The task based language learning (TBLL) approach is derived from cognitive and interactionist theories and research findings. TBLL attempts to avoid fitting language learners into a box of stereotypical language use, i.e., where the student is only familiar with a sentences in specific forms or specific context, by rather using the language to carry out meaningful tasks, such as visiting a doctor, conducting an interview, or even asking someone out on a date. Doughty and Long (2003) describe 10 methodological principles (MPs) of TBLL. This post will present the first and second principles of task based language learning (TBLL) and discuss how Mango incorporates these in our system.
Principle number one of task based language learning is to use tasks, not texts, as the unit of analysis. We use language to do things, to communicate. Therefore, why would we study linguistic structures removed from the context in which they are used, (i.e., random vocabulary lists), to learn a language? With Mango Languages every chapter starts with specific conversational goals, or conversational tasks that the student will be able to do effectively after successfully completing the chapter. Additionally, the target language, or language being learned, is always given in context. But, the learning doesn’t stop there. The Mango system then expands on and exploits the grammar and vocabulary that was learned in the initial context in order for the student to apply what they have learned to other contexts as well.
The second principle of task based language learning is to promote learning by doing. Connecting the material to be learned to real-world events and activities serves for better incorporation into and retrieval from long-term memory. According to Doughty and Long (2003), “Computer simulations of target environments and tasks constitute a good example of learning by doing. The basic idea is that a learner on his or her own can gain experience in a simulated environment under conditions of reduced stress and without real consequences to their actions” (p 58).
Well…learning by doing is what Mango is all about! If you follow the Mango blogs you already know that Mango uses Critical Thinking slides to get language learners actively involved in their learning experience. This is done by requesting that the student not simply regurgitate what was already given to them, but rather produce new phrases from what they already learned, and/or to apply previously learned grammar concepts to new words and/or phrases.
So, what do you think? Do you learn better when given a task to accomplish? Do you learn better and retain more when you are passively receiving material or when you are actively engaged?