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Areas of language not covered by published ELT materials
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LH123



Joined: 13 Jun 2010
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:37 pm    Post subject: Areas of language not covered by published ELT materials Reply with quote

Hello all

A little pet project/interest of mine is comparing the view of 'what it takes to learn a language' as espoused by ELT materials with more formal linguistic theory and personal experience. All this is very tentative, but it seems to me that said materials take a rather narrow view on what acquiring socio-linguistic competency actually means. Focusing on the 'present perfect', 'collocations with get' or 'the schwa' is all well and good, but for a student to actually be able to get out there and use the language effectively, there should (arguably) be a wider focus on not only the forms that language can take, but also how it is used.

As a small example, I just today read an interesting book chapter on direct and indirect/reported speech. While the 'classic' pedagogic take on it is that there is either direct speech or reported speech (with all the rules of conversion that go along with going from one to another), actually it is a lot more complex in real-world English usage. When someone says...

"He comes to me and he's like 'You've got to speak to this person then fill this out then go and speak to her...'"

...actually they are substituting a summarised paraphrase for what should (technically) be 'direct' speech (as in, a direct quotation). The original speaker did not literally say "this person" or "fill this out", these were changes made by the person reporting the speech (presumably because the details were forgotten or deemed unimportant).

This happens a lot in real life, but is never (in my experience) covered in ELT materials. Why not? Could this be the kind of thing that would be beneficial to teach, or at least practice in class?

I'm sure we would all agree that materials writers are obliged to present English in a slightly idealised and simplified form to learners; but I suspect that they are over-simplifying it - to the point that the forms and uses of English as presented according to the books we use are, frankly, inadequate. I'm sure we could all think of further examples of how coursebook content does not realistically depict language use in action...

But maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree - I'm posting here to ask for opinions Smile

Do you think that there is more that published ELT materials could cover?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 2594
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I'd like to see ELT materials cover more or different things than usual, to get the facts they present really right, as interested teachers would then be freer to teach, rather than having to dig out and research such usage in their own time. But what you and I would like may be rather by the by - there's a lot of institutional inertia out there.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any teacher or student would have his hands full just trying to deal 'he comes to me and he's like...'

Personally, I'd have all native speakers who actually say this shipped off east for shooting, so I for one am glad it this laxity has not infiltrated course books yet. Hurumph!
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Kofola



Joined: 20 Feb 2009
Posts: 146
Location: Slovakia

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Any teacher or student would have his hands full just trying to deal 'he comes to me and he's like...'


For the vast majority of students, this kind of vernacular is irrelevant to them and they are unlikely to come across it. Teachers have to select.

But that is LH123's point. Are the right things being selected? I'm always quite struck by the fact that as human beings we have created so many complex and varied languages for the simple everyday act of communication and yet as linguists and and teachers we are incapable of describing them in all their complexity. And therein lies the rub. CELTA and ELT books give the impression that you can break language down into certain (easily teachable) (and in some ways very arbitrary) chunks and then teach it. This, of course, ignores what is really happening in learners' minds and in the classroom and unfortunately leads to the bastardization of language in the classroom as Sasha's unbearable clip on the other thread shows.


Quote:
Do you think that there is more that published ELT materials could cover?


Yes and no. I think the vast majority could be much much better. It always amuses me how the materials include examples of 'real(isticish)' dialogues and texts and then focus on some key (usually single word) lexical items and a few grammar points and then treat the rest as if it was fluff. When in fact the rest is the meat and bones of that form of communication.

The good news (for us at least) is that this is why students need teachers. No textbook can capture language as it really is. It is what goes in the classroom - how the teacher chooses to use the material in the book, the interactions that develop around the real human activity and the ways we respond to it - that is important.

Woe betide the teacher who thinks the book is the lesson. Sadly, many training courses encourage teachers to think that this is the case.

Personally I would welcome a lot more examples of communication in the textbooks and less of the often pretty useless exercises. The lower level textbooks in particular break everything down to almost unworkably short and unrealistic texts/dialogues.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9302
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In addition to the posts above (with which I pretty much agree), I'd like to point out that there are quite a lot of language items, including the example given by the OP, that are fairly region-specific.

