Steve Darn | ELT
The Lexical Approach is with us. It is not something which has arrived suddenly overnight, having rather crept up a number of avenues to gradually assemble as a whole at the market place. It is welcomed by many, particularly those of us who have always believed tht words, in some way, are more important than grammar, and there been struggling to find not only a coherent alternative to the stuctural syllabus, but also a different and better way of looking at language.
As with much theory, the origins of the lexical approach lie in anumber of threads – Michael Lewis’s approach to grammar, Jane and Dave Willis’ Collins Cobuild series and its associated Task Based Learning methodology, David Brazil’s approach to analysing discourse, and the arrival of the computer corpus and its ability to identify ‘real’ language and analyse collocation. Added to these is the work of many in developing different versions of a lexical syllabus in which grammar is taught through vocabulary. many of these threads are drawn together in Michael Lewis’s ‘The Lexical Approach’ which is both summarial and a statement of a new dimension in ELT.
There are signs that the Lexical Approach is here to stay, at least as part of our repertoire. Lewis’s ‘The Lexical Approach’ is seen as a key text for those interested in the state of ELT, and the sequel, ‘Implementing the Lexical Approach’ goes on to describe the implications for the classroom. Many recent coursebooks have adopted a main or parallel lexical syllabus, and this trend is likely to continue given the increasing use of computers to analyse language. LTP’s ‘Wordfinder‘ is a good example of a corpus-based collocation dictionary. The Lexical Approach is in any ways merely a formalisation of what has long been common sense – the importance of lexis, the over-emphasis of grammar in the traditional teaching situation, the need to teach natural language and the questioning of some aspects of communicative language teaching. In any case, aspects of the lexical approach will be part of the future of ELT.
The following is a summary of key ideas from the Lexical Approach, based on seminars and workshops led by Jimmy Hill, co-founder of LTP Publishing with Michael Lewis.
Looking at language
first published July 1997 British Council Networking Issue 4