Saturday 11 November 2017


Many students equate being able to speak a language as knowing the language and therefore view learning the language as learning how to speak the language, or as Nunan (1991) wrote, "success is measured in terms of the ability to carry out a conversation in the (target) language." Therefore, if students do not learn how to speak or do not get any opportunity to speak in the language classroom they may soon get de-motivated and lose interest in learning. On the other hand, if the right activities are taught in the right way, speaking in class can be a lot of fun, raising general learner motivation and making the English language classroom a fun and dynamic place to be.

Speaking is fundamental to human communication
Just think of all the different conversations you have in one day and compare that with how much written communication you do in one day. Which do you do more of? In our daily lives most of us speak more than we write, yet many English teachers still spend the majority of class time on reading and writing practice almost ignoring speaking and listening skills. Do you think this is a good balance? If the goal of your language course is truly to enable your students to communicate in English, then speaking skills should be taught and practised in the language classroom.

Dealing with common arguments against teaching speaking skills in the classroom 
Students won't talk or say anything
One way to tackle this problem is to find the root of the problem and start from there. If the problem is cultural, that is in your culture it is unusual for students to talk out loud in class, or if students feel really shy about talking in front of other students then one way to go about breaking this cultural barrier is to create and establish your own classroom culture where speaking out loud in English is the norm. One way to do this is to distinguish your classroom from other classrooms in your school by arranging the classroom desks differently, in groups instead of lines etc. or by decorating the walls in English language and culture posters. From day one teach your students classroom language and keep on teaching it and encourage your students to ask for things and to ask questions in English. Giving positive feedback also helps to encourage and relax shy students to speak more. Another way to get students motivated to speak more is to allocate a percentage of their final grade to speaking skills and let the students know they are being assessed continually on their speaking practice in class throughout the term.

A completely different reason for student silence may simply be that the class activities are boring or are pitched at the wrong level. Very often our interesting communicative speaking activities are not quite as interesting or as communicative as we think they are and all the students are really required to do is answer 'yes' or 'no' which they do quickly and then just sit in silence or worse talking noisily in their L1. So maybe you need to take a closer look at the type of speaking activities you are using and see if they really capture student interest and create a real need for communication.
Another way to encourage your students to speak in English is simply to speak in English yourself as much as possible in class. If you are shy about speaking in English, how can you expect your students to overcome their fears about speaking English? Don't worry if you are not completely fluent or don't have that elusive perfect native accent, as Swain (1985) wrote "We learn to speak by speaking" and that goes for teachers as well as students. The more you practise the more you will improve your own oral skills as well as help your students improve theirs.

When students work in pairs or groups they just end up chatting in their own language. 
Is the activity or task pitched at the right level for the students?
Make sure you give the students all the tools and language they need to be able to complete the task. If the language is pitched too high they may revert to their L1, likewise if the task is too easy they may get bored and revert to their L1. Also, be aware of the fact that some students especially beginners, will often use their L1 as an emotional support at first, translating everything word for word to check they have understood the task before attempting to speak. In the case of these students simply be patient as most likely once their confidence grows in using English their dependence on using their L1 will begin to disappear.
Are all the students actively involved and is the activity interesting? If students do not have something to say or do, or don't feel the need to speak, you can be sure it won't be long before they are chatting away in their L1.
Was the timing of the activity good? The timing of a speaking activity in a class can be crucial sometimes. How many teachers have discovered that their speaking activity ended up as a continuation of the students break-time gossip conducted in the L1? After break-time, why not try giving students an activity to calm them down and make them focus before attempting speaking activities that involve groups or pair work. Another way to discourage students speaking in their L1 is to walk around the classroom monitoring their participation and giving support and help to students as they need it. If certain students persist in speaking in the L1 then perhaps you should ask them to stay behind after class and speak to them individually and explain to them the importance of speaking English and ask them why they don't feel comfortable speaking in English in the class. Maybe they just need some extra reassurance or they don't like working with certain students or there is some other problem that you can help them to resolve.
When all the students speak together it gets too noisy and out of hand and I lose control of the classroom 
First of all separate the two points a noisy classroom and an out-of-control classroom. A classroom full of students talking and interacting in English, even if it is noisy, is exactly what you want. Maybe you just feel like you are losing control because the class is suddenly student centred and not teacher centred. This is an important issue to consider. Learner-centred classrooms where learners do the talking in groups and learners have to take responsibility for using communicative resources to complete a task are shown to be more conducive to language learning than teacher-centred classes (Long & Richards 1987). Nevertheless, many classrooms all over the world continue to be teacher centred, so the question you have to ask yourself is, how learner centred is my classroom?
Losing control of the classroom, on the other hand, is a different issue. Once again walking around and monitoring the students as they are working in groups can help, as you can naturally move over to the part of the classroom where the noise is coming from and calm the rogue students down and focus them back on the task without disrupting the rest of the students who are working well in their groups. If students really get too rowdy then simply change the pace of the class and type of activity to a more controlled task, for example a focus on form or writing task where students have to work in silence individually. Once the students have calmed down you can return to the original or another interactive group activity.

These are just some of the problems that teachers with large classes face when teaching speaking activities in the classroom. These problems are not new nor are the solutions offered above. Teachers all over the world continue to face the same hurdles, but any teacher who has overcome these difficulties and now has a large class of energetic students talking and working in English in groups together will tell you it is worth all the trial and error and effort at the outset. If you believe in the importance of teaching speaking skills in the classroom but are having difficulties making speaking activities work in your classroom why not contact your local teaching associations or branch of TESOL. Maybe they run workshops for teaching speaking skills, or maybe they can put you in contact with other teachers in similar situations but with more experience teaching speaking skills who will be willing to share their experiences with you.

