Usage-Based Instruction: Teaching students to orally communicate in a foreign language

by Serafima Gettys (Lewis University)

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This book is about Usage-Based Instruction, an innovative approach to teaching students to orally communicate in foreign languages. The approach was inspired by Usage-Based Model of language and language acquisition which differs radically from the traditional view of language underlying today’s dominant teaching paradigm. Usage-Based view of language is largely unknown to language educators: its main tenets are still tucked away in scholarly books and articles. The main goal of the book was to connect this refreshingly novel perspective on how language is learned with L2 pedagogy. The result is Usage-Based Instruction (UBI), a highly structured and carefully conceived sequence that has been successfully applied in teaching beginning students to speak in a foreign language. Students taught by the UBI demonstrate higher language gain, better pronunciation and grammatical accuracy, as well as more ease in expressing their ideas in the foreign language than those taught by more traditional, usually textbook-driven, methods.

The first part of the book describes the main tenets of Usage-Based theory, such as intimate relation between language experience and the development of the linguistic system, the role of frequency, entrenchment, associative learning, constructions, and chunking, and discusses their relevance to L2 pedagogy. The main feature of the UBI which distinguishes it from more conventional approaches is that it uses constructions as units of learning. In the UBI course, constructions are learned through use: students begin to use linguistic units without necessarily being exposed to metalinguistic knowledge but rather through memory-based automatization in meaningful semi-communicative and communicative activities. Based on the premises discussed in the first part of the book, the second part of the book presents detailed step-by-step description of the UBI instructional sequence which includes Modeling, Focused Input, Forced-Choice Output, Scaffolded Practice, and Recycling, with each step considered in separate chapters, each containing a wealth of ready-to-use classroom activities.

Dr. Serafima Gettys is currently director of the Foreign Language Program at Lewis University, IL. She was previously a lecturer at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Dr Gettys holds BA and MA in English and German and a doctoral degree in ESL (St. Petersburg University of Education). She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and has lived in the USA for the past 25 years.

Bibliographic Information

Book Title
Usage-Based Instruction: Teaching students to orally communicate in a foreign language
Number of pages
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
Publication date
August 2018