Learning to unlearn faulty beliefs and practices in English language teaching

Willy Ardian Renandya, Minh Nguyen Thi Thuy, George Martin Jacobs


Our actions arise from our beliefs about life: what we need and how best to achieve it. This article asks English language teachers to undertake an open-minded examination of some long-held beliefs in our profession and of the teaching practices that derive from those beliefs. Perhaps, based on this examination, teachers may wish to modify some beliefs and, correspondingly, change some practices. The particular beliefs examined in the article are as follows: people who begin second language learning at a younger age will be more successful than those who start at an older age; native speaker varieties of English (e.g., those spoken native-English speaking countries) should be valued over non-native varieties (e.g., those spoken in outer and expanding circle countries); the best outcome is for second language learners to use English only and stop using their mother tongue in and out of the classroom; in second language instruction, systematic, explicit and detailed instruction of grammar deserves top priority; vocabulary is considered less important than grammar; pragmatic competence need not be taught as students can acquire it on their own; learning depends on suffering, thus the famous saying “no pain, no gain”; teaching learning strategies deserves a great deal of attention; teaching materials should be difficult in order to move learning forward, and only lazy and uninformed teachers use cooperative learning.


ELT beliefs and practices; native-speakerism; grammar and vocabulary teaching

Full Text:



Alderson, J. C. (2005). Diagnosing foreign language proficiency. Continuum.

Antonacci, P. A. (2000). Reading in the zone of proximal development: Mediating literacy development in beginner readers through guided reading. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 41(1), 19-33.

Barron, A. (2006). Learning to say “you” in German: The acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in a study abroad context. In M. A. DuFon & E. E. Churchill (Eds.), Language learners in study abroad contexts (pp. 59–88). Multilingual Matters. https://doi.org/10.21832/9781853598531-007

Bialystok, E. (2018). Bilingual education for young children: Review of the effects and consequences. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 21(6), 666-679. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2016.1203859

Bremner, S. (1999). Language learning strategies and language proficiency: Investigating the relationship in Hong Kong. Canadian Modern Language Review, 55(4), 590-514. https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.55.4.490

Du, G. H. & Man, D. L. (2022). Person factors and strategic processing in L2 listening comprehension: Examining the role of vocabulary size, metacognitive knowledge, self-efficacy, and strategy use. System, 107, 102801. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2022.102801

Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. (2016). Variation in evaluations of the (im)politeness of emails from L2 learners and perceptions of the personality of their senders. Journal of Pragmatics, 106, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2016.10.001

Ellis, R. (2015). Understanding second language acquisition (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Folse, K. (2011). Applying L2 lexical research findings in ESL teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 45(2), 362-369. https://doi.org/10.5054/tq.2010.254529

Green, J., & Oxford, R. L. (1995). A closer look at learner strategies, L2 proficiency, and gender. TESOL Quarterly, 29(2), 261-297. https://doi.org/10.2307/3587625

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Hsiao, T., & Oxford, R. (2002). Comparing theories of language learning strategies: A confirmatory factor analysis. Modern Language Journal, 86(3), 368–383. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-4781.00155

Ishihara, N. (2019). Identity and agency in L2 pragmatics. In N. Taguchi (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition and pragmatics (pp. 161-175). Routledge.

Jacobs, G. M., & Renandya, W. A. (2019). Student-centred cooperative learning. Springer Nature.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Holubec, E. J. (2008). Cooperation in the classroom (8th ed.). Interaction Book Company.

Krashen, S. D., Lee, S. Y., & Lao, C. (2017). Comprehensible and compelling: The causes and effects of free voluntary reading. ABC-CLIO.

Kubota, R. (2015). Questioning language myths in English language teaching: Toward border-crossing communication. In Selected papers from the twenty-fourth international symposium on English teaching (pp. 44-57). English Teachers’ Association-Republic of China (ETA-ROC).

Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language. Wiley.

Lim, S. C., & Renandya, W. A. (2020). Efficacy of written corrective feedback in writing instruction: A meta-analysis. TESL-EJ, 24(3), 1-26.

McKay, S. L. (2018). English as an international language: What it is and what it means for pedagogy. RELC Journal, 49(1), 9-23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033688217738817

Nation, I. S. P., & Waring, R. (2019). Teaching extensive reading in another language. Routledge.

Nguyen, M. (2011). Learning to communicate in a globalized world: To what extent do school textbooks facilitate the development of intercultural pragmatic competence? RELC Journal, 42, 17–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033688210390265

Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Heinle & Heinle Publishers.

