Tutor profile: Lindsey C.
What is English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) ?
ELF can be described as the way English is used between speakers for whom it is not their first language. The features of ELF are different from the 'native-like' target which is promoted by most textbooks and mainstream examinations. Some academics argue that, if English is to be used in an ELF environment, as it overwhelmingly is around the globe, then why should we encourage students to aim for a native-like target? It calls into question many factors in English language teaching such as what we teach and do not teach in such environments, and what should be classed as an error. For example, if a Dutch person says to a Greek and a Polish person 'I made a party', and all involved understand, then why should we bother to teach the collocation 'have a party' ? The problem with ELF is just this. Who decides what is right and wrong? Since ELF is not a standardised dialect, how can it be taught? This debate belongs to the wider, and still more interesting question of who 'owns' English, since it is clearly no longer the English themselves.
Subject: English as a Second Language
How should English teachers give language feedback (corrections) to their students?
Let's start with spoken English. Students often insist that I correct ALL their mistakes, and I politely refuse to do so. Why? Well, often the most common way teachers correct their students is instantly and verbally. But what effect does such negative feedback have, while you are struggling to communicate in a foreign language? From my own experience of learning Greek, I can say that I very quickly lose my confidence and I stop talking. My approach is to select useful 'errors', or as I prefer 'emergent language', by making a note of them while the student is talking. I give them a chance to self-correct, but only after they have finished the communicative task. This emergent language can then become a teaching point. For example, if the student says 'I got lost during the way to the bank', then we can look at different expressions with the word 'way'. We then practice them, such as by asking each other the the way to different places. Thus, the 'error' becomes an opportunity for learning. Similarly, in feedback for written work I use a code which indicates the type of error (e.g. WW for wrong word, VF for wrong verb form) so that the student is guided to correct their own work. The more time a student spends engaging with the language, the more likely they are to process it and remember it, so simply providing the right answers is unlikely to be effective.
When and why do we use the word 'get'?
When would you say 'I got the parcel' instead of 'I received the parcel'? Which one sounds more formal? The second one, right? This is because 'receive' derives from Latin and thus entered the English language through French. In England, French was spoken by the aristocracy, from the Norman invasion in 1066 up until relatively recently in historical terms. Latinate words in English, therefore, still have an association with formality. For this reason, if you were writing to the courier company about your parcel, you would probably use 'received', since you don't know the person you are talking to and you need to be more distant. Unlike other languages, English does not have a polite form of second person address (e.g. 'vous' in French) and this use of Latinate words is one of the ways that we linguistically maintain a polite distance from someone we don't know. 'Get,' on the other hand, is not Latinate and so it is used very often in informal spoken English. What about expressions like 'get drunk' 'get a joke' 'get over it'? Why so many different expressions with 'get'? 'Get' always implies change. If you get a new coat, the ownership of the coat changes. If you get to work, your location changes. If you get a joke, your understanding of something changes. Get it?
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