TEFL Glossary

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Certificate of Advanced English - a Cambridge English examination for students at C1 level.


Computer Assisted Language Learning

caregiver speech

Caregiver speech is the simple language used to address young children. It is also referred to as child-directed speech, and it is sometimes called 'motherese.'

cataphoric reference

When a word in a text refers to another one which occurs later in the text. E.g., Because he was feeling unwell, James decided to go back to bed. Here he refers forward to James.

See also anaphoric reference and exophoric reference.


Competency-Based Language Teaching. In this approach, learning goals are defined 'in terms of precise measurable descriptions of the knowledge, skills, and behaviors students should possess at the end of a course of study.' (Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p.141).


See concept checking.


Common European Framework of Reference. System used for describing a learner's ability in a second or foreign language.

Certificate of Advanced English

See CAE.


Certificate of Proficiency in English

See CPE.

child-directed speech

See caregiver speech.

choral drilling

Drilling is when students repeat a word or phrase modelled by the teacher to practise pronunciation or help memorise structure. Choral drilling is the whole class or a group repeating together (in chorus).

chunks of language

A large proportion of the language we produce seems to be memorised 'chunks of language', rather than original creations generated through combining our grammatical and lexical knowledge. Examples are the _____er, the _________er (as in the bigger, the better), you must be joking, to cut a long story short.

See the Lexical Approach.

classroom contract

An agreement, negotiated with students, on how students should behave.


See Content and Language Integrated Learning.


See Community Language Learning.

closed pairs

This is when all the students in a class  work in pairs at the same time (compare with open pairs).

closed question

A question which can be answered just with 'yes' or 'no'. To encourage speaking in language lessons, it is better to use open questions.


See Communicative Language Teaching.


Cognates  are words from different languages which have the same origin. (So we recognise them!)


A coherent text is one in which the ideas are logically linked to form a unified whole. See also cohesion, cohesive devices.


The lexical and grammatical linking used within a text to achieve coherence. See also cohesive devices.

cohesive devices

The means by which a text is made coherent. These include referencing and the use of discourse markers.


(of vocabulary) - frequently occur with another word. E.g., freezing collocates with cold.


See collocate.

Common European Framework of Reference


common nouns

All nouns that are not proper nouns.

Communicative Approach

See Communicative Language Teaching.

communicative competence

It is the ability to successfully communicate and understand messages in the target language.

Communicative Language Teaching

Communicative Approach or Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) . CLT had become mainstream by the 1980s and remains the approach that most syllabuses claim to follow today. CLT sees that the primary goal of language teaching and learning is communicative competence: the ability to successfully communicate and understand messages in the target language. Grammatical accuracy is seen as less important than the successful communication of meaning. This approach believes that grammatical competence will be acquired through use of the language for communicative purposes.

Community Language Learning

Community Language Learning (CLL) is a teaching method developed byCharles Curran, a professor of psychology and a counsellor. Essentially, the method consists of using psychological counselling techniques in the language classroom. The teacher is referred to as the 'knower'. The knower's role is to assist the learners to articulate what they want to say in L2. When an individual student is ready to say something, s/he says it to the knower in L1 and the knower translates the message into L2.


Comparative are grammatical forms used to express comparisons. Most commonly, this is adjective+er+than. E.g., My brother is taller than my mother. For some adjectives, more and less are used instead of -er. E.g,  This city is more beautiful than my home town. (See Units 4 and 7).

"(Not) as...as " is another common comparative form: My mother isn't as tall as my brother.

Competency Based Language Teaching


comprehension questions

Questions designed to help students understand, or to ascertain whether they understand, the content of, typically, a listening or reading text. You might also use comprehension questions to check their understanding of a conversation, a film etc.

Do not confuse with concept questions!

comprehension skills

Comprehension skills refer to the ability to comprehend language through listening or reading.

concept check questions

Questions designed to check that students understand the concept (essential meaning) of a new piece of language - vocabulary or grammar. Concept check questions  are sometimes referred to as CCQs.

Also referred to as concept questions or concept checking.

concept checking

Using concept questions to check that students understand the concept (essential meaning) of a new piece of language - vocabulary or grammar. Concept check questions  are sometimes referred to as CCQs.

concept questions

Questions designed to check that students understand the concept (essential meaning) of a new piece of language - vocabulary or grammar. Concept check questions  are sometimes referred to as CCQs.

Also referred to as concept check questions (CCQs) or concept checking.

concrete noun

See noun.


Conditional sentences look at the result of a hypothetical situation. They consist of two clauses: the condition (or if-clause) and the consequence (or result).

Condition: If you do that again,

Consequence: I will go home.

They normally use the word 'if'. However, in more formal English, the subject and a modal auxiliary verb may be reversed to form the conditional. For example, Should you see her, say hello. See Unit 7 for more details. 


A conjunction is a word used to connect clauses or words in the same sentence (e.g., and, or, but, because, so). It may also be referred to as a linking word, connecting word, or connective.

connected speech

The way language sounds when it is spoken naturally. This involves various sound changes, such as elision, assimilation and catenation. See Unit 3.

connecting phrase

See linking.

connecting word

See linking.


See linking.

Content and Language Integrated Learning

(CLIL) The target language is not formally taught as a foreign language. Students study some or all of their academic syllabus (science, maths or history) in the target language.

It is also referred to as Thematic Learning, bi-lingual education or immersion.


A particular situation in which a specific piece of language is used. Context may change meaning.
E.g., I posted a letter.  I posted about that in my blog. 

Teaching new language in context (contextualising) makes it easier for learners to understand the meaning of that language and the way in which it is used. 


See context.


See fricative.

controlled practice

The accuracy-based activities that are aimed at enabling students to practise producing new language correctly.  The focus is on producing correct grammatical forms, accurate pronunciation, or the correct use of new vocabulary. You may also see this referred to as restricted practice.

coordinating conjunction

It is a conjunction used between clauses in a compound sentence.

copula verbs

Also spelledcopular. See linking verbs.


A corpus is a collection of written texts. Corpuses are often used for linguistic research, for example, to find out what words commonly collocate with a particular word.

correction code

It is the use of symbols when correcting students' written work to indicate what type of mistake they have made.
E.g., T indicates using the wrong tense.

correction spot

It is a point in the lesson, usually after a fluency activity, where the teacher goes over errors students have made during the activity.


'Certificate of Proficiency in English' is a Cambridge English examination for students at C2 level. It is often referred to as 'the Proficiency.'

cultural knowledge

It is the knowledge about a culture. Cultural knowledge can contribute to linguistic understanding. For example, knowledge of the style and political position of a newspaper can help a reader know what to expect from a given newspaper article.

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