The TEFL Centre Malaga 120 hour teacher training course content 2 General characteristics of the English Language

The TEFL Centre Malaga 120 hour teacher training course content 2: General characteristics of the English Language.
In this article we continue to note relevant TEFL aspects of the distinguishing characteristics of the English language which will be of relevance to a TEFL trainee on our TEFL course in Malaga.

a.      As languages go, English is considered to be relatively simple to learn. For example, the tense system has fairly straight forward rules and simple conjugation patterns (e.g. all persons in the past simple are the same: I did, you did, he did etc.), the syntax (word order) is fairly consistently reproduced (subject + verb + object + complement: I ate an apple yesterday) and there are no gender agreements to take into account.

However, as the level of proficiency increases, English can get pretty quirky! At pre-intermediate levels the student has to start to struggle with phrasal verbs (get on, get on with, get away, get into etc.). These are hard to learn because the same root verb makes it difficult for the student to remember which verb + preposition combination means a specific thing. Future forms deal more with aspects of the future (all the modal forms) rather than neutral references to a future event (‘I will go’ / ‘I am going to go’ / ‘I am going’ all convey different points of view about the future), and the continuous form in English has confusing uses for the learner (e.g. present continuous + always to express annoyance: He is always doing that!). Then we have to the verb + infinitive or verb + -ing, where the student must commit to memory which pattern each verb follows and what it means (e.g. ‘He remembered to go’ vs ‘He remembered going’). These are just a few examples of the complexity other languages don’t pose.

Generally, English is relatively easy to learn at the early stages, but increasingly difficult as the level increases.

b.      The alphabet. It is the same as that used in many of the European languages, but simpler, using only 26 basic letters. Also, it doesn’t use ‘diacritics’. These are the add-ons that look like after thoughts to the main letter, but are used to affect the way a word is pronounced. Examples are the two dots above letters in German (the ‘umlaut’ ¨) or the forward sloping accents in Spanish (é). Any words that do have these have been adopted from other languages e.g. naïve. These words are however being increasingly written without the diacritic.

c.       English is not as complicated as other languages in its inflection (the letters added to the end of a word to give different grammatical forms). As mentioned above, verb forms are simple, but so are nouns and adjectives. It is true that there are quite a few irregular verb forms, but these tend to be for the most common verbs, are high in frequency (making them easier to learn), and are encountered at an early stage (also aiding learning).

d.      English has absorbed/adopted a lot of words from other languages (this is called the receptiveness of a language), largely as a result of the expansive political nature of the British Isles taking its mother language to other parts of the world and exposing it to influence from other native languages. For example, look at the origins of these words:

From French: ballet, café, entrepreneur, genre

From German: delicatessen, waltz, rucksack,

From Yiddish (the Jewish language): glitch, klutz

From Spanish: macho, patio, tapa

From Japanese: origami, tsunami, karaoke

…and many more… chocolate (native American), gung-ho (Chinese), moped (Swedish), paparazzi (Italian), aubergine (Sanskrit), ketchup (Malay), cricket (Dutch)…

Interestingly, ‘itsuarpok’ (Inuit) has not yet been adopted by the English language...


 
Native TEFL teachers are often unaware of these defining characteristics, but are worth bearing in mind in the TEFL classroom since learners of English will look upon these points as distinguishing features and therefore serve the teacher to know they will present either points of particular interest, difficulty or maybe even simplicity.

 

Posted on November 10th, 2017

 

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