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Historical Chronology. This section is almost entirely indepted to Wilfried Decoo of Antwerp and Bingham Young Universities. To see his papers. 

Particularly recommended is the viewable "On the Mortality of language learning methods",

I have arranged the history in easy "boxes" and given them my own over simplified  titles.  I use a title in red ink for these, and indicate their main impetus "acquire", "cognitive", "mixed", etc according to the general orientation. (Bamber)



Systematic. Simple progression. Commenius 1600 "Let us teach and learn: the few before the many; the short before the long; the simple before the complex; the general before the particular; the nearer before the more remote; the regular before the irregular." (For a history of linguistics in the Middle Ages, see Law 2003.)



the German Gottlieb Heness stressed in his Der Leitfaden für den Unterricht in der Deutschen Sprache, natural communication


natural intuitional + systematic. Stages. Against abstraction.

Claude Marcel stressed in L'art de penser dans une langue étrangère the need to connect directly to the foreign language, thus avoiding the discursive detours of grammar and mother tongue. direct communication and on authentic input sprang up. Word-lists, grammar, and translation were ousted. His is a  "complex and carefully thought-out methodology…..The principles of subdivision and gradation, by concentrating the power of the mind on one thing at a time, are most powerful in instruction……: a rational method ….. the successive operations ….each may suitably prepare for that which follows,


natural - progressive - model sentences

Franz Ahn (1796-1865) made Meidinger's approach  even more practical by limiting grammatical theory, expanding the number of model sentences as training material, and adding little communicative dialogues. For more than 30 years (1829-1854), Ahn published numerous textbooks for various European languages with immense success. Rombouts (1937, p. 115) informs us that in 1901 Ahn's French course was reprinted for the 223rd time! Howatt (2004) assesses Ahn's textbooks as following "a method that is largely the result of his intuitive feeling for simplicity; they proceed one step at a time, with not too many words in each lesson, plenty of practice, and so on" (p. 160).  SOUNDS FAMILAIAR!


Natural / systemized / Submerged grammatical

Phrase practice.Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff (1803-1865systemization was even more strongly emphasized by Ollendorff, whose New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak a Language in Six Months (1835) led to numerous textbooks for different European languages. Although the organizational principle of the method was grammatical progression, explanation of rules was kept to a strict minimum. The main strategy was interaction between teacher and student: questions and answers were organized in a system of lingual grading, and the answer nearly always required a small addition (see Howatt 2004, p. 162). The next step was the translation of similar questions and answers from the mother tongue into the foreign language. Some critics later ridiculed Ollendorff for his "silly" sentences in these drills, but Rombouts (1937, p. 116) remarks that these critics never understood that the composition of the sentences was precisely part of the method—to draw the students' attention and to impact their memory. AT THIS STAGE THE REALISM IN THE METHOD MATTERS LESS THAN THE BASIC SCULPTING OF THE MEMORY

Textbooks following the principles of Meidinger, and especially of Ahn, Ollendorff, and Prendergast, thus belong to a trend that was deliberately didactic and intensely concerned with systemization. Grammatical features, mainly from simple to complex, were the organizing principle, but hidden beneath the surface. Translation was provided to sustain understanding. The sentences themselves were used as a basis for practice.


Natural / physical actions. / systemized structural - grammar. François Gouin next produced his L'art d'enseigner et d'étudier les langues, proposing methods that use enactment and physical response to integrate lively language around "centres d'intérêt", without grammar and translation.

Gouin, in an anecdotal style, first enumerates all his failures with various methods, until his Eureka-experience: the "logical sequencing of events" was the key to language learning. He launched his principle of systemization: to train sentences representing subsequent actions. Learners had to physically perform the actions, as some communicative approaches like Total Physical Response would require a century later. Deep assimilation of the structures at each step was of paramount importance—"une acquisition durable" (1880, p. 11).


Natural / speaking. In Germany, Wilhelm Viëtor embodied the principles of the new movement in his famous Der Sprachunterricht muss umkehren - a plea for the spoken language as basis for instruction.


