Task as context for the framing, reframing and
unframing of language
University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Received 20 May 1998; revised 20 September 1998; accepted 8 October 1998
The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how tasks can be used systematically as a context
for developing learners' knowledge about language, their skill in using language, and our
ability to teach it. It begins by outlining a role for tasks in language learning, identi®es a
limitation in previous studies of tasks to promote learning, and suggests the need for tasks to
lead learners to integrate ¯uency, accuracy and complexity in communication. It draws on
data from a number of recent studies to illustrate how tasks can aect learners' language
focus and their language processing. The paper concludes by showing how data from learners
working on tasks can provide a basis for developing professional thinking. # 1999 Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Task; Speaking; Skill; Fluency; Accuracy; Complexity; Development; Repetition
Levi writes that we know things through working with them, through experiences
``marked by love and by hatred, by silent, furious battles, enthusiasm and weariness,
victory and defeat, resulting in more and more re®ned knowledge'' (1988, pp. 76±
77). Learners learn language by working with it on tasks; teachers learn about tasks
by working with them in the classroom, and varying them to see what happens. This
paper presents an approach to improving our understanding of tasks by trying to see
how they work.
System 27 (1999) 33±48
0346-251X/99/$Ðsee front matter # 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
This is a revised version of a plenary paper given to the 32nd International Annual Conference of
IATEFL, Manchester, April 1998.
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