Posted by: erienkoma | February 3, 2011

TEFL and Its Relationship to Linguistics

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is the term used to refer to the activity of teaching English to non native speakers of the language. This activity is also referred to as Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). In Britain is used more specifically to refer to the teaching of English in those countries where English has an official role in the educational or political system, TESL thus contrasts with TEFL which refers to those situations where English is not used as a medium of instruction and has no official status. TEFL underwent huge growth in the twentieth century and particularly since 1945, or after the Second World War. This is largely due to the growth in use of English as the international language of science, technology, diplomacy, business, and academic world. Between TEFL and Linguistics or Applied Linguistics have close relationship. At certain times, research carried out by either descriptive or applied linguists has had a strong influence on TEFL materials and methodology. Meanwhile, the pioneers TEFL work hard in classes at a school or other educational institutions to apply the theories of teaching based on the findings of the experts descriptive linguistics or applied linguistics, which will generate a new finding in the theory or a framework of a system teaching in the classroom. The framework pattern that has been done by the TEFL in turn will expand the work and encouraging new findings for linguistic and Applied Linguistics. This article aims describing the development of TEFL and its relationship to Linguistics, also how the way to apply and practice it to the student, particularly in Indonesia which English is studied and practiced as a foreign language.
Key Words: TEFL, ESP, development, relationship, ramification, approach, methodology, syllabuses, linguistics, and materials.


Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) refers to teaching English to students whose first language is not English. TEFL usually is applied and practiced in the student’s own country, either within the state school system, or privately, e.g., in an after-hours language school or with a tutor. TEFL teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English. Qualifications for TEFL teachers are high enough; 1) being a native speaker of English; 2) having a university degree in English Education; and 3) having a Master’s Degree in teaching English as a foreign Language.
History of TEFL, TEFL history was begun at the late sixteenth century, when large numbers of French Huguenot refugees needed to learn English and the first textbooks were written (Howatt, 1984), furthermore using of TEFL extended in Europe and countries that were part of the British Empire. However, a huge growth of TEFL happened in the twentieth century and particularly since 1945 or after the Second World War. This is because using of English besides, as international language of science, technology, diplomacy, business, and also it is used as academic language.

Development TEFL, the effect of using English hugely in the world has made TEFL becoming more developed and it has appeared a new branch of science that it is called English for Specific Purpose (ESP) which aims to teach specific language and skills related to different activities in academic or business life. But, the teaching of General-Purpose English has also grown considerably, and two institutions British Council and the American Information Services brought pass have developed and spread both ESP and General-Purpose English

to many countries of the world. Development of TEFL has also appeared issues about syllabus design and methodology. The methodology was known as The Grammar Translation Method, The method is the oldest method of teaching in India. A number of methods and techniques have evolved for the teaching of English and also other foreign languages in the recent past, yet this method is still in use in many part of India. It maintains the mother tongue of the learner as the reference particularly in the process of learning the second/foreign languages.
The main principles on which the Grammar Translation Method is based are the following: (1) Translation interprets the words and phrases of the foreign languages in the best possible manner; (2) The phraseology and the idiom of the target language can best be assimilated in the process of interpretation; (3) The structures of the foreign languages are best learned when compared and contrast with those of mother tongue.

