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HELP!! Advanced Student uses Present for Past!!

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Joined: 07 Mar 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 1:34 pm    Post subject: HELP!! Advanced Student uses Present for Past!! Reply with quote

I recently acquired an "advanced" adult student...although it might not sound like it....because over the years it has become habitual for him to keep using the Simple Present, even though he should be using Simple Past. He is full aware of the time (past) of his "story", but as the foundations weren't learned correctly, he has advanced a lot in his other areas of learning, but he still keeps making this same mistake. I know how hard it is to "un-do" years of bad habits. I have worked with him as much as I can, telling him to S-L-O-W down, think first before speaking, back up and then speak, we have practiced writing only Simple Past over and over, recounting stories over and over in Simple Past.... and he is fully aware of what the Simple Past verbs are! HELP! He is frustrated, as he is a professional working for a Fortune 500 company and really needs to overcome this one bad grammar habit. (Actually, some of my more "seemingly" advances students still fall to use Simple Present when they mean Simple Past.....I might add, that these are students who have had lesons before I got to them, or have "learned" on their own.....)

Any ideas or exercises that can help this situation?

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Joined: 11 Feb 2007
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 2:54 pm    Post subject: Start again Reply with quote

This is a topic that is very close to my heart as I teach refugee doctors who have studied medicine in this pigin style and only now have realised the relevence of grammatical tenses. The only way to do this is to start from scratch and try to identify his weaker areas as you teach him. For more information see my page which takes students from basic writing skills through grammar up to academic listening and reading. Perhaps give him a TOEFL or IELTS test to show him what he is up against and why he needs this grassroots tutoring.
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Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3030
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Linda. It's not clear if you mean that this student uses simple present right off the bat even when making single utterances ('I go to bank (yesterday)'), and does or would do the same even in formal writing (where impressions really might count), or if you mean that he switches to present tense when telling more extended actual "stories" (reports, anecdotes etc). If it is the latter, then there might not be anything wrong with it, because it is something that native speakers do (to add immediacy to the events they are relating); that being said, if there is no past tense even to start with to anchor things ('On Saturday I see this guy in the park, and he has this dog, and it bites people, and...'), that could get confusing, and I'm not saying that you should be actively teaching him native usages if his non-usage of the past really is as pervasive and noticeable as you are suggesting. Wink
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 59
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:53 pm    Post subject: Pavlov's dog and lazy students Reply with quote

This might sound a bit extreme - or even a bit like Pavlov's dog, but it worked for me. I had a student at intermediate level who always said 'What means (e.g.) Regenschirm in English?' Because it was a conversation class he literally said it literally dozens of times and ... was impervious to correction. So we talked about it, and the following week I brought in the bell from reception - you know, the one you hit at the desk of a hotel, for example. And I hit it every time he said 'What means...?'. The result was twofold: one, he became aware of just how darned often he used the form incorrectly, and two, he started to self-correct pretty quickly. The noise of the bell was just an acoustic signal - shock - that he needed to jerk him out of the bad habit. Done with a bit of humour (and you have to know your students to know if you can do this with them) it absolutely works a treat.
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Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 151

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Rania,
what means super idea in German?! I know this problem and will be getting myself such a bell....Ding!
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Heads Up English

Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 28
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've done the same as Rania, pointing out when the offending word/phrase/grammar point was used by the student. I think this has to be used sparingly, though, because it can get annoying, frustrating, and repetitive. Yet it effectively makes the student aware of the problem, which is the first step to fixing it.

I've also used a tape recorder to tape a discussion/conversation. The student and I then listened to it later, listening for and correcting the mistakes. Again, this makes the student aware of the problem. Usually self-correction starts to creep into his speech, and a bit more work and encouragement gets rid of the problem.

Chris Cotter
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