Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research Graduate School for the Humanities

From “learning to use” towards “using to learn”?

Long-term effects of structure-based versus dynamic usage-based programs for French
PhD ceremony:Mr W. (Wim) Gombert
When:November 17, 2022
Supervisors:prof. dr. M.H. (Marjolijn) Verspoor, prof. dr. M.C.J. (Merel) Keijzer
Where:Academy building RUG
From “learning to use” towards “using to

Over the past 50 years, the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach has come to dominate foreign language teaching practices in the world. This approach originated in the 1970s and was seen as an important tool for the integration of citizens in the member states of the European Union. Despite its communicative intentions, however, common CLT practice has remained predominantly structure-based with explicit grammar instruction and a focus on written skills (reading and writing). It is difficult for oral skills to develop satisfactorily in such a structure-based program. In the Netherlands, a number of factors have reinforced this focus on written skills: (1) the big educational reforms in the 1990s with a strong emphasis on active and independent learning, (2) the central role of commercial coursebooks in foreign language teaching practice (partly as a result of the first factor) and (3) the final exams, which test only reading skills, and have led foreign language teachers to spend a lot of time on the development of reading skills. This study has shown that a dynamic usage-based approach, in which exposure and practice are the focus, learners learn to understand and speak the language much more fluently than their structure-based peers. We also found that they do not seemingly fall behind when it comes to grammatical accuracy and reading skills. We make a strong case for the implementation of more such methods in the Dutch foreign language classroom.