The activities in a language course can be classified into the four strands of meaning-focused input (learning through listening and reading), meaning-focused output (learning through speaking and writing), language-focused learning and fluency development. The four strands principle applies to the learning of vocabulary in the same way that it applies to the learning of grammar, and to the learning of the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. We need to learn vocabulary through all the four strands. Meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, and fluency development activities are all communicative activities where we are involved in understanding and producing messages. The basic requirement of these communicative activities is that we are working at a level of difficulty which is suitable for our present level of proficiency.

The deliberate learning of vocabulary involves deliberately studying unknown words (preferably through the use of bilingual word cards), deliberately focusing on vocabulary with the help of a teacher or a dictionary as when doing intensive reading, getting feedback on our spoken and written production, and deliberately learning strategies such as guessing from context, using word cards, analysing words into word parts, and dictionary use.

We can apply the four strands in the same way to the learning of the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Because three of the strands involve communicative activities, the major differences between the learning of listening, speaking, reading and writing come from the focus on input (listening and reading) or output (speaking and writing), and particularly on the ways of doing deliberate learning for each of the four language skills.

Deliberate learning activities are typically the kinds of activities we think about when we think of how to learn another language. However, deliberate learning is only one strand of a well-balanced course and should take up no more than one-quarter of the total time in a course.

This article is provided by Christian Lingua.

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