1. Celce-Murcia. M. (2001). Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd ed). USA: Heinle&Heinle.
2. Long M.H & Richards, J.C. (1987). Methodology in TESOL. USA: Heinle&Heinle.
3. Nunan. D. (1991) Language Teaching Methodology. UK: Prentice Hall International (Chapter two & three)
4. Tanner .R. & Green.C.(1998) Tasks for teacher education. UK. Addisson Wesley Longman. Ltd.
Fiona Lawtie, ELT teacher, British Council, Caracas


If you’re looking for an exciting way to help your kids learn spelling and gather the family – or friends and neighbors -- for some educational and entertaining together time, consider rallying the troops together for a home spelling bee.
A spelling bee is a contest in which participants are asked to spell words in a round-robin format, where each person gets a turn to spell a word that is suitable for his or her level.
In planning your home spelling bee, you’ll want to make sure that you keep things challenging, but not so difficult that your kids get discouraged. Remember, the name of the game is f-u-n!
Gather participants
For a truly competitive oral spelling bee, you’ll want to select about eight to 10 participants, though more or fewer is fine.
Make sure participants don’t feel uncomfortable when singled out to spell in front of a group. If a participant is not comfortable taking the spotlight to spell, give them another job to do: Let them read off the words and use it in a sentence (we’ll call that person “the reader”) or perhaps act as a judge. Remember: kids will also learn spelling by reading the words, thinking up sentences, and following along to judge the correct spelling.
Read clearly and spell carefully
The reader should pronounce the word clearly and correctly as it is written, then use it in a sentence, then read the word again clearly.
So if the word was, say, “orchestra,” the reader might say “Orchestra. String, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments are all important parts of an orchestra. Orchestra.” Or if the word was “snowflakes,” the reader might say, “Snowflakes. I ran outside to catch snowflakes on my tongue. Snowflakes.”
The competitor would then say the word, spell the word, and say the word again: “Snowflakes. S-N-O-W-F-L-A-K-E-S. Snowflakes”
Be sure to choose words that are suited to the level of the participants. You don’t want the words to be so easy that they’re not challenged or so difficult that they grow frustrated.
Move things along
If a competitor spells a word correctly, he or she remains inthe game, awaiting his or her next turn. If the competitor spells a word incorrectly, he or she is eliminated from competition and the next participant is given the same word to spell, continuing down the line until the word is spelled correctly.
Although traditionally a participant is eliminated from spelling bee competition as soon as his or she is unable to spell a word, for your home spelling bee, you may want to tinker with the formula a little. You may let a participant continue to compete until he or she misspells, say, five words. Or you might want to keep score and anoint the person who correctly spells the most words the winner, in order to let all the participants continue to play. Or you might give each person a one “pass” to use at some point during the game to trade in a word that stumps him for another word. Get creative with the rules in order to keep things comfortable and fun for participants.
Get a whiteboard or a big piece of cardboard to write each word on as it is spelled correctly. This will help participants to learn all the words in the competition, not just the ones they are asked to spell.
Repeat until you have your winner
If you’re playing by the traditional elimination rules, keep playing until only one participant is still standing. Then have everyone applaud the winner and let the winner take a bow.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up
You can also have a non-competitive spelling bee in which participants are asked to write words as they are dictated. Participants can work individually or in a group, discussing and working together to decide on the correct spelling of a word. Again, write the words down on a dry-erase board, chalkboard, or poster board as they are spelled correctly in order to reinforce learning.
Or you may want to hold a themed spelling bee, using words from newspapers and magazines for a “current-events bee,” from the sports section for a “sports bee,” or from a cookbook for a “cuisine bee.”
Step it up
Whether you are holding an oral spelling competition or a non-competitive written spelling bee, take a gradual approach. Begin with easy word sand progress to more difficult ones.
Talk about it
After the spelling bee is over, talk things over with participants. Ask them what was most difficult and what was easy. This will give you a chance to reinforce key spelling concepts and introduce helpful ways to approach spelling.

This article was written by Amy Reiter for Kidspot, Australia's leading resource for parents about education.


Reflection/Lessons Learned

Schön (1983) describes two types of reflection: reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. 

Reflection-in-action helps us as we complete a task.  It is that process that allows us to reshape what we are working on, while we are working on it.  It is that on-going experimentation that helps us find a viable solution.  In this, we do not use a “trial-and-error” method.  Rather, our actions are much more reasoned and purposeful than that.  If something isn’t working correctly (doesn’t seem right, doesn’t seem to move you closer to the goal) then you “reflect” (a conscious activity) in the action-present.  A critical aspect is the questioning of the assumptional nature of knowing-in-action (KIA), where KIA is not the action itself, but what that action really indicates that we know.  In other words, knowing-in-action is often that tacit information that we know about doing something—it is often left unexplained or unmentioned when we describe what we do.  It is revealed in skillful performance.  Reflecting-in-action is generally called forth when a surprise appears in the process of accomplishing the task.  And that surprise causes one to question how the surprise occurred given our usual thinking process.

 As you work on your projects you should reflect-in-action.  Many of the “surprises” you will encounter will appear because the knowing-in-action on which you draw is largely skills that you perhaps developed in other fields.  Thus, the surprises occur because your old model doesn’t work without modification for the new task.  You reflect-in-action and find out what is different and how you can change your thinking to address this new task.

Reflection-on-action in our design projects is provided by final reflection papers, portions of design documents titled “lessons learned,” and also any time (written or otherwise) in which you evaluate your own process (this is actually a critical part of the design process and should well be incorporated into your design documents).  “We reflect on action, thinking back on what we have done in order to discover how our knowing-in-action may have contributed to an unexpected outcome” (Schön, 1983, p. 26).

So, how do you reflect-on-action?  How do you write lessons learned or a reflection paper? 

1.     Start by choosing a critical incident.  This incident could be something that you believe you finally did correctly after much ado or it could be something that even in the end you believe you didn’t do very well (in that case, the incident is that you turned in something that you were not pleased with).  This incident will likely be reflected somewhere in your process documents—maybe it is a poor learner analysis or a schedule that was never adhered to. 

2.     Then, think about the components of that incident from two different time frames.  For example, if it’s something with which you struggled and were proud of the accomplishment in the end, try to find that “light bulb” that helped you make sense of it.  Then, what was it like before that time and what was it like after that time.  If it’s something that you still did not master, think about what you did and what you would have like to have done.  Write up that personal discussion (a reflection paper will be a conversation with yourself in a way).

