Key Terms for Language Teachers - A Pocket Guide - Alessandro Benati

Key Terms for Language Teachers - A Pocket Guide - Alessandro Benati

Focus on Form

Key Terms for Language Teachers - A Pocket Guide - Alessandro Benati

Alessandro Benati [+-]
The University of Hong Kong
Alessandro Benati is Director of CAES at The University of Hong Kong (HKU). He is known for his work in second language acquisition and second language teaching. He has published ground-breaking research on the pedagogical framework called processing instruction. He is a member of the REF Panel 2021 and Honorary Professor at the University of York SJ.


A clear distinction needs to be made between mental representation and skill in language development. Language is an implicit, abstract and complex system and language development is input and input processing dependent. Second language acquisition is constrained by certain orders and stages. Instruction might help L2 learners to develop a good level of attainment particularly if opportunities to natural exposure are given. Instruction might have a facilitative role in helping L2 learners to pay selective attention to form and form-meaning connections in the input. Although, the route of acquisition cannot be altered, instruction might in certain conditions speed up the rate of acquisition. What are the conditions that might facilitate the speed in which languages are learned? A first condition is that L2 learners must be exposed to sufficient input. A second 37 condition is that L2 learners must be developmentally ready for instruction to be effective. A third condition is that instruction must take into consideration how L2 learners process input. Traditional grammar instruction is not an appropriate way to provide L2 learners with a focus on form component in language teaching. Paradigmatic explanation of a specific linguistic form followed by mechanical drill practice is not an effective way to focus on form in the language classroom. However, there are types of ‘focus on form’ pedagogical interventions to grammar instruction that can in certain cases and conditions enhance and speed up the way languages are learned and are an effective way to incorporate grammar in language teaching. If we are going to focus on form in any way in the classroom, it ought to be input based and meaning oriented. This idea falls out of what we know about the nature of acquisition. In order to develop effective focus on form, language instructors should ensure that input is manipulated so to facilitate language processing and acquisition. L2 learners should also be encouraged to make accurate form-meaning mappings. Language instructors must ensure they foster the development of language in L2 leaners and not simply aiming at fostering in L2 learners a learning-like behaviour. Language instructors must use pedagogical interventions that facilitates language processing, and the development of implicit knowledge.

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Benati, Alessandro. Focus on Form. Key Terms for Language Teachers - A Pocket Guide. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 43-52 Feb 2022. ISBN 9781781798812. Date accessed: 24 Jan 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.38035. Feb 2022

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