Simpler language for the masses

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Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

The more people speak a language, the simpler its grammar – does this ring true to you? Here’s an article about fairly recent research at Cornell University (and a link to the original paper if you don’t mind academic reading) which states that the apparent simplicity of English grammar is explained by the sheer number of its speakers: complex grammar points just cannot be learned without a lot of exposure, and exposure is gained only in a small group, where you can hear the new grammar point more often. New vocabulary, on the contrary, is acquired more easily without the need for much exposure. Hmm… As a language teacher, I find some of this counterintuitive, and you?

 

Handy headlines

grammaring news

If news articles are useful for language learning, their laconic and sometimes whimsical headlines are even more so. We can look at patterns in them (see a great post about this by Jennifer), focus on their ambiguity and clarity with the help of The New York Times, but perhaps the most elegant activities with them are about grammaring and de-grammaring (see pp.3-5 from Uncovering grammar by Scott Thornbury, an excerpt available here).

So, what’s your headline line?

Lost without translation

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The Cambridge ELT blog has a very interesting article by Philip Kerr about using translation in language classes – an idea which keeps going in and out of methodological fashion, and it seems like it’s in again.  There is even a link to a grammar revision activity to try with monolingual classes: it can show students how their native language affects their accuracy in English. So, when we don’t use translation in monolingual classes, we are missing out on learning opportunities after all?

 

Elided your pronouns lately?

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There is a wonderful article by Katy Waldman about why personal pronouns are dropped from emails, text messages and even political speeches. Is it friendliness, shyness or scepticism? (Or the entropy of the universe?)

“When a friend responds to my margarita overture with “would like,” is she so unenthused she can’t bring herself to type the pronoun, or reaffirming our closeness with a casual—and thus “authentic”—yes?”

Read it here: Why Do We Delete the Initial Pronoun From Our Sentences? Glad You Asked.

Static, dynamic: is there much difference?

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A very thoughtful article by Leo Selivan on “The State of Stative Verbs”. He looks at linguistic evidence and his own experience and then states, “Like with many grammar points, this one tries to deal with something that doesn’t pose a problem to begin with, but creates confusion after you have focused on it.”
I am not sure I completely agree: stative vs dynamic is a good rule of thumb. Or is it?