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English or Portuguese: language or literature?. Richard Hudson Lisbon, May 2007. Plan. Similarities between Portugal and Britain English: language or literature? A new approach to language teaching Grammar in Britain The place of literature Some lessons for Portugal?. Plan.

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slide2
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
slide3
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
language history
Language history
  • Ancient written language
    • complex spelling
  • Massive overseas expansion
    • emigration
    • world language
  • Relative wealth
    • recent immigration, bringing other languages
    • literary heritage
slide5
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
what is english
What is ‘English’?
  • I speak English.
    • ‘English’ = a language
  • The two core school subjects are mathematics and English
    • ‘English’ = a language because literacy is core.
  • I am studying English at university.
    • ‘English’ = literature (written in English?)
confusion
Confusion!
  • English is obligatory for all because writing and reading are important.
    • but includes literature.
  • English teachers are graduates in literature.
    • but teach language more than literature.
  • Similarly, French teachers are graduates of literature
    • but teach language more than literature.
the old solution
The old solution
  • Teach language through literature
  • Argument: children learn to write well by reading good literature.
    • Some children do learn this way.
  • Counter-argument: most children do not learn like this.
    • 1999: 20% of adults in Britain cannot find a plumber in the phone book
the romantic view of language
The romantic view of language
  • Children are natural language learners.
    • They learn their first language without help.
    • Instruction is just a waste of time.
    • All they need is experience.
    • So: the same is true of all language learning.
  • Research support:
    • Some literature experts (e.g. Leavis in UK)
    • Noam Chomsky and many linguists.
slide10
But …
  • Is this view true?
  • Why do so many children fail to learn by exposure?
  • Why do we need language teachers if we can leave it all to nature?
  • Nature alone is not enough – we need to do better than that!
slide11
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
the new solution in england
The new solution in England
  • Teach language directly.
  • Argument: children need help when learning language.
    • They may not notice new patterns.
    • They may not understand new patterns.
  • This is true of all language learning:
    • advanced first language
    • elementary second language
language includes
Language includes …
  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation
  • variation
    • regional
    • ‘stylistic’
    • historical
the realistic view of language
The realistic view of language
  • Children are natural learners
  • But language is hard to learn because new words and patterns are not:
    • obvious, so it is easy not to notice them.
    • self-explanatory, so it is easy to misunderstand them.
  • And schools add extra problems.
english language or literature
English: language or literature?
  • School English must include direct teaching of language.
  • So English teachers must know about language.
  • But: they must also know about
    • literature
    • media studies (film, TV)
    • drama
slide16
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
the death of grammar
The death of grammar
  • 1900-1960: no study of grammar at university
    • so no grammar for ‘English’ undergraduates
    • so grammar at school was not based on research
  • 1960-90: grammar disappears from school
    • so young English teachers know no grammar
    • very little grammar in foreign-language teaching
a problem for the new approach
A problem for the new approach
  • Language should be taught directly.
    • Official government policy in L1 and L2
  • But most teachers know very little about grammar and other structural matters.
  • So how can they teach directly?
  • How to break the cycle?
    • Teachers have just one post-graduate year of training with little time for ‘subject knowledge’
the future
The future
  • Maybe teachers will gradually learn about grammar.
  • Especially if they help to teach ‘Advanced-level English language’
    • Years 12, 13
    • Very popular (20,000 pupils each year)
  • But it will take a generation to retrain teachers.
slide20
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
what about literature
What about literature?
  • Literature is one of the many uses of language.
    • So it is studied as such.
  • But it is also part of the ‘national heritage’
    • So it has a very special status.
    • But what is the heritage of a multi-cultural nation in a multi-national world?
    • And what is literature?
in defence of the status quo
In defence of the status quo
  • English (including literature) is the most popular school subject
    • well taught
    • using age-appropriate texts
    • with discussion and interaction
    • by well-informed and enthusiastic teachers
  • But foreign languages are the least popular.
literature in language teaching
Literature in language teaching
  • Literature is:
    • well written
    • enjoyable to some readers – especially girls!
  • So it’s a good model for language teaching, provided that:
    • students notice and understand new patterns
    • understand differences between genres
slide24
Plan
  • Similarities between Portugal and Britain
  • English: language or literature?
  • A new approach to language teaching
  • Grammar in Britain
  • The place of literature
  • Some lessons for Portugal?
lessons for portugal
Lessons for Portugal?
  • Don’t let grammar die.
  • Respect literature
    • as an important model of language
    • as part of your national heritage
    • but maybe not central to language teaching?
  • Accept direct teaching of language.
  • Make sure that teachers can teach directly.
obrigado
Obrigado!
  • This slideshow can be found at:

www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/talks/lisbon.ppt