Comment on responses to Scott Thornbury’s ‘V is for Variability’

20 07 2011
Scott Thornbury:

Language use is a constant interplay between convention (what people have always said) and creativity (the entirely new), and that Shakespeare knew this perhaps better than anyone.

“you make the rules by playing the game”

I think this is the key point here. I am completing a course with a student at the moment who is moving to London at the beginning of August. Her level is around about C2, pretty darned good, but has had the typical, to coin a phrase, “Cambridge English Experience”:

“Hello, Jane, how did you get on at the office today?”
“Great, thanks Jim, the boss really liked my proposal…” (etc. etc. ad nauseam)

Even at CPE level, this in no way prepared a very dear friend of mine from Buenos Aires, who spent her first week in London in tears and thinking that she’d wasted a lot of time and US dollars on learning English.

Instead of this, I trawled the internet for ideas and was thrown the unlikely lifeline of Jamie Oliver, with his glottal stops, yod-dropping and double-negatives strewn higgledy-piggledy throughout his discourse:

And despite all these ELT “evils”, it is just this variability which I think will help my student more that a whole library of CPE listening ever would.

I’ll tell you when she gets back!

James Quartley  :

Playing the game. As above, this absolutely encapsulates the way to use the language being learned. Of course, it needs the learner to have progressed to a point where enough of the rules have been assimilated, but is an excellent way to think of the eccentricities and innovation that is possible within language use as acceptable.

I have always found it quite extraordinary that native speakers are allowed to bend, play and adapt the language, but any such behaviour on the part of non-native speakers is so often deemed to be error.

Long live the state of flux. It enriches the language, keeps it alive, relevant and fun.

Thanks, James. How can we encourage examination bodies to celebrate ‘the flux’ and become more tolerant both of interlanguage, non-standard varieties, and ELF?.

Or should we just tell them to ‘get fluxed’? ;-)

Hi Al, James, Scott,

Yes, playing the game is the key aspect here for me too and I think this attitude to our students’ production is a healthy way of helping us to improved error correction as well as keeping our students motivated to take risks with language.

Instead of jumping on any mistake they make and reformulating it into course book English, we should negotiate meaning with them, ‘are you trying to say this?’ or ‘do you want to say this?’, or ‘I don’t get what you’re trying to say there?’, or ‘what you’ve said there means X to me, is that what you meant?’ to show them what effect the language choices they’ve made have on us as listeners rather than telling them they’ve made mistakes.

This may also help us to be more positive in our correction and also allow us to hear more unintentionally innovative uses of the language that the students would prefer to know how to say in less creative ways.


Nice and Easy

20 07 2011

Easy by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

A relatively short but still quite pleasingly quick Tuesday evening run.  I do need to plan my running better though.  I left home not knowing whether I was going to do hill work or easy and started out thinking hills but then changed my mind when I imagined Mer would want to do hills tomorrow and so went for easy.

The new running style, straight and pushing from the backside forwards while trying to use my quads more is working well at the moment.  I hope that’s why I’m going quicker, I certainly feel like I’m running softer which is vital for me (clumsy oaf that I am) if I want to avoid repeated injuries.

Since I was thinking a lot about my posture and form once I’d decided what kind of run to do, I didn’t do much by the way of thinking this evening, just the following:

This part of the blog is pure self-motivation.  I hope people realise recording my runs here and posting the Garmin maps etc. is simply a way of gettign me to run – I get motivated by thinking I’ll be publishing my run once I get home.

Why does that motivate me?  I like statistics, I love the technology that Garmin gives me, I love being able to see the improvements I make visually on the screen, and I enjoy the recording of my mental notes as well, it helps me remember some of the littler thoughts that I may come back to one day, you never know.

And so Running Roads is helping me to run better and hopefully will help me to run smarter.  Will Singing Songs get me writing songs again?  Will it ever encourage me to publish my longer writing here? Will the teaching areas help with my teaching?   We’ll see.