Unit 1: Defining English
This unit introduces the idea of alternative monolithic and plurilithic conceptions of English.
- 1.0 Introduction
- 1.1 Monolithic vs Plurilithic Concepts
- 1.1.1 Monolithic Concepts of Language
- 1.1.2 Plurilithic Concepts of Language
- 1.2 ‘Standard English’
- 1.2.1 ‘Standard English’: History
- 1.2.2 ‘Standard English’: Beliefs
- 1.2.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of ‘Standard English’ for ELT
- 1.3 Rules of English
- 1.3.1 The ambiguity of the word rule
- 1.3.2 Rules of English: The Monolithic View
- 1.3.3 Rules of English: The Plurilithic View
- 1.4 Four Dimensions of Monolithism
- 1.5 Check Your Understanding
- 1.6 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 2: Using English
This unit explores the plurilithic usage of English in diverse global settings.
- Unit 2: Using English
- 2.1 Introducing Lingua Franca Usage
- 2.2.1 Native speaker Variation
- 2.2.2 Native speakers: Accommodation
- 2.3 Englishes in the British Isles
- 2.4 World Englishes
- 2.4.1 Englishes in Your Part of The World
- 2.4.2 Owning a language (Part 1)
- 2.5 ELF
- 2.5.1 Intelligibility
- 2.5.2 ELF in Your Part of The World
- 2.6 Translanguaging with English
- 2.7 Check Your Understanding
- 2.8 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 3: Learning English
This unit discusses how English is learned as a first or additional language.
- Unit 3: Learning English
- 3.1 First Language Acquisition
- 3.2 Back to Rules
- 3.2.1 Rules as Patterns in the Mind (Part 1)
- 3.2.2 Rules as Social Markers
- 3.2.3 Rules as Mental Representations
- 3.2.4 Rules in Schools
- 3.2.5 Rules as Patterns in the Mind (2)
- 3.3 Models and Targets
- 3.4 Learning Contexts
- 3.5 Owning a Language (Part 2)
- 3.6 Learners and Users
- 3.7 Check Your Understanding
- 3.8 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 4: Teaching English
This unit examines the teaching implications of plurilithic conceptions of English.
Unit 5: Changing English
This unit suggests ways to share your learning on the course with others.
- Unit 5: Changing English
- 5.1 The Challenge
- 5.2 Changing Learners’ Beliefs About English
- 5.3 Changing Teaching Colleagues’ Beliefs About English
- 5.4 Changing Policy-Makers’ Beliefs About English
- 5.5 Changing the Public’s Beliefs About English
- 5.6 Check Your Understanding
- 5.7 Reflect and Discuss
- Course Finish
3.2.4 Rules in Schools
The rules you’re taught are not the same thing as the rules you use
L2 learners are often explicitly taught rules as statements using words like question, verb, auxiliary etc. For example, on the website Eslbase the question rule Barbara constructed is described in the following terms (with example sentences omitted):
- 1. In questions, the first auxiliary verb comes before the subject.
- 2. If there is no auxiliary verb we use do (or does, did).
What is the relation between statements like these and the rules or constructions stored in learners’ minds?
Here are examples of Barbara’s use of the question rule from Fig. 3.13:
- ● Would you read this one (.) would you read it for me?
- ● Will you look at them now?
When Barbara actually forms questions like these, can she possibly be looking up the actual words of the rule as it is stated in Eslbase or a textbook?
No, of course not. Barbara doesn’t even know what words like auxiliary and subject mean! And yet the word order she uses in these examples demonstrates that she knows the rule. Somehow, the mental representation of it must be stored in her mind not in the form of words, but in some mental code that is accessed instantaneously as soon as she formulates her intention to ask something and selects the words she needs to do so.
Barbara was four years old when the recordings we’ve been looking at were made. When she went to school, she would have learned how to read and write, and may also have had grammar lessons in the ‘standard’ version of her native language, like many children around the world. She would certainly have been exposed to more formal language (both lexically and grammatically), and would hear accents from beyond Belfast and Ireland itself.
- ● What effect do you think this would have on her language, both as mental representation and as actual practice?
- ● Can you identify any parallels between what happens with pupils like Barbara in a ENL school context and what happens with the students in traditional EFL or ESL classes?
Barbara would enter school with quite a complex Belfast English mental grammar and a vocabulary of a few thousand words, mostly related to her daily experiences. She would have very limited familiarity with genres beyond those of family life and play with other children. In school she would encounter other versions of the language, predominantly ‘Standard English’, as this is the version used in formal writing. She would also have to get to grips with more formal genres like lessons and school assemblies.
It is likely that she would be corrected when she used (spoke or wrote) constructions like:
- ● I have went
- ● I don’t [VERB] no more
- ● Will I [VERB]?
…even though these are grammatical (coded in neural circuits) in the version of English she learned. She would therefore have two versions of some rules: one capturing a regularity of Belfast English, in a mental representation that unconsciously guides her usage, and one regulating her usage of ‘Standard English’, perhaps consciously memorised as a statement made up of words (e.g. DON’T USE A DOUBLE NEGATIVE, or TWO NEGATIVES MAKE A POSITIVE).
In actual practice, she will automatically and unconsciously activate mental representations of Belfast English, but must consciously monitor her constructions as she formulates them, and suppress them if they don’t coincide with what she knows (has been taught) about ‘Standard English’.
This is very similar to what happens with students in many traditional EFL and ESL classrooms at beginner level and beyond. They enter the class with one kind of linguistic knowledge (their L1), governed by unconscious but automatically available rules which they have constructed out of the regularities in the speech of those around them. They are then taught another set of language rules of a regulatory sort (corresponding to the L2), which they must use if they are to do well in the subject and not to ‘make mistakes’. Additionally, they will formulate their own system on the basis of their actual experience of English usage, which may or may not coincide with the rules they are taught.