Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Visions and Realities in Foreign Language Teaching: Where We Are, Where We Are Going: Selected papers from the 1993 Central States Conference, eds. William N. Hatfield and Mary Carr (Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company), pp. 43-54.


Copyright © 1993 Central States Conference on the Teacing of Foreign Languages


Educational journals and books are inundated with the term whole language (Watson et al. 1989; McConaghy 1988; Gunderson & Shapiro 1988; Altwerger et al. 1987; Weaver 1988; Goodman 1986), but there does not seem to be a clear agreement on what the term really means. Bergeron (1990) conducted a content analysis of sixty-four professional articles related to whole language and composed the following description:

Whole language is a concept that embodies both a philosophy of language development as well as the instructional approaches embedded within, and supportive of, that philosophy. This concept includes the use of real literature and writing in the context of meaningful, functional, and cooperative experiences in order to develop in students motivation and interest in the process of learning. (p. 319)

Consensus on the fundamental features of the philosophy include (1) that language develops naturally and is therefore a social phenomenon used for communication purposes, (2) that language learning and teaching must be personalized in order to meet the needs and interest of each learner, and (3) that language learning is considered to be a part of making sense of the world; language therefore does not need to be learned separately first, but rather is learned holistically in context, not in bits and pieces in isolation (Froese 1991: 2).