Day 11

Halfway through. And sometimes I'm not sure what to make of this course.

For instance, today I had a fairly simple lesson to teach - give students exercises to practice the various forms used to refer to the future. The idea is that there are four types of future-predicting sentence, each with it's own special uses.

"The concert starts at midnight" is in the present-simple, which is used for timetabled or "inevitable" events. The same form is used for "eternal truths", e.g "The moon goes round the earth".

With me so far? "I'll visit my grandmother tomorrow" is future-simple, used for decisions just taken, and also those instantly acted upon. "I'm washing my hair tonight" is present-continuous, which is used for intentions. And "I'm going to wash my hair" is present-simple with "going to", used for less definite intentions.

Okay, so I'm giving a couple of practice exercises to students in pairs, and they're helping each other out, when suddenly I realise they're correctly using a lot of future-simple forms. Specifically, forms which break the rules I'm teaching them.

So I have to ask myself...what's the point of me teach rules to students who (a) only use them when answering the tests I give and (b) have grasped the real rules quite well without my help?

I mean. "We're going to crash!" doesn't express an intention or plan, "I'll pay you when I have the cash" isn't an instantaneous decision, and "I resign in a month" isn't an event timetabled by someone else.

But then, I'm not too sure about some of us taking the course either. One insists that "walk on" in "To walk on water" is a phrasal verb because it's a verb followed by something that isn't a noun. One who tries to be friends with each and every student. And one who's very fluent in spoken English (as a second language) but can barely put together a coherent written sentence.

And there's me of course, who talks like a book and writes like transcribed speech.

As for the school itself, there is on the one hand a lot of lip service paid to "native speaker" habits as the touchstone of good English, but on the other hand, in practice an emphasis on teaching set phrases which can be bolted together into sentences.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "I really love it" in real life, but I've seen half a dozen learners drilled to say it with exactly the right enthusiastic intonation.

Fragments like "It's a good idea to...", " the heart of..." and "In my view..." do exist, but as overused cliches. I'm being trained to teach students to speak in cliches.

No comments:

Post a Comment