Celta Assignment Focus on Language

Assignment 1 ??“ Focus on Language

Carol Jones

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The sentences identified all include errors that intermediate level learners have made.

1. I haven??™t usually breakfast in the morning.

This should read – I don??™t usually have breakfast in the morning – and shows confusion between the use of ???have??? as an auxiliary verb and a lexical verb which means that because of this, the negative has been incorrectly formed.

In some languages (particularly Dutch and German), the auxiliary verb ???do??? does not exist which could cause learners some difficulties as in both of these languages ???not??? is added to the verb making it into a negative, which could mean there would be an incident of L1 interference in this particular problem.

L1 interference is the phenomenon of the source language influencing the learning of the target language.

It seems that as the issue in this instance is the formation of negatives with lexical verbs, then a lesson focusing on this in some detail would address the issue. I would ensure that this grammar point was presented in as many different ways as possible using visuals and written exercises to suit each individual learner (Appendix 1). A gap fill exercise focusing on ???have??? as the main verb and ensuring learners understand that the negative is formed by using ???do not??? before ???have???. I would elicit examples first – giving the students practice with forming the negatives to reinforce this (Appendix 2).

2. I work as an au-pair and I look for two children every afternoon.

The error in this sentence is clearly in the meaning where in the incorrect phrasal verb has been used. The sentence should read ??“ I work as an au-pair and I look after two children every afternoon.

In this instance the ???look for ??? means to try to find, and to ???look after??? which means to care for, should have been used instead (Appendix 3). A phrasal verb is a verb which is then followed by one or more particles (preposition and/or adverb) which then create a different meaning from the original verb.

Some examples of phrasal verbs are be in/out/away/back, get out, get up, go away, go/come back, go on, go in/out, hurry up, lie down, look out, look round, sit down, stand up, turn round, wake up.

Phrasal verbs are used every day in English but the fact that many languages do not have phrasal verbs (Polish and Chinese) being just two of these means that students from these countries have more difficulty than most in understanding the rule that adding a preposition to a verb can completely change its meaning. Unfortunately, because of this, learners do try not to use them which can then make their speech sound very formal.

It is important for students to read and hear phrasal verbs in the correct context in order for them to completely grasp their usage. In order to clarify the difference in meaning between these two phrasal verbs in particular I would use exercises such as (Appendix 4) and (Appendix 5) and get the students to practice by drilling and repetition. However, the meaning needs to be clarified even further and to do this, it would be necessary to give some examples of someone looking after (or may be not looking after) something. This could be done by showing some pictures e.g. a picture of a mother calling out for her child looking everywhere for her and comparing it with a picture of the same woman reunited with her child. A concept question based around this would be ??? Is he looking for his child or after his child in the first picture??? and then repeat the same for the second picture to reinforce the difference (see Appendix 5b sample picture). A second example may be that the students are given the scenario of someone being unemployed, and asking them ???I am unemployed, am I looking for a job or looking after a job???. The students could then be given time to work in pairs to discuss what things or possessions may need looking after or looking for e.g. ???I look after my neighbour??™s cat when they are on holiday??? or ???I look for my car keys all the time as I often lose them???.

3. I walk in an office in the evening because the pay is very good.

This sentence contains a pronunciation error and should read ??“ I work in an office in the evening because the pay is very good.

The words walk and work or [w k] and [w3k]and only differ by one element and are called minimal pairs. There may also be L1 interference, depending on the phonetics of the native language.

Korean as a language does not have the /3:/ and Arabic doesn??™t have either of the vowel sounds, which causes learning difficulties for these students.

As this particular problem is an issue around pronunciation, it would be important to focus the lesson on speaking and listening to allow drilling and repetition to instil confidence. Most words are not spelt phonetically, so if the students are taught using the IPA system and they are unsure of the correct way to pronounce a word, they will be able to refer to a dictionary which has the words spelt phonetically and also refers to the phonetic alphabet.

To practise the difference between work and walk, the teacher should say both words to the students and ask them to listen carefully to the different sounds, pointing out the shape made by the mouth at the same time. The students should then be asked to repeat the words several times if necessary to ensure the correct pronunciation is established (Appendix 9).

The use of recorded examples may also help in distinguishing the differences to the learner such as the minimal pairs listening comprehension which could help the students to improve recognition and pronunciation of work and walk which can be found here http://esl.about.com/library/listening/blminimalauir.htm

4. I am not knowing English grammar very well ??“ is a sentence containing an error of form where the present continuous tense has been used instead of the present simple.

The sentence should read ??“ I don??™t know English grammar very well.

The verb ???to know??? is a stative verb which shows a state and not an action and therefore cannot be used in the continuous tense.

Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish do not have continuous verb forms giving way to common misuse by overuse by intermediate learners. Stative verbs in both Turkish and Portuguese are used in the progressive form in these languages which gives way to L1 interference.

In order to teach and reinforce this particular grammar point, I would firstly give the learners a list of common non-progressive verbs (Appendix 6) and then follow on by focusing on the stative verbs using written exercises to help the learners to identify and learn the verbs that cannot be used in continuous tenses (Appendix 7).

5. It??™s very hot today, isn??™t it (rising intonation) Is a basic error of pronunciation as a question tag should always be used be falling intonation). Therefore this should be ??“ It??™s very hot today, isn??™t it (falling intonation).

Question tags are formed using an auxiliary verb and its meaning depends on the intonation used when spoken, as when a rising voice used at the end of a question it indicates an actual question, but if the voice falls at the end, this actually indicates an opinion which the speaker has confidence will be agreed with by the person he/she is talking to. The question tag is used in this instance to keep the conversation open.

Question tags are common in English but not in all languages. In German and French in particular, all question tags are spoken with rising intonation which then results in L1 interference when they are learning English.

Learners need to be able to understand whether it is a question that is being asked or whether an opinion is being expressed, and the best method of reinforcing this would be through speaking and listening exercises, allowing the students to repeat each phrase and practise the intonation relevant to that phrase with guidance from the tutor. To help the learner to get the correct form, I would ask the learners to listen to the target question tag, then model this using hand gestures. To follow on I would ask the learners to practise the intonation. This could be followed up with written exercises as consolidation which may help the students to distinguish which type of intonation is intended (Appendix 8) just by the language being used.

Websites

http://a4esl.org/q/h/lb/lookafa.html

http://esl.about.com/library/lessons/blminimal.htm

http://www.eslhq.com/forums/worksheets/esl-worksheets/bingo-games/minimal-pairs-bingo-1840/

http://esl.about.com

Bibliography

Baker A. (2006) Ship or Sheep. An intermediate pronunciation course. Third edition. Cambridge University Press.

Murphy, R. (2004) English Grammar in Use. Third edition. Cambridge University Press. (Appendix 2)

Swan, M and Walter C (2001) The Good Grammar Book. Oxford University Press

Swan, M and Walter C (2004) How English Works ??“ A Grammar Practice Book. Oxford University Press (Appendix 1 and 6)

Swan M and Smith, B (2001) Learner English: A Teachers Guide to Interference and other problems. Second edition, Cambridge University Press.

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