Modifying English for non-native speakers: lessons in ‘rough tuning’ from the language classroom

Purdy, Ross (2015) Modifying English for non-native speakers: lessons in ‘rough tuning’ from the language classroom. Critical and Reflective Practice in Education, 4. ISSN 2040-4735

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Initial training courses and textbooks for English language teachers place a strong emphasis on the importance of appropriately graded ‘teacher talk’. However, typically little or no specific advice is given as to how exactly an English teacher should go about modifying his or her language in the classroom. This skill appears to be fed by the assumption that effective teacher talk comes from a mixture of intuition and experience, and does not require any technical elaboration. In and outside the field of English language teaching, unfortunate comparisons have been made with both infant-directed speech and ‘plain English’; this article takes the view that these analogies are misguided, and explores the fragmentary research on the topic of so-called foreigner-directed speech, then provides some tentative guidance to new English language teachers. Much remains to be done to develop this area of research, which largely fell out of fashion after the 1980s, as its benefits could extend far outside of the language classroom. The UK government, for example, discourages the translation of official documents for the benefit of migrants, suggesting that ‘plain English’ versions be used instead. In reality, the nature of such ‘plain English’ is far more complex than assumed.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Teacher talk, foreigner-directed speech, rough-tuning, graded language, input modification, TESOL, English language teaching
Depositing User: Ms Raisa Burton
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2020 14:12
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2020 14:12

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