Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Linguistics vs. Language

by AJ

The problem with most language programs is that they do not teach the target language.

Rather, they teach amatuer linguistics. Students memorize grammar "rules" (many incorrect, from a strict linguistics standpoint), they analyze the structure of the language, they compare the language to their own native language... They draw incredibly complicated sentence diagrams. They learn the names of verb tenses, parts of speech, types of clauses, and various other "structures".

After years of this type of instruction-- their linguistics knowledge exceeds that of most native speakers.

Problem is, they can't actually communicate with the language.

If the goal of schools is to create an army of amatuer English linguists, they are indeed doing a great job.

But the stated goal of most programs is acquisition of and communication with the target language.

On that point, they are failing miserably.

Perhaps teacher education is to blame. EFL teachers typically receive a tremendous amount of linguistics training (especially the non-native speakers). Thats fine, I suppose, but most make the mistake of trying to reproduce this education with their students.

And so we get students whove studied a language for six years, can quote grammar texts, and are absolutely terrified to use the language.

My advice to language teachers (including myself) is to leave linguistics to Noam Chomsky... and focus your efforts on the practical acquisition and use of the target language.