Oxford, R. L. (2016). Teaching and researching language learning strategies: Self-regulation in context. Routledge.

Park, E. S. (2020, June 27). Top five habits of successful learners of English. Keynote speech delivered at the Webinar “Top Ten Habits of Successful Learners of English”, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford University Press.

Rees-Miller, J. (1993). A critical appraisal of learner training: Theoretical bases and teaching implications. TESOL Quarterly, 27(4), 679-689. https://doi.org/10.2307/3587401

Renandya, W. A. (2012). Five reasons why listening strategies might not work with lower proficiency learners. English Language Teaching World Online: Voices from the Classroom (ELTWO), 4, 1-11.

Renandya, W. A., Jacobs, G. M., Krashen, S., & Ong, C. H. M. (2019). The power of reading: Case histories of second and foreign language readers. Language and Language Teaching, 8(1), 10-14.

Richards, J. C., & Reppen, R. (2014). Towards a pedagogy of grammar instruction. RELC Journal, 45(1), 5-25. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033688214522622

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2014). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Robb, T. (2022). Encouraging schools to adopt extensive reading: How do we get there? Reading in a Foreign Language, 34(1), 184-194. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/67419

Rubin, J. (1975). What the “good language learner” can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9(1), 41-51. https://doi.org/10.2307/3586011

Singleton, D., & Muñoz, C. (2011). Around and beyond the critical period hypothesis. In E. Hinkle (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning (pp. 407-425). Routledge.

Skehan, P. (1989). Individual differences in second language learning. Edward Arnold.

Slavin, R. E. (2014). Making cooperative learning powerful. Educational Leadership, 72(2), 22-26.

Sung, C. C. M. (2016). Does accent matter? Investigating the relationship between accent and identity in English as a lingua franca communication. System, 60, 55-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2016.06.002

Swan, M. (2008). Talking sense about learning strategies. RELC Journal, 39(2), 262-273. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033688208092188

Swan, M., & Walter, C. (2017). Misunderstanding comprehension. ELT Journal, 71(2), 228-236. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccw094

Taguchi, N. (2008). Cognition, language contact, and the development of pragmatic comprehension in a study abroad context. Language Learning, 58(1), 33-71. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2007.00434.x

Taguchi, N. (2011). Teaching pragmatics: Trends and issues. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 289-310. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190511000018

Taguchi, N. & Ishihara, N. (2018). The pragmatics of English as a lingua franca: Research and pedagogy in the era of globalization. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 38, 80-101. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190518000028

Tupas, R., & Renandya, W. A. (2021). Unequal Englishes: Re-envisioning the teaching of English in linguistically diverse classrooms. In B. Spolsky & H. Lee (Eds.), Localizing Global English: Asian perspectives and practices (pp. 47-62). Routledge.

Truscott, J. (1996). The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes. Language Learning, 46(2), 327-369. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-1770.1996.tb01238.x

Vásquez, C., & Sharpless, D. (2009). The role of pragmatics in the master’s TESOL curriculum: Findings from a nationwide survey. TESOL Quarterly, 43, 5–28. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1545-7249.2009.tb00225.x

Wallace, M. P. (2022). Individual differences in second language listening: Examining the role of knowledge, metacognitive awareness, memory, and attention. Language Learning, 72(1), 5-44. https://doi.org/10.1111/lang.12424

Waring. R. (2009). The inescapable case for extensive reading. In A. Cirocki (Ed.), Extensive reading in English language teaching (pp. 93–111). Lincom.

Webb, S., & Nation, P. (2017). How vocabulary is learned. Oxford University Press.

Wilkins, D. A. (1972). Linguistics in language teaching. MFT Press.

Willingham, D. T. (2006). The usefulness of brief instruction in reading comprehension strategies. American Educator, 30(4), 39-50.

Wolfson, N. (1989). The social dynamics of native and non-native variation in complimenting behaviour. In M. Eisenstein (Ed.), The dynamic interlanguage (pp. 219-236). Routledge.

Yeo, M., Marlina, R., & Jacobs, G. M. (2017). Challenging existing perspectives about the” ideal” characteristics of teachers of English. Beyond Words, 5, 66-82.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24815/siele.v10i1.26009

Article Metrics

Abstract view : 0 times
PDF - 0 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Print ISSN: 2355-2794, Online ISSN: 2461-0275

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

View Journal Stats