Guest post by Carolyn Kerr @KerrCarolyn
I suggested this topic for #ELTchat following a discussion at our local professional association's annual dinner ATESOL ACT Annual Spring Dinner. In a discussion about speaker affinity with audiences, our guest speaker, Jeremy Jones of the University of Canberra, had us reflecting on who uses sentence tags, suggesting that Gen Y no longer tend to use them (except perhaps in Britain?), or use other versions. The teachers present wondered whether we should skip that bit of the text book?
As you can see, it got voted up for the chat and led us in many different directions. New #ELTchatter, Carolyn Kerr put her hand up for the summary, but as she didn't have a blog to post it on (yet!) I volunteered to host it for her here. My very first guest blogger! She has done a simply brilliant job of the summary and I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
“To teach or not to teach. That is the question, isn’t it?”When it comes to deciding what to teach and what to give a wide berth, idioms, inversions and even question tags have us scratching our heads, don’t they? And with language seeming to develop at a rate of knots, it’s hard to keep up.
On November 7th 2012 at 2100 CET @ELTChat asked the question. Hardly a second had passed when twitter was a buzz with idioms and inversions, although for me it was at times as clear as mud!
Joking aside, the main questions that arose were the three not-so-traditional R’s:
Redunancy – when does a piece of language become obsolete?Generation Y don’t use question tags, right? But baby boomers do, don’t they? Or do they? Therein lies the problem. Does that mean that question tags are ‘redundant’ for some learners? Shared from a recent TESOL dinner:
- @cioccas We decided need to teach them to over 50s, but maybe not to younger learners. We agreed that Gen Y don't use question tags the way they are used in coursebooks
- @cioccas it's hard to keep up with younger generation slang, idioms, etc.
- @naomishema How do we judge which idiom is really out of date?
Relevant, still? - @Shaunwilden Aren’t most idioms pointless anyway ?The answer depended on the leaners needs. If you’re living and working in an English speaking country then the common idioms are a key to both communication and culture. Who do your learners want or need to communicate with? What language are they ‘stumbling across’? If it’s a language peppered with innit, issat or aye right, then question tags tend to become more of a ‘polite’ form that a fundamental. And who’s to say that idioms only my granny would use are not relevant if you, like some
- some Ss are working with 80+ year-olds in aged care facilities! @cioccas
- @ ljp2010 loads of idioms seem very brit-centric to me too, often ones i've never heard of in cbs.
- @SueAnnan pointed us to unsuck-it.com - brilliant for BE jargon
- @Marisa_C: I think all these - even outdated expressions useful for following literature...
- @shaznosel CPE exam full of 'em and as a native speaker I use so few. my grandma used loads!
Receptive skill – do learners only need to understand them?Well actually, once you head towards fluency, idiomatic language does matter for both the receptive and the productive skills:
- @Marisa_C idiomatic lang EVIDENCE of fluency (Prodromou research)
- @ljp2010 So difficult to use naturally are they that sts typically turn into yoda for a few weeks after teaching them.
It’s not as if we’re lacking other things to teach them:
- @ljp2010 Wouldn't skills work be more beneficial? guessing meaning from context, asking for clarification, paraphrasing....
- @Shaunwilden I never see the point of teaching idioms but my sts love them so...
- @shaznosel I only teach them for certain exam boards and the odd one for fun and to enrich ss lang
- @Marisa_C Oh yes, always love a game of idioms charade :-) each word and then the whole idiom
- @esolcourses: I explain idioms to s's when they ask about them, but not convinced as to their general usefulness...
- @Shaunwilden:@naomishema probably dated if it's in a course book :-)
But if the teachers can self study, why not the learners?
- @Marisa_C: You Tube - give them a Mission - listen and find idioms to bring back to class
- @mrmohammedsheha BBC offer this great thing about up to date idioms: Keep Your English Up To Date on BBC Learning English
The chat drew to a close with a somewhat frightening flurry of animal behaviours: someone squirrelling around to find a link, whilst another was running around like a headless chook. It’s easy to see why some learners enjoy idioms and other everyday expressions – some of us certainly enjoy using them!!!
So that was the story of our chat. Thank you all for tweeting and reading, oh and here’s how the story ends:
- @shaznosel Fun chat as idioms can be funny! Night all..tired after writing last summary!!
- @Shaunwilden So it's time to hit hay and put this chat to bed.....thanks all for joining
- @ ljp2010 don't let the bed bugs bite ljp2010
Then ELTchat said its goodbyes and turned out its lights. So the lights were OFF and no one was home, which is oh so different from:
- @SueAnnan: The lights are on but there's no one at home.
- Urban Dictionary
- fun practice on. BBC Learning
- Aus e-phrase - good for Australian idioms
- Understanding Spoken English and Understanding Everyday Australian