The Culture of Language Education. Foreign Language Teaching in Diverse Instructional Contexts

by Hanna Komorowska (Author) Jarosław Krajka (Author)
©2020 Monographs 316 Pages
Series: Gdańsk Studies in Language, Volume 16


The book aims to demonstrate the diverse shapes that foreign language teaching and learning can have in various educational contexts, in terms of age groups (children, adolescents and adults), learning purposes (general language instruction vs. language for specific purposes) and instructional paradigms (language-oriented, interaction-oriented and post-method approaches). Special attention is paid to such key concepts in language teaching as motivation, auto-nomy, evaluation and assessment. This book tries to merge the macroperspec-tive, founded on such aspects of language instruction as defining competence, setting aims and objectives, developing curricula, planning lessons and evaluating learners’ performance in general terms, with the microperspective of Poland as a place in which language instruction is run and whose specific problems are to be solved.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Basic Terminology
  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER ONE First Language Acquisition: A Fundament of Language Education
  • 1.1 Theories, stages and processes in L1 acquisition
  • 1.2 Supporting first language development
  • 1.3 Language and identity
  • 1.3.1 L1 and identity
  • 1.3.2 The dominant language and identity
  • 1.4 Implications for second and foreign language acquisition and learning
  • 1.4.1 Language acquisition and learning: An ability or effort?
  • 1.4.2 L1 in the process of L2 acquisition and learning
  • CHAPTER TWO Aims and Objectives of Language Teaching
  • 2.1 Which language variety to teach: From EFL to EILF
  • 2.2 What does it mean to be proficient in a foreign language?
  • 2.3 Communication in a foreign language as one of the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning and 21st Century Skills
  • 2.4 Developing L2 identity
  • CHAPTER THREE Theories and Methods of Language Teaching
  • 3.1 Theories of language acquisition
  • 3.2 Defining and evaluating approaches and methods
  • 3.2.1 Language-oriented methods
  • 3.2.2 Interaction-oriented methods
  • 3.2.3 Learner-oriented methods
  • 3.2.4 The post-method era
  • CHAPTER FOUR Course Planning, Curriculum Construction and Syllabus Design: Supporting Foreign Language Acquisition Across Age Groups in the School Context
  • 4.1 Teaching children and adolescents
  • 4.1.1 Curriculum development and syllabus design in courses for children and adolescents
  • 4.1.2 Lesson planning in a Young Learner and adolescent classroom
  • 4.2 Teaching adults
  • 4.2.1 Curriculum development and syllabus design in courses for adults
  • 4.2.2 Lesson planning in an adult classroom
  • Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP)
  • Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment (OHE)
  • Authentic use, Restricted use and Clarification and focus (ARC)
  • Task-based model (TBT)
  • 4.3 Evaluating curricula, syllabuses and courses
  • 4.4 Evaluating coursebooks
  • CHAPTER FIVE From General Language Acquisition to Specific Language Teaching
  • 5.1 General English courses vs. Languages for Specific Purposes
  • 5.1.1 Similarities and differences between EGP and ESP courses
  • 5.1.2 Views on the relation between general English and specialized languages
  • 5.1.3 Language competence in a Business English as a Lingua Franca setting
  • 5.1.4 Branches of LSP
  • 5.1.5 Characteristic features of LSP classrooms
  • 5.2 Needs analysis
  • 5.2.1 The rationale for needs analysis and characteristics of the process
  • 5.2.2 Types of needs diagnosed in the classroom
  • 5.2.3 Methods and tools of needs analysis
  • 5.2.4 Requirements for a properly conducted needs analysis
  • CHAPTER SIX Summative and Formative Evaluation
  • 6.1 A historical perspective on assessment and testing
  • 6.2 Summative evaluation
  • 6.2.1 Terminological difficulties
  • 6.2.2 Ethical issues in summative evaluation and language testing
  • 6.2.3 Controversies over summative evaluation procedures
  • 6.2.4 Criticism of summative evaluation
  • 6.3 Formative evaluation
  • 6.3.1 Theoretical foundations of formative evaluation
  • 6.3.2 Formative evaluation: Practical issues
  • 6.3.3 Classroom assessment techniques: CATs
  • 6.4 Summative or formative vs. summative and formative evaluation
  • CHAPTER SEVEN Towards Quality in Language Learning and Teaching: Motivation and Autonomy
  • 7.1 Teacher’s competences, styles and strategies
  • 7.1.1 Language teacher’s competences
  • 7.1.2 Teaching styles: From the autocratic to the laissez-faire classroom
  • 7.1.3 A shift in concept of a teacher in the classroom: The past and the present
  • 7.1.4 Teacher roles in the contemporary language classroom
  • 7.2 Motivation in language learning and teaching
  • 7.2.1 Basic concepts
  • 7.2.2 Learner motivation
  • 7.2.3 Teacher motivation
  • 7.3 Autonomy in learning and teaching
  • 7.3.1 Basic concepts
  • 7.3.2 Learner autonomy
  • 7.3.3 Teacher autonomy
  • 7.3.4 Controversial issues and basic questions
  • CHAPTER EIGHT Innovation in Language Education: Spotlight on Poland
  • 8.1 Trends in the European language policy
  • 8.1.1 Language Awareness programmes
  • 8.1.2 Whole School Language Learning programmes
  • 8.1.3 Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
  • 8.1.4 Intercomprehension
  • 8.2 European trends as reflected in Polish language education
  • 8.2.1 Difficult beginnings: Foreign language teaching in Poland in the past
  • 8.2.2 The impact of the European language policy: The Council of Europe
  • 8.2.3 The impact of the European policy: The European Union
  • 8.2.4 Language education in Poland today
  • 8.3 Innovation in Polish language education
  • 8.3.1 Integrating new technologies: eTwinning1
  • 8.3.2 Promoting social inclusion in formal, informal and nonformal education: European Language Label
  • 8.4 Problems to be solved and strategies for the future
  • General Conclusions
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • References
  • Series Index

