Resources‎ > ‎Dictionary‎ > ‎N to Z‎ > ‎

S

SARS:  This acronym stands for Select, Adapt, Reject, Supplement.  When making decisions about what to use in a course- or text book, a teacher can decide to use the material as it is; the teacher can make changes to – or adapt – the material the book; the teacher can decide not to use the material at all; or the teacher can supplement the material in the book by finding additional material from other sources.  This decision-making process can be applied to texts, activities connected with the texts, visuals, activities for practicing language items, speaking or writing tasks, and projects.

Scanning: Scanning is a reading or listening technique used to find specific information as efficiently (and quickly) as possible.  When scanning, readers or listeners know what information they want and read or listen until they find it, usually ignoring other information.  Readers move their eyes quickly over the page until they find the information they are looking for.  For example, when people want to find a phone number, they scan the telephone book for the specific person’s name and number.   They do not read all the names, addresses and telephone numbers, but instead look only for the one they want.  Scanning as a listening technique is similar.  Listeners know in advance exactly what information they want and they listen until they hear it.  For example, people waiting at the bus station listen until they hear the destination, the time or name of the bus they want. Then they listen very carefully for the specific piece of information they need or want.   

Scripts: These can be considered a type of formulaic speech. They are memorized sequences of utterances which are more or less fixed and predictable, such as “How do you do?

Schwa:  The vowel sound in many (but not all) unstressed syllables or words is the schwa. It is the only vowel sound in English that has its own name, “the schwa.”  The phonemic symbol for this sound is /ə/.    For example, the underlined words or syllables contain the schwa when said at a natural speed:  “I need to go to the doctor’s.”
 
Second Language: The term is often used to refer to any language a person speaks other than that person’s first or home language.   Use of the word “second” has become controversial given the fact that many people speak more than two languages; there is increasing use of the term “Additional Language.”
 
Self-access Materials:  These are materials designed for learners to use independently - i.e. on their own without access to a teacher or a classroom. They are normally used by the learner at home, in a library or in a self-study centre.
 

Self Assessment: Self-assessment involves learners assessing their own language proficiency, rather than a teacher doing it.

Self-correction: Self-correction happens when learners correct themselves instead of a teacher doing it. Teachers can involve learners in self-correction by giving the learners more or less guidance as to where the error is and/or what type of error it is, and by providing learners with examples of correct or appropriate use of language so that they can compare what they said or wrote to it.

Semantics:  Semantics is the study of the meaning of words and fixed-word combinations (e.g., “by the way”) and how they work together to create meaning. 

Semi-controlled Practice:  One way to teach new language (grammar, lexis, or functional expressions) is to clarify it (i.e., to be sure that students understand what it means, how it is formed and pronounced, in what situations it is used and the purpose for using it) and then to give students opportunities to practice it in increasingly more challenging and authentic ways.  At the beginning, the teacher controls or limits the range of language that students need to use.  These are called controlled practice activities, and they can be written or spoken.  When students have demonstrated their ability to produce the new language with increased accuracy, teachers then give them more freedom of choice in what other lexis, grammar or functional expressions they can also use.  This kind of practice is called semi-controlled practice. However these are not distinct categories of practice activities, rather a continuum between controlled and freer practice.   Controlled and freer practice activities are described elsewhere in this glossary. 

 

Sentence Stress:  Sentence stress is the pattern of stressed and unstressed words across a sentence. Normally this emphasis, or prominence, is on words that carry important information, although this can change significantly, depending on the specific meaning the speaker wants to communicate. Words that carry the most important information in a sentence or utterance are usually spoken a little more loudly, with a little more emphasis and take a little longer than less important words.  In the sentence, “I went to the park”, ‘went’ and ‘park’ are the most important words and so they would normally be stressed.  Depending on the speaker’s meaning, the stressed words can change.  For example, the response to the question, “Did you go around the park?” might be “No, I went to the park”, with the stress on ‘to’.  Research shows that putting stress on the wrong words or syllables in a sentence can make it very difficult for listeners to understand what the speaker is trying to say.  For this reason, it is important to help students notice and practice appropriate sentence stress.     

 

Silent Way: The Silent Way is a language teaching methodology created by Caleb Gattegno.  He believed that students do not learn something just because the teacher has taught it; he believed that the teacher needs to remain as silent as possible during a class partly in order to listen and observe students, how they learn and what they are learning, and partly so that learners have as much speaking opportunity as possible. Gattegno believed that the only way a person learns to speak a language is to speak it, not study it.  He believed that learners use the experience of learning their mother tongue when learning a new language, and that an essential part of learning a language involves developing internal criteria of what is right and wrong in the language. He understood that language is a vehicle for the expression of a person’s thoughts, attitudes, opinions, feelings, perceptions, etc and that encouraging learners to express these things motivates their learning language.  The use of physical objects such as Cuisenaire rods, the Sound/color wall chart, word charts and a pointer are associated with this approach.
 
Simplification: This describes the way learners make use of rules which are grammatically, morphologically or phonologically less complex than the actual rules of the language they are learning.  They often do this as a result of overgeneralization.  For example, having learned that in English the past is formed by adding –ed to the verb, the learner tries to add –ed to all verbs, thus producing incorrect forms such as “spended” or “costed.”
 

