‘Activity’ is a high-frequency term in ELT professional discourse. Along with ‘activities’, it appears in the title or abstract of no fewer than 85 articles published in ELT Journal since January 2000,1
easily outnumbering other key concepts such as ‘autonomy’/‘autonomous’ (37 articles over the same period) and even ‘motivation’/‘motivate’ (53 articles). One reason for this is the wide range of meanings that ‘activity’ can convey. The Collins English Dictionary (2007: 17) indicates two main uncountable senses—‘the state or quality of being active’ and ‘lively action or movement’—as well as the countable meaning that underpins the way it is commonly used in ELT discourse: ‘any specific deed, action, pursuit’.

In ELT professional talk, “activity” is deployed so flexibly and frequently that distinctions between its various meanings often go unexamined. But the very centrality of ‘activity’ to our discourse, the property of the term that can render it almost invisible to its users, is also an excellent reason to investigate it carefully as a professional concept.

Duncan Hunter

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