3.     Next, discuss the thinking process that either existed, or needed to exist, between the two time frames.  What was not right in the knowing-in-action?  See if you can find specific examples to link in this discussion.  And, draw on your resources (book, articles, etc.) that help explain the incident. 

4.     Finally, wrap it all up.  Summarize your lesson.  In other words, what have you learned so next time your knowing-in-action (or at least your reflection-in-action) will be different and will reflect your new understanding? 


Schön, D. A. (1987).  Teaching artistry through reflection-in-action.  In Educating the reflective practitioner (pp. 22-40).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. 

Thursday 9 November 2017


Characteristics of Language
A system of communication will qualify to be a language if it has language characteristics. These characteristics are universal, that is, they apply to all natural human languages. Here are some of them:
1.       Language is a system
A system is a group of related parts that work together as a whole for a particular purpose. Language is a system of set of speech sounds which are connected and working together to form different words in a language. Speech sounds are systematically combined together into words, and words into sentences.
2.       Language is symbolic
A symbol is any thing that stands to represent something else. Language is symbolic in that words whether written or spoken are used to represent ideas, objects and actions by convention (agreement). The word ‘dog’ for example, is a symbol it is used to represent a four legged animal kept at home. These symbols (words or phrases) are not naturally connected to its meaning. They have no direct resemblance with the things they represent neither in appearance nor in sound. The word ‘dog’ in this case has no natural connection (resemblance) with the animal called dog in appearance or in its sound. Every language community has its symbols (words) which are used to represent all its physical and conceptual experiences.
3.       Language is arbitrary
Some thing is said to be arbitrary if its origin and its relationship with other things is not based on reasons or plan. It has come by chance. Language is arbitrary because one can not tell when and where language started, it came by chance and also there is no direct or physical relation between its  symbols (words) and its meaning. Symbols are related to their meaning by convention; they have no inherent relation with their meanings. Yule (1985) says they do not, in any way ‘fit’ the object they denote. The word ‘dog’ for example, as it was pointed out earlier has no inherent relation with the domesticated barking animal with a four legs in the world neither in appearance nor in its sounds. Any form of human language demonstrates arbitrariness.
4.       Language is vocal or oral
Vocal in this context has been used to mean ‘voice’. Language is primarily vocal in that it must be produced with voice, any natural human language must be produced with voice in our mouth and it should be perceived (heard) via ear. Indeed, only spoken language can be truly considered ‘language’.  Spoken language existed even before the invention of writing and sign language. Writing is only collection of symbols to represent and preserve spoken language in permanent form and it is marginal and recent form of language. Up to date there are still many languages in the world which are not written but those languages are not in any means inferior to the written ones, all languages whether documented or undocumented are equal in their characteristics, expressive potential and grammatical complexity. There are no primitive languages, nor are any known to have existed in the past, even among the most remote tribes of Stone Age or hunter and gatherers.  Written language is not language in and of itself. Many written languages today are regularly undergoing orthographic reforms to reflect changes in the spoken language.
5.       Language is human
Language is purely for human beings. Only human beings have an ability to learn or acquire language for communication. It is there fore a species- specific, it is specific only to human being (Syal etal 2007). According Fromkin, (1974) the possession of language, more than any attribute, distinguishes humans from other animals; to understand our humanity one must understand the language that makes us human. Non human beings do not have the capacity to learn or acquire language (for the reasons that will be discussed latter). They have their own systems of communication (such as cries and signals) which are not language. Human beings have the in-born biological or in born transmitted ability for language learning. We all become human because we all know at least one language (ibid)
6.       Language is learnable or acquired
Language is not genetically or biologically inherited by the young generation from the old generation, the young generation has to learn or acquire it. Children can inherit colour, red eyes, behaviour or some diseases from their parents but they can not inherit language. Language must be learned or acquired not biologically or genetically inherited. Human must learn or acquire language from social groups of speakers of the language. Speakers of one language   can learn any other languages. There is an important distinction made by linguists between language acquisition and language learning.
Language acquisition
Language acquisition is the unconscious process of learning language in natural communicative settings. It is a natural process of mastering a language for meaningful communication. According to linguist Yule (1985) language acquisition refers to the gradual development of ability in language by using it naturally in communicative situations. In this case a learner needs to partake in natural communicative situations. Children are not taught their first languages (mother tongue) but rather they acquire it unconsciously from the natural communicative environment. Any normal child, born anywhere in the world, of any racial, geographical, social, or economic heritage, is capable of acquiring any language to which he or she is exposed. The differences we find among languages cannot be due to biological reasons.
There is an innate basis for acquisition of language in children. This innate capacity is active in early years of a child up to puberty, after that age, it difficult if not impossible to acquire a language.
Language learning
Language learning on the other hand is the conscious process of learning a particular language. It refers to a formal and systematic study of the knowledge of language and verbalizing. Yule, (1985) says ‘learning applies to the conscious process of accumulating knowledge of vocabulary and grammar of a language. In this process a learner needs to consciously apply deliberate efforts to knowing a language. It is the result of direct instruction in the rules of language. Adults do not acquire language but they need to learn it by applying deliberate efforts.
7. Language is communicative
Communication is the process by which people exchange information or express their thoughts and feelings, an act of communication is basically the transmission of information (message) from a source to a receiver, in language both source and receiver are human and the message can be transmitted through air or through a phone. The purpose of any human language in the world is to communicate information from one person to another in a given society. For communication to be successful the message must be received and understood by the receiver in the same way as it is intended by the sender. The skill of communicating depends not only on the strength of ones vocabulary, but the ability to express one's thoughts and ideas clearly. According to Crystal, D (1971) to initiate communication is one thing, but to make it successful is another.
It should be noted that human is not the only creature which is capable of communicating. In fact, Yule, (1985) says ‘all creatures, from apes, bees, cicadas, and dolphins are capable of communicating with other members of their species’
Sender or source is the person who gives out the message or anything that act as a source of information or message to the listeners or the receiver. A sender starts with an impulse he or she wishes to express and then must encode that idea into symbols (words) and signs (facial expressions, tone of voice, etc).
The message is an idea, thought or feeling that a person (the source) wishes to communicate to other persons or group of people (the receivers). The message is the content of interaction to communicate. All messages are carried by a channel (such as face-to-face, over the phone, email, etc).
The channel is the means or medium by which a message moves from the source to the receiver of the message. The channel can be a radio, television, phone, computer or postal.
The receiver or decoder is the listener or decoder of the message from the sender. After receiving the message the receiver has to send back the feedback. Sometimes the receivers of the message can decide to remain silent, silent also is a feedback.
Feedback is the receiver’s response to the message. Feedback allows the sender to know how his or her message is being received. Sometimes even no response or silence is a feedback.
NB: given the fact that the purpose of any language is to communicate does not mean that all the methods human being use to communicate are language. This is because we can communicate by gestures, facial expressions, or touch and these are not languages.
8. Language is conventional
The word ‘convention’ in this context has been used to mean a formal agreement among people about particular rules or behaviour. Language is conventional because it must be agreed upon by the members of its speakers. It is communally agreed and possessed (Wardhaugh 1999). The only reason as to why Language exists is because users agree on symbols to be used and rules to be followed (Brown 1988).  Any language or part of it must be conventionally be accepted by the speech community concerned. The conventional or socially shared code of language allows listeners and speakers or writers and readers of the same language to exchange information (ibid).  An individual person can not create a language of his or her own. Any language created by an individual and not accepted by the speech community will die a natural death.
9. Language is an aspect of culture
A culture has to do with beliefs, art, values, norms, attitudes, traditions and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society. In other words we can say culture of the society is whatever a person must know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its members.  Language is part and parcel of culture. It influences our culture and even our thought processes, it interacts with each and every aspect of human life in the society and it can be understood if it is considered in relation to the society’s culture. No wonder therefore in learning a language one gets exposed to certain cultural elements of the nature speakers of that particular language. A community is known by the language it speaks this is because every aspect of culture is reflected in their language. Language is related to people’s culture in the following ways:
·         Language reflects the cultural values, norms, traditions and customs of its speech community. In other words we can say all cultural elements are coded in language. According to Wardhaugh, (1999) a culture values certain things and do them in certain way, they come to use their language in ways that reflect what they value and what they do.
·         Language helps culture to be practiced in a particular community. It binds our society to work for a common cultural practices such as ceremonies, initiations etc.
·         Language helps culture to be transmitted from one generation to another. Language is a principal way in which a new generation learns about itself, others and their culture. Human being can pass on the accumulated knowledge of the community and his culture to their offspring by means of language.
·         Language provides human being with a powerful and flexible tool of thought. People in the society can not think without a language. A linguist Fromkin, (1974) points out that thought depends on the prior existence of language.
·         Language and culture are also related in that, the culture creates a lens through which we perceive the world and create shared meaning. Language therefore develops in response to the needs of culture or to the perceptions of the world.
By looking at the language Characteristics discussed so far, which definition among the fore listed definitions above covers as many characteristics and hence suitable for language definition? We say the definition which covers as many language characteristics because according to Syal etal (2007) ‘no single definition which can include all the properties of language in it, it is not possible to have such a definition’ a good definition in this case will be selected basing on how many language characteristics have been covered. In this case a definition that covers as many characteristics compared to others is the best. And that is definition is definition number six (6) which states:
Language is learned, shared and an arbitrary system of vocal symbols though which human being in the speech community interact and hence communicate in terms of their cultural experience and expectations. The definition covers all the characteristics of language of arbitrariness, symbolic, conventional, vocal, systematic, learnable, communicative and cultural transmission.
Language versus a Language
In language study, sometimes the words language and a language are used to mean different but related concepts. The term ‘Language’ without an article ‘a’ is used to refer to the universal ability of all normal human beings to produce speech. It is used to refer to the unique characteristic shared by all human being. This ability has been endowed and shared in common to only human beings animals do not possess this ability.
On the other hand, ‘a language’ (with an article ‘a’) refers to a particular system of speech used by a particular community. It is a particular language used by a particular society. Wardhaugh, (1999) says ‘it what the members of a particular society speak’.  It is not held in common by all human beings but only those who belong to a particular community for example, each of the following is a language, English, French, Zulu, Chagga e.t.c.
Study questions
  1. Which influences the other and how between language and culture?
  2. How will you differentiate between language and a language?


