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close this bookLanguage Training - Reference Manual (Peace Corps, 1989, 333 p.)
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Open this folder and view contentsHow to use this manual
Open this folder and view contentsPart I : Language-learning theory
Open this folder and view contentsPart II Methods
Open this folder and view contentsPart III How to develop and implement a competency-based curriculum
Open this folder and view contentsTaxonomy of teaching/learning techniques
View the documentLists and charts included in this manual
View the documentGlossary
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achievement test

An instrument or system for measuring how well a learner can perform the individual training objectives (competencies) taught in a certain number of lessons. This kind of test is less important in a competency-based curriculum than in a traditional, grammar-based one.


A term from the "natural approach" used to describe how children learn their native language and how this process can be applied to second language learning. (See learning.)


A feeling of uneasiness. High anxiety levels will prevent language acquisition.


A schema for organizing a program of learning. An approach includes the expected stages of development in learners and may include a variety of compatible methods and procedures.

audio-lingual method (ALM)

A language teaching methodology based on structural linguistics and behavioral psychology.

auditory mode

The language skills of listening or speaking. classroom management Procedures for carrying out training that do not appear on every lesson plan:

(1) a practice followed at all times, such as moving chairs in a circle for discussion.

(2) a set of predetermined responses to events that occur unpredictably, such as correcting errors.

cloze exercise

A written text with words or phrases deleted; the learner must supply the missing word(s) to fit the context. A practice or assessment exercise that goes beyond knowledge of isolated vocabulary. Some cloze exercises are referred to as "fill in the blank" exercises.

cognitive approach

Possible ways to use the mind when learning a language. A learner usually has a preference for one rather than the other in the three pairs of opposite approaches described in this manual: inductive or deductive, field dependent or independent, right-brain or left-brain dominant.

communicative competence

The ability to communicate in a language in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways, like a native speaker; the goal of language training programs using the national approach. Similar to "functional proficiency" as described in ACTFL oral interview.

community language learning

A language teaching methodology developed by Charles Curran. It focuses on the personality factors of learners as a group and the development of learners' personality from dependence on the Trainer to full "adultlike" independence.


A person's potential; what a person can do or say in a second language.


A performance-based process leading to the mastery of life skills needed to survive in a given society. In language training, we are concerned with competencies involving language.

competency-based curriculum

The full set of language-learning materials based on processes needed to live and work in a community (in this case, a second-language community). A competency-based curriculum is organized according to performable objectives.

competency checklist

A list of competencies in the training program with spaces to check successful performance of each competency for each Trainee.

competency outline

A form showing the breakdown of each competency into its language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), grammar and vocabulary, cultural notes, and materials and activities. A way of seeing the contents of a competency at a glance.

comprehensible input

Spoken or written language that is clear, relevant, and appropriate to the level of the second language acquirer or learner; when learners understand new material, the material was comprehensible input. (See optimal input.) comprehensible output. Language that a second-language learner produces in meaningful contexts. Comprehensible output encourages interaction with native speakers and helps the learner to analyze the second language (i.e., the native speaker understands what the learner is trying to say).

comprehension activities

Language-learning activities that call for the learner to understand meanings. Comprehension activities should precede production activities.

comprehension-based approach

Language-learning method relying on dominance of listening comprehension and delayed oral production. It developed parallel to the natural approach and is used mostly in foreign language teaching in the United States.

curriculum outline

A list of all the competencies to be taught in a training cycle, in order of presentation.

deductive learning

A style of learning that begins with a generalization and proceeds to specific examples. Also applies to a teaching style.

developmental error

An error committed in a second language that is similar to errors committed by children in the natural process of learning their first language. These errors need no correction.

direct method

A language teaching methodology developed in Europe in the 19th century. Only the target language is used in the classroom. Lesson/course content is varied - could be but is usually not competency-based.


Inductive language learning; learners are given enough language samples to figure out the regularity.

display questions

Questions to which the teacher already knows the answer, for example, "Am I a teacher?" They can be useful in comprehension activities but do not foster communicative competence.


A repetitive exercise, directed by the instructor, designed to impress a grammatical or semantic pattern on a learner.


The selection and use of varied methods and activities that suit the content of the lesson objectives and the preferences of the learners.


A second-language learner's deviation from the target-language norm. Second-language errors ar both natural and systematic. (See global error.)

field dependence

A learning style characterized by learning perception of the whole before the parts and preferring interaction with the Trainer and other students. The degree of field dependence varies from person to person and from situation to situation.

field independence

A learning style characterized by ability to reorganize isolated parts of a whole and by a preference to work alone. The degree of field independence varies from person to person and from situation to situation.


A component of the monitor model that acts as an inhibitor in language learning. When the filter is high, the learner becomes self-conscious or anxious and no longer absorbs the new language. A major goal of the natural approach is to lower the filter. Synonymous with affective filter.


A use of (or purpose for using) language, such as asking for information or arguing. Competencies can be classified by function, and functions can be graded in difficulty.