Systemised school situation. -

F. Franke, brilliant language learning researchers such as  Die praktische Spracherlernung auf Grund der Psychologie und der Physiologie der Sprache, 1896. * These researchers took into account aspects such as the peculiar learning situation in school environments,


Paul Passy, De la méthode directe dans l'enseignement des langues vivantes. Cambridge


Henry Sweet, The practical study of languages,


As Schweitzer and Simmonot wrote at the turn of the century in their Méthodologie des langues vivantes: "No period in the history of living languages has shown as noticeable progress as the last few years". Heness: 1867, Marcel: 1867, Gouin: 1880, Viëtor: 1882, and the period summary by Schweitzer & Simmonot: 1903:1, cited and translated in Kelly 1969:382.


Reform movement

Otto Jespersen, How to teach a foreign language, 1904 key figure of the Reform movement in language teaching "there must be gradual progress in difficulty, that is, the material for instruction must be arranged in stages


Reform movement     Natural.

THE REFORM MOVEMENT  (DIRECT METHOD (in sense of "direct" contact with L2)   as its main approach.: immediate contact with the target language, lively interaction, no translation, no word-lists, inductive rule-formation for grammar, emphasis on oral use. under various names and variants:

reformed method,  

phonetic method, 

intuitive method   

natural method… .


For a systematic eclecticism.

Rejection of the  Direct Method/ Reform movement, In 1909 Breymann and Steinmuller, who had thoroughly documented the movement, summarized its downfall as follows: "The Reform has fulfilled its mission. It has laid the ghosts (=killed)  of the grammatical method, which made a fetish of the study of grammar with excessive attention to translationBut what the grammatical method neglected, practical and correct use of the spoken language, the reform movement has pushed to extremes. - the nature of secondary schools was overlooked, because under normal conditions of mass instruction such teaching is only attainable in a modest degree Direct Method was  most  criticized for its extremist position: , banning any use of the mother tongue, or imposing an embargo on grammatical clarification. The next year, 1910, the Direct Method received its coup de grâce (=death!) in Paris: an international conference of language teachers voted overwhelmingly to abolish it.


Translation. Already in 1910 H. Büttner undercut this anti translation myth in his major work, Die Muttersprache im Neusprachlichen Unterricht. In the 1960s and 1970s several major experimental studies, such as those by Dodson (1967), Butzkamm (1973), Olsson (1973


Translation and system.

Meijer (1974) further demonstrated the usefulness of translation


completely conducted in the target language Inductive understanding of grammar. Graded. . Berlitz (1852-1921)In the right circumstances the Direct Method could be successful. Such circumstances included a well-trained and enthusiastic native teacher, fully worked-out material, well- thought-out strategies, and a small group of motivated adult students. This was what Maximilian Berlitz (1852-1921) accomplished on a commercial level in his network of specialized language schools. Two key principles were that the lessons were completely conducted in the target language and that grammar was learned inductively; furthermore, he gave major attention to carefully graded progression. (See Howatt 2004, pp. 222-227; Richards and Rodgers 2001, p. 12; Stieglitz 1955.)


eclectic methods Though communication and functionality were kept as the main goals of language learning, the research led to a new era of well thought-out, balanced methods, which are often called the eclectic methods, and which would last through the first half of the 20th century.


Progressive Systemising of language and teaching procedures..

In 1917 Harold E. Palmer published The scientific study and teaching of languages,…. pinpointing the criteria to place language learning on a scientific foundation.Palmer tackled both the lingual organization of content and the didactic procedures to present content. From them emerge nine principles: (1) initial preparation; (2) habit-forming; (3) accuracy; (4) gradation; (5) proportion; (6) concreteness; (7) interest; (8) order of progression; and (9) multiple line of approach. The following discussion only briefly highlights aspects that deal with systemization……………….Palmer's technique of training learners with "ergonic" relations made him a forerunner of audiolingual drill and practice. For Palmer, the principle of gradation requires organizing the material so that the learner passes from the known to the unknown in simple stages………. Palmer clearly considered the lexical component more relevant than grammatical structures, which should be integrated on the basis of the patterns…. What is striking about his approach is the dynamic combination of content and strategies. The systemization of content is meant to parallel a didactic scaffolding, and vice versa, the whole to serve a rationally planned progression over a broad curriculum. For different views on Palmer's ideas, see Bagster-Collins 1922; Darian 1969; Howatt 2004; Lemieux 1964; Redman 1967; Yamamoto 1978.


