Authentic English

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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 authentic English in their teaching ­ that is to say the English that naturally occurs in the contexts of native speaker use. This directive comes from corpus linguistics and as such has no necessary pedagogic validity whatever."

I have long felt that too much emphasis is being placed by some on the importance of the native speaker and on trying to get students to follow native speaker patterns. This seems especially true since I have been living in Asia. On certain forums I see students asking questions and getting straight answers from some teachers, while others launch into complex exceptions, native speaker curios and regionalisms, which often serve to confuse more than to clarify for many learners. Professor Widdowson gave a talk here in Tokyo a while ago about dictionaries and said that while using corpora for real examples was useful, there still had to be choices made about which examples were more relevant as examples in a dictionary. I'm not sure that I would go as far as him, but I do think that the drive for realism's goals are somewhat misplaced.

Categories: Asian Blog

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