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Revisiting the role of metalanguage in L2 teaching and learning
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Hu, G. (2010). Revisiting the role of metalanguage in L2 teaching and learning. English Australia Journal, 26(1), 61-70.
One topic that is sidelined in the professional literature on second language (L2) teaching and learning is the use of metalanguage in the classroom. In the past three decades, explicit and formal instruction in L2 grammar has fallen from its centrality in traditional pedagogical approaches and been relegated to a peripheral position in many classrooms, due to the joint influences of some popular theoretical claims, findings from early empirical
studies about the disassociation between learners’ explicit knowledge of L2 target structures and their ability to use these structures, and communicative language teaching, which, in its application, sometimes sets great store by the development of communicative competence and fluency rather than grammatical competence. Because of its time-honored association with formal grammar instruction, metalanguage has been downplayed
or even rejected as a legitimate component of pedagogical practices in many L2 classrooms. This paper discusses recent empirical research on the relationships between L2 proficiency, metalinguistic awareness, and metalinguistic knowledge. It also considers several potential advantages that understanding and using metalanguage offer to L2 teaching and learning. Based on the discussion, it argues that metalanguage deserves a place in L2 classrooms.
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