Simplified Texts: These are texts which have been made simpler so as to make it easier for learners to read them. The usual principles of simplification involve shortening the length of the text, shortening sentences, omitting or replacing difficult words or structures with simpler ones, omitting qualifying clauses and omitting non-essential detail. It can be argued, however, that such simplification might make the words easier to understand but it could make it more difficult for the learners to achieve global understanding of the text because it is now dense with important information. It might be more useful to learners to simplify texts by adding examples, by using repetition and paraphrase and by increasing redundant information - in other words, by lengthening rather than shortening the text.

Skimming: Skimming is reading or listening to get the main idea, or gist.  When skimming, readers or listeners don’t try to understand every word, but try to get an overall or general understanding of what seems most important.  As a reading technique, skimming helps readers to read more quickly.  Readers look quickly at the title, subtitles, subheadings, and any pictures to get hints about the topic of the text; they might read the first and last sentence of each paragraph, look for important words, or jump over portions of the text in order to find the main idea (or gist) of the text.  Readers, often skim the front page of the newspaper before deciding which article to read first.  Skimming as a listening technique can help listeners to understand the general idea of the text before deciding to listen more carefully.  When skimming during listening, listeners use the context in which they are listening to get hints about the topic and then notice and interpret words that are spoken more loudly, or with slightly longer pauses around them.  These words are often important clues to the topic of the listening text.  When sitting on a bus, people sometimes listen in this way to the conversations of people sitting in front of them in order to find out what they’re talking about.  At the supermarket people listen in this way to an announcement on the loudspeaker to see if the announcement is useful or interesting for them.  

SLA: This is an abbreviation for Second Language Acquisition and is normally used to refer to research and theory related to the learning of second and foreign languages.

Slips: Slips are mistakes caused by temporary factors such as a learner’s being tired, nervous, excited or distracted. They can be compared with errors, which are caused by a learner not knowing something.
 
Social Distance: This refers to feelings a person has that his or her social position is relatively similar to or different from the social position of other people.  The social distance between two different groups, communities or individuals affects how they communicate with each other and may affect how members of the group or community feel about the language of the other group and how  the they learn the language of the other group. 
 
Socio-cultural Context: Socio-cultural context refers to the idea that language, rather than existing in isolation, is closely linked to the culture and society in which it is used. This means when language is learnt, the socio-cultural context in which it is used needs to be taken into consideration as well.
 

Socio-cultural awareness: Socio-cultural awareness means awareness of the societies and cultures of the target language, and therefore of the contexts the language is used in. Teachers themselves transmit information subconsciously about culture and society through their behavior and interaction with learners.

Spontaneous Speech: This is speech produced without rehearsal or planning.
 

Standard Pronunciation:  Around the world, English is spoken in many different countries, by many different groups of people and with many different accents.  Deciding which of these accents is ‘normal’ or ‘standard’ pronunciation is difficult.  However, by “standard pronunciation” we mean “the pronunciation of American English that is most commonly used and most easily understood by most Americans”.  One way to think of it is ‘newsreader pronunciation’.  

 

Strategic Competence:  Strategic competence is a speaker’s ability to choose the best verbal or non-verbal strategy to improve the effectiveness of communication or to repair break-downs in communication in a particular context. 

 

Stress:  Stress is the emphasis or force given to certain syllables in words or words in a phrase or sentence. A listener hears stressed syllables or words as longer, louder and/or higher-pitched than unstressed syllables and/or words. See also Sentence Stress or Word Stress.

 

Stress Pattern: The stress pattern of a word is the way all the syllables in it are stressed. Depending on the number of syllables in the word, there can be main, secondary and unstressed syllables.
 
Stress-timed: A stress-timed language is a language in which the stressed syllables in phrases and sentences occur at regular intervals of time.  For example, in the sentence “The témperature/ rose stéadily/ all dáy” there are three stressed syllables marked with an accent, one per segment; in order to maintain rhythm and say each segment in basically the same amount of time, other syllables are unstressed and shortened. Stress-timed languages can be compared with syllable-timed ones, where each syllable takes roughly the same amount of time to say.
 
Success of Acquisition: This is the level of proficiency that a learner finally achieves. See Fossilization.
 
Summative Assessment: Summative assessment evaluates how much a student has learned at the end of a course.  Summative assessment “sums up” the student’s progress. It can be compared to formative assessment, which gives the teacher and learner helpful information during the course.
 
Supplementary Materials: Supplementary materials are designed to be used in addition to the core course materials.  These materials may come from teacher resource books, coursebooks other than main (core) textbook, workbooks, and authentic sources such as radio, TV, magazine, newspapers, etc. See Coursebook.
 
Syllabus: A syllabus is a document that describes what the contents of a language course will be and the order in which they will be taught. The content of a syllabus normally reflects certain beliefs about language and language learning.
 

Syntax:  Syntax is the study of how words combine to form sentences and the rules which govern sentence formation in a particular language.   The syntax of a language determines what kind of word can go in which sentence positions.  For example, in English syntax, the subject of the sentence is usually before the verb and the subject and verb are placed before the object.  English syntax is described as S-V-O.  In Japanese syntax, on the other hand, although the subject of the sentence is first, it is followed by the object and then the verb.  Japanese is an S-O-V language.  Students often make errors with syntax.  For example, it is common for French and Arabic speakers of English to put the adjective after the noun (e.g., “She is a woman big”) because this patterning reflects the syntax of those languages. 

Comments