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  1. #1
    Hunia is offline Junior Member
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    “Definite and indefinite English articles and how to teach them”

    “Definite and indefinite English articles and how to teach them”


    Several years ago, I started a research project on this topic when teaching Linguistics courses to English majors at Chinese and Korean universities. Before that, I taught similar courses to Polish English majors. The first languages of these students - Korean, Chinese and Polish - share a common structural trait although being linguistically unrelated otherwise: They are “article-less” languages, and learners of English with such article-less languages as their first language naturally face some problems with using English definite and indefinite articles properly.

    First Step: I started out with those working hypotheses:
    1. All article-less languages have demonstrative pronouns but no articles.
    2. Languages with articles have both articles and demonstrative pronouns.
    3. Diachronically (“in terms of language history”), articles developed from demonstrative pronouns in those languages that have articles. Hence, the language contexts in which demonstrative pronouns are acceptable in use must be similar to those where definite articles would be acceptable in usage.
    4. If (3) is true, then it may be safely concluded that the following “rule” or learner tip applies:
    (i) If in your own language a demonstrative pronoun cannot be used before a noun, then use an indefinite article in English.
    (ii) Otherwise, if (i) does not apply (.i.e., if the use of a demonstrative pronoun is acceptable in your first language), then you should use the definite article in English.

    Second Step: Teaching Strategy (T-Teacher, SS-Student(s))
    1. T writes some English sample sentences with “the” and “a/an” onto the blackboard and asks students to translate these sentences into their native language.
    2. In the case of sentences with indefinite articles, he asks students whether a demonstrative pronoun would be acceptable in their own, first language. The answer to be expected would be “No”.
    3. In case of sentences with definite articles, the same procedure as in (2) followed, the expected answer would be YES.
    4. T continues with other sentence samples using the same procedure for a couple of minutes, eliciting answers from students (that are mostly correct).
    5. Now, T explains the rule (cf. Step 1, 4) behind this and points out the linguistic background according to Step 1, 1-3.

    Comments:
    1. Assumptions in Step 1, 1-3 need to be backed up by empirical evidence in collecting respective language data from the first language of these students for further analysis.
    2. Based on this, you can build a cross-linguistic, contrastive linguistic rule not found in any grammar book like the one presented in Step 1, 4.
    3. You could take this even a bit further and analyse smaller pieces of text in the native language of your students along with an accurate English translation of the same by first pointing out where (4 i) and (4ii) of the first step apply in both language versions of the sample text.

    Final Remarks:
    I tested this with native language speakers of Swahili (an African Bantu language), Nepali, Polish, Finish, Estonian, Chinese., Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese as well as Russian - both at uni and High School.The result was encouraging; up to in 90 % of the cases, students were using English articles correctly based on this contrastive rule. In my teaching strategy, I made use of the native speaker’s language intuition with regard to his/her first language and followed an inductive strategy to introduce this contrastive rule. It is assumed that this rule is helpful to foreign learners of English in the initial stages of their language studies and is no longer needed at more advanced stages of their language learning because of practice and experience.

    After all, as in the case of football: only practice makes language learning successful.

  2. #2
    Hunia is offline Junior Member
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    Re: “Definite and indefinite English articles and how to teach them”

    It is even possible to do the same in teaching classes to Western learners of Chinese. Western learners are often unsure of how to translate a Chinese noun phrase into English.
    The same “rule”- the same teaching procedure. This includes a simple Chinese text with a translation into the native language of a certain group of Western learners of Chinese.
    The text sample of the pic below has been taken from my Introductory Grammar of Modern Chinese (German edition) (published this month).
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 25-Sep-2017 at 12:02. Reason: Deleting advertising link

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