In this method, while teaching the text books the teacher translates every word and phrase from English into the learners’ mother tongue. Further, students are required to translate sentences from their mother tongue into English. These exercises in translation are based on various items covering the grammar of the target language. The method emphasizes the study of grammar through deduction that is through the study of the rules of grammar. A contrastive study of the target language with the mother tongue gives an insight into the structure not only of the foreign language but also of the mother tongue.
Furthermore, the development of TEFL has also appeared new issues about The Reform Movement; it was developed in the late eighteenth century and was based on: (1) the primacy of speech; (2) the use of connected text as opposed to disconnected sentences; and (3) the use of an oral methodology. The development of Reform Movement happened step-by-step approach. After it passed a few periods, then appeared a new method that emphasis to ‘a natural methods of language teaching’. These have gone under names of the Natural Method, the Conversation Method and most notably the Direct Method.
Krashen and Terrell have identified the Natural Approach with what they call “traditional” approaches to language teaching. Traditional approaches are defined as “based on the use of language in communicative situations without recourse to the native language” – and, perhaps, needless to say, without reference to grammatical analysis, grammatical drilling, or to a particular theory of grammar. Krashen and Terrell note that such “approaches have been called natural, psychological, phonetic, new, reform, direct, analytic, imitative and so forth” (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 9). The fact that the authors of the Natural Approach relate their approach to the Natural Method has led some to assume chat Natural Approach and Natural Method are synonymous terms. Although the tradition is a common one, there are important differences between the Natural Approach and the older Natural Method, which it will be useful to consider at the outset.
The Natural Method is another term for what by the turn of the century had become known as the Direct Method. It is described in a report on the state of the art in language teaching com¬missioned by the Modern Language Association in 1901: The term natural, used in reference to the Direct Method, merely emphasized that the principles underlying the method were believed to conform to the principles of naturalistic language learning in young children. Similarly, the Natural Approach, as defined by Krashen and Terrell, is believed to conform to the naturalistic principles found in successful second language acquisition. Unlike the Direct Method, however, it places less emphasis on teacher monologues, direct repetition, and formal questions and answers, and less focus on accurate
production of target language sentences. In the Natural Approach there is an em-phasis on exposure, or input, rather than practice; optimizing emotional preparedness for learning; a prolonged period of attention to what the language learners hear before they try to produce language; and a will¬ingness to use written and other materials as a source of comprehensible input. The emphasis on the central role of comprehension in the Natural Approach links it to other comprehension-based approaches in language teaching.
H.E. Palmer in the early part of the twentieth century has developed a breakthrough with fusion philosophy of teaching through combine oral method and Direct Method, he used the question-answer techniques of Direct Method but has a more systematic approach to the selection of vocabulary and the presentation of grammatical points than that favored by the Direct Method. Another combine of philosophy of teaching that was done by Palmer through a fusion between some Direct Method exercises with pattern practice (teaching the main structures of English). Fries, a linguist from USA also had developed a new method through combine L.G. Alexander’s First Things First (his book with its extensive use of situations presented in pictures) and the courses that arose from the Audio-Lingual Method.
The audio-lingual method (ALM) arose as a direct result of the need for foreign language proficiency in listening and speaking skills during and after World War II. It is closely tied to behaviorism, and thus made drilling, repetition, and habit-formation central elements of instruction. Proponents of ALM felt that this emphasis on repetition needed a corollary emphasis on accuracy, claiming that continual repetition of errors would lead to the fixed acquisition of incorrect structures and non-standard pronunciation. In the classroom, lessons were often organized by grammatical structure and presented through short dialogues.

Often, students listened repeatedly to recordings of conversations (for example, in the language lab) and focused on accurately mimicking the pronunciation and grammatical structures in these dialogs.
However, Widdowson, in the 1970s, had given a significance contribution through his writings; his argued that language courses should concentrate on the use of language rather than usage. He defines usage as that aspect which makes evident the extent to which the language user demonstrates his knowledge of
linguistic rules; use is another aspect of performance: that which makes evident the extent to which the language user demonstrates his ability to use his knowledge of linguistic rules for effective communication.
Widdowson’s idea have had a huge influence on TEFL, particularly on ESP. From his idea have appeared Communicative Approach which emphasizes language use rather than language form, and also The Communicative Approach is based on the idea that learning language successfully comes through having to communicate real meaning. When learners are involved in real communication, their natural strategies for language acquisition will be used, and this will allow them to learn to use the language. Example, practicing question forms by asking learners to find out personal information about their colleagues is an example of the communicative approach, as it involves meaningful communication. In the
Classroom activities guided by the communicative approach are characterized by trying to produce meaningful and real communication, at all levels. As a result there may be more emphasis on skills than systems, lessons are more learner-cantered, and there may be use of authentic materials. In the other words Communicative Approach aims to teach communicative competence (Hymes, 1972) which is the ability to apply the rules of grammar appropriately in the correct situation.
The syllabus that is used for practicing Communicative Approach is Notional Syllabuses (1976), which was developed by Wilkins. The term “notional syllabus” embraces any strategy of language teaching that derives the content of learning from an initial analysis of the learner’s need to express three different kinds of meaning: The three different types of meaning the learner needs to
express are: (1) Functional (i.e. the social purpose of the utterance, such as requesting, inviting, informing, apologizing, ordering, etc.); (2) Modal (the degree of likelihood); and (3) Conceptual – the meaning relations expressed by forms within the sentence (categories of communicative function).
Eclective Approach, it was developed by Brumfit and Prabhu in the late 1980s, which selects features from grammatical syllabuses, notional/functional syllabuses, and task-based approaches. Eclectic is one of the buzz words in TEFL at present, in part due to the realization that for the foreseeable future good language teaching is likely to continue to be based more on common sense, insights drawn from classroom experience, informed discussion among teachers, etc., than on any monolithic model of second language acquisition or all-embracing theory of learning…”. One problem with this position is that your “common sense” and your “insights” are apt to be different from mine. Another is that “discussion among teachers”, though valuable, is often a futile exercise in the blind leading the blind. No one with some knowledge of pedagogy and psychology would advocate a “monolithic model” of anything in teaching today. However, unless one has some theoretical foundation to one’s knowledge, one cannot construct a methodology of anything–including of foreign language teaching.