What is a Sentence?

Is a word or group of words that express and convey a complete thought from a speaker or writer. Each complete sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.
For example;
  1. I am playing football like Zidane.
  2. I will go to School.
  3. They slept on the bed.
  4. She goes to school every morning.
  5. It is chasing a thief.

TYPES OF SENTENCES                                

These are: -
-          Statement
-          Command
-          Request / Question
-          Exclamation

Statement is a sentence whose purpose primarily is to convey information. It is used to express the events. Statement has a subject and a predicate

For example;
  1. Juma wrote a letter to his mother.
  2. My brother is going to watch TV now.
  3. Mnaa is our class master.
  4. She teaches us Mathematics and Physics.


Giving out an order or suggestions.
For example;
  1. Go out.
  2. Shut up
  3. Sit down.
  4. Take it to the dustbin.

Command always begins with the action verb.
For example;
  1. Stand up.
  2. Write it down.
  3. Slow down.
  4. Put it in your pocket.

Means to ask something or permission from somebody else. Request normally uses the polite language. The words which are usually used in request are;
May                             Would                          Sorry                           Please
Can                             Could                          Excuse me

For example;
  1. Please teacher, may I go out?
  2. May I introduce myself to you?
  3. Excuse me, Juma, can you give me a pen?
  4. Please Sir; may I use your pen for a short moment?
  5. Can you help me?
  6. Could you mind if I ask you?

