GPA Terms

Community of Practice (COP) – native speakers with whom you interact, who are small parts of the wider language community. “Practice” is meant in the sense of “practicing medicine” rather than in the sense of “practicing the piano”.

Comprehension – understanding while listening.

Connected Stories – The stage in language learning when you can express your own ideas not through disconnected words or brief phrases, but through sequences of ideas.

Contact Language – a language other than the host language with which the language helper can communicate with you (perhaps English, or a trade language).

Ethnographic Interviewing – A language learning activity in which you focus on one relationship, asking a native speaker to describe something from her point of view, and thus gaining insight into how the language community views the world and life.

Expository Discourse – language used for abstract, general explanations and abstract topics.

Here-And-Now Principle – especially in the beginning stages of language learning, the language activities focus on things that are physically present or currently happening.

Hole-Finding Activity – A language learning activity used to discover things you have difficulty expressing, thus revealing areas of language in which you need more input. You try to talk about a particular topic, and notice which things you are able to communicate or not. Examples: Choose a task that will challenge and stretch you – watch a silent film with your helper and attempt to narrate it.  Trying to describe a complex picture or tell a story. Choose a mini-series (sequence of activities that make up doing a common activity, such as making tea), and try to explain it.

Information Gap Activity – A language learning activity in which a situation is arranged which requires the language learner to elicit information from the language helper. This type of activity can bring the language learner ‘over the bridge’ from being an understander to becoming a speaker. Example:  Simplest info gap activity, have a dozen pictures.  Person one puts them in a certain order on one page, and Person two, with a second page, has to put his/her pictures in order based on verbal instructions (and no peeking) from Person one.

Input Flooding – A language learning activity which naturally results in a flood of some particular grammar form, making that form stand out to learners.

Input Instruction – A language learning activity, such as TPR, which allows grammar to be learned (in some sense) in comprehension before being used in production, by forcing listeners to make use of grammatical meanings.

Life Domains – areas of life activity: making friends, going shopping, raising children…

Massage – A language learning activity in which you listens to a taping of a previous activity (or a resource created by another native speaker), with the helper, and interrupts the recording to have the helper clarify words, concepts, and dynamics that s/he is observing. Example: Watch a host language video with the helper. Have helper stop and explain everything that you don’t understand.  Once you identify all the vocab you don’t understand, do listen-and-point with that set until familiar with them.

Milk – A language learning activity in which any unknown language discovered during a language session is then used as inspiration for another language activity.

Native-To-Native Texts – any portion of language intended to be communication from one native speaker to another native speaker, whether live (conversation, speech), or recorded (radio, TV) or written (magazine, story).

Negotiate Meanings – something all learners (all people, actually) do as they interact with native speakers, the interchange of clarifying the ideas each speaker wants to communicate to the other.

Nurturer – language helper or teacher

Participant Observations – A language learning activity in which the language learner, as s/he is going about normal life, makes special effort to observe how the people in the host community interact, and then retells an incident to their helper, in great detail.

Pragmatics – how speech is used to make requests, apologies, promises, warnings, etc. in polite ways.

Primary Nurturer – language helper or teacher

Production – speaking the language.

Record For Correction Technique – A method in which the language learner tape-records him/herself for the purposes of detecting holes in their ability to communicate in a native-like way, so that s/he can plan activities in which the language helper can aid him/her in moving forward.

Role-play – A language learning activity in which the language helper and learner act out a real life situation.  Example:  How to give instructions to a taxi driver.

Series Method – A language learning activity in which a common activity is broken down into steps that cause it to happen, so that you can learn how to express each step in the sequence.  Example of how this can be used:  You pantomimes to the helper everything s/he needs to be told to do in order to describe how a person brushes their teeth at night. (Or sketch cartoons of the steps) Record the helper talking (not for the sake of memorizing!).

Supercharged Participation Activities – language learning activities which involve you with the culture in a purposeful way.

Survival Expressions – expressions that the average adult needs to learn in order to have basic needs taken care of in the new culture.  Example:  greetings, asking directions, indicating need for help.

Host Language – the language you is trying to learn

Task Repetition – the language learner talks repeatedly on a particular topic, either with the same host person on different occasions, or with different host people.

TPR, meaning Total Physical Response (or Tune in, Process, Respond) – a language learning technique in which the language helper only uses the host language to give new input, you responds by using their body to indicate whether or not they understand: for example, point to the object that the helper said, do an action that the helper commanded.

Word-Catching Activity – A language learning activity involving listening, which is used to discover things you have difficulty understanding, thus revealing areas of language in which you need more input. You watch and listen, in order to notice what you are not understanding. Examples: Watch a movie attempting to catch every unknown word. Try to read a magazine together and ask about words you don’t know.


[1] Communities of Practice are networks of relationships with native speakers, within which I can grow in my language abilities as I take on a unique and gradually enriching identity. They may be made up of one native speaker and myself, or be groups of any size. It takes time to build depth in these communities. Relationships and roles within any community of practice will develop and change over time.


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