Unit 27. Identifying the functions of learners’ language

Learners need a set of phrases, vocabulary and expressions that help get effective communication. This is done through interaction both with the teacher and with their peers.

Learners need vocabulary to get the teacher’s attention, go to to toilette, ask for vocabulary or the meaning of a word; asking how to say a given word in English.

Among some of the functions of learner’s language we can identify:


Asking for clarification.

Checking information and understanding

Saying goodbye

Appropriacy must be taught. The language learners use might be formal or informal, depending on the context in which it happens.

Our learners need to understand the classroom language of the teacher. They need to be able to understand instructions for class activities, and should be able to ask for clarification when needed. This language is not usually taught in their textbooks, but it is an essential part of learning English.

Here are eight examples of learner language. Which function does each one express?

A Can you say that again, please?

B I don’t have the same answer

C See you tomorrow

D Is it page 25 or 35?

E What do you think?

F Yes, I totally agree with you

G Well, I think this is the best answer

H Hi!

If you thought that A was asking for repetition, you were right. Disagreeing and saying goodbye for B & C respectively works too! Asking for clarification for D and asking for an opinion for E shows you are in the right track. Agreeing for F and Offering an opinion for G as well as greeting for H finishes the list.

Observe an English class. Listen to the students’ language. What functions can you identify? Do you think they have the necessary vocabulary to survive in the English class? What about reading this Unit 28 Learner_Language?

Use the TKT Glossary to find the meaning of these terms: hesitate, respond.

Further reading: Unit 28 Second-Language-Stages and Learner_Language.


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