The Target Language or TL is the language your students are learning. In this case, English. This needs to be contrasted with a student’s Mother Tongue or MT which is the language they first learned as a child.
The TL is of primary importance in the classroom and should be used as much as possible by both the teacher and the student.
TL within a lesson
In the context of a single lesson, the target language is the actual language you are teaching for that lesson. For example, suppose you have a class of businessmen who will be visiting the USA for the first time in a few months. You have decided to prepare a lesson which deals with visiting a restaurant and ordering breakfast.
Before the lesson you would identify the target language you wish to teach:
- food vocabulary such as grits, over-easy, toast, hash-browns, etc…
- useful phrases such as I’d like, do you have any, can I get the bill, etc…
Then you would prepare some activities and exercises to practice this language. In the classroom you would teach the language and with the students have them practice using it.
Thus while the TL is English, in a lesson it is narrowed down to the specific areas of English to be focussed on for that lesson. Within the lesson, the target language is something to aim for.*
*This isn’t really a bad pun.