Basic Terminology

Terminology used in publications in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and Foreign Language Learning and Teaching (FLLT) differs across texts and authors. In order to prevent any misunderstandings, it seems worthwhile to explain both terms and acronyms which will be used in the present text.

The first terms to be presented here are ACQUISITION and LEARNING – a distinction introduced by Krashen (1981) to stress the difference between contexts of language appropriation and the processes involved.

ACQUISITION is considered to be subconscious and informal, that is the person exposed to the language is not necessarily aware of his or her cognitive processes as they take place in natural, everyday settings in the course of contact with speakers of that language.

LEARNING is considered to be conscious and formal, that is the person learning a language is fully aware of his or her cognitive processes as contact with the language takes place during a planned language course, at lessons with a teacher who introduces the new material, organizes guided language practice in the course of an educational process supported by coursebooks, dictionaries, supplementary materials including a variety of visual and auditory teaching aids or new technologies. Learning outcomes are often measured through examination and testing with appropriate certification provided.

THE FIRST LANGUAGE (L1) is the one chronologically the earliest in the life of the speaker, which means it is acquired in early childhood in a natural, situational and communicative context. It is also referred to as the mother tongue, yet this term is more and more often treated as politically incorrect considering the role of the father and other adult members of the same family and the community, therefore the term native language is now more widely used. Depending on the speaker’s family situation as well as on his or her educational and professional mobility, the first language may remain dominant, though this may change if contact with the language is lost or if the status of the language is not considered high enough to satisfy the needs of the speaker. Children exposed to both languages from very early childhood, for example infants born in mixed marriages where both parents use their native languages in family communication, are usually considered to have two first languages.

DOMINANT LANGUAGE is the strongest language of the individual and the one which is most readily used if the situation does not require the use of any other in which the individual can communicate.

←11 | 12→

HOME LANGUAGE (HL) is a language spoken in the household. Most often it is the first language of both parents or of one of them, though sometimes parents decide to use a language which is not the first language of either of them, for example the language of the country in which they met and spent several years before moving to the present address or the dominant language of the country of their residence.

THE SECOND LANGUAGE (L2 or SL) is the language acquired or learned later than the native language, which makes it chronologically the second one. Languages acquired or learned after L2 are in consequence referred to as THE THIRD LANGUAGE, THE FOURTH LANGUAGE, THE FIFTH LANGUAGE (L3, L4, L5) etc. – especially if the order of the languages rather than the type of contact with the language is considered important. More often the term THE SECOND LANGUAGE is used to refer to the language acquired subconsciously, implicitly and informally through exposure, especially when the first language is spoken at home while the child is exposed to another language in the street, in kindergarten or at school. In educational institutions, however, regular conscious and formal learning, rich in explicit explanations, is also introduced, which means that at some point in the life of the speaker both acquisition and learning take place in the process of developing proficiency in a given second language.

SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION (SLA) is the process of acquiring a chronologically second language in a natural, communicative context, though the same term is used to refer to the field of research and study related to processes and contexts of appropriating new languages.

SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING (SLL) is the process of consciously learning a chronologically second language, for example in school which uses this language as a medium of instruction or in the process of self-instruction.

SECOND LANGUAGE TEACHING (SLT) refers to the instruction offered to learners whose first language, often their home language, is different from the language of the community in which they live. Second language teaching can take place in state schools, in language schools or at private lessons, which guarantees maximum exposure to the new language.

