Formulaic Language for Better Communication

 My Syracuse University’s LLL and LECNY presentation

Why use?

Formulaic language – prefabricated language chunks memorized and retrieved as a whole -Wray, 2008

– Used often by native speakers
– Mentally processed faster
– Many components
– Closed and open
– Part of ACTFL 2012 guidelines

Note: Learned as a whole, no grammatical knowledge

– Focus on communication
– Use high frequency real life use questions and answers (Check WL TV shows/ movies)
– Give a purpose to each class (asking and answering the question)
– Do variations on a question word
– Use for common topics
– Make sure students can answer the question
– Practice many, many. many times each class so students can ask and answer
– Create cumulative conversation

Practicality: Use ACTFL Interpersonal Can- Do Statements as guidelines for creating questions.

Communication value: If students learn  1 question and answer(s) per day x 150 days = 150 different questions and answers. WOW!

How do your students use formulaic language in your classroom?

40+Spanish & WL spontaneous speaking activities and some cultural activities


A collection of 13 beginning student activities Spanish speaking activities about school and classes



World Language High Frequency Vocabulary For Student High Use

If world language teachers teach their students high-frequency (or high-use)  words, then the students will be able to communicate sooner and better.  There are lists of  the 100 most common words for any language and teachers can check what vocabulary they teach against this list. They might even look at the bigger 1,000 most common words. If the vocablary does not appear on the list, then probably it is not  worth teaching since the word has such a low level of use. Often thematic units in a textbook present vocabulary that is not high-frequency. For example, students may never use the word “chalk”  or “chalkboard” outside of the classroom but they certain will use words like class vocabulary such as “table” ,  “chair”, and  “wall”.  All of these words are used in many other settings such as “home”, “restaurant”, and  “buildings”.   When world language teachers teach high-frequency words, the students learn words that they would normally use in a conversation.  These high-frequency words are repeated often in normal conversations.

So far in my first Spanish unit, I have covered 35 of the top 100 words. I am replanning my second unit to incoporate more of the top 100 and some of the top 200 words so that my students can communicate in the world language with essential words. I want students to spend their time in learning critical vocabulary.

How high-frequency are the world language vocabulary you teach?

At,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).   At, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).At, I have a book,  Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.