we best learn a language by using that language

“Most teachers nowadays would claim that their approach to teaching rests, as I have already said, on the belief that we best learn a language by using that language rather than simply by producing samples of it for the teacher’s inspection and correction.” (Willis 1998.)

Would teachers here also claim the same?

I’d claim that we best learn a language by using it to ask questions we don’t already know the answer to in hopes of re-engaging in circular rhetorical arguments for the purpose of appearing knowledgeable or, perhaps, some warped sense of noblese oblige in which we theatrically adhere to the role of a long suffering beleaguered linguistic Cinderella in hopes of garnering additional critical reviews, thus deliberately extending our time in the limelight whenever we fear the possibility of the darkness portended by a non-starring role.

Quite a claim, Skrej. Are you an ESL/EFL teacher?

An astute student of forum psychology, teacher or not.


Hi Molly

Are you wishing for an answer as regards to most teachers or me?

No mention of passive learning I see ; )

Skip the first min and a half.

And which Willis is this the TBL dudette or danger David?

Do you think that Willis has the answer to teaching or learning?

Regarding your experience.

They are one and the same, aren’t they?

For some, he may have. For me, I prefer a multi-method approach. How about you?

Maybe so. The quote below could apply to Skrej himself, for example. And to you, definitely. Your starring role in the long-running repeats of the “Molly isn’t who he says he is” saga grab the limelight quite often. You crave attention, right?

Hi Molly

There is Jane and David Willis.

In my opinion I have not set defined way to teach.
This active/ passive dichotomy I have changed opinion about.

I would say that TBL or using the language has it´s limitations in that some students do not see the point to it.
Also it is notable to look at the criticism in UK and Germany at secondary school level, where too much emphasis is on TBL.
And if the student does not become aware how to learn, where is the uptake?

This is my main issue with TBL or Willis and his theory, in a classroom situation on the front line, this does not consider false beginners or returning learners, who may be reluctant to TBL learning.

How should we deal with grammar in TBL or show how the language is used?
And how do we determine what a genuine/authentic usage is as opposed to a sample? What are the prerequisites?

I wasn’t intending to focus on the Willises exactly. I was thinking more in general about the thread statement.

Is this the Dave Willis who used to teach at Birmingham, and now lives in the Lake District?


Ah yes, that’s him.


Have we had any directly on-topic posts from you on this one, MrP?

Why did you say “danger David”, Stew, out of interest?


More distractions, MrP? Why don’t you ask him a more constructive, on-topic, question such as: What does Willis mean by “we best learn a language by using that language”? Willis’ words seem to have left you confused.

No; Stew’s words have left me interested.


Try e-mail.

You seem rather prescriptive about who posts what, old boy.


Just picking up on Ralf’s complaints, old stirrer.

Might be useful:

“use and usage: Use is how the language is used in communication, or the function of language. This can be contrasted with usage, which is the grammatical explanation of some language.”