The development of the next TEFL is the emergence of new disciplinary branch of the Teaching English as a Foreign Language of ESP (English for
Specific Purpose). In ESP, the aims of the course are determined by the particular needs of the learners, and the growth of the use of English in science, technology, and business has led to both researches into the nature of learners’ needs and the preparation of teaching materials to meet those needs.
In line with the explanation above about ESP, Dudley-Evans (1997) defines ESP as follows; Absolute Characteristics: (1) ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the learners; (2) ESP makes use of underlying methodology and
activities of the discipline it serves; and (3) ESP is centered on the language appropriate to these activities in terms of grammar, lexis, register, study skills, discourse and genre. Variable Characteristics: (1) ESP may be related to or designed for specific disciplines; (2) ESP may use, in specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of General English; (3) ESP is likely to be designed for adult learners, either at a tertiary level institution or in a professional work situation. It could, however, be for learners at secondary school level; (4) ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students; and (5) Most ESP courses assume some basic knowledge of the language systems.
Furthermore, Because so rapidly the need for specialized knowledge, especially teaching English to non native speakers, the ESP in its development have developed into two branches new disciplines, namely EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and EOP (English for Occupational Purposes). In the USA, English for Occupational Purposes is usually referred to as English for Vocational Purposes (EVP). EAP began as the dominant branch, but with the increased
interest in Business English, EOP has become increasingly important. Most EOP courses, have been strongly influenced by task-based syllabuses. The results of genre analysis are likely to have an increasing influence on both branches of ESP.
It’s a broad distinction. English for occupational purposes presumably
includes general English, business English etc., i.e. meant for everyday usage in your work for you to get by, or tourism English for that industry. English for academic purposes would touch upon the kind of English lessons and courses you take in order to pass certain standard tests like TOEFL, IELTS, Diploma or degrees etc. The curricula and the time for completion are quite different for the two streams.


The relationship between TEFL and Linguistics or Applied Linguistics has
always been interesting. Because in a study conducted by experts’ descriptive linguistics or applied linguistics then the result will greatly affect the material TEFL, approach or methodology. Meanwhile, the pioneers TEFL work hard in classes at a school or other educational institutions to apply the theories of teaching based on the findings of the experts descriptive linguistics or applied linguistics, which will generate a new finding in the theory or a framework of a system teaching in the classroom. Framework pattern that has been done by the TEFL in turn will expand the work and encouraging new findings for linguistic and Applied Linguistics.
Howatt (1984) explains that the finding of the Reform Movement in the late 19th century has influenced the development of Phonetics and the formation of association such as the International Phonetics Association. The same things is
in the process of professionalization of TEFL in the first half of the Twentieth Century begins with the work of Daniel Jones in Phonetics but its development carried out by experts TEFL like Palmer, West, and Hornby. Their work is to develop teaching materials and his ideas they were poured in a number of books on teaching methodology, published in the 1950s and early 1960s, for example, a book by Abercombie, i.e. Problems and Principles (1956); West with his book, Teaching Home in Difficult Circumstances (1960); Billow with his book is,
Techniques of Language Teaching (1962). Previously an expert on linguistic namely Widdowson with his ideas have influenced the emergence of Communicative Approach in language teaching system, which in turn can attract the relationship between language and context of its environment, then the idea that continued application by Firth and Halliday. The success of the Communicative Approach is a reflection of the success that comes from Applied Linguistics.

TEFL in its development progressed very rapidly especially after the second world war, this is because English has become the international language used, and also used in the language of business, politics, law, science and technology, and academic language. Therefore it need for mastery of English is necessary, so that mastery of English can be done well, then TEFL as one means of teaching the English language continued to develop its system, a good way of teaching methodology, teaching approach, syllabus, materials, and infrastructure Other supportive.
TEFL relationship with Linguistics in general or specifically with descriptive Linguistics or Applied Linguistics are very closely, this is happened because any findings from research conducted by the Linguistics or Applied Linguistics and descriptive Lnguistics will be applied in TEFL, otherwise the findings generated by the TEFL pioneer in the field such as in a classroom at the school or other educational institutions will be the reference and expand the direction of working particularly with descriptive linguistics or linguistics and Applied Linguistics.


Archibald, John. (2005) Second Language Acquisition-Contemporary Linguistics. USA : Bedford/St.Martin’s, Boston.
Aitchison, Jean. (2008) Linguistics. Hodder Headline Ltd. London, England.
Bynon, Theodora. (2005). Historical Linguistics. England : Cambridge University Press.
Brewster, Jean and Gail Ellis. (2005). The Primary English Teacher’s Guide. Edinburg, England : Penguin English Guide.
Harmer, Jeremy. (2005). The Practice of English Language Teaching. UK : Pearson Longman.
Gebhard G, Jerry (2005). Teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language. USA : University Michigan.
Lyons, John. (1970). Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics. England : Cambridge University Press.
Richard, C. Jack. (2000). Theories of Teaching in Language Teaching. England : Cambridge University Press.
Robins, R.H (2000). General Linguistics. London : Longman.
Widdowson, H.G. (2009). Linguistics. England : Oxford University Press.

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