Accuracy and Fluency: What’s The Big Deal?
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Part and parcel of being an English as a Foreign Language teacher is lesson planning, which, unfortunately, is a necessary evil. In the EFL classroom, there are a lot of different factors to consider when making a lesson plan best suited to your students. It can be tricky to know which activities are optimal to achieve the aims of your lesson. One consideration that often trips us up is when we should be focussing on accuracy or fluency. So, accuracy and fluency: what’s the big deal?
When you think about it, when you’re teaching English as a Foreign Language there are a lot of balls you need to juggle. You need to have a solid grasp of English grammar, an understanding of teaching techniques and theories of learning, a good idea of best practices when it comes to classroom management, a good dose of creativity – not to mention bucket-loads of patience. So it’s not surprising to know that there are certain aspects of the job which we can still find puzzling.
Accuracy and Fluency
Which is precisely why we’re here!
Let’s look at the difference between accuracy and fluency in the EFL classroom – and why it actually matters – so you can be more confident in your teaching skills, and together we can conquer the world!
…or just teach better, but whatever.
What is accuracy in the EFL classroom?
Accuracy refers to how correct learners’ use of the language system is, including their use of grammar, pronunciation and grammar.
In other words, accuracy is the correct use of tenses, verb forms, collocations and colloquialisms, among other things.
Accuracy activities are activities which will concentrate on the nitty gritty of the language construction to ensure that the language item is produced 100% accurately – such as grammar exercises, gap fills, drilling or noticing activities. These usually take place in the controlled practice stage of the lesson. There is not a lot of variation in these activities, as there is a right and a wrong answer.
For many EFL learners, accuracy is considered very important, and one of the main responsibilities of an EFL teacher is thought to be to correct errors and ensure the highest level of accuracy. However, while of course a certain degree of accuracy is needed for all communication, classroom tasks should not be geared towards more accuracy activities than fluency, because fluency is just as important.
What is fluency in the EFL classroom?
Fluency refers to how well a learner communicates meaning rather than how many mistakes they make in grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.
In other words, the ease with which a learner can speak and how well they can communicate without pauses or hesitations, without needing to search for words or phrases, without having to consider the language of what they are about to say.
It’s important to note that a person who is fluent may not necessarily be 100 % accurate but they are generally still comprehensible.
Fluency activities focus not so much on how the students are communicating but what they are communicating. Examples of fluency activities are conversations, roleplays, debates and projects.
So what’s the big deal?
In many EFL classrooms, the free practice stage is the last in the lesson. Most of the lesson time is dedicated to presenting the target language and ensuring the students are able to produce it accurately and appropriately. The free practice is stuffed into however many minutes are left in the lesson. Because of this, if a lesson is running late or the teacher runs out of time, it is this stage which is shortened or even cut entirely.
This is problematic for a number of reasons, not least because it is often the stage the students enjoy the most. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a chance for them to speak freely without worrying about their language. Instead they can focus on the content of what they are saying, which is why we communicate in the first place!
At the same time, this focus on accuracy is misguided, as accuracy is by no means more important than fluency. In fact, a student who is more fluent than accurate can be more successful at communication than someone who is more accurate than fluent.
This is because communication is a fluid concept which involves more than one participant, and the other participant may still be able to understand the communication even if the rate of accuracy of the speaker is not very high.
Accuracy vs fluency in the EFL classroom
Our learners want to learn to speak English in order to communicate. And if we boil it down to one thing, communication is about being understood. To get all fancy and technical, communicative competence is being able to make use of vocabulary and grammar and their rules appropriately in order to convey a message. So while of course there is a need for a certain amount of accuracy, fluency can be seen to play a bigger role in effective communication.
In your EFL lessons, try not to focus on accuracy to the detriment of fluency. Allow sufficient time for fluency activities, and this includes time for adequate preparation on the part of your students. You still need to scaffold the activity but you don’t need to give them step-by-step instructions for what they should say. If your activity is appropriate and relevant for your students, this should actually come naturally to your students, as they will have a purpose for communicating.
In the classroom, when planning a speaking activity, consider whether you will be assessing your students on accuracy or fluency and stick to that decision. If you choose to focus on fluency, don’t stop your students if they make mistakes but if you are aiming for accuracy then make sure your students are producing accurate language.
In a nutshell, both accuracy and fluency are important in the classroom and one should not be sacrificed for the other.
This may sound simple and logical, but it’s easy to try to incorporate elements of both accuracy and fluency into your lessons, often with the result that your students don’t get the benefit of practising either. Instead, make sure there are opportunities for both types of activities in your lessons to ensure your students get the best of both worlds and get practice with both accuracy and fluency.
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Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.