In my mind, it would be useless to teach something like

"He comes to me and he's like 'You've got to speak to this person then fill this out then go and speak to her...'

It's a type of speech (not written language in most cases) which a non-native speaker is only likely to encounter in limited regions and situations. Just like trying to teach slang and colloquialisms, these parts of speech are best left alone by language teachers - a student who moves to, say, the midwest of the US is going to quickly find plenty of friends eager to fill him/her in on casual speech items such as the thing above, in real life and real time.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12091
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will be happy to assist Sasha in his Chekist activities.
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LH123



Joined: 13 Jun 2010
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies!

Yes - "He comes to me and he's like" is regionally specific, but it could easily just as well be...

"He said 'You've got to speak to this person then fill this out then go and speak to her...'"

Such a phrase is (I think) a lot more general/global but it is still a case of 'direct' speech not being quite 'direct'.

Another example of 'real language' transcending 'ELT language' could be

...the use of repetition in dialogue...

"He went already!"
"He went already?" (to express surprise)

"A pint of Stella please"
"A pint of Stella..." (to confirm understanding)
etc...

...common abbreviations of anglophone first names...

Robert=Rob
Jennifer=Jenny/Jen
James=Jamie/Jim
(etc..)

...omission of subjects and auxiliaries in questions...

"Done?"
"Ready?"
"Been working?"

...conversation pre-closings..

"Well, it was nice to see you..."
"Yeah you too!"
"Stay in touch"
"Will do - see you!"

...adjacent pairs...

Q: Fancy going out tonight? (OFFER)
A1: OK, why not? (ACCEPT)
A2: Well, I'd rather not. (REFUSE)

...informal online written genres...

.."heeeeey wen u gona cal me"

...backchanneling and feedback during conversation...

"mmm-hmm....mmm!...oh!....wow.....really?"

You might not agree that those specific areas would be worth including in published materials, but I think most of us would recognise that they do form a part of the real-life use of English (and that anyone hoping to achieve a communicative competence in it would need to know about these things).

When you compare, though, things like 'Conversational pre-closings' to 'the present perfect', what you see is that the former is messier and less predictable than the latter. The present perfect has structural rules that can be followed, and a clear(ish) relationship between linguistic form and semantic meaning. On the other hand, when someone says in a conversation "Right then, well..um..." things are altogether a lot sketchier. They might be pre-closing a conversation, or they might not.

So maybe ELT materials only focus on what is easily codifiable, quantifiable and tangible (such as grammar, lexis and phonetics), because the world of sociolinguistics is a bit too messy to put down onto a page.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erm...? A lot of the examples you have given are in published ELT materials already. Which books do you use, which do not include anything of this nature?
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This fellow does a great line in reported speech here. Not to be found in any course book Very Happy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EkILJHIJLc
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something which I have not found too many ELT materials for is the whole range of alternative past forms, future past, past future, or whatever etc.

He was to learn later that he had yet to master Effortless English.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Or how about 'I was going to tidy the flat, but then I decided to open a bottle of vodka..." for a past form of 'going to' which describes plans that fell through? This would be a very useful edition to useless learners' lexicon, especially when answering why they don't have any homework to show : )
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
I will be happy to assist Sasha in his Chekist activities.


Scot, you've been accepted into the ranks. I'll cut the miscreants down with my sickle, you hammer them to hell!
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 864

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only ones of those I haven't seen in standard textbooks are:

...common abbreviations of anglophone first names...

which would be a minefield. It varies massively by region in the UK, and presumably also does so between countries.


...informal online written genres...

and this, which I would lump in with regional colloquial language as text speak also has dialects, and I can't think of an occasion when I would need to cover it.
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LH123



Joined: 13 Jun 2010
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay - so my examples weren't well received Wink Can anyone think of any better ones?

Oh and Sasha - I'm pretty sure that 'was/were going to' is covered in one of the grammar-in-uses; but you're right, it doesn't receive much attention as a structure in mainstream coursebooks.

Plus, I am pretty sure I have actually said "I was going to tidy the flat, but then I decided to open a bottle of vodka...".
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, yeah? Well, I used to be going to tidy the flat, but now...!

Hic!
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