Fractional Language Learning

| December 28, 2007
Fractional Language Learning

Keywords: fractional language learning, curriculum design

Thor May
Chungju National University, South Korea

Bio Data
Thor May has been teaching English to non-native speakers, and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. At the moment he is teaching in Chungju National University, South Korea. Many of his papers, essays and stories may be seen on his website at His PhD, Language Tangle – Predicting and Facilitating Outcomes in Language Education , is currently being examined at an Australian university. Chapter summaries and the conclusion can be viewed at:

Many users of a second language, especially English, have little productive mastery of the language. Rather, some requirement in their life forces them to use limited subroutines (maybe quite small and formulaic) which are effectively encapsulated as special elements within L1. This paper proposes that fractional language learning is a valid objective for large numbers of users, and briefly examines some of the contexts in which it has a pragmatic application. It notes that much fractional language learning occurs outside of formal educational environments, and then goes on to consider how both the classroom teaching and evaluation can be adapted to give proper recognition to student achievements on a fractional scale. The paper suggests that this kind of graduated recognition is in fact likely to enhance outcomes across the full spectrum of language teaching, and can be consciously incorporated into curriculum design. A paradigm shift to teacher acceptance (and community acceptance) of fractional language learning has strong implications for assessment practices. Most current measures of language assessment offer little or no recognition to the achievements of learners in the pre-production phase of acquisition. Attempts at language use in this phase are routinely punished by existing assessment tools.

Partly as a result of this discouragement, large numbers of students never progress to independent language production. Fractional language objectives are one remedy for this deep flaw in language teaching outcomes. This paper is a set of questions and propositions rather than a report of achieved activity. The reader may disagree with the propositions, or may want to change them. The purpose here is to provoke debate.


See pages 189-205

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 9 Issue 4