Knowledge before skill?

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Which is more important in language learning, skills or systems? I’m sure most of us would say: of course, there must be a balance – must be, but is there?

I’ve started thinking about this again after reading this great post by Doug Lemov. There’s also an interesting example of how all inference skills in the world cannot help understand a passage in the text if the reader has no relevant background knowledge! (As a translator of many years, I can particularly relate to this: when you read a book in L2, you might think it’s incredibly easy, but just start putting every word into your own language with all the shades of meanings…. and you’ll realise that you actually have to look up some of the meanings. And don’t get me started on allusions!)

So, dictionaries first?

P.S. If you find the topic interesting, you might want to check out two similar posts on my blog: Whatever happened to direct instruction and Is inquiry bad for novice learners?

 

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