Accuracy and Fluency

A classroom activity may aim either at accuracy or fluency, a distinction first made by Brumfit (1984). An accuracy-oriented activity such as pattern drills is usually used in the teaching of a new target item; A fluency-oriented activity such as extensive reading and information gap aims to develop the students' spontaneous communications skills in using what they have already learned. The following table summarizes the differences between the two types of activities. Be aware that it is not always possible or appropriate to classify classroom activities using this dichotomy and the differences summarized below may not always apply. An activity may be largely accuracy-oriented but also has some features of a fluency activity at the same time.

"It is now very clear that fluency and accuracy are both important goals to pursue in CLT." (Brown, 2001, p. 268)

 Accuracy Activities

Fluency Activities

Purpose: the primary purpose is to help students achieve accurate perception and production of a target item which can be a sound, a word, or a sentence structure.

Material: the texts are usually composed of separate ("discrete") items: sentences or words; texts may be used in any mode (skill), regardless of how they are used in real life (dialogues may be written, written texts used for listening); the target items are usually practiced out of context or situation;

Activities: students' attention is focused on a particular target item; their output is usually predictable; their performance is assessed on how few language mistakes are made; students' errors are corrected; tasks do not usually simulate real-life situations.

Purpose: the primary purpose is to help students practice language in listening, speaking, reading, and/or writing activities to so develop fluency in using the language in spontaneous communication.

Material: the texts are usually whole pieces of discourses: conversation, stories, etc.; texts are usually used as they would be in real life: dialogues are spoken, articles and written stories are read; an effort is made to use authentic material from real life.

Activities: students' attention is focused on communicating information and expressing ideas; their output may not always be predictable; their performance is assessed on how well ideas are expressed or understood; students' errors are not corrected unless it interferes with communication; tasks often simulate real-life situations.

Based in part on Ur (1996)