How the Black Death saved phrasal verbs

The survival of Phrasal verbs

To understand the English we use today, we need to understand how the language came about in our past.

It is a story of death and elitism but from these murky beginnings sprang the language we love today.

A thousand years ago, there were two main influences, the Normans from France and the Saxons who were a Germanic people. The meeting of these languages and cultures were to form the English language we speak today.

From the battle of the Hastings (1066) England was ruled by French speaking kings and the land was comprised of the aristocracy and those who they ruled, the poor serfs. French was the language of the aristocracy and by extension, the language of the law and commerce. Therefore, if you were ambitious and wanted to get ahead in these fields, French was the language you needed.

Today, the same is true. However, it is not French you need but rather the side of the English language which has evolved from French. This is what we call Formal English. It often looks similar to other Latin-based romance languages.

The Norman influence was set to dominate the language but the Saxon side (informal language, like phrasal verbs) was saved by the Black Death in the 1340’s as this killed a lot of people in built up areas (the cities were largely French speaking they were seats of Government and other institutions). Peasants living off the land and Saxon speakers were not killed in such quantities as they were living in isolated areas.

There is a very interesting idea here, that we have the Black Death to thank for the uniqueness of the English language today.

Today, English speakers naturally ‘switch’ their language depending on where they are or more accurately, in what situation they are in, formal or informal. What the native speaker does is use language in a particular context, depending where they are, who they are communicating with and what they are doing. That means that the speaker, in any given situation, does not sound too formal or informal but rather just right. This is what we focus on in Englishour.

Context will dictate how we speak:

For example on the telephone:

FormalInformal
Hello?Yea?
Could I speak to John please?Is John there?
This is heThat’s me
Thank you very much. Goodbye.Cheers. Take it easy!

We can apply this to many different situations. Like in the office:

To whom should I send this?Who should I send this to?
Are you attending the party?You’re coming to the bash I hope?
A preposition at the end of a sentence signals informality

‘Bash is an informal version of party. It would be unsuitable in a formal context.

I love this musicI’m really into this music
Phrasal verbs are often the informal equivalent.
The economic situation in the aeronautical industry is improvingThe air industry is looking up

 

So, we see that spoken English uses short forms more. And idioms and prepositions.

TranslationIdiomatic version
He told me the gossipHe dished up the dirt
You’re guessing and you have no ideaYou’re clutching at straws
I stopped smokingI gave up smoking
Let’s continueLet’s press on
He gave me €2 and it was not enough for me and I wasn’t happy.He fobbed me off with €2
I am beginning to like this productI’m getting into this product
They loved itThey lapped it up
He ate everythingHe polished it off
I am visiting him for a short time laterI’m popping in later
They all entered at the same timeThey all piled in
It will not happen due to unforeseen circumstancesIt’s fallen through
I have an excellent relationship with himWe get on
I am leavingI’m off
He is pretending to be sickHe’s putting it on
They made a careless mistakeThey slipped up

 

Of course, both sides are equally important for learners to focus on. The formal language promotes accuracy and allows understanding in reading and listening in formal situations. The informal side is wonderful because it is so rich in connotation and it can express so much using so few words! We need a strong foundation in formal language of course but by bridging the gap between ‘translation’ and ‘spoken English’ we can start switching between the two.

So switching means that the learner can CHOOSE whether to say

I’m leaving, which may be appropriate in one circumstance or,

I’m off.

The key is to explore options of the same message. Learn how to say the same thing in different ways and base your choice on your surroundings.

John Ryan 2018

We all make mistakes! – a guide to correcting errors

Might

Accuracy is obviously an important part of speaking a language. A lot of English teachers would say that not making mistakes is important but at the same time students shouldn’t worry too much about it as long as their mistakes don’t affect understanding. Students though don’t really accept this idea (they want to speak correctly!) and I think rightly so.

People care about the impression they make when communicating

After all, people worry about the impressions they make. Whether it’s a good impression in a first meeting or the impression you give people generally, we have an image of ourselves which we want to portray. And this image is generally positive. We want to be seen as educated, dynamic and/or successful people, not as someone who makes mistakes. The result of this in the English classroom students often say ‘please correct me’ to the teacher.

For the teacher there is a little bit of a dilemma here. On one hand they want to correct the learner to promote accuracy in the language. On the other hand they don’t want to undermine the learner’s confidence and correct too much. Correct to a point and let the other stuff go. Tomorrow is another day.

So as teachers, we don’t want to correct students every time we hear a mistake. But there are times we most certainly do correct. And one of those times is when we hear the habitual mistake. These are mistakes which are engrained into learners (often) of particular nationalities. They are mistakes which the same (nationality) learners make again and again.

Here are a few examples of common mistakes:

The last week I went to Cork. This is a common habit with the words next and last. Basically, there is no the when next or last refers to now. Last week I went to Cork is correct.

One means not two…

I want one coffee please. Here, the problem is one. In English, one means ‘not two’. What that means is that you only say ‘one’ when the listener is expecting you to say ‘two’ (or ‘three’ etc). Imagine you have been in a bar with your friend for a couple of hours ordering and drinking beer. Every time you order another round you ask for ‘two beers’. Your friend now however, doesn’t want another beer. You decide to have one more for the road. You call the barman over. What does he expect you to say? Two beers! Of course, as this is what you have been ordering all night. But you ask for ‘one beer’. One means not two, and in this case it’s correct. Usually you ask for a beer. Therefore the correct version of the sentence above is I want a beer please.

He’s 19 years. Here, you have an option. You can either say he’s 19 years old, or just simply, he’s 19.

Thanks for all. This is not correct. It should be ‘thanks for everything’. The word all is a modifier used before nouns to mean everything. But it is not a noun itself. All the money, all the world, all Dublin…is correct. Without the noun, you need to say everyone or everything etc.

Active voice or passive voice?

I cut my hair. Although this is possible it probably isn’t correct. Here you should use the passive form to have/get something done. The idea is that there are things we don’t do ourselves but rather we pay someone to do them for us. Perhaps we don’t do it because we are lazy (I get my grass cut every week) or we don’t have time (I have the dog walked in the evening) or we don’t have the necessary skill to do it (I’m getting my car serviced tomorrow.

I want that he comes to the party. When you want a person to do something the structure is want+person+to+verb…I want him to pay me. She wants me to help her. Therefore, the correct version of the sentence above is I want him to come to the party.

Next week I will come back to Italy. Here, the problem is come. Basically you always come here and go there (except on the phone!). Come is to where you are and go is to all other places. When in Ireland, Italy is there, and so the sentence should read next week I’m going back to Italy. I have also changed the tense to the present continuous as it is a planned arrangement (I have the ticket).

So what mistakes should teachers correct?

The great thing about correcting the habitual mistake is that it opens doors which have some very interesting language items to explore on the other side. Open the door, take some steps (how many according to the level you are teaching) and then go back and move on. This makes for an interesting and dynamic class.

Another error to correct is when the learner makes a mistake using the target language being dealt with in the class. If the class has a grammar theme, for example future forms, the teacher should be dealing with issues which arise around this area of grammar. Again, level plays a key role in what to correct and how far to go with it.

With these errors in mind, how should we as teachers go about correcting them?

There are of course a variety of ways. Some teachers can correct as they hear them and some will gather them for a language focus session at the end of the class. Some teachers will advocate peer correction and some will create a task around them for the next session. All ways are valid. The important thing is that the teacher promotes understanding in the learner. They must present the language in context and show the learner why one form is used and another is not. The key then is once the learner has understanding the teacher then facilitates the learner to use the target language as much as possible through tasks, eliciting or homework. The key to language learning is production on the learner’s part.

In my experience of observing teachers, I have found that the most successful ones are the teachers who ‘sit’ on the target language. How long you sit and how deep you dig depends on the learner’s level. In the classroom, the teacher is the filter. Some things pass and others are stopped and dealt with. Through the teacher, the learner can develop their communication skills to the point where they are making language choices which are appropriate to the situation within which they are communicating.

After all, this is what the learners want isn’t it?

By John Ryan

©

2018.

8 Surprising Things About Dublin

Temple bar dublin

Here are some interesting and surprising facts about Dublin city.

Dublin has more than 750 pubs!

Dublin is known throughout the world for its unrivalled pubs and nightlife, so it’s not really a surprise that the city has over 750 pubs. The Brazen Head (just near the Guiness brewery) is one of the oldest pubs in the world, first opening in 1168! The real surprise, however, is that Dublin has the fewest pubs per person than any other capital city in Europe!

Dublin means ‘Black Pool’
Dublin comes from the Gaelic phrase ‘Dubh Linn’, which can be translated to ‘Black Pool’. The name’s thought to originate from the dark, large lake situated between the River Liffey and the River Poddle. The lake’s long disappeared, replaced by Dublin Castle’s Dubh Linn gardens.

If you really want to impress family and friends, though, you could use the official Irish name for Dublin, Baile Átha Cliath, which is translated as ‘Town of the Hurdled Ford’.

St. Valentine is buried in Dublin
If you think Paris is the capital of love, you’re in for a surprise! The remains of St Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, are kept at the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church and you can visit his shrine there, too.

The O’Connell Bridge is wider than long
The O’Connell Bridge’s unique dimensions make it famous throughout Europe, being wider than it is long at an amazing 49metres! Up until 1863, Dublin only had a weak rope bridge, so the city’s come a long, long way.

Dublin is one of UNESCO’s cities of literature
Dublin has a brilliant reputation for literary excellence, being home to numerous famous authors, including Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.With multiple libraries, publishing companies and literary institutions, bookworms are in heaven here!

More UNESCO cities of literature include: Norwich, England; Reykjavik, Iceland; Edinburgh, Scotland; Melbourne, Australia and Iowa City, USA. See http://www.cityofliterature.com/cities-of-literature/cities-of-literature/dublin/ for details.

You’ll never run out of Guinness
Dublin’s most famous brewery is not only Dublin’s oldest business and a tourist attraction you should definitely visit, but you can rest assured there’ll be plenty of time to visit it. The Guinness Brewery is on a leasehold of 9,000 years, which expires in the year 10,759!

Dublin’s twin cities
Whilst you may not think twinned cities provide any benefits, it helps cities maintain good commercial and financial links. Dublin is twinned with a number of cities, including Liverpool, England; Barcelona, Spain and San Jose, California.

Dublin boasts Europe’s largest city park
If you’