Linguistics and second language teaching: Anassessment

Johann L. Van der Walt


The relationship between linguistics and second language teaching has always been a controversial one. Many linguists have argued that linguistics has nothing to say to the teacher. Sampson (1980, p.10), for example, says: "I do not believe that linguistics has any contribution to make to the teaching of English or the standard European languages. The many people who claim that it has seem to me to deceive themselves and others". On the other hand, Johnson (1982,p.10) points out that language teachers have always looked to the linguist for guidance on how to teach languages. He says that language teachers have always considered linguistics as something of a mother discipline. Language after all, is what both the language teacher and the linguist are concerned with: the teacher is concerned with "teaching something which is the object of study of linguistics, and is described by linguistic methods" (Halliday, McIntosh and Strevens 1964, p.166). Linguistics will therefore always be a field of study relevant to language teaching. The problem, of course, is to determine the precise nature of this 'relevance'.

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