CAL: Developing Oral Proficiency of Adults Learning English: Instruction: Language Complexity

Practical tools, activities, and resources
to guide instruction

Instruction - Language Complexity

Language Complexity Activities

Students in classroomLanguage complexity activities focus on getting students to express their ideas in specific, authentic contexts with increasingly higher levels of proficiency. Whereas beginning language learners often struggle to express themselves in complete sentences, more proficient learners have developed language skills that indicate fluency. As language learners become more proficient in English, they use more complex vocabulary and language structures creatively to express ideas and opinions and to respond to different kinds of questions.

In communicative language instruction, language complexity does not focus on grammatical accuracy or “correct” English; rather, it is demonstrated through a student’s ability to convey meaning in an increasingly organized and detailed way. For example, meaning is conveyed in proficient ways through:

  • Precise vocabulary that conveys meaning succinctly
  • Strings of phrases and sentences that go beyond the simple subject-verb-object structure
  • Longer sentences with details that enrich and elaborate on the speaker’s meaning
  • Transition words (e.g., because, but, if, however, so that) to link two or more ideas within a sentence or string of sentences
  • Organization words (e.g., first, then, consequently, finally) to link two or more ideas within extended speech
  • Descriptive language (e.g., reasons, examples, explanations, opinions) that develop ideas in detail

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