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  1. #1
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Post [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    In an interview on ELTNews on a recent visit to Japan, Professor Henry Widdowson says that the most obvious example of a conceptually flawed theory in ESL teaching is "the current precept that English teachers must only use real or...

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    Wow! It's a "theory"? Interesting. It wasn't that way in Canada or South Korea, and it's not like that in China. But, true enough, examples of said practice abound in Japan. I remember it well.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    You'll come across many in Europe who advocate this. I agree with him that it is a flawed idea.

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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    Oh, me, three!

    Come to think of it, it seems to work the other way as well; i.e., prescribed language, what one should and shouldn't use, notably

    EX: I am taller than she / *her.
    EX: This is he / *him.
    EX: There isn't any / *no bread.

    Widdowson's comment left me with one nagging question, what is authentic language?

    It needs to be further defined.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    He suggests that authenticity doesn't now mean that there should be no selection, and that the criteria for selection should be based on perceived usefulness. Just going to a concordancer and ripping out examples is not meeting students' needs, he says. He also would question the approach taken by people like m*t*l56.

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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    Who's m*t* . . . ?

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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    Oh! . . . hahaha. Yes.

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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    Like most of those initially involved in the the Communicative approach, Widdowson clearly misunderstood the linguistics it was supposedly based on. The 'authentic texts/anguage' idea seems to come from the Conversation Analysis notion of 'natural language'. This idea/hypothesis proposed that attempting to create utterances/discourse for the purpose of analysis (therefore teaching) usually creates examples of very unnatural 'English', as it is merely for demonstrating a (analytic or pdeagogic) point. Thus one might say that those sentences dreamed up by teachers to illustrate grammar points are often unlikely to be found in any good corpus. EFL teachers should use texts (spoken or written) as large as their students can digest. All of us who really study English can say they are not constantly surprised by (good English) utterances they come across.

    An enormous amount of nonsense has been written about 'authentic English'. But possibly the objections by teachers are often based on the fact that natural language texts generate students' questions which are difficult to predict and difficult to answer. To learn any language you need to take in and use (in conversation, emails, essays, letters, etc) huge amounts. The quick fixes are the educational equivalent of horoscopes. (Oh, and surprise, surprise, many EFL teachers seem to believe in horoscopes).

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    I don't think that Widdowson was trying to denigrate the concept of authenticity, but is suggesting that to be pedagogically valid, the authentic language still has to go through filters. I think he was aiming at the less targetted approaches taken by some, not advocating a return to la-plume-de-ma-tante. He does say 'only', which, I think, suggests incorporation of (selected) corpus data, not a rejection of it.

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: [Tdol's Blog] Authentic English

    Quote Originally Posted by drhatch
    The quick fixes are the educational equivalent of horoscopes. (Oh, and surprise, surprise, many EFL teachers seem to believe in horoscopes).
    And many ESL textbooks use horoscopes for teaching the future, so everyone should be happy, except, quite possibly, you.

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