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Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL):   CALL incorporates the use of computers in teaching or learning a second or foreign language.   For example, students may be asked to read a text on the computer or to write an essay on the computer utilizing the editing and spelling and grammar check tools which facilitate writing multiple drafts (see writing process).  There are also numerous computer-based programs and activities designed specially to support language learning on the computer.


Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT):  CAT is a relatively new means of computer-based assessment in which the difficulty of the exam tailors itself to each test taker’s level of ability. If, for example, a test-taker performs well on an item of intermediate difficulty, that person will then be presented with a more difficult question; if the person performs poorly, s/he will be presented with a simpler question. As a result, different test-takers receive quite different tests.  Compared to the static tests that nearly everyone has experienced, with the same fixed set of items administered to all test-takers, computer-adaptive tests require fewer test items to arrive at equally accurate scores. Like any computer-based test, adaptive tests may show test-takers results immediately after testing.

Computer Based Testing (CBT):  A computer-based test (also known as Computer-Based Assessment (CBA), e-exam, computerized testing and computer-administered testing) is a method of administering tests in which the responses are electronically recorded, assessed, or both. As the name implies, Computer-Based Testing makes use of a computer or an equivalent electronic device (i.e. handheld computer). CBT systems enable educators and trainers to author, schedule, deliver, and report on surveys, quizzes, tests and exams.

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR):  The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) was developed to be a practical international tool for setting clear standards to be attained at successive stages of language learning and for evaluating outcomes in an internationally comparable manner. It provides the basis for the mutual recognition of language qualifications, thus facilitating educational and occupational mobility. It is increasingly used in the reform of national curricula and by international consortia for the comparison of language certificates. The document describes in detail:  i) the competences necessary for communication; ii) the related knowledge and skills; and iii) the situations and domains of communication. It defines levels of attainment in different aspects of its descriptive scheme with illustrative descriptors scale. To read more about it, follow this link:


Cloze Procedure:  An exercise where every fifth word (or sixth or seventh, etc.) is deleted from a text.  The interval between the deleted words should remain the same throughout the text.  The student then supplies the missing words, often relying on contextualization for help.


Cognate:  A cognate is a word in one language that is similar in form and meaning to a word in another language because the languages are related.  For example, the English word “brother” is similar to (is a cognate of) the German word “bruder.  Other words which look similar have very different meanings and so are called “false cognates” or “false friends.”  For example, the French word “expérience” means “experiment” and not “experience” even though it looks the same as the English word.  See False Friends below.


Cognitive Code:  An approach to learning based on the belief that learning is a process which involves active mental processes and not simply the formation of habits (see Behaviorist above).  It gives importance to the learner’s active part in learning and using language, and in particular to learning grammatical rules.  The approach is different from the habit-formation focus of the Audio-Lingual and Direct methods.


Collocating verb:  Please see Collocations below.


Collocate:  When words collocate, they typically are used together.  An example of words that collate with “garden” are – rose garden, herb garden, terraced garden, rock garden, overgrown garden and the verbs we use with garden include weed a  garden, plant a garden, water a garden.


Collocations: Collocations are groups of words typically used together.  With some collocations, it can be difficult to replace one of the words with another word.  These collocations are called fixed or unique collocations.  For example, “shrug your shoulders” is a fixed collocation.  It is not possible to shrug any other part of the body.  Students need to learn these collocations as a unit.  However, many collocations are freer and one or more of the words can be replaced by other words.  These word combinations are useful for students to learn.  For example, when teaching the noun ‘time’, it is useful for students to know which verbs go with ‘time’.  English speakers can ‘tell the time’, ‘save time’, know the time’, etc, but don’t usually say ‘eat time’, ‘go time’, etc.  Some nouns usually go with particular verbs.  For example, the following verbs go with ‘party’:  have a party, give a party, throw a party, attend a party, etc.  These verbs are called collocating verbs.  More on collocations:

Competency Based Approach: The competency-based approach is based on linking learning carried out at school to varied and relevant contexts-of-use in order to make the learning useful and durable.  The aim is for students to develop intellectual, linguistic and problem-solving capacities in school that will enable them to tackle cognitively and pragmatically challenging situations both in and out of school.  Students will thus see learning as being worthwhile and having relevance both for their studies and their future.  For more information on the Competency Based Approach in an Algerian context, please look at Curriculum Support Documents for MS4 and SE1.  Please click on the following words in blue:  Curriculum Support Documents for MS4   Curriculum Support Documents for SE1
Communication Strategies: These are strategies learners used when they do not have the correct language for the concept or meaning they wish to express.  Thus they use strategies such as paraphrase and mime.  See Learning Strategies and Production Strategies.


Communicative Competence:  This refers to the ability to use language effectively for communication.  Gaining such competence involves learning not only how to form grammatically correct sentences but also when, where and with whom it is appropriate to use the sentences, how to participate in a conversation and how to respond.


Communicative Language Teaching:  Communicative Language Teaching is an approach concerned with the development of language speakers who have communicative competence and so who are able to use language to communicate effectively and appropriately, especially outside the classroom.  There is an emphasis on students learning to express different functions inviting, agreeing or disagreeing, etc), engaging in different types of real-world tasks such as problem-solving, getting information, etc and participating in role plays, pair and group work, etc.


Communicative:  Teachers often ask questions in the classroom which they already know the answers to.  For example, a teacher might point to the clock and ask, “What time is it?”  This question is not communicative because the teacher already knows the answer.  A communicative activity is one in which one person has information that the other person doesn’t have.  They must therefore use English effectively to get this information.  See also Gap Activity.


