Doing task-based language teaching with beginner-level learners


A common misconception is that it is not possible to do task-based language teaching with beginner level language learners. This misconception stems from the mistaken belief that TBLT necessarily involves putting learners into small groups to perform speaking tasks. In fact, TBLT is possible with beginner level learners if the tasks are input-based. In this talk, I will define input-based tasks, provide some examples, and illustrate how they can be implemented in ways that foster language learning. I will also report two studies by Erlam and Ellis (2018a; 2018b) that illustrate the use of input-based tasks with school-level learners and discuss the teacher’s response to this way of teaching beginners. The talk will conclude with some suggestions of how TBLT for beginners can be complemented with more traditional types of activities in ways that maximise the benefits of both incidental and intentional language learning.


This study aimed, firstly, to investigate the effect of input-based tasks on the acquisition of vocabulary and grammar by beginner-level learners of L2 French and, secondly, to report on the introduction of Task-based teaching as an innovation in a state secondary school. Students in the Experimental group (n = 19) completed a series of focused input-based language tasks, taught by their teacher, over 2 lessons. These were designed to draw their attention to markers of plurality in French but at no stage did students receive any explicit instruction/explanation of these features. Tests established that these beginner level learners of French did acquire receptive knowledge of new vocabulary and target structures in comparison with a Control group (n = 15) which completed the tests only. The teacher was able to successfully implement the tasks designed by the researchers. She considered the materials effective but also suggested how they could be improved.



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