Global error

An error in overall sentence organization. Global errors affect comprehensibility of output more than local errors do.

goal-oriented needs

What learners must be able to do with the second language they are acquiring. Ordering a meal in a restaurant is an example of a goal-oriented need. (Also see competency.) grammar translation A language teaching approach characterized by a focus on grammar and on accurate translation of literature. Spoken language is not considered important.

hypothesis formation

The process of making guesses about the meaning or content of a sample of language, oral or written. A sign of learner activity in language learning.

inductive learning

A learning style that focuses on parts, details, and examples first, and generalizations later. Also applies to a teaching style. instrumental motivation Motivation to learn based on desire to obtain a specific, practical goal.

integrative motivation

Motivation to learn based on a desire to be part of the target-language culture.

kinesthetic mode

Learning by use of movement, such as total physical-response activities, scrambled sentences, or "lineups." (See Taxonomy.)

language skill

Listening speaking, reading, or writing. A competency is broken down into language skills to discover its contents and then teach them.


Term used in the natural approach to contrast with acquisition, designating more conscious, less spontaneous study of language. The natural approach downplays learning activities in favor of acquisition activities.

learning strategy

A specific way of handling a learning task or problem. One person may use a variety of strategies.

learning style

A person's preference for a certain learning strategy or set of learning strategies. Learning styles vary from person to person.

left-brain dominance

A learning style controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain. Left-brain-dominant persons are thought to be more analytic, logical, and objective.

less controlled exercises

Activities in which learners take the initiative, organizing language units in their own way or creating their own language units or both. These dominate in learner-centered classrooms and methods.

lesson plan

A written plan of the entire contents of one day of class, the time needed to teach each part, and materials required.

lesson plan outline

In this manual, a rough outline, with time divisions, of a future lesson plan, before competencies are inserted.

life skills

Activities that a person must perform, using language and other means, to survive and function in society. Synonymous with "competency" as used in this manual.

linguistic competence

The ability to manipulate grammatical forms correctly. Linguistic competence is a part of communicative competence.

local error

An error in an individual part of a sentence. An incorrect verb ending is an example of a local error. (Also see global error.)


The sensory realm used by a person in a learning situation. (See visual mode, auditory mode, and kinesthetic mode.)


A component of the monitor model. The monitor consciously edits a learner's production in the second language.

monitor model

A model of the second-language acquisition process. The monitor model consists of three internal systems: the affective filter, the organizer, and the monitor; and two external elements, input and output.

natural approach

A structure and philosophy for language training programs developed by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen that stresses acquisition of the second language in a way similar to first-language acquisition. The Trainer uses only the target language and works to create an anxiety-free environment for the learners. Comprehensible input is a key component of this methodology.

needs assessment

A process by which a Trainer identifies the Language skills needed by the learners and then orders those skills to form the basis for a competency-based curriculum. A needs assessment is a critical first step in the development of a language training program.


A procedure for doing a task, a natural sequence f actions.

optimal input

Language input received by a second-language earner that is comprehensible, interesting, relevant, and not grammatically sequenced.


A component of the monitor model. The organizer is the subconscious processing device that analyzes and organizes the meanings and forms of incoming language, and generates the basis for output.


What a person can actually do in the second language. Competence is idealized knowledge; performance is putting knowledge to use. Performance is often at a lower level than competence.

productive skills

Speaking, writing, or physically performing a task from a language source; these all demonstrate comprehension of language by the learner.

proficiency test

A means of evaluating how well a learner can perform a competency. A competency-based checklist records proficiency. The ACTFL exam is an oral proficiency test. A proficiency test does not concern itself with how or when the material has been taught.


Real-life objects used in second-language teaching. Menus, tools, toys, train schedules, food, and application forms are some examples of realia. (See taxonomy.)

receptive skills

Listening and reading, since they do not result in any audible or visible production of language by the learner.

right-brain dominance

A learning style controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain. Right-brain-dominant persons are thought to be more subjective and intuitive.

risk taking

A behavior characterized by a person's willingness be more successful second-language learners than either high or low risk takers.

role playing

Having learners play themselves or others in dramatic situations in order to use language not found in classroom situations.


The order of competencies and language skills in a curriculum. The sequence of lessons in a competency-based curriculum is the order in which Trainees are likely to need the material once it has been graded for grammatical difficulty.

silent period

A period of time during which language learners develop receptive or comprehension skills prior to productive skills. Recommended by several teaching methods, when time permits. Synonymous with "delayed oral production" in this manual.

Silent Way

A language teaching methodology developed by the late Caleb Gattegno. It is characterized by a minimal use of language on the part of the Trainer, in the belief that learners can best internalize the target language when they are challenged and aided to generate it themselves.


To return to parts or all of a competency presented earlier in a training program, using more complex language the second or third time.


In this manual, used synonymously with "grammar" or "grammatical structure."


A language teaching methodology developed in Bulgaria by Georgi Lozanov. Suggestopedia uses relaxation techniques to stimulate greater right brain involvement in the language acquisition process.

target language

The language being learned, a second or foreign language.


Comprehensive list, in this manual, of teaching/learning organizational styles.

threshold level

The point in language learning when a learner can perform all the basic language skills necessary to live and work independently in a new culture.

tolerance for ambiguity

A learning style characterized by an acceptance of situations that are not clearly defined. Tolerance for ambiguity may aid second-language acquisition.


An area of general importance to human life: housing, food, shopping, government services, etc. Competencies are classed by topic.

total physical response (TPR)

A language teaching methodology developed by James Asher. TPR incorporates a silent period and physical activity into the acquisition process.

training objectives

In a competency-based curriculum, these are composed of Trainees' abilities to perform the competencies.

visual mode

The language skills of reading or writing.

vocabulary in context

Techniques to teach vocabulary without lengthy word lists and dictionary use. Vocabulary can be taught using gestures, realia, paraphrase, redundancy, and other means.