Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Thoughts on "The Lexical Approach"

When I studied to become an English teacher, one of my instructors talked about a book that had had a considerable impact on the world of EFL. Called "The Lexical Approach", this book by Michael Lewis challenges a lot of the conventional wisdom in English language teaching.
Lewis summarises the book himself with the statement that "language is grammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammar." What does this rather obscure sentence mean? Basically that the language came first, and grammar is our attempt to find order in language. If this is the case, then it is wrong to start with grammar and expect our students to "fill the gaps" by adding vocabulary.
Think of it: if you did stupid exercises in your French class like "où est le singe?" - "le singe est dans l'arbre" (where is the monkey? - the monkey is in the tree) you will see that Lewis is right - we don't need possible sentences, but probable ones.
In class I still hear students say "my tailor is rich". Why? Because they learned it in school, and never having found an opportunity to use it a real context, they just say it to me like it's part of an interesting conversation.
The Lexical Approach can make depressing reading if you are really gung-ho on grammar bashing - but never fear - he does recommend drilling, lexical drilling, that is, which can be rather fun with the right groups.
I bought the book just after my CELTA course, which wasn't the best time - it left me a bit confused about what makes a good EFL teacher. But if you have been teaching for a while, it's well worth a look.


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I read it too it's like to the baldor's algebra it's the bible of the maths, this one it's the same, thanks for sharing, excellent.

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I also read about the Lexical Approach and so many other teaching methods, however, the methodology I like the most is TBA (Task Based Approach)