There is no single universal truth about the best way to teach or learn. Some parts of the jigsaw are more widely accepted than others and might be described as clear principles or truths. However, there are many other areas that remain unproven and are perhaps unprovable, and so many choices that teachers make can be described as no more than beliefs.  Our own approach to teaching and our ideas about learning are a mixture of both principles and beliefs.

As with most teachers and trainers, our ideas stem from a variety of sources. There’s our own experience as students at school and as language learners; there’s the training we have received; there are the books about ELT and applied linguistics that we have read and thought about; and there’s our experience as teachers, trainers, and materials writers. In addition, there are occasionally influences from outside the world of ELT. If we are to be coherent in our approach or if we want to change or develop as teachers, one core belief is that we need to articulate what principles and beliefs we hold at the present time. Once articulated, we may find we are not really following them; once discussed, we might decide they are flawed and should be changed.

In this series, then, each post aims to explain one core principle or belief. There will be a short explanation of what this principle or belief is based on. We shall then suggest a limited number of ways this might (not) be reflected in teaching and learning. Finally, we invite you to comment. You may expand on or disagree with what we have written.

4 Language is patterned

We have already see that one problem with the grammar + words view of language is that words are difficult to define, but the same could equally said of grammar on its own. In the case of Pinker’s book, Words…

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3 Language is norm orientated

This use of the word norms here is inspired by Patrick Hanks’ recent book, Norms and Exploitations. It’s just the latest in a large number of articles, books and theories which have tried to account for the fact that despite…

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2 Words are difficult to define

We recently had an email about the text on one part of our website, where this question was asked - "Should it be language is the building blocks or language is the building block?" It’s a good question to lead…

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1 Lexis is more important than grammar

Absolutely central to lexical teaching is a view of language. A starting point on the road towards understanding this view is the commonly stated observation that without grammar you can say little, but without vocabulary you can say nothing. Take…

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