The Role of Contextualization in Teaching and Learning English

Term Paper, 2014

10 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. The Development of Contextualization Approaches

2. The Role of Contextualization in Teaching and Learning English
2.1 Definitions and Forms of Context
2.2 Historical Overview
2.3 The Role of Context in Second Language Learning
2.4 Advantages of Contextualized Learning
2.5 Consequences of context oriented approaches for teachers
2.6 Criticism of Contextualized Learning Processes
2.7 Conclusion

3. Overview of today’s teaching methods using context


1. The Development of Contextualization Approaches

Teaching methods differ widely, mostly concerning to what their approach on teaching and learning is and how it is pursued. Methods coming up in the 1970s stated that learning should happen in context, as contextualization is of major importance, when learning a language. This was seen as important in several approaches to learning foreign languages as for example the task based learning approach (TBL) or content and language integrated learning approach (CLIL). This development was a consequence of new research in the field of language acquisition. Beforehand behavioristic approaches and the views they stood for were most important for the developing of teaching and learning models, but as cognitivist views took over contextualization got more and more influential on the matter. In this work will be shown what exactly is meant with the term contextualization and what its meanings for language learning and teaching are. A definition of context and contextualization will start of this paper. An overview of methods using the ideas of contextualization will follow and the last topic will be the advantages and disadvantages as well as the critics that formed against this movement of language teaching and learning. The paper will close with a short overview about current usage of contextualization in foreign language classrooms, as it is used to a large extend in schools and other institutions as for example the Volkshochschule.

2. The Role of Contextualization in Teaching and Learning English

2.1 Definitions and Forms of Context

Firstly it should be explained, that there are several definitions of context. As for this paper the main argumentation is about giving learners of the English language an appropriate context, the definitions given refer to context in this particular situation.

According to Celce-Murcia and Olshtain is defined as “all the factors and elements that are nonlinguistic and nontextual but which affect spoken or written communicative interaction” (Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 11). Halliday on the other hand uses a shorter definition but has the same idea of context. He describes it as “the events that are going on around when people speak (and write)” (Halliday in Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 11). Both these definitions of context have in common, that they refer to situations of communication, either spoken or in a written form. Context here stands for the situation itself, in which persons communicate.

According to Duranti and Goodwin (1992) there are four different types of context (Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 12). For the approach of contextualization as a meaningful impact on teaching and learning English only three of these categories are of importance, even though the “setting” and “language” (Duranti and Goodwin in Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 12) have the largest influence in classroom situations where tasks are set into context as they are seen as the “situational context” (Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 12). These features of context describe a situation the students should feel themselves into and gives information about how to use certain grammatical or vocabulary related constructions in situations that are not just to learn but which are similar to real life situations.

Contextualization can be explained quite shortly after the definitions of context given above. Auer states that contextualization consists of “all activities which make relevant, maintain, revise, cancel, any aspect of context which in turn is responsible for the interpretation of an utterance in its particular locus of occurrence”. (Roberts, 2001, p. 117). So seen with a focus on teaching and learning contextualization means to put different actions of speech or writing that occur in classrooms in different and varying situations, basically setting up a context for these communicative interactions to happen in. (Celce-Murcia and Olshtain, 2000, p. 11).

2.2 Historical Overview

In the early 1970s cognitivist approaches more and more came into the field of teaching and learning English as a foreign language. These approaches had the idea of the human having a Universal Grammar, a general ability to understand and produce grammatical correct features in language. This also changed the mindset of how to teach English as a foreign language, so learners would acquire the language more than learn it. The methods used in classroom changed from behavioristic methods, to methods like TBL, CLIL or the concept of Learner Autonomy.


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The Role of Contextualization in Teaching and Learning English
University of Würzburg  (Neuphilologisches Institut)
Linguistics and Teaching English
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role, contextualization, teaching, learning, english
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Maximilian Bauer (Author), 2014, The Role of Contextualization in Teaching and Learning English, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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