Author Topic: University programs should do more teaching of language and not just literature  (Read 9619 times)

Joe Carillo

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Today the Forum is breaking its tradition of posting in its discussion boards mostly current or recent developments, ideas, and trends about language and related topics reported in both the mainstream and social media. It is belatedly taking up a novel proposal on English teaching by the Prospero columnist in the March 19, 2014 issue of The Economist (UK), “Johnson: Talking past each other,” a link to which the Forum only shared fleetingly this same day last year. That column proposed that university programs should do more teaching of language and not just literature: “Telling students not to split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions is wrong... It would be much better to teach what a preposition really does, and how an infinitive really behaves. Understanding is tougher than memorisation. But on the bright side, students would come away not just with a memorised list of ‘do this, don’t do that,’ but with a real appreciation for the intricate clockwork that is English grammar.”

The Prospero columnist bewailed that many schools have downplayed grammar teaching, so much so that pupils often first encounter words like “past participle” and “subordinate clause” in a foreign-language class, not in English: “Traditional sentence-diagramming, though flawed, at least once taught students to break a sentence into its syntactic parts. Systematic grammatical analysis is now as hard to find as an inkwell in a school. Schools focus—rightly, as far as it goes—on getting students to organise their thoughts into essays. But they have de-emphasised the art of organising words into phrases, phrases into clauses, and clauses into well-crafted sentences. Many school-leavers in English-speaking countries cannot even say what a clause is. How are they supposed to systematically craft good ones?”

Read “Johnson: Talking past each other” in the March 19, 2014 issue of The Economist (UK) now!
« Last Edit: March 28, 2018, 08:30:24 AM by Joe Carillo »