectives in the study of languages and how such aspects play influential roles in enhancing a faster learning process for students and interaction is advanced to include emotions. Salimi & Fatollahnejad (2012), state that the effectiveness of task-based language teaching involves strategic planning and ensuring that certain procedures are properly followed as they ensure an in-depth understanding of the concepts. From all the literature, it is evident that with the current developments, task-based language teaching is critical, especially in the classroom setting for learners to have better informative and interactive sessions with their teachers and with the languages being learnt.
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Salimi, A., &Fatollahnejad, S. (2012). The effects of strategic planning and topic familiarity on iranian intermediate EFL learners' written performance in TBLT. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(11), 2308.
Shabani, M. B., &Ghasemi, A. (2014).The effect of task-based language teaching (TBLT) and content-based langu age teaching (CBLT) on the Iranian intermediate ESP learners’ reading comprehension.Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98, 1713-1721.
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