Spoken, systematic, cognitive.

Between 1927 and 1931 the MLA published its 17 volumes of the American and Canadian Foreign Languages Study treating all aspects of foreign language learning. Indeed, these methods did not reject the good that the Reform Movement had stressed, namely communication as a vital aspect of language learning. Dialogues in daily situations remained the core material in most textbooks, but with open book, in careful gradation, and preceded or followed by the clear identification of new lexicon and grammar, with many appropriate exercises for correct integration, including translation exercises.




was Effective French for Beginners, written by James L. Barker, whom we remember today by this lecture. It was published in New York in 1925 and is a most remarkable product of insight and balance.


Reading Method. progressive reading

Intensive reading of graded readers was therefore strongly recommended, to the point that the 1930s are sometimes referred to as the period of the Reading Method.



U.S. the Army Method was developed,. It was a rigid, drill and practice approach, but which still used translation for efficacy and some grammar to provide a framework (Angiolillo 1947; Moulton 1961). After the war, the method survived in a limited way. But overall the eclectic methods remained the most widely used until the end of the 1950s.



For foreign languages a revised Army Method was launched as the miracle method for schools: the AUDIO-LINGUAL METHOD, also called the New Key. It stressed drill and practice with stiffened guidelines: no translation, no grammar, emphasis on audio-oral habit-formation, in the line of the predominant psychological school: behaviorism.



Audio-lingual (French SGAV) response.

the French government made a massive effort to impose French as the lingua franca. A specific method, SGAV ("Structuro-global audio-visuel"), based on behaviorist principles with audio, pictures and slides, was adopted as the miracle solution.


devastating critiques  of audio lingual,

one of the best known being Wilga Rivers' The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher in 1964, quickly undermined the movement. The acute question was: "Could the New Key be a wrong key?" (Mueller 1970).


Cognitive. Eclectic.  and Grammar frame.

It led to one of the largest experimental investigations ever conducted in methods' comparison, the Pennsylvania project by Philip Smith, between 1965 and 1969 (Smith 1970). Though such a huge project had inevitable weaknesses, the results were convincing: the audio-approach offered no advantages, while a more cognitive approach, using the mother-tongue and a grammatical framework, led to better results. Audio-lingualism died almost instantly and was replaced by former eclectic methods,

….term "cognitive" was meant to restore the importance of the mind against presumed mindless drilling. It tried to restore the value of reading and writing, translation, and grammatical clarifications. The results of the Pennsylvania project clearly favored the cognitive-code


Cognitive. Systematic.

William F. Mackey 1965 all methods must in some way or other, whether intentionally or not, select the part of it they intend to teach" (p. 161). Mackey's selection criteria include frequency, range, availability, coverage, and learnability.


Cognitive. Reasoned verbal comparison. Use of 2 languages to aid understanding.

Michael Thomas Another step in this search for both easy reading and systematic progression is The "Michel Thomas method," developed in the 1950s, uses a comparable procedure based on similarities / contrasts between the mother tongue and the target language (Solity 2008; Zojer 2006).


Translation. Comparative language. Example sentences.

Burling's biglot method (1968). The text starts in the mother tongue. Gradually words in the foreign language, carefully selected, are introduced within mother tongue sentences, in syntactically relevant spots, and constantly reused. As the text progresses, the ratio of target language words constantly increases, so that by the end the learner is reading only the foreign language. What Burling first suggested as an "outlandish proposal" has meanwhile found recent applications (Aoyama 2005; Christensen a.o. 2007).


Communicative approach. Anti grammar rules.