Means to surprise.Exclamation normally ends with the exclamation mark (!).
For example;
  1. Ayaa!  She is dead.
  2. Yallah! I was hurt.
  3. Maashallah! You have done a good job.
  4. Ebo! You are thief!
  5. Duuh! It’s the huge Ship!
  6. What! Kill me!
  7. Shabash! I will kill you!
  8. Ooh! My God!
  9. Hii! It’s a fire!
  10. Hurray! We have won the match.

Underline the subject in the following sentences
                              i.      My son, Saleh, attends English orientation course at Manzese.
                            ii.      We spoke to his teachers.
                          iii.      I want to write a letter.
                          iv.      The train has arrived.
                            v.      The accident was witnessed by a policeman.
                          vi.      He began eating before the time.
                        vii.      She will either win or lose

Sentences have two parts, the subject and the predicate. Subject is a DOER of the actions.  It can be a noun or pronoun. Predicate refers to what is said about the subject.

The subject of a sentence indicates who is speaking, who is spoken to or who is spoken about.  
For example;
Who is speaking?
  1. I travelled to Dodoma to take my certificate.
  2. we have conducted drama competition in our school.
  3. we are reading “Things Fall Apart”.
  4. I had seen him on the way to Posta.
In the sentences above, the subject is I and we, the person or persons speaking.

Who is spoken to?
  1. You can take all your properties from my room.
  2. You may copy this work for future use.
  3. Your parents are coming back from Europe today.
The subject in the above sentences is you, the person being spoken to.

Who is spoken about?
1. They arrived yesterday.
2. All students left the school early fearing Popobawa.
3. The Headmaster suspended them from school for misbehaviour.
The subject is they, all students and the Headmaster, who is spoken about.

Simple subject
The simple subject is the noun or pronoun that names the person, thing, place o idea that the sentence is about. The simple subjects normally do not include modifiers.
For example;
  1. Dodoma is the capital city of Tanzania.
  2. Manchester United, won the game against AS Roma.

Compound subject
A compound subject is a simple subject that has two or more nouns and pronouns.
For example;
  1. Our school and many other schools across Tanzania have debate clubs.
  2. responsibility and efficiency are important qualities for a good student.

Sentences are classified according to the number and kinds of clauses they contain. The four kinds of sentences are simple, compound, complex, and compound complex.

Simple sentences
A simple sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and no subordinate clauses. It may have any number of phrases. It may have a compound subject, a compound predicate, or both. It does not, however, have more than one clause.
For example;
  1. They live on Indira Gandhi Street.
  2. Collectors like old things.
  3. Collectors like old things but value quality. (compound predicate).
  4. My father is fat.
  5. My brother will drive them.

Compound sentence
A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses that are joined. A compound sentence never has a subordinate clause. You usually join independent clauses with a comma and one of the co-ordinating conjunctions; and, but, nor, or, for or yet.
For example;
  1. The books were antique, but they looked brand new.
  2. My brother will drive them, or they will walk.
  3. Some beggars need only money; others accept anything they are given..
  4. They live on Indira Gandhi Street and their parents live on Masaki.

Complex sentences
A complex sentence consists of one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses. Complex sentences may be broken up into simple sentences, simple sentences can be combined into complex sentences.
For example;
  1. When she heard an explosion, she quickly phoned the police.
  2. Hugo entered the room, and he sat down.
  3. As you refuse to tell me what you were doing, I shall have to ask your classmates.
  4. When coins were first used, they were made in simple shapes.
sub clause                                inde clause

A compound – complex sentence consists of two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses.


Language is a system of arbitrary vocal and written symbols used for human communication. Language can also be defined as a learned, shared and arbitrary system of vocal symbols through which human beings in the same speech community interact and hence communicate in terms of their common cultural experience and expectation. As one observes these definitions realizes that the definitions have five key concepts: language is a system, language is symbolic, language is arbitrary, language is learnt, and language is conventional.
Language as a system:
A system (any system) assembles together units which form a regular and connected whole. These units are finite, inter related and mutually exclusive; that is, if one unit is missing, the whole system fails to work. Therefore, language is a system because it assembles together which form a regular and connected whole. Language consists of subsystems involving speech sounds (sound system), grammar (morphology and syntax) and semantics (meaning).
Language as symbolic:
Language can be seen as being comprised of symbols. These symbols are speech sounds and the orthography. The speech sounds and the orthography are merely symbols for reality. They do not reflect a direct referent. There is no physical connection between these symbols and reality.
Language as arbitrary:
The linguistic symbols are arbitrary because each language community picks them very haphazardly (with no particular order or plan). There is no any formal or deliberate choosing of the sounds of words to be used in a language. That is why one object can be expressed in different ways in different language communities.
Language as something learnt:
Human language must be learnt. Despite the children’s unconscious acquisition of language of language, they must be taught by people around in some stages in the process of internalizing the language. Any language that is throughout acquired instinctively is not a human language. A good example of this observation is drawn from the fact that a donkey will bray, a sheep will bleat, a dog will bark, a frog will croak, a bird will chirp and a cat will miaow anywhere in the world in the same way without any formal lesson or imitations even if the animal/bird grows alone in the forest.
Language as something conventional:
Any human language must be accepted and shared by members of a speech community concerned. You cannot create language of your own and use it by yourself; be it a technical concept, slang or even an idiom. This is basically a reason why some terminologies (newly introduced) of a language die immediately because they are not accepted by the speech community concerned. For example, the Kiswahili term mlishonyuma (to mean ‘feedback’) is not in common use because its acceptability in the Swahili speaking community is dubious.
Revision Questions:
  1. Discuss the complexity of English or Kiswahili language focusing on the arbitrariness of the language in relation to the nature of our language learners in Tanzania.
  2. Citing concrete examples drawn from the Tanzanian linguistic situation, discuss the challenges a Tanzanian learner is likely to face when learning English/Kiswahili.
  3. It is argued that language is something learnt and conventional. Declare your standpoint in the argument, supported with concrete examples.

