Taken from: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/articles/index.pl?page=3%3Bread=1094New Approaches to Learning English...
a bathroom stop), and they have the intention to return in a few minutes, the most natural thing to saywould be: I‟ll be r...
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Article on grammar and vocabulary (What not to do)

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Article on grammar and vocabulary (What not to do)

  1. 1. Taken from: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/articles/index.pl?page=3%3Bread=1094New Approaches to Learning English-as-a-Second-LanguageBy:Daniel RobinsonNot so long ago you could take 5-10 years of English lessons and still not speak English. You couldslave for hours learning English vocabulary and grammar rules and you still wouldn‟t understand whatnative speakers were talking about. It was hard enough to understand your teacher, let alone aHollywood movie. And you‟d ask yourself the question: „Is it just me?‟ Your answer: „Probably‟.New approaches to learning English are changing all that. And much more. OUT are the monotonousmultiple-choice activities of yesteryear, and the artificial „classroom English‟ that raises students‟hopes, then dashes them as soon as they step out of the classroom. IN is the real English students needfor communication in the real world.GRAMMAR RULES ARE FOR FOOLS?But what constitutes real English? Grammar rules certainly don‟t. Learners of English-as-a-Second-Language might be interested to know that most Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, Australians orNew Zealanders rarely learn grammar at school. Yet they still manage to speak and write Englishfluently. The average native speaker of English wouldn‟t know a Participle Clause if she trod on one.Stop Joe Average in the streets of Manhattan, London or Sydney and quiz him about the „PresentPerfect‟. At best you might get a remark about „flowers for his wife‟, or „anything to keep the kidsquiet at Christmas‟. Ask Jane Average about „Reported Speech‟ and you‟d almost certainly get a blanklook.The point of all this? Native speakers of English don‟t learn grammar. Nor long lists of vocabulary.Never did, never will. Yet they mysteriously manage to speak, write and read in English better than allbut a few non-native speakers of English. How could that be so?Grammar rules are important, especially for foreign language learners of English. They are the buildingblocks of a language. But maybe – just maybe – they are not as important as some English teachers willhave us believe. And they certainly won‟t help learners of English to speak natural English: the Englishthat people speak in the street; the English that Brad Pitt speaks in Hollywood; the English that thenewsreaders speaker on the BBC or CNN or SkyTV. Nor, for that matter, will long lists of vocabulary.Many new theories surrounding the learning of English - most notably the Lexical Approach (Lewis,‟93) - argue for learning English in „chunks‟ and fixed/semi-fixed expressions. Admittedly, a fewgrammar rules help make sense of the English language, but they don‟t help you speak the Englishlanguage. Take for example the phrase:“I‟ll be right back.”Very common, but not the type of thing most non-native speakers of English would say. It‟s a naturalexample of the use of Will for what grammar books call „spontaneous‟ or „unplanned‟ decisions –decisions we make at the time of speaking. So what? Does the aforementioned use of Will help learnersof English to come out with a phrase like I‟ll be right back? Hardly.SITUATIONS SHOW THE WAYSurely it would be better to teach students that when they leave the room for something important (eg,
  2. 2. a bathroom stop), and they have the intention to return in a few minutes, the most natural thing to saywould be: I‟ll be right back or Back in a sec‟.Wouldn‟t the teaching of grammar be better associated with an everyday situation, rather than aparticular grammar rule? A native speaker using the phone at work will no doubt say or hear all orseveral of the following phrases: I‟ll call you back; I‟ll just have a look; I‟ll see what I can do; I‟ll letyou know; I‟ll get back to you; I‟ll see you later. Just as a native speaker ordering food or drinks in arestaurant would probably say something along the lines of: I‟ll have the soup to start; I‟ll go for thesteak with fries; We‟ll have a bottle of the French red.Students need to know that the „situation‟ is more important for everyday communication than thegrammar rule, that Will is commonly used when speaking on the phone, when ordering food or drinksin a restaurant, when saying goodbye to people, etc.PLEASE - NO MORE VOCABULARY LISTSAs for vocabulary, learning long lists of isolated words – back, shoulders, leg, knee, hand, etc – is notgoing to help learners of English to speak like Brad Pitt or Bill Gates. Why not? Because in English,we don‟t talk about back, shoulders, leg, knee or hand. Instead, we say: I‟ve done my back in He‟s got broad shoulders I‟ve hurt my leg She‟s twisted her knee. Can you give me a hand?Nor do we say waiter, bread, menu or check when we go to a restaurant. But we might well say: Just ask the waiter Can we get some more bread? Can we have a look at the dessert menu? Can we get the check?ESL/EFL teachers – and the teaching materials they employ – need to recognise these naturaltendencies among native speakers, and move away from teaching vocabulary lists towards teaching„word-pairs‟ or „chunks‟ of language.INTERNATIONAL ENGLISHJust as we should question the theory that the world is divided into two English-speaking camps: UKEnglish (spoken by the British Royal Family and their cousins at the BBC), and USA English (spokenby, well, just about everyone else). The world speaks International English. A trip to Birmingham,Berlin or Beijing will tell you that. And besides, the difference between UK and USA English is farless significant than most English teachers would have us believe. Ask a native-English-speaking UKcitizen the last time he had problems understanding a Hollywood movie – or an American citizen if sheever struggles to understand the BBC World Service. Of course, there are a few spelling differences,and there‟s the odd grammatical discrepancy, but nothing to write a book about. ESL/EFL teachingmaterials should expose learners to accents, expressions and vocabulary from all over the world.ON-LINE OR OFF-LINE?Most English courses use either a pen-and-paper approach to learning or a computer-based approach. Afew use both. Learning English with just a computer is not enough; learning English with just pen-and-
  3. 3. paper misses out on the possibilities that computer technology represents. Most students enjoy thesatisfaction of taking away from their lesson something tangible – something to write on and review.On-line English courses must reflect this need.ENJOY ITSadly, even today, there are too many uninspiring English courses available. Most of them areexpensive; few of them are effective. Studies have shown - over and over – that we are more likely toremember things we enjoy doing. So why do we persist with what we‟re offered? A lack of a viablealternative...Article submitted by:Daniel RobinsonEnglish Mazewww.englishmaze.com

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