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Key concepts for CELTA


In common with most professions, English Language Teaching (aka ELT) has its share of terminology.  It isn't jargon, for the most part, because terms refer to key concepts.

On any CELTA course you are almost certain to come across most of the terms in this guide.  Referring to them now, and taking the little tests will prepare you well to focus on what is being said rather than being distracted by the terms in which it is said.

Many of the terms you will encounter form opposing pairs of ideas and that is how they are presented here.  All the terms in the headings are ones you might meet on your course and should understand.
All these terms are the focus of guides on this site in one way or another.


Area 1: language


Language structure vs. Language function

Be careful:
The word 'function' is used in another way in English Language Teaching.
It can also refer to what a phrase is doing in a sentence.  For example, in:
    I want the blue pair
    I want it
the words the blue pair and it are performing the same grammatical function (as the object of the verb want).  That is different from the communicative function of the sentences.

Try a mini-test.


Language skill vs. Language system


Grammar vs. Structure

These terms are sometimes, rather loosely, used to mean the same thing but there is a difference:

It is possible, therefore, to have an exchange such as:
    The class has asked for more grammar lessons
    Really?  Which structures should we focus on?

and both speakers know what they are talking about.


General English (GE) vs. English for Specific Purposes (ESP)


Use vs. Usage

It is usual in most lessons for the focus to be on usage at certain stages (e.g., controlled practice of a structure) and then later on use (when learners employ the language for personal communication).  Both have their place.


Cohesion vs. Coherence


Formal vs. Informal language

There is a cline here, not an on-off distinction.

A key idea associated with style is appropriacy: is the language suitable for the social context in which it is used?


Area 2: Teaching and Learning


Structural language teaching vs. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

If you would like to investigate this difference a little more, try the essential guide to methodology (new tab) which considers three basic sets of methodological approaches to teaching English (or any language).


Context vs. Co-text

There is a guide to context on this site (new tab).


Inductive vs. Deductive Learning

It is worth pointing out here that inductive and deductive learning cannot be easily separated: it's not an either-or situation, in other words.
However learners acquire a rule, be it from being told, reading about it in a grammar book or working it out for themselves, they then have to apply the rule to the language they want to use and that is a deductive process.


Display question vs. Communicative or Real question


Open questions vs. Closed questions

Closed questions are often display questions because the teacher usually knows the answer although a question like:
    Where did you buy that lovely scarf?
may well be a communicative question.

You can see that closed questions are:

Open questions are much more demanding (and produce more language from students) because they:


Behaviourism vs. Cognitivism


Controlled activities vs. Free activities

Again, there is a cline from very tightly controlled to completely free activities.


Accuracy vs. Fluency

At various points in most lessons the focus will be on one or the other.


Learner led vs. Teacher led


Learning vs. Acquisition

This distinction is usually credited to a theorist called Krashen.

In terms of what happens in a classroom, stages in which the learners are simply exposed to authentic language use (not usage) focus on aiding acquisition but those in which the focus is firmly on a (sub)skill or a specific structure are more concerned with learning.


Language transfer
Interference vs. Facilitation

All learners, especially adults, will use their first languages to help them understand a second language and, unless they know otherwise, may assume that the language they are learning and their own first language work in parallel ways.  Sometimes, of course, they do and the learner gets lucky and that is language facilitation.  At other times, they don't and that is called language interference.
Here are two examples:

There is a guide on this site to language facilitation and language interference.

Try a test (or two).