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Elicitation and English Language Learning

Elicitation is the technique that a teacher uses to make learners to participate actively in the classroom. When he/she is asking questions instead of providing information to the learners, he/she is eliciting.

The English language teacher (like teachers of other subjects) aims at having the learners generate speech and written material through brainstorming upon a topic. The teacher assumes that the learners have a great data base of knowledge of the language in question, along with having a huge repertoire of information of the real world. The teacher when using the elicitation technique is leveraging this knowledge bank of the learners to further her teaching objective.

When learners are asked questions, they are in fact being made to think and process their existing knowledge base. It is also assumed that, imparting of new knowledge is largely based on the knowledge that the learners already have.

This process of elicitation benefits both the teacher and the learners. For the teacher, elicitation is a fantastic diagnostic tool. This technique is helpful for the teacher for gleaning key information about what the learners know or do not know. The learners on the other hand are coaxed into exploring information which results in long term memory retention of the concept learnt.

Teaching of language depends a lot on use of elicitation, albeit with an immense amount of inputs in form of prompts by the teacher. To be able to further their language skills, the teacher uses various prompts, associations and reminders of previous information in the form of visuals or by writing on the board. A situational idea in the form of sentences, anecdotes, pictures, videos or reading articles may also be provided to supply a context for teaching. Questions based on these situations may then be used to elicit the target language.

Eliciting acts as stimuli for the learners and makes teaching learner-centred. Some good English language labs provide content that goes beyond the learners’ practice material. Words Worth English Language Lab is one such English Language Lab that has an integrated teacher’s software to facilitate appropriate learning in class. The lessons are so designed therein, so as to enable the teacher to interact with the learners during the course of the lesson.

In this English language lab, she/he elicits answers from the learners by asking them to focus on new structures or lexis used in a particular situation. She may also ask the language learners questions combining concepts and language functions used. The teacher ensures that during this interaction, while eliciting answers, the learners have been given ample time to prepare. This strategy will give them a sense of confidence when answering the question asked. Also, the teacher will try to maintain an encouraging attitude while eliciting answers. When teaching language, confidence building is more important an objective than accuracy of concepts.

Thus we see, elicitation can change the traditional teacher-centred teaching method and make learning more interesting and effective for the learners. Learning through self-discovery paves way for the learners to produce language through simple and interactive means.