STEPHEN KRASHEN In the U.S, a "new" movement was growing, The movement down-played grammar and stressed the immediate use of practical sentences. It received its academic impetus from research in second language acquisition by adults in immersion situations,


Communicative approach.

European Community launched in the early 1970s a vast research movement around communicative needs for adults to foster professional exchanges between the member states. These were the Threshold Level inventories, where the keywords "functions" and "notions" emerged






Communicative approach, very comparable to what had happened in the 1860s and 1870s: a rejection of the past, presented as a failure, a mistrust of grammar, of translation and word-lists, an emphasis on the ability to do something with the language in real-world situations, and of course a strong commercial push to compel the educational system to follow the new principles


Revolt against strictness of the Communicative approach. Cognitive. Grammar. many members of the profession raised their voices in favor of direct (here the word means = teacher text book systemized teaching: with explicit guidelines and explanations by the teacher, instead of unstable and error-ridden explorations by students. The movement grew, accompanied by the inevitable controversies, restoring such shades of cognitive explicitation as focus on form, followed by focus on forms. (See DeKeyser 2005; DeKeyser a.o. 2002; Doughty and Williams 1998; R. Ellis 2001; R. Ellis a.o. 2006; Fotos 1993: Long 1991; Long and Robinson 1998; Scheffler 2009; Sheen 2002, 2005; Swan 2005; Terrell 1991; VanPatten 1996, 2002; Williams 1995.)


Critique of the vagueness of the Communicative approach. It's wooly infinity!.

 Widdowson warned: The 'communicative' approach is, of course, very much in vogue at present. As with all matters of fashion, the problem is that popular approbation tends to conceal the need for critical examination. There seems to be an assumption in some quarters, for example, that language is automatically taught as communication by the simple expedient of concentrating on 'notions' or 'functions' rather than on sentences. (…) We do not progress very far in our pedagogy by simply replacing abstract isolates of a linguistic kind by those of a cognitive or behavioural kind. (p. ix)…………… The sheer volume of possible dimensions in even one small communicative dialogue can make the taxonomical structuring quite complex. An analysis of such a dialogue of only 92 words revealed 73 identifiable speech acts, with the words spread over some 50 notional subfields (Decoo 1994).


Systemized communicative with submerged grammar progression)

Trim suggested partitioning the content over six components, of which the

1. grammatical (what limits and manner. Define orders of difficulty)

2. lexical What words to teach / how many words.

3. notional-semantic,

4. communicative-functional,

5. behavioural,

6. situational.


The lexical and grammatical components received prime attention. According to Trim's account (in Saville 2005; see also Trim 2007a), Van Ek first developed a basic vocabulary for German paralleling the famous Français fondamental. Van Ek's emphasis was therefore strongly lexical, based on frequency studies. Wilkins, meanwhile, was focusing on grammar. In his The linguistic and situational content of the common core in a unit/credit system (paper in 1973, published in 1980), …..grammar had to be defined as well for the intended level, because "the first stage of the unit/credit system would have to provide a grammatical minimum for the situational units. This minimum has come to be called the threshold level (T-Level)." (p. 131)


Situational, lexical Also grammar progression.

Van Ek changed the initial focus from the purely lexical entry point, based on frequency, to a focus on the situations in which learners will need the language (Van Ek 1979, p. 103; rpt of 1975). But this change of focus did not eliminate the lexical and grammatical items. Indeed, both grammar and lexis definitions for Threshold remained a central concern, as is obvious from Wilkins's Notional syllabuses and the concept of a minimum adequate grammar (1974).

…………. Thirty years later Trim (in Saville 2005) conceded that "even though it was presented in a way that made it look as though the vocabulary and the grammar were subsidiary to the notions and functions, in fact, it was a much more intimate relation than that" (p. 277).


Van Ek Systemizing madness of Communicative approach.

