Task-based language learning, also referred to as task-based language teaching, is a specialized method of teaching languages. It uses authentic language learning techniques but also asks students to also carry out meaningful tasks using the language that is being taught. Instead of focusing primarily on complete accuracy of the target language, the tasks allow students to use and improve on the language they are learning in real time.
Learning tasks can be in the form of everyday things that one would carry out, but instead using the target language; such as going to the doctor, calling a customer service line, or simply having an interview with a native speaker of said language. Task-based language learning has been proved effective for language acquisition and the idea for it was originally used and applied in 1975.
When task-based language learning is practiced, the tasks are broken down into six very specific and purposeful parts (in order); pre-task, task, planning, report, analysis and practice. In the pre-task phase, instructors present a “model” of the task, and inform the students of what will be expected of them during the task phase. They will prepare the students with information on key vocabulary and language constructs that will need to be used, though it is important that the student is completely comfortable with these guidelines in order to complete the task properly, if they are not then it will defeat the purpose in their case. Teachers may also use media to demonstrate the task for their students.
The next stage in the language acquisition and task-based language process is the task itself. For the task, depending on the type, students will usually form small groups to complete it. During this phase, the roll of the teacher will change to more of just an observer, as it is important for the students to use their own methods for completing the task. After the task is completed, the students enter the planning phase. It is in this phase that the students prepare either a oral or written report to present, at this point the teacher will become available for questions regarding the report.
The report phase is for the most part self explanatory; the students present their report to the class, and receive written feedback by both the teacher and observing students. In the analysis phase, the teacher reviews the student’s performance and informs them of what things needed work or needed more coverage in the report. The final stage of task-based language learning is the practice phase, in which the teacher goes into more depth on the weaker areas of the student’s report, and uses the key language to do it.
Using task-based language learning for language acquisition has many advantages; it offers more self centered, clear cut methods that allow for faster skill building. It allows students to be more engaged in the target language and typically makes for deeper, more meaningful levels of communication. Also, using groups for task-based language learning makes it essential for students to be more communicative with one and other, giving them extra practice as they work to complete the given task.