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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Accuracy and language usage.

Take a look at this tweet:

Those of you who teach French will notice immediately that there is an error in this tweet.  The correct spelling of the infinitive of the verb to go should be used in this sentence: aller, not the past participle which has been used. This is not an uncommon mistake amongst language learners as the 2 forms sound pretty much indistinguishable. Michel illustrates this unintentionally, he is a native French speaker. Many of us make typos when we tweet, even in our native tongue, it is part of the territory. We type quickly to convey a message which we hear in our head. I have no doubt that I could find hundreds of examples in a few minutes on social media sites.

For some teachers the visibility of this sort of error make them fearful of encouraging their learners to participate in  "real" language" exchange on twitter and other social media platforms. However, I would like to point out the positives these sort of errors present to your learners:

  • As a learner, it is encouraging to know that even native speakers make mistakes in their own language use. So language learning is a complex, demanding activity.
  • The phoneme difficulty learners experience as they struggle to match sounds and their spellings can be off putting, it is a form of code breaking. How reassuring to know that there are often multiple combinations of written representation of a certain sound, and that all language users have to go through this matching activity which only gets easier with experience. 
  • Coming across misuse of language presents a real teaching opportunity. Collect real examples such as the one above and use them as a "you be the teacher" activity, getting your learners to discuss and correct. Choose your examples wisely, they could include common misspellings, phonetic errors for example. Your learners can then become language investigators, you are sensitising them to the ever changing phenomenon that is language evolving through technology usage. 

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