For a basic communicative ability for adults or for adolescents, the same specifications are "equally required in both cases." The adolescents,

:75 functions (identifying, reporting, correcting .etc..). These are further exemplified with "exponents" (sample utterances), covering 4.5 pages;

-General notions: 16 categories (existential, spatial, temporal...), subdivided in 90 notional fields, covering 9 pages;

-Specific notions: 14 categories (personal identification, house and home, education and future career...), subdivided in 95 notional fields, covering 25 pages.

Grammar 23 pages., (called "structural inventory" presented as an alphabetical list of terms, both linguistic (able to, about, above...) and metalinguistic (adjectives, adverbial...). Each item is illustrated with a number of exponents.


The death of the textbook and the decline of the methodological illusion." As early as 1973, Debyser announced "The death of the textbook and the decline of the methodological illusion."


Postmethod pedagogy"

Three decades later Kumaravadivelu (2001) proposed a "postmethod pedagogy" in which local parameters of particularity, practicality, and possibility would form the organizing principles for language teaching as dynamic exploration. It is true one could imagine a world in which no methods on higher levels are proposed anymore. But on the lower levels any concrete approach, albeit constantly evolving, would still be a method. Any local application of Kumaravadivelu's principles of particularity, practicality, and possibility would seem to constitute a method on the teacher's or learner's level. Even an approach that claims to be a no-method or an anti-method entails an avowed methodology


Cognitive. Grammar and content..

Richards and Rodgers 1982,subject matter and linguistic matter, both parts making up content. (p. 157) define subject matter as "what to talk about" and linguistic matter as "how to talk about it."


Grammar and Vocabulary. In the 1990s, the growing dissatisfaction with fairly uncontrolled communicative approaches sustained the return to a more cognitive management of the learning process, including both grammar ("focus on form/s") and lexicon.


Eclectic. Systematic. 1990s a growing current is separating itself under the name POST-COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE LEARNING. It opposes the idea that language learners are just role players in a functional world, directed by criteria of practicality, and that a method should impose the way they learn


Cognitive. Micro skills. Systematic spoken grammar. Richards (1990) who, for the teaching of speaking skills, differentiates an indirect approach from a direct. In the former, the speaking skill is supposed to develop naturally from engagement in conversational interactions, while the latter requires "planning a conversational programme around the specific microskills, strategies, and processes that are involved in fluent conversation" (p. 77). All of these developments impact on the choice of content………….. Direct Method textbooks and didactic descriptions tackled grammar and semantization quite directly. "Indirect" was never totally indirect, nor was "direct" completely exclusionary of indirect methods. Thornbury (1998), in a reaction to the article by Celce-Murcia a.o., comes to the same conclusion when considering contemporary communicative approaches: even there, "grammar rules" (p. 111).


Cognitive. Teacher. Progression.. Celce-Murcia a1997In Direct approaches in L2 instruction: A turning point in communicative language teaching?.o. (1997) confirms the shift in connotation by stating that the direct approach "recalls the traditional methods of teaching grammar, whereby new linguistic information is passed on and practiced" (p. 141). "Students who, through guessing techniques, infer the meaning of new words, will remember those words longer". Usefulness of direct teaching. The painstaking, longitudinal research of Mondria (1996) not only disproved this statement, but also calculated the time-efficiency gains in the "direct teaching of meaning".


Systemised Vocabulary. Debunking vocabulary myths, in connection with acquisition has been the focus of Mondria's experimental research (1996, 2003, 2006) Overall, the research shows that, at least in regular, non-intensive school language programs, learning words only or mostly from exposure to language, without an applied effort with organized material, is inadequate.. A more "proactive, principled approach needs to be taken in promoting vocabulary learning" (Schmitt 2008, p. 333).



"Future Schlock," Lawrence Baines (1997) analyzes such "mythologizing data" as they are applied to educational reform.   


Systematic spoken Practice of central forms/ structures. .Recent experimental research by Hulstijn and his team at the Kohnstamm Institute (University of Amsterdam) indicates that higher-order skills cannot function properly in the foreign language without well developed levels of lower-order automatization (Hulstijn 1999).