Comprehensibility:  When something is comprehensible, it means people can understand (or comprehend it).  Many factors can interfere with comprehensibility.  In speaking, background noise, non-standard, unexpected or new pronunciation or grammar, inappropriate word choice, the way the speaker organizes what they are saying, etc. can all make spoken texts difficult to understand.  In writing, hand-writing, spelling, text organization, non-standard grammar, or inappropriate word choice and many other factors can interfere with comprehensibility.    What someone says or writes can be described as ‘comprehensible’ or ‘incomprehensible.’


Comprehensible input and i + 1:  Comprehensible input means that the student reads or listens to English that she can understand the meaning of.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that she understands every single word perfectly.  Input is usually comprehensible when the student understands most of the words and grammar and can figure out the meaning of the rest by interpreting the linguistic, social and physical context.  According to Krashen, learners acquire new language (words, grammatical forms, aspects of pronunciation, etc) only when they are exposed to comprehensible input or i + 1.   The i represents input, or language, the learner has acquired and already understands and the 1 represents language that is a step beyond that level, but comprehensible in context.


Comprehensible Output:  The language produced by the learner (the 'output') may be comprehensible or incomprehensible.  The efforts learners make to be comprehensible may play a part in acquisition.


Concordances (or concordance lines): A list of authentic utterances each containing the same focused word or phrase, e.g.:


The bus driver still didn't have any change so he made me wait.
I really don't mind which one.  Any newspaper will do. I just
..know what they are saying.  Any teacher will tell you that it's… 


See also Authentic.


Connotation:  The connotation of a word is its suggested or emotional meaning rather than its literal meaning.  Connotations can be positive, neutral or negative.  For example, ‘slim’ has a positive connotation for most people, ‘thin’ is more neutral, and “skinny” is more negative.  Connotations are less fixed than literal meanings and so different people may think words have different connotations.  When learning new words, students need to know if a word has strongly positive or negative connotations. 

Constructed Response Assessment:  With constructed response assessments (also referred to as subjective assessments), the answer is not visible (as it is in a multiple choice assessment).  The test-taker must recall or construct it. Constructed response assessments are conducive to higher level thinking skills.  In the broadest sense, constructed response assessments could refer to, for example, including essays, art projects, reflections and personal communication. 


Content words:  In any sentence or phrase, there are two types of words: content words and function words.  Content words carry the main, important or new information.  Function words are the grammatical words that help to join the content words together.  Content words are usually, but not always, nouns, main verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.  For example, in the following utterance, “Can I borrow your cellphone?”, borrow and cellphone are the content words and carry the main meaning.  In fact, if a speaker says just “Borrow cellphone”, listeners will probably understand the meaning.  However, if someone says, “Can I your?” a listener won’t understand what the speaker wants.  Function words are usually pronouns, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles, etc.   For example, can, I and your in the example above are all function words. 


 Context:  Context has two meanings: (1) the written or spoken text that surrounds a part of the text, and (2) the physical location, the social situation and the time in which a text is produced or interpreted.  Both kinds of context influence the meaning of a text or part of a text.


Contextualization:  Placing target language in a realistic setting, so as to be meaningful to the student.


Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis:  According to this hypothesis, L2 errors are the result of differences between the learner's first language and the target language, and these differences can be used to identify or predict errors that will occur.


Controlled Practice:  One way to teach new language (grammar, lexis, or functional expressions) is to clarify the meaning, form and use of it, and then to give students opportunities to practice it in increasingly more challenging and authentic ways.  At the beginning, the teacher limits or controls the range of language that students need to use.  These are called controlled practice activities and they can be written or spoken.  Oral repetition or copying written words or sentences are the most controlled forms of practice.  However, activities where students use the same grammar, group of words, or functional expressions to complete a task are also considered controlled practice activities.  Teachers can also talk about semi-controlled and freer practice activities, but they are not talking about distinct categories of practice activities; they are describing a continuum between controlled and freer practice.   Semi-controlled and freer practice activities are described elsewhere in this glossary. 


Cooperative / Collaborative Group:  A grouping arrangement in which positive interdependence and shared responsibility for task completion are established among group members.  A term ‘cooperative/collaborative’ group describes a type of organizational structure which encourages heterogeneous grouping, shared leadership, and social skills development.


Coursebook Adaptation:  See Textbook adaptation.


Coursebook:  A textbook which provides the core materials for a course. It aims to provide as much as possible in one book and is designed so that it could serve as the only book which the learners necessarily use during a course.  Such a book usually focuses on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, functions and the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  See Supplementary Materials.


Critical Period:  Some researchers believe that until the age of puberty, our brains are better at learning language.  This period of time before puberty is known as the critical period.


Cross-Cultural Competence:  A person with cross-cultural competence has the ability to function according to the cultural rules of more than one cultural system.  The person also has the ability to respond in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways according to the cultural demands of a given situation.


Cue Cards:  Cards with words or pictures on them which are used to encourage student response, or pair and group work.


Culture:  Culture is the sum total of the ways of life of a people, including norms, learned behavior patterns, attitudes, and artifacts.  Culture also involves traditions, habits or customs; how people behave, feel and interact; the means by which they order and interpret the world; ways of perceiving, relating and interpreting events based on established social norms.  Culture is a system of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, and acting.


Curriculum:  This word is used in two different ways.  A curriculum is an educational document or program which states the goals or purpose of the program; the content, teaching procedures and learning experiences necessary to achieve the purpose; the assessment means for measuring the extent to which the purpose was achieved.   Curriculum is also used as a synonym for syllabus.  In this sense, curriculum (or syllabus) is a description of the specific content of a course and the order in which the contents are covered.