The defining characteristics of human language:
Human language is unique in the sense that it is different from other means of communication used by non human creatures. The following are features which verify that human language is unique:
Displacement: Human language can be used to refer to events which are far removed in time and place. Human beings can talk about past events, present as well as future plans. In contrast, non human creatures cannot. For example, a cat miaows ‘nyau’ right now because it cannot communicate ‘nyau’ for next week or yesterday. Therefore, the displacement characteristic of language means that human language allows the users of the language to talk about things and events not present in the immediate environment.
Arbitrariness: Human language is arbitrary in the sense that language signals are not deliberately planned to picture the objects or situations they refer to. Therefore, there is no natural relationship between linguistic form (sound system or written symbol) and its meaning. In non human creatures; particularly animals, there is always clear connection between the message conveyed and signal produced.
Productivity: Language users manipulate their linguistic resources to produce new expressions and new sentences. Thus, there is creativity or open endedness in human language. The potential number of utterances in any human language is infinite. In contrast, non human signaling appears to have little flexibility.
Cultural transmission: Language is passed on from one generation to the next. Thus, human language is culturally inherited in the society. In animals, however, the communication signals are innate / instinct.
Discreteness:  The sounds used in language are meaningfully distinct. For example, the difference between /b/ and /p/ is not actually very great but when these sounds are part of a language like English, they are used in such a way that the occurrence of one rather than the other is meaningful. The difference in meaning of the words/beɪ/ and /peɪ/ is conveyed by the difference between /b/ and /p/ sounds. Thus, each sound in a language is treated as discrete.
Duality: Human language is organized at two levels referred to as duality or double articulation. The first level is termed as the physical level where individual sounds like/g/, /ɒ/ and /d/ are produced. The second level is termed as the meaning level where the individually produced sounds are combined to form meaning. Such combinations can form /g ɒd/, /d ɒg/ etc. Therefore, at level 1 we have distinct sounds and at level 2 we have distinct meanings. This duality of levels is one of the most economical features of human language since with a limited set of distinct sounds we are capable of producing a very large number of sound combinations (e.g words) which are distinct in meaning.
Other characteristics of human language (shared by non humans):
Vocal – Auditory channel: In human language linguistic communication is typically generated via the vocal organs and perceived via the ears. However, the linguistic communication can be transmitted without sound, via writing or via the sign language of the deaf. Many other non human species (e.g. dolphins) use the vocal-auditory channel. Thus, this characteristic is not a defining feature of human language.
Reciprocity: A speaker/sender of a linguistic signal can also be a listener/receiver and vice-versa.
Specialization: Linguistic signals normally do not serve any other purpose (breathing, feeding) but communication.
Non directionality: Linguistic signals can be picked up by anyone within the hearing distance.
Rapid fade: Linguistic signals, once produced, disappear quickly.
Revision Questions:
  1. Discuss the discreteness feature of human language in relation to sociolinguistic campaigns for language freedom in pursuit for social identity.
  2. Discuss the kind of evidence that support the idea that language is culturally transmitted.
  3. Describe the Kiswahili/English language in terms of human language defining features.
  4. Critically assess the vocal-auditory channel feature of human language.
Views and approaches to language analysis:
Language as a system has small components which work together to form meaningful expressions. We understand larger textual units by combining our understanding of smaller ones. The main aim of linguistic theory is to show how these larger units of meaning arise out of the combination of smaller ones. These are views that this can be shown by means of a grammar as language is subdivided into syntax and semantics; where syntax describes the different formal elements of a textual unit, most often the sentence, can be combined. Semantics describes how the interpretation is calculated. Linguists view it that grammar consists of words and rules that syntactically and semantically combine words and phrases into larger phrases and sentences. This analysis overview pictures the importance of grammar in language for meaningful expressions.
Ludwig Wittgeinsten’s philosophical ideas on language hold it that language can be analysed in terms of thought and reality. Thought and reality share a common structure.
According to Wittgeinstein’s view, the world consists of facts. Human beings are aware of the facts by virtue of their mental representations/thoughts which are understood as giving a picture of how things are. These thoughts correspond to reality. Then the thoughts are converted into symbols which are expressed in terms of sentences/language.
Therefore, the world is full of reality, the reality which can be expressed by sentences via mental thoughts. The implication here is that the whole world with its diverse realities can be perceived as thought and can be expressed by using language.
Learning and Teaching:
Learning is defined as acquiring or getting of knowledge of a subject or skill by study, experience or instruction. However, Kimble and Garmezy’s definition is more specialized: “Learning is a relatively permanent change in a behavioural tendency and is the result of reinforced practice” (1963: 133).
Similarly, teaching is showing or helping someone to learn how to do something, giving instructions, guiding in the study of something, providing with knowledge causing to know or understand. As we break down the components of the definition of learning we can extract the following:
-          Learning is acquisition or getting
-          Learning is retention of information/skill. Retention implies storage systems, memory, cognitive organization
-          Learning involves active, conscious focus on and acting upon events (outside or inside the organism)
-          Learning involves some form of practice, perhaps reinforced practice. In other words, learning is relatively permanent but subject to forgetting
-          Learning is a change in behaviour.
The second language learner brings all these and more other variables into practice in the learning of the language.
On the other hand, teaching is guiding and facilitating learning, enabling the learner to learn, setting the conditions for learning. As teachers, our understanding of how the learner learns will determine our philosophy of education, our teaching style, our approach, methods and classroom techniques.