Taxonomy of possible speech acts. "Descriptors". (Not grammatical because general "European" - "good for all langauages" - but think how many german difficulties don't exist in English!).  Mad attempt to systemize what cannot be.captured -Speaking! Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF), published in 2001

A first problem is the vagueness of the terms when it comes to defining content. Descriptors use a summarizing rhetoric with imprecise terms (see Alderson a.o. 2004, (p. 11-12). Fulcher (2004) posits: "Linking tests to the CEF is not a simple matter. The CEF scale has no underlying theory, and there are no content specifications attached to the levels (...) Linking to the CEF cannot, therefore, provide equivalence of meaning across tests" (p. 261). Weir (2005) confirms:          "In its present form the CEFR is not sufficiently comprehensive, coherent or transparent for uncritical use in language testing" (p. 298). He argues that variation in contextual parameters impinges on difficulty levels. Without sufficient specifications, CEF levels are problematic for comparative tests. "The CEFR as presently constituted does not enable us to say tests are comparable let alone equip us to develop comparable tests." See also Alderson 2007b; Alderson a.o. 2006; Davidson and Fulcher 2007.


Systematic linguistic progress. logical, progressive. Anti acquire.

Swan 2005The claim that 'traditional' approaches have failed is not well founded, and frequently involves misrepresentation of the approaches in question. The naturalistic communication-driven pedagogy characteristic of TBI [task-based instruction] has serious limitations, especially as regards the systematic teaching of new linguistic material.


Systematic progression.

Harden 2006Progression, indeed, is a complex concept, greatly influenced by the collective experience of the classroom as well as by individual variables, as also


Systematic, logical, progressive.

Rifkin(2006) attributes the failure of language programs to reach advanced-level skills to the lack of sequential curricular planning

Howatt 2004

Communication. The various perspectives proliferating since the 1970s reveal different ways to look at communicative competence




topics all intersect:

-       A certain function needs notions and is realized in a situation

-       And a topic can be discussed according to a certain procedure.

-       But a topic can also be partitioned over a number of situations.

-       If one starts from a situation, there are relevant functions and notions to be determined.

-       But none of these categories equals the words to be used in the actual communication!!. When it comes to implementation, the categories need exponents, i.e., real utterances. Howatt (2004) reflects on the quandary facing the perspectives that try to transcend the basic lingual elements: "The 'notional' categories of modern communicative language teaching are a well-known case in point, but, at the end of the day, people communicate through words rather than abstract conceptual systems" (p. 102).

-       Vocabulary is therefore at the center of a progressive approach……………..


Grammared/ lexical systemized, progressive utterance. The opposition between "linguistic" and "real-world" environments is interesting, as Lewis warns against an overemphasis on so-called authenticity, because the classroom environment has own criteria by which it functions. Grammar becomes "grammaticalised vocabulary" or "grammatical holophrases as lexis", thus drawing syntactic structures into the realm of the lexicon. Lewis is all for systemization, i.e., a "principled system of introducing and exploiting lexis."


Folse's practical guide for teachers (2004).


"Acquire" is inadequate for vocabulary Limitations of comprehension through context. (up to 98% coverage is required, which equates to only one unknown word for every fifty words)

It needs systemized readers - practice.(Bamber) Basic comprehension deals with understanding an utterance as such, without potential help available from the context or from background knowledge. Not understanding the vocabulary—even a single word—can jeopardize such comprehension. The following examples (adapted from Decoo 2008a) are one-dimensional, meaning that they try to only measure understanding. Nothing else permits the deduction of the correct answer.



Vocabualry research.

Correlation studies on vocabulary mastery and L2 comprehension are ample. See, e.g., Bernhardt 1991; Bernhardt and Kamil 1995; Bossers 1991; Brisbois 1995; Cain a.o. 2004; Carrell 1991; Coady a.o.1993; Hawas 1990; Henriksen a.o. 2004; Johnston 1984; Koda 1989; Laufer 1992; Lee and Schallert 1997; Mezynski 1983; Nagy 2006; Proctor a.o. 2005; Qian 1999, 2008; Qian and Schedl 2004; Schoonen a.o. 1998; Taillefer 1996; Wagner a.o. 2006.) Most of this research pertains to reading but applies just as well to listening (Mecartty 2000).


