Glossary of Key Terms

Click on the terms below to reveal descriptions and definitions!
These are learning/teaching units spanning several lessons that contextualize learning activities designed to help language learners accomplish real-world tasks based on social contexts in which they need to communicate collaboratively using authentic language in order to fulfill the mission defined by the culminating task at the end of the scenario. The scenario has defined learning outcomes (usually in the form of ‘Can do’ descriptors) and the teacher, and learners, need to identify relevant enabling objectives for the group concerned to succeed in the final task. These enabling objectives will determine the number of and nature of the steps (preparatory phases) before the learners move to the culminating task. Exemplar scenarios often define ‘typical’ steps for each teacher to adapt and supplement (or drop) for their particular group. Action-oriented scenarios can either be incorporated into a conventional curriculum – or can themselves provide the actual curriculum as a sequence of scenarios.
Material or symbolic objects made by humans that give information about the culture of the creator and user.  Examples include a picture, a diagram or a story. Language learners/teachers can use these artifacts as mediating tools when understanding language and culture.
This is a specific process used to design curriculum plans and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals (in contrast to forward design and central design). Backward design begins with the end objectives (often defined in Can Do statements), and then develops relevant tasks and enabling activities to achieve those objectives. The CEFR is probably the most successful instrument used for backward design (North et al, 2018; Richards, 2013).
Tasks described in Can Do descriptors. These may be uses to design a programme (see Backward design), to make lesson aims explicit, and/or for self-assessment. In the latter, language learners state the extent to which they can perform the task described.
An acronym for the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. The CEFR provides a sophisticated, multidimensional model of language use, dividing real life communicative activities into four modes of communication (reception, production, interaction, and mediation), plus general competences (e.g. referential, intercultural) and communicative language competences (linguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic). The CEFR defines six expandable reference levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 through ‘Can Do descriptors.’ There are descriptors for some 80 scales for different activities and competences, plus summary scales. The descriptor scales are intended to be used to profile language user/learners ability across different types of activities and competences. Simplified CEFR descriptors for six levels are provided in checklists in the different versions of the European Language Portfolio.
As the name indicates, the CEFR Companion Volumes (published by the Council of Europe in 2020) complements and updates the 2001 CEFR publication. In particular, it provides a wealth of new scales for different aspects of language proficiency, including mediation, plurilingual/pluricultural competence, online communication, and literature appreciation. It also provides descriptors for sign language and a new analytic scale for phonological competence. Finally, it further refines and develops some constructs of the CEFR in a clear, accessible introductory text.
Communicative competence is a term that Dell Hymes (1972) introduced in response to Chomsky’s “ideal speaker-listener”(1965) , which restricted linguistic competences to the grammatical domain. Hymes’ communicative competence model is an ethnographic model that incorporates the speaker’s sociolinguistic, pragmatic, and discourse competences in the overall context of the culture and speech community concerned. Hymes’ concepts not only include knowledge but also one’s ability to use that knowledge appropriately. In other words, the term refers to one’s ability to know what to say, what not to say, to whom, when and how.
(See Can Do statements)  Can Do descriptors describe the language learners’ ability to accomplish certain real-life tasks. They are often used to inform learning objectives and help structure a curriculum. After drafting the summary statement for an action-oriented scenario, the lesson designer/instructor selects relevant descriptors that will help her/him to make explicit the main actions that learners will be able to perform by the end of the task and how they will perform those actions.
It is the study of knowledge. It addresses questions such as ‘What is knowledge?’ ‘How is knowledge acquired?’ ‘How do we know what we know?’
An educational program that exchanges students between two educational institutions enabling them to get new educational and immersive experiences. The physical exchanges may be simultaneous but are usually consecutive, so the two ‘exchanged’ students get to know each other. It could be between two institutions within the same country or between institutions in different countries. This latter exchange can be called a foreign or international exchange program.
A tool developed related to the CEFR, of which over 100 versions have been validated. The Portfolio contains three parts: Passport, Language Biography and Dossier. In the Portfolio, users/learners profile their ability in different languages in terms of the CEFR levels and state what language qualifications they possess. The Biography contains checklists of Can Do descriptors for the six CEFR levels (See CEFR) together with awareness-raising activities. The Dossier is intended as a place to keep examples of best work. Portfolios work best when integrated into course books/curricula rather than being treated as an ‘add-on.’
The term ‘heritage language’ is used to refer to languages other than the dominant (official) language/s with which the speakers’ have some cultural relationship. In a North American context, the immigrants and/or Indigenous people’s ‘home languages’ or ‘community languages’ that they may/may not be able to speak, (read or write) can be considered as heritage languages. These languages can include former colonial languages that do not have political power or official status in a region.
This is the use of Indigenous approaches to the study of knowledge. It refers to how Indigenous nations traditionally view what knowledge is and how knowledge is transmitted from one generation to the next, which is different from Eurocentric approaches to the study of knowledge. The aim of the LINCDIRE project is to use Indigenous epistemologies to inform its pedagogical approach and action-oriented language learning.
An acronym for this project: the LINguistic and Cultural DIversity REinvented Project.  
The Medicine Wheel is a key symbol in Indigenous cultures and is central to the spirituality and sacred practices of First Nations peoples. “The four cardinal points on the Medicine Wheel are the Four Sacred Directions, represented among the Ojibwe by the colours: yellow, red, black, and white” (Pitawanakwat, 2006). Each colour forms a quadrant. Each quadrant represents one part of a cycle or an aspect of life: the four stages of life; the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental aspects of life; the four seasons. The quadrants also represent the four elements of nature. At the center of the wheel is the spiritual essence of the self, balance, and harmony.
