Wednesday, January 28, 2009



Let me ,at the outset, make clear my aim in publishing my views on English language teachingIt is a fact that the time, money and effort involved in the teaching of English often do not match the results achieved.The learners spend several years trying to learn to write and speak English.,but their labours are seldom rewarded.There is something basically wrong with the teaching methods ,an unwillingness to confront realities!The new insights from researches in the realms of culture studies and linguistics are not fully grasped and judiciously applied in class-rooms.My purpose is to explain the causes of this failure and suggest remedies.

In today's post I wish to discuss the tricky word be.There seems to be no end to the trouble that this verb gives to ESL learners.The use of be is the most frequent source of error committed by ESLlearners.Be has the maximum number of inflected forms for an English verb.It has the distinction of being the only verb with two separate forms in past tense, one for singular and another for plural.Though it is called a stative verb ,it is sometimes used as a dynamic verb It performs two functions, auxiliary and lexical.
It is intriguing that omission of be is the most common error committed by ESL learners across the cultural spectrum.The English have an obsession with be which is not shared by other peoples.Omission of be is seldom noticed by ESL learners.They think that a sentence would be OK without it!.Be is often omitted in African American English,too.It is omitted in aboriginal Englih of Australia.One explanation for this is that be connotes passivity and people who prefer active life have no use for it.!
French people do not share Englishmen's fondness for be.In their language have takes the place of be. in most situations.As a resulr, French learners of English use have in the place of be:"I have 18" (J'ai 18 ans) instead of ""I am 18."Why do the French prefer have to be? I think the answer lies in the morphology of the different inflected forms of be and have in the French language.The inflected forms of have are so easy to pronounce ,particularly for the most commonly used first person pronoun, je .. Take the inflected forms of be in English .They are so easy to pronounce, when compared to have The influence of culture on language sometimes works in the reverse direction., that is, language influences culture! Malayalam-speaking ESLlearners of Kerala prefer have+ noun to be+adjective I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Examples for Cultural Interference in Learning English

Hello, there!
In my previous post I had promised to give more examples for culture-related difficulties for English learners.Let me once again make clear the meaning of the word culture as used in this context.It denotes a characteristic way of perceiving things or relationships between things.Every people has a tendency to see the relationships between things in one way ,not in the other.Take, for example, the relationship between time and place in English.-time adverbs are always preceded by place adverbs .You must have heard of MPT-Rule-the sequence of Manner,Place andTime.,as in the sentence "She danced well in the temple yesterday".Malayalam speakers of Kerala like the order :time followed by place.A typical Malayalam wedding invitation will run as follows:On September 6 2000,at Guruvayur L ord Krishna Temple our daughter will get married to ....."If you listen to any specimen of Malayalam speech, you can see this preference for time followed by place.Preferences like this cannot be explained in terms of grammar.Grammar is a set of rules internalized for articulating thoughts Grammar helps to fix the conventions of a language .The basic structure of English ,SVO, is grammatically -determined. The place -time sequence may be said to be culturally-determined.I hope that this way of explaining will simplify matters and make the learning of English a delightful experience Readers ,please, express your views on my opinions .Remember: blog is the place where people open their hearts!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Culture-Related Difficulties for English Learners

Culture-related ways of perception when they differ from those of the native speakers of English can be a problem demanding much patience and understanding for English language teachers to tackle effectively in ESLsituations.If the French students of English use question-tags wrongly, it may be due to the influence of their mother-tongue. The same mistake is made by Indian students of English,and for the same reason,too.It is fairly easy to teach question-tag.Just tell the students that the structure of the question-tag is operator followed by the pronoun of the subject of the statement and the operator is negative for positive statements and vice-versa.It is as simple as that ! .But owing to the force of habit they might occasionally relapse.No problem!Practice drill will help them overcome this difficulty.However, when it comes to culture-related differences in perception whose causes may be traced deep into people's racial memories or experiences,the teachers ofEnglish may be facing a serious difficulty.In my next post I will be giving more examlpes of culture-related learning difficulties fo English language learners and suggest ways to overcome this problem

Sunday, January 11, 2009

distinction between Mother-tongue Interference and Cultural Interference Explained

A teacher who had been teaching English in a school in Sri Lanka once happened to see this interesting sentence in a student's composition:The mahout married the elephant to a tree.Obviously,in the student's mother tongue the word for marry could also be used to mean to
tie.This is a clear case of mother tongue interference .When a Frenchman says;The President of theStates United lives in the House White,the inversion may strike us as strange as we have been accustomed to thinking of attributes first and the objects next.The French ,on the contrary, have been accustomed to thinking in the reverse order.It is not a question of the relative importance of objects and their attributes,but it is just a matter of ordering. ( The prominence of linguistic elements is not normally seen in their ordering but in their prosodic features.This is the way languages work as signifying systems.)When a French student of English calls the United States States United it reflects a deep-rooted cultural penchant It is a case of cultural interference.But when a French student of English says;The President of the United States lives in the White House, isn't it?,it is a clear instance of mother tongue interference

Cultural Interference in English Teaching

Rearchers have brought to light the link between a language and the culture of its native speakers.By culture we mean the characteristic way a people thinks and feels about the things that affect them.It profoundly colors their language.It is ,therefore, impossible to separate a language from the culture of its native speakers.While teaching English in a second language situation the teachers are confronted with this problem of cultural divide which they often wrongly diagnose as mother tongue interference. While mother tongue interference can be easily identified as a problem area in English language teaching and remedial action taken, cultural interference acts at a deeper level and frustrates teachers' attempts to teach them to write and speak good English. This seemingly invincible barrier has to be demolished with proper knowledge and understanding of the problem. I propose to point out certain specific examples to explain this problem in my next post

Friday, January 9, 2009

English Language Teaching in a Second Language situation

I think that the most important problem area for ELT professionals teaching English in a second language situation is cultural interference This is much more serious than Mother Tongue Interference Cultural interference is much more subtle and it acts at a deeper level than MT InterferenceI propose to explain my views on this aspect of English language in my next posting