Design Communicative Tasks

Ensure learners' needs are incorporated into learning

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Oral interpersonal communication tasks engage students for the purpose of exchanging information and ideas, meeting one’s needs, and expressing and supporting opinions through speaking and listening or signing with others.


Oral interpersonal communication tasks engage students for the purpose of exchanging information and ideas, meeting one’s needs, and expressing and supporting opinions through speaking and listening or signing with others. The scope of these tasks will vary according to the level of students’ skills as activities may alternate between performance and proficiency-based tasks.

  • In interpersonal communication, the learner both creates and conveys meaning through verbal and nonverbal communication while understanding and being understood by others.
  • Well-structured interpersonal communication tasks engage learners cognitively and encourage linguistic risk-taking.
  • Performance-based tasks may elicit a response from students at a higher level of proficiency than proficiency-based tasks due to the nature of rehearsed questions and responses as opposed to unique and personal, organically-produced language.


Oral communication is at the heart of language learning. It is the vehicle through which learners build relationships and develop intercultural competence. Through oral interpersonal communication tasks, learners engage with language in a low-stakes environment in preparation for real-life interactions. These tasks increase learners’ ability to interact socially in any language. Oral interpersonal communication tasks engage learners in rigorous, authentic and meaningful scenarios that allow students to connect their personal experiences to those of the target culture.


As part of the backward design process, the teacher begins by identifying proficiency goals and/or the intended learning outcomes. Oral communication tasks are then created at the students’ current proficiency levels and are designed specifically to promote growth over time toward the next proficiency level. The teacher should design a variety of tasks including pair, small group and whole class tasks that simulate authentic interactions and incorporate elements of language and culture. These tasks:

  • rely on natural language functions, such as requesting information or expressing preferences
  • emphasize meaning-making and focus less on accuracy
  • are rooted in the intended proficiency outcomes of the learners
  • align with learners’ desires to communicate in social and professional contexts
  • address gestures and other nonverbal nuances of language that combine with oral communication to convey meaning
  • occur throughout as well as at the end of any thematic unit
  • are used for more open-ended assessment that is evaluated holistically through the lens of proficiency based on comprehension (what the learner understands) and comprehensibility (how well the learner is understood).

Oral interpersonal communication tasks promote personalized learning as the teacher relates tasks directly to the students’ interests as well as current and prior experiences to make language learning more meaningful and authentic.

Learn More About Guiding Principles

Language learning should be a central part of any curriculum. Here's why:

Opening Statement
Opening Statement

ACTFL is committed to providing vision, leadership, and support for quality teaching and learning to prepare the next generation of global citizens.

Benefits of Language Learning

We believe that all students should learn or maintain at least one world language in addition to English. Therefore, language learning should be a central part of any curriculum.

Literacy in Language Learning

Contemporary definitions of literacy include more than basic reading, writing, listening, and speaking, adding the purposeful uses of these skills in today’s media- and information-rich environment.

Articulating Sequences
Articulated Sequences in Language Learning

In order for learners to achieve the highest level of proficiency possible, sequential study over extended periods of time is necessary.

Backwards Design
Plan with Backward Design

Backward design is one of the core practices for effective language instruction that relies on thinking purposefully about teaching and learning.

Use of Target Language
Facilitate Target Language Use

The use of target language refers to all that learners say, read, hear, write, and view – production and reception of language on the part of learners, educators, and materials.

Authentic Texts
Use Authentic Text

Interactive reading and listening comprehension tasks should be designed and carried out using authentic cultural texts of various kinds with appropriate scaffolding and follow-up tasks that promote interpretation.

Grammar as Concepts
Teach Grammar as a Concept in Context

Grammar should be addressed within meaningful communicative contexts as one element of language proficiency.

Critical Role of Feedback
Provide Effective Feedback

The role of feedback for learners is critical in advancing language proficiency. Feedback should be provided in multiple forms including formative, summative and self-assessment.

Further Reading