It refers to one’s knowledge and control of the linguistic elements of a language: the rules and conventions that form sounds, words, phrases, clauses or other larger components of a language. It also refers to one’s general knowledge of a language, of linguistic systems and an individual’s   ability to describe and explain what she/he knows about the language.
The art of teaching. In particular, the methodologies that teachers use in the classroom learning-teaching processes.
Lessons that have been reviewed by other instructors and researchers.
The term refers to one’s actual, practical level of performance, as opposed to ‘process competence,’ which stands for one’s internal grammatical, discourse or sociocultural competence.
A concept that resists monoculturalism and stands for the coexistence of and interrelationships between multiple cultures with fluid boarders. While the traditional notion of culture claims cultures to be binary opposites, where one is expected to assimilate into a culture supported by political power, pluriculturalism promotes the fluidity of cultural identities and encourages shifts and mediation between cultures.
Full or partial competence in different cultures resulting from an openness to and interest in cultural diversity. The term emerged as a reaction to monoculturalism (one’s competence only in one’s own specific culture of origin’) in order to celebrate the ability to shuttle between different cultures and identities and to be comfortable with and curious about cultural diversity.
The term describes a speaker’s ability to communicate using – and even mixing –different languages or varieties in a contextually appropriate way. It emphasizes the dynamic and fluid boarders between languages. This concept was developed in Europe, where many languages are linguistically and culturally related and where many speak a local dialect in addition to the standard form of a language. Plurilingual competence is expected to be unbalanced and shifting: maybe one just understands but cannot speak certain other languages; maybe one speaks several languages a little. Plurilingualism implies openness to linguistic and cultural diversity, whether heritage or additional languages, and a process of lifelong development.  Plurilingualism is also a language learning and teaching concept in contrast to subtractive monolingualism. A plurilingual approach encourages learners to explore and exploit their languages and discover links between them.
Full or partial competence in two or more languages or language varieties, plus the ability to communicate simultaneously in those languages, switching between them according to context and interlocutors’ needs. Plurilingual competence describes the potentiality to communicate with speakers of other languages using one’s present, partial proficiency in the language(s) concerned. The emphasis is on a holistic, flexible, integrated repertoire of language and strategies.
The problems and difficulties that the language learner is presumed to encounter when overcoming the challenges of a communicative task, or while following a particular lesson, unit or course.
The tendency of individual cultures or languages to form interpersonal relations with those who are close by and to develop in mutually inclusive geographical or cultural environments.
This is a graphical representation of multiple dimensions of data illustrated in the form of a circular, two-dimensional chart. The radar chart used in LINCDIRE’s LITE online e-portfolio graphically displays a language learner’s level of competence in one or more languages in relation to a task or scenarios that he/she has completed.
In language learning, the term scaffolding refers to different instructional techniques or aids the teacher may use to help the language learners to move towards a better understanding of the desired concepts and achieve a level of competence. Instructional techniques and artifacts may be used temporarily by the instructor, another adult or a more capable peer in order to assist the learner to perform the task, which he/she may find too difficult to complete without such support. However, once the learner is able to perform the task on her/his own, the scaffolding will be removed.
A brief description of a contextualized situation (scenario) given to students. The scenario overview helps learners to have an overall idea of what they are expected to do, what are the objectives, and the steps to achieve them.
It is a planning device that sketches out a visual outline, which presents a series of events in a cohesive, coherent and meaningful story. Also, storyboards help language learners to draw their ideas before writing them in words. In a multimodal literacy environment, visual and sensory images can be effectively used when facilitating learners’ acquisition of vocabulary, reading comprehension and production of different text types. In a plurilingual approach, storyboards help language learners to produce multimodal and even multilingual texts, ascertaining that language goes beyond the conventional print words.
Harmonious co-construction and coexistence of languages. This is a plurilingual idea that emerged in contrast to the nationalistic concept of a separate and hostile existence of languages considered in isolation, if not quarantine, from each other.
A concept that refers to plurilingual speakers’ ability to mix different linguistic and non-linguistic features to accomplish communicative tasks according to the situation and their current needs. According to Canagarajah (2011, 401) translanguaging refers to speakers’ ability to shuttle between languages while forming linguistic and non-linguistics repertoires into an integrated system. This definition of translanguaging is also a core feature of the concept of plurilingualism. Such a hybrid cultural and linguistic practice can help to balance the power relations among languages in the classroom (e.g. between a dominant and a heritage language). Teachers may codeswitch freely or follow an explanation in one language with explanation in another; learners may codeswitch freely or may choose to use one language for a particular phase or type of activity and different language for another. Translanguaging as a pedagogic practice is said to increase learning and enhance language learners’ confidence and motivation.
Canagarajah, S. (2011). Code meshing in academic writing: Identifying teachable strategies of translanguaging. The Modern Language Journal, 95, 401-417.
Collins, G. & Hunter, D. (2013). The CEFR in Action: Scenarios for an Action-Oriented Classroom, Toronto, Canada, R. K. Publishing Inc.
Piccardo, E. (2014). From Communicative to Action-Oriented: A Research Pathway. Curriculum Services Canada, Government of Ontario.
Pitawanakwath, L. (2013). Four directions teachings. Retrieved July 14, 2018 from