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Production‏‎ in TEFL

Production: form language into carsProduction, in TEFL terms, is simply producing language; in other words, speaking or writing.

It is taking the raw material (language) and forming it into coherent utterances and sentences for others to hear or read.

Language learning often follows this pattern:

INPUT > COMPREHENSION > PRODUCTION

In general terms, the process works like this:

  1. The teacher introduces a new language item, for example the Past Simple. The teacher explains it and gives a few examples. This is the INPUT stage.
  2. The students then start to understand what the Past Simple is all about. This is the COMPREHENSION stage.
  3. Finally the students begin to use the Past Simple. They make sentences involving it and either speak or write using examples of the Past Simple. This is the PRODUCTION stage.

Timeline of Production

It can take time before students begin to produce.

It’s interesting to think about how a baby growing up goes through this process because all students learning a new language will follow this very general route. Very roughly speaking:

  1. at 3 months a baby will be listening intently and begin “cooing”, starting to use their vocal chords
  2. at 6 months a baby will begin to make more recognizable sounds, simple syllables like “ba” or “da”
  3. at 12 months a baby will begin producing a few recognizable words, “mama” and “dada” for example
  4. at 2 years a baby will be able to produce short phrases
  5. at 3 years a baby will be able to hold a longer, albeit simple, conversation

Importantly, right from the moment the baby is born (and arguably before) they is surrounded by input. They are listening, hearing and slowly starting to comprehend the sounds around them.

Meanwhile, a student learning a second language will skip the first couple of stages as they’ll already be able to speak, albeit in another language. But note how a baby takes a year to get from single words to phrases and then another year to produce a simple conversation; a student will not usually take this long but you can’t expect them to leap into fluent conversation after little or no input and comprehension!

The important thing to note for TEFL teachers, however, is that this process can’t be rushed. The baby speaks when it’s good and ready and while some babies are using several words well before they are a year old, others will barely utter a sound till they’re 2 or 3 years old.

So don’t rush your students. By all means give them plenty of input and encourage them to use simple words or phrases, but don’t push beginners into speaking before they’re ready.

One other point on the timeline is that babies don’t generally start writing till they’re about 3 years old. This is primarily because they lack the motor skills to hold a pencil. Your TEFL students have these skills already and you’ll find that students will often begin writing before they begin speaking.

Useful Links

Language Skills in TEFL – a general look at the 4 language skills

Speaking‏‎ Skills in TEFL – a more detailed look at speaking

Writing‏‎ Skills in TEFL – a more details look at writing

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