THE LANGUAGE OF SCHOOLING (LS) is a term resulting from a distinction between the first language, home language and a second language. It is the language through the medium of which formal education in schools is offered. In monolingual countries, the language of schooling is usually also the first language of the students. More and more often, however, due to increasing mobility, the language of schooling is different from the home language and is, in fact, the second language of the school learners, a situation typical of the ←12 | 13→linguistic position of migrants. In linguistically more complex situations, the school language can be a third or a fourth language of the child.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE (FL, for example English as a foreign language EFL) is a language learned consciously, formally, explicitly, usually during contact hours specifically offered to present a new language in a systematic way planned for a particular language course taught by a professional instructor with the aid of materials designed for this purpose. The language course is geared towards precisely identified educational objectives to develop linguistic knowledge, skills and competences which are later tested and certified. The learning most often, though not necessarily, takes place in a community speaking another language which is their L1 and for that reason exposure to the new language outside the language course is minimal, which distinguishes it from a second language (L2).

FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING (FLL) is the process of conscious and formal development of language knowledge, skills, and competences in the course of contact hours under the guidance of a teacher or during self-instruction.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING is the process of instruction at formal language courses organized by state or private institutions offering language classes or taking place at lessons taught by individual tutors during one-to-one sessions. When learners’ communicative needs are well-defined, foreign language teaching concentrates on selected skills or competences useful in situations of future language use. If situations of future language use are unknown, teaching is geared towards a variety of balanced skills and competences.

GENERAL LANGUAGE (GL, for example General English – GE) or LANGUAGE FOR GENERAL PURPOSES (LGP) means the language taught with no particular situations of future use in mind.

LANGUAGE FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES (LSP, for example English for Specific Purposes/ESP) means language taught with particular, well-defined situations of use in mind. In the teaching of English, we speak of ENGLISH FOR ACADEMIC PURPOSES (EAP), BUSINESS ENGLISH (BE), MEDICAL ENGLISH etc.

Important terms to be used in this text are also plurilingualism and multilingualism – terminology introduced by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and followed by institutions related to it, for example the European Centre for Modern Languages in Graz.

PLURILINGUALISM is a term related to psycholinguistic aspects of language use and refers to the individual use of more than one language. The term PLURILINGUAL is, therefore, used to describe a person who is not a monolingual speaker and has reached some level of proficiency in more than one language.

←13 |

MULTILINGUALISM is a term related to sociolinguistic aspects of language use and refers to the coexistence of several languages in given regions or states whose members as individuals may be plurilingual but may also remain monolingual living in a multilingual and multicultural area. The term MULTILINGUAL is, therefore, used to describe a region.

It should be pointed out, however, that the distinction into plurilingual/multilingual is not followed by all the authors in all the publications and official documents. Texts issued by the European Union in Brussels tend to avoid the term plurilingualism and keep the term multilingualism only, modifying its meaning using adjectives, referring to individual multilingualism and social multilingualism.

INDIVIDUAL MULTILINGUALISM means a phenomenon of using more than one language by a given speaker.

SOCIAL MULTILINGUALISM means a phenomenon of using more than one language by speakers in a given geographical region or a given area, where some speakers use more than one language, while some speakers remain monolingual.


“Twenty years of education, forty years of work” used to be the traditional training paradigm in the 20th century, denoting how professional education completed around the age of 25 or so was sufficient for many (if not most) workers. In terms of language teacher education, “five years of education, forty years of work” proved quickly insufficient in the 21st century due to a number of reasons. Demographic processes, migrations and educational policy reforms resulted in the remodelling of school landscapes and forced many instructors to start teaching in the contexts they were not trained for during initial teacher development. At the same time, integration processes, changes in the job market, wars and conflicts have changed the school landscapes of many places, making them much more multicultural and multi-ethnic than ever before.

Language teachers nowadays face all of these new challenges. Even though the processes of setting goals and objectives, defining learner proficiency, diagnosing needs, planning curricula, evaluating coursebooks, planning lessons and assessing students are constant elements of the teaching process, their forms and characteristics have altered due to the fast-changing reality of the contemporary world.

The aim of this book is to demonstrate how diverse foreign language teaching and learning can be in various educational contexts, in terms of age groups (children, adolescents and adults), learning purposes (general language instruction vs. languages for specific purposes), instructional paradigms (language-oriented, interaction-oriented or post-method approaches). The book will try to merge the macro perspective, pondering upon such aspects of language instruction as defining competence, setting aims and objectives, developing curricula, planning lessons, evaluating learners’ performance in general terms, with the micro perspective of Poland as a specific place in which language instruction is run and whose specific problems are to be solved.