First Language Acquisition:
We witness extraordinary ability of children to communicate. As small babies, children babble and coo and cry and vocally or non vocally send a number of messages and receive even more messages. As they reach the end of their first year specific attempts are made to imitate words and speech sounds heard around them, and about this time they speak their first ‘words’. At the age of 18 months these words start appearing in combination with each other to form two-word and three-word ‘sentences’. These are commonly referred to as ‘telegraphic utterances’ or ‘telegraphese’. At this stage, production of words increases.
By age of 3 years children understand a wide variety of linguistic behaviour, impressing those around them. This fluency continues into school age as children internalize increasingly complex structures, expand their vocabulary and sharpen communicative skills.
At school age, children not only learn what to say but also what not to say as they learn the social functions of their language. We can ask ourselves questions such as: How can we explain this fantastic journey from the first cry at birth to adult competence in a language? - from first word to tens of thousands, from telegraphese at 18 month to the compound complex, cognitively precise, social culturally appropriate sentences just a few years later?
It is the same questions theories of language acquisition attempt to answer:
Behaviouristic Theories:
The behaviouristic approach to language acquisition maintains that children come into the world with a tabula rasa, a clean slate bearing no preconceived notions about the world or about language. These children are then shaped by their environment, slowly conditioned through various schedules of reinforcement.
A behaviourist might consider effective language behaviour to be the production of correct responses to stimuli. If a particular response is reinforced, it then becomes habitual or conditioned. Thus, children produce linguistic responses that are reinforced. Thus, children produce linguistic responses that are reinforced. This is basically an interpretation of Skinner’s theory of verbal behaviour as an extension of his general theory of learning by ‘Operant Conditioning’. Operant conditioning refers to conditioning in which a human being gives response (or operant which can be a sentence or utterance) without necessarily observable stimuli. That operant is learned by reinforcement. Over repeated instances the operant is conditioned.
According to Skinner, verbal behaviour is controlled by its consequences. When consequences are rewarding, behaviour is maintained and is increased in strength. When consequences are punishing or when there is lack of reinforcement the behaviour is weakened and eventually extinguished.
The Nativist Theories:
These are generative theories of child language. The theories arose due to shortcomings the behaviouristic theories had. The critics of the behaviouristic theories were interested in clear explanations of the mystery of language acquisition (the explanation behaviourism does not give). Thus, they asked themselves deeper questions that were beyond scientific investigation.
 The term Nativist is derived from the fundamental assertion that language acquisition is innately determined i.e we are born with a built-in device known as Language Acquisition Device (LAD). The LAD is not literary a cluster of brain cells that could be isolated and neurologically (nerves carrying information from the brain to the body) located. It is rather an imaginary ability to language.
Thus, we can refer to LAD as the language faculty of the human brain (the mental ability a person is born with) which each new born child is endowed. However, by itself, this faculty is not enough. It entails two conditions. These conditions are exposure to language and physical capability.
Exposure to language: In the first two or three years as a child grows up requires interaction with other language users in order to bring the language faculty (LAD) into operation with a particular language. This is true as we consider the cultural transmission features of a language that the language a child learns is not genetically inherited but is acquired in a particular language-using environment.
Physical capability: A child must be physically capable of sending and receiving sound signals in a language. All infants make ‘cooing’ and ‘babbling’ noises during the first few months. It is argued that deaf infants stop after six months. Therefore, in order to speak a language, a child must be able to hear that language being used by people around him/her and respond to what he/she hears.
In normal cases, infants are helped in their language acquisition by the behaviour of the adults in the home environment. The speech is always simplified to ‘baby talk’ with a lot of repetitions of simplified sounds for objects in the child’s environment. These sounds then develop into caretaker speech (simplified speech style adopted by someone who spends a lot of time interacting with a young child). Sometimes it is referred to as motherese. Caretaker speech/motherese is characterized by simple sentence structure and a lot of repetition. Also, it changes as the child grows up and as much as the child uses a language.
Second Language (L2) Learning:
Second language is basically any language learned after the first language. In our case, the term second language refers to a language which is a mother tongue but which is used for certain specified and important communicative functions in the society. Therefore, both Kiswahili and English are second languages to most of the Tanzanians.
Acquisition and Learning Theory:
The theory observes the fact that some people acquire L2 without going to school, though this does not lead to true mastery of the language. Others go to language classes and study the language they wish to know.
Of the two situations, the former appears close to the first language/mother tongue (L1) acquisition than learning a language in classroom. This fact was advanced by Palmer (1921) who was interested in the difference between spontaneous (subconscious language acquisition) and studial (conscious language learning). Palmer suggested that spontaneous (unplanned/sudden) capabilities are for the acquisition of the spoken language whereas studial capabilities are acquired for development of literacy (ability to read and write).
Under the same concern, Stephen Krashen (the American linguist) put forward the Input Hypothesis in 1980’s. He argued that the language will be acquired subconsciously when it is anxiety free. On the other hand, language which is learnt/ studied (grammar and vocabulary) is not available for spontaneous use. He claims further that the only use for learnt language is to help monitoring (checking out) spontaneous communication. However, according to him, the more we monitor what we are saying the less spontaneous we become. Thus, as a learner acquires language subconsciously he/she develops spontaneous speech production. Therefore, in Krashen’s view, acquired language and learned language are different both in character (features) and effect (outcome)
Krashen observes that the successful acquisition by L2 learners is bound up with the nature of the language input they receive. The input has to be comprehensible even if it is slightly above their production level. He terms this observation as Comprehensible Input i +1 which means that the information the learner already has plus the next level up.
Language learners have to be exposed to the target language in a relaxed setting. According to Krashen this input is a roughly – tuned input (as parent – child language is subconsciously moderated). This is in contrast with the finely – tuned input (specifically graded/programmed language for conscious learning). Krashen’s implication here is that the most beneficial/useful thing we can do with language learners is to expose them to large amount of comprehensible input in relaxed setting. We might make students learn language consciously at some later stage for the sake of their writing and reading.
Features which Characterize L2 Learning:
Language interference: Language interference arises due to the difference between L1 and L2. The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) maintains that the principal barrier to L2 acquisition is the interference of the L1 system which the L2 system and that the analysis of the two languages in question would produce linguistic contrasts/differences between them; which in turn would enable the linguist to predict the difficulties a learner would encounter.
Moreover, human language learning theories highlight interference elements of learning, concluding that where no interference could be predicted, no difficulty would be experienced since one would transfer positively all other items in a language.
The logical conclusion from these various psychological and linguistic assumptions is that L2 learning basically involves the overcoming of the differences between the two linguistic systems – the native language and the target language.
Lado (1957) who propounded the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) assumes that errors made in learning L2 could be attributed (caused by) to interference by L1. As L2 learning difficulties can be predicted, language courses and lessons can be designed well, appropriately and effectively.
The CAH has been criticized. Critics of the hypothesis argue that:
-          Many errors predicted by the hypothesis are not observed in the learner’s L1. Therefore, sometimes, errors made by learners are not related to their L1.
-          The hypothesis deals effectively with the learner’s production (speaking and writing) only and not with learner’s reception (listening and reading).
-          The hypothesis cannot account for the learner’s communicative strategies such as avoidance in which learners tend to avoid forms of language they are not comfortable with.
-          Contrastive analysts are focused on learners’ errors as if learners are imperfect.
Interlanguage: Interlanguage was propounded by Selinker in1972. It refers to the language learners’ knowledge of L2 which is independent of both L1 and L2. Interlanguage scholarship views language learning as natural and systematic. Thus, Interlanguage is a stage of development toward a target language. According to this assumption the learner’s L1 is very important as a starting point.
The Interlanguage stage involves Interlanguage phonology (the sound system), Interlanguage grammar (morphology and syntax), Interlanguage vocabulary (lexicon) and Interlanguage pragmatics (language use, norms found among learners). Interlanguage is believed to be the basis of all L2 productions. For that case, errors made in Interlanguage are considered as developmental errors (errors which are expected to improve).
Caution: Carefulness must be observed in interlanguage lest the errors persist to be permanent. The persistence of errors is referred to as fossilization. Fossilization is the permanent incorrect linguistic forms in a person’s L2.
Revision question: Compare and contrast the two views; contrastive analysis and interlanguage.
Hints: - Both are features of L2 learning. As it views the L1 positively, interlanguage scholarship rejects the view that a language learner is imperfect. However, contrastive analysis holds a learner as imperfect.
Learners’ Factors (External and Internal):
External factors: They refer to how learners get information/knowledge about the target focusing on the effects of different kinds of input and the effects of the social contexts:
i)                    Social effects: Social effects involve the impact (positive and negative) of the surrounding society on the language learning process. This involves the attitude of the community around toward the target language. The community’s positive or negative attitude toward the target language can affect L2 learning. So does the attitude of parents. It is clear that positive attitude toward the language strengthens the motivation to learn and facilitate language learning in general.
ii)                  Input and Intake: The target language itself is the most direct source of information about the target language. When learners come into direct contact with the target language, this is referred to as input. When learners process that language in a way that can contribute to learning, this is referred to as intake. The amount of input learners take in (intake) is one of the most important factors affecting their learning. However, it must be at a level which is comprehensible to learners.
iii)                Learning environment: A learner can be exposed to the environment which does not support effective learning. This factor brings us to the concept of Affective Filter. Affective filter is a term used to describe a kind of barrier to learning that results from negative feelings/experiences that a learner faces. Factors which contribute to this emotional reaction include dull textbooks, unpleasant classroom surroundings and exhausting schedule. Basically, if you are stressed, uncomfortable or unmotivated you are unlikely to learn effectively.
iv)                Interaction: Interaction refers to the use of target language in context (while working, playing, sharing ideas and experience etc). L2 learners have to interact using the target language. It is observed that through interaction L2 learners enhance much intake and adequate output. Long’s Interaction Hypothesis maintains that language acquisition is strongly facilitated by the use of the target language in interaction. Long observes that negotiation of meaning contributes greatly to the acquisition of vocabulary. Therefore, language learners have to use the language in context for adequate output.
In the same line of argument, Merrill Swain advanced the Output Hypothesis (Merrill Swain Output Hypothesis). According to her, meaningful output is as necessary to language learning as meaningful input; i. e.  What learners produce reflects what they were exposed to.
v)                  Pedagogical effects: Effective language teaching practices are extremely in promoting L2 acquisition. There are research backed arguments that many traditional language teaching methods (teaching methods based on form of language rather than the communicative aspect) are ineffective/insufficient.
Generally, it has been found that pedagogy (process of teaching) restricted to teaching grammar rules and vocabulary lists does not give learners the ability to use the L2 with accuracy and fluency. Rather, to become proficient in the L2 the learner must be given opportunities to use the L2 for communicative purposes.
Internal factors: The learner’s internal factors refer to how learners gain competence in a target language, given much input and effective instruction. Under this condition a learner can be able to process successfully the received input to produce a rule governed interlanguage toward the target language itself. This assertion leads us to the concept of competence, performance and discourse analysis.

