Journal of Basic Education

What Constitutes Subject Knowledge for Second Language Teaching?

2003.第12卷第2期(Vol. 12 No. 2).pp. 93–123

What Constitutes Subject Knowledge for Second Language Teaching?


Paul SZE(施敏文)


Although it is widely accepted that teachers' subject matter knowledge is crucial to effective teaching, little attention has been paid to what constitutes subject matter knowledge for second language (L2) teaching. The usual practice in L2 teacher education programmes is to treat linguistics and applied linguistics as foundational content studies. The recent recommendation by the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research that language teachers' subject knowledge be strengthened has highlighted the need to define this knowledge more precisely. This paper explores in four parts the nature and acquisition of subject matter knowledge for L2 teaching. Part One presents a few real-life scenarios from L2 classrooms which illustrate the role of subject matter knowledge in language teaching. Part Two reviews two recent overseas policy initiatives that have attempted to specify the subject matter knowledge for language teaching. These attempts are critiqued in Part Three. In light of the unclear link between teachers' knowledge of linguistics and their pedagogical practice and competence, Part Four will argue for, and outline, a language awareness approach to developing L2 teachers' subject knowledge.