Chapter One lays the foundations for further deliberations by elaborating upon first language acquisition as a necessary background for subsequent languages, both acquired in natural settings and learnt in instructed contexts. In this chapter, theories of L1 acquisition, stages of language acquisition together with the cognitive processes involved in it, ways of supporting L1 acquisition and preventing attrition, atrophy and loss will be provided. An important part of Chapter One is the discussion of the interrelations of language and identity, which is so crucial in the case of bilingual children.

←15 | 16→

Chapter Two looks at the priorities of language instruction, expressed in terms of aims and objectives of language teaching, language varieties to be taken as the attainment standard, and characteristics of successful verbal and non-verbal communication. While defining a proficient learner, we show how a skilled language user in the 21st century needs to go beyond linguistic and communicative competence into Key Competences for Lifelong Learning and 21st Century Skills. The discussion of the language-identity intersection from Chapter One is mirrored here in reference to L2 identity.

Theories of second language acquisition and the approaches and methods of learning languages are the focus of Chapter Three. We try to show how, in many cases, theories inform and inspire other theories, while in other cases they attempt to provide explanations to some well-established learning routines. Rather than attempting to make a chronological account of methods (which may be difficult or even impossible due to lack of clear separation or time boundaries), we will provide a description of approaches depending on particular learning paradigms they might be related to (language-oriented, interaction-oriented, learner-oriented and post-method).

Chapter Four continues the diversity focus, this time in relation to different age groups. In particular, initial aspects of language instruction, such as course planning, curriculum development, lesson planning and materials evaluation are scrutinized in reference to teaching children, adolescents and adults.

The way in which the shape of language instruction is differentiated by the learning purpose is the focus of Chapter Five. Here we take a closer look at general language teaching vs. teaching languages for specific purposes. With reforms in many countries aiming at the improvement of vocational education, the discussion of the relation between specialized languages and general language as well as of features of LSP classrooms is extremely timely. This chapter provides advice on what needs of learners the language instructor should be aware of and how to diagnose them in the needs analysis process.

Language assessment is a part and parcel of successful teaching, it goes hand in hand with other aspects of the process as outlined in the previous chapters. Hence, Chapter Six takes under scrutiny such notions as assessment, testing and evaluation, most importantly, showing how both summative and formative evaluation can (and should) be reconciled in an overall classroom assessment scheme.

Chapter Seven looks at how language instruction can reach higher quality by the selection of most effective teaching strategies and styles, adoption of diverse teacher roles in accordance with particular activities and lesson stages. The two aspects of motivation and autonomy, both from the teacher’s and the learner’s ←16 | 17→perspectives, are selected as major factors ensuring higher-quality language teaching.

The final chapter takes a micro perspective by looking at Poland as a particular political, social and cultural environment in which foreign language instruction takes place. The presentation of the past and the present of foreign language instruction, together with major challenges and weaknesses of the process, is the foundation for the description of selected innovations in language instruction – authoring curricula, eTwinning collaborative projects and European Language Label applications.

At this point, we would like to acknowledge the contribution of a number of individuals who helped bring the book to its final shape. Most importantly, we are deeply indebted to Professor Jerzy Zybert, whose critical remarks as a reviewer helped us to give the book its current shape, and Professor Danuta Stanulewicz, without whose careful editing and useful suggestions the present book would not have achieved its present look.

The book would not have been completed without the constant support of Professor Mirosław Filiciak, Dean of the Faculty of Culture Studies and Philology, University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, and Professor Robert Litwiński, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, whose generosity made it possible to transform the idea into a publication.

Moreover, we would like to thank Andrew Buchanan and Łukasz Gałecki together with Peter Lang for giving our work its highly professional shape.

Finally, the greatest thanks of all go to our families, especially our spouses, for their enthusiastic support and unlimited patience.

However, any errors that might have crept into the book are not to be blamed upon anybody else but ourselves.

Warsaw/Lublin, July 2019

Hanna Komorowska, Jarosław Krajka


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (April)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 316 pp., 4 fig. b/w, 6 tables.

Biographical notes

Hanna Komorowska (Author) Jarosław Krajka (Author)

Hanna Komorowska is a full professor of applied linguistics and language teach-ing at the SWPS University in Warsaw. She has served as the Polish delegate to the Council of Europe, member of the EU High Level Group on Multilingualism, a consultant to the ECML in Graz and the president of the European Language Label Poland.Jarosław Krajka is an associate professor of applied linguistics and language teaching, head of the Division of Applied Linguistics of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin and the editor-in-chief of the journal Teaching English with Technology.


Title: The Culture of Language Education. Foreign Language Teaching in Diverse Instructional Contexts
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318 pages