Competence and Performance:
Competence and performance refers to the knowledge of language and ability to use it correctly in appropriate context. Chomsky in his “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax” (1965) points out that competence is the perfect knowledge of ideal speaker – listener of a language in a homogeneous speech community. He argues further that linguistic theory is confined primarily with an ideal speaker –listener in a speech community knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by grammatical conditions.
The concept of performance is well addressed by Widdowson through his idea of ‘effectiveness for communication’. He argues that an utterance with a well formed grammatical structure may not have a sufficient value for communication in a given context. Therefore, a language user has to primarily have a good knowledge of the form of the language (competence) and use it appropriately in relation to context in which it used and evaluated (performance).
Whether an utterance has a sufficient communicative value or not is determined in discourse (situation where language is used). That is why Widdowson’s approach is considered as ‘discourse based’.
Moreover, Canale and Swain (1980) and Canale (1983) merge it all as ‘Communicative Competence’ to talk about competence and performance, all together. They advance four components of the communicative competence:
i)                    Grammatical competence – this refers to the mastery of language form.
ii)                  Discourse competence – this refers to the mastery of how to combine grammatical forms and meaning so as to achieve a unified spoken/written text in different genres.
iii)                Sociolinguistic competence – this addresses the extent to which utterances are produced and understood appropriately in different sociolinguistic situations.
iv)                Strategic competence – this refers to the mastery of vernal and non verbal communication strategies that may be called into action for two main reasons:
-          To compensate in breakdown communication
-          To enhance the effectiveness of communication.