Prof. Paul Nation in Learning Vocabulary in Another Language (2001) put forward his idea of four strands to learning/teaching languages: (a) meaning-focused input, (b) meaning-focused output, (c), fluency development, (d) language-focused learning. He recommends 25% of class time being spent on each strand.

In my experience, most students and teachers naturally emphasize (a), (b), and (d). But fluency development, which emphasizes the volume and speed of input/output, seems relatively overlooked. Students may be perplexed when they see me reading "easy" (near-100% comprehensible) materials. And I don't think I've ever been to a class where the teacher isn't constantly trying to teach new things, usually vocabulary or grammar (without me explicitly requesting otherwise).

“Using items they already know!” I feel like this is blasphemy for some. And yet, yeah, you gotta practice using what you have merely studied. There is an implication here that should not go unnoticed: if you don’t ever focus on “fluency development,” then you don’t develop true fluency.
John Pasden, The Four Strands of a Balanced Language Course, Sinosplice blog

Question: Why is "fluency development" so commonly overlooked?

I'm wondering if students and teachers have simply not heard of the concept, or if they're aware of the concept but don't understand its importance. Maybe it's considered a skill only for advanced students, or they consider it automatic.

  • I would not trust a site that says "gotta practice". Also, I really disagree with input/output/ for listening/reading and speaking/writing. Those are the skills, not input and output.
    – Lambie
    Jun 29 at 15:51
  • To play devils advocate, as long as you still have plenty of vocabulary to learn "meaning-focused input" is indispensable. Why not focus only on that until you know all the words. Which will take a long time. You might not be able to speak in the meantime, but so what. :-) It depends on your needs. If language learning is a hobby and a pastime, getting to 100% comprehension seems like an fantastic goal. Then, try to talk and see what happens. Once you have perfect comprehension, I bet speaking will not be difficult.
    – Sam
    Jul 25 at 15:11


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.