The importance of focus on form in communicative language teaching

Rod Ellis


Long (1991) distinguished two approaches to language teaching, which he called focus-on-forms and focus-on-form. In this article I discuss focus-on-form from both a theoretical perspective by outlining the psycholinguistic rationale for this type of instruction and from a practical perspective by identifying the strategies that students and teachers can use when doing focus-on-form. I conclude by emphasizing the importance of including a focus-on-form in communicative language teaching in order to facilitate incidental language learning and thus reject the commonly held view that teachers should not interfere when students are performing a communicative task. I also suggest that focus-on-forms and focus-on-form should be seen as complementary rather than oppositional approaches to teaching.


Form-focussed instruction; focus-on-forms; focus-on-form

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