What You Need to Know about a Language

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You need to know:


How the language is organised

This is divided into:

  • grammar - you need to know about vocabulary, syntax (grammar in sentences), morphology (how to make words out of parts of words; eg. 'morph' = 'form', and '-ology' = 'a science'), pronunciation and graphology (the shape of the letters and how to write them etc.). CILL has lots of materials on vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

  • text - you need to know about cohesion (how to join sentences and paragraphs to make a single text; eg. by using
    - linking words (and, but, so, therefore, etc.)
    - referencing words (this, those, he, they, it, that etc.)
    - ordering words (Firstly, Secondly, Next, Lastly (NOT 'at last')
    CILL materials on this include 'The Process of Composition Writing', writing shelf, upper-intermediate level; and 'Technical Writing and Professional Communication', pages 408 - 426, career English shelf, upper-intermediate level.

How native speakers use the language

This is divided into:

  • how to use the language in social situations - you need to know about
    - the culture of the native speakers
    - slang and idioms; (see; eg. 'Idioms Workbook', vocabulary shelf, upper-intermediate level)
    - what is natural speech (see our Function index)
    - different accents (eg. a London accent)
    - varieties (British English, American English etc.) (see the 'British / American Dictionary', dictionary shelf, intermediate level).
    - register (politeness, formality, and suitable language for a situation)

  • knowing how to describe the world in the language - you need to know about how to use the language to describe the world and your ideas about it (see the Function index).

Useful materials in CILL on culture are:

  • for listening - 'Britain Now 2', listening shelf, upper-intermediate level
  • for reading - 'Changing Class Attitudes', reading shelf, upper-intermediate level
  • for vocabulary - 'A Way with Words Book 3', vocabulary shelf, upper-intermediate level and 'An A-Z of British Life', dictionary shelf, intermediate level.
  • for American culture - 'International Issues American', integrated skills shelf, upper-intermediate level

How to communicate in the language

This is how to take part in communication in the language. You need to know, for example:

  • about gestures that are acceptable and unacceptable tothe native speakers,

  • about body language,

  • how to plan what you want to say in a conversation,

  • how to take turns in a conversation,

  • how to repair a problem in a conversation (such as asking for a repeat or a paraphrase) and

  • how to finish a conversation politely.

Useful materials in CILL for this are:

  • 'Say the Word' - speaking shelf, elementary level

  • 'Now You're Talking' - speaking shelf, early-intermediate level

  • 'Speaking Solutions' - speaking shelf, intermediate level

(Adapted from: Bachman, Lyle (1990) Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing Oxford: Oxford University Press)


Last updated on: Wednesday, May 29, 2013