Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

The Language Learning Journal

For a Special Issue on

Communicative and task-based language teaching at 40: In honor of William Littlewood

Abstract deadline
01 December 2023

Manuscript deadline
01 June 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Danli Li, Wuhan University
[email protected]

Mark Feng Teng, Macau Polytechnic University
[email protected]

Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, Hong Kong Shue Yan University
[email protected]

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Communicative and task-based language teaching at 40: In honor of William Littlewood

Since the publication of Prof William Littlewood’s pioneering work on ‘communicative language teaching’ (1981) forty years ago, the communicative task has emerged as a significant building block in the development of language curricula and as an element for motivating process-oriented second language acquisition (SLA) research and classroom practice. Language teachers have moved increasingly toward varying approaches to practicing communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based language teaching (TBLT) to enhance learners’ communicative competence and task-based performance (Wen & Ahmadian, 2019). However, the conceptual and practical concerns that are affecting the implementation of CLT and TBLT in a foreign language context have remained and surfaced from time to time, waiting for clarifications and elaborations (e.g., Ellis, 2009 and 2020). Language teachers are aware of the need for ‘learning through tasks’ (Nunan, 2004). Communicative ‘tasks’, which serve not only as major components of the methodology but also as units that organize a course, have not received substantial attention in a foreign language context (Littlewood, 2007). While teachers may adopt a communicative approach, they may hold varying, even fragmented, views about what that meant and how it matters (Littlewood, 2014).

Language teachers may also encounter some challenges in implementing CLT. One challenge may be the dilemma over the need for teacher control or student-centered learning. Another challenge may be learners’ lack of involvement in communicative tasks, for which students may not be able to use English as the medium of communication in their groups. It is not uncommon that learners do not attempt to exploit their full language resources but produce language at only the minimum level of explicitness demanded by the task. In addition, examination-oriented assessment is a major obstacle that may impede the implementation of communicative tasks. While language teachers express an understanding of the summative, norm-referenced, and knowledge-based orientation of high-stakes examinations, incompatibility with public assessment demands has been acknowledged as a constraint in CLT and TBLT. Finally, cognitive individual differences should be considered in TBLT (Wen, Sparks, Biedroń, & Teng, 2023). Underlying these practical concerns, there is often a deeper uncertainty about what the CLT and TBLT approaches actually mean and the extent to which they may affect foreign language learning.

This special issue welcomes submissions that advance the mission to disseminate scholarly studies related to communicative tasks for language learning. This special issue provides implications for language teachers to develop a pedagogy suited to their needs in adopting communicative tasks for foreign language teaching and learning. Overall, this special issue aims to gather conceptual and practical implications from both established researchers and emerging scholars around the world to orientate teachers accustomed to a tradition dominated by controlled, form-oriented activities to seek innovation and expansion in a foreign language communicative teaching context.



Enquiries and submissions should be addressed to the guest editors:


E-mail: [email protected]


Topics included but not limited to the following:

  1. Testing and assessment in CLT vs. TBLT
  2. CLT vs. TBLT: Issues in the classroom and in the wild
  3. CLT vs TBLT: Cultural issues in adapting to different learning contexts
  4. Technology use in CLT vs. TBLT
  5. CLT vs. TBLT: Issues in curriculum design
  6. CLT vs. TBLT: What research syntheses and meta-analyses have told us
  7. Task-based Interactions
  8. Individual differences in CLT vs. TBLT performance
  9. Language learning through communicative tasks
  10. Translanguaging practices in communicative tasks



Please submit an abstract of about 200 words to the guest editors through email: [email protected]


Submission Instructions

Contributors are advised to consult the Notes for contributors for guidance on the length, organisation and format of articles.


- Select "special issue” when submitting your paper to ScholarOne

- Empirical studies and only invited review article will be accepted

- Expected publication dates for the special issue: September 2025, but online advance publication first.


Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article