Lesson 1: Time on Task

Need for More Time on Task

Learners just beginning a foreign language often underestimate how long it takes to gain communicative proficiency in a foreign language. There is no getting around the fact that language learning requires lots of time on task. Fortunately today's technologies, when used effectively, can greatly increase a learner's contact time with the foreign language.

The average university student who studies a foreign language for four semesters will be in class for 240 hours. Years ago the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute (FSI) subdivided languages into different categories, based on how quickly native English speakers learned a foreign language (Omaggio-Hadley, 2001). The basic premise: the more related a language is to a foreign language, the easier it will be to learn. For example, German is similar to Dutch; Spanish is similar to Portuguese. As related to ACTFL-like proficiency ratings, after 500 hours of study (Rifkin, 2003), the average native English-speaking student of a Category 1 language (e.g., Dutch) can expect to achieve an Advanced-Low rating, while students of a Category 4 language (e.g., Chinese) may only achieve an Intermediate-Low rating. Simply stated, no matter what category a foreign language, learners at every level need to spend time on task.

Category 4
(e.g., Chinese)
500 hours  
Category 3
(e.g., Hebrew)
500 hours  
Category 2
(e.g., German)
500 hours  
Category 1
(e.g., Dutch)
500 hours  
  Low Mid High Low Mid High Low Mid High
Novice Intermediate Advanced

This lesson focuses on how technology aids foreign language learning by providing students with more options to increase the time they spend in studying the language.


On the importance of time on task.

Duration: 01:03