Vocabualry research 

Grabe (2004) lists 10 instructional implications to guarantee improved comprehension. The first two are "1) ensure fluency in word recognition; (2) emphasize the learning of vocabulary" (p. 44). Wagner, Muse and Tannenbaum (2006) devoted a reader to the impact of vocabulary on reading. Each of the 14 contributions throws a different light on the relations.


Vocabualry research. The CLIL problem.

When does a text become unintelligible?

"Attention: important message.          Madam, Sir, We must inform you that we need to reclate a number of reloots as soon as possible. This will start on Monday, October 14th at 9 A.M. We expect it to be completed by Wednesday, October 16th, around 4 P.M. However, it requires us to asnate the pinot to the stollanges. We therefore ask you to place your fluckle on the zirkee Sunday evening, or by the latest Monday morning early. We apologize for the problems this situation causes and thank you for your patience. If you have any questions, please contact Mrs. Louise at the office or call 831 73 92.

A foreign tenant, with limited knowledge of English, understands 95% of the words in the text. "Global" understanding is achieved: the message warns about something and asks the residents to do something. But the essential information is in the remaining 5% of the text, which contains the unknown words of an obviously lower frequency level. The paralogs have these meanings:  insulate - sewers - tear up - access - underground parking lots - vehicle - courtyard. The words have been chosen to illustrate the point. In reality unknown words can belong to various categories and appear with differing contextual clues, making them understandable to diverse degrees. Still, full understanding would remain problematic.     The CLIL problem in a nutshell with the extra aural difficulty added


Vocabulary uinderstanding thanks to inferring. 

Bensoussan and Laufer (1984) published the results of their research. They concluded that "context helped lexical guessing in only 13 per cent of the responses for only 24 per cent of the words." Moreover, "word guessability was shown to be less a function of using the context than of applying 'preconceived notions'" (p. 15).


Vocabulary uinderstanding thanks to inferring

Looking back at all this research—and the funds it must have cost over three decades—, one must wonder if the experimental research on inferring should not have been done before launching another assumption without proof, which, moreover, has probably slowed down the progress of countless students because of more efficient learning time lost. Indeed, pedagogical variables should not be forgotten. Since learner satisfaction is an important factor in language learning,


metacognitive strategies normally first develop in the mother tongue and are supposed to transfer to L2. Research shows that such reading strategies are difficult to apply without an optimal vocabulary level.

A central concept in this context is the threshold hypothesis, which asserts that processing strategies cannot function in L2 if language specific knowledge, in particular vocabulary, is below a certain threshold or ceiling. The concept is discussed in, among others, Clarke 1978; Cummins 1979; Alderson 1984. It is part of a much larger research area, which deals with readability formula in L1 and goes back to the 1930s. Alderson (1984) stated that "some sort of threshold or competence ceiling has to be attained before existing abilities in the first language can begin to transfer" (p. 20). Laufer (1997) points at the duality of reading in L2, which requires not only the reading competence as such, but also adequate language mastery: "Even if a reader has good metacognitive strategies, which he or she uses in L1, these will not be of much help in L2 before a solid language base has been reached.  CLIL.

This conclusion is borne out by empirical evidence." Laufer refers to a number of studies that show that "the most significant handicap for L2 readers is not lack of reading strategies but insufficient vocabulary in English" (p. 21).



Sciarone's Delft method successful methods that have only national or regional impact, like Sciarone's Delft method in the Netherlands. Nowadays authors continue to design and promote new methods in their respective countries just as actively, hoping for international expansion, as, for example, Maxwell's AIM - Accelerated Integrated Method. It is therefore premature to announce the demise of methods as Kumaravadivelu (2001) did or sing their "requiem" (Brown 2002, p. 10). Indeed, Bell (2007) researched teacher's opinions and found that the concept of method is still very much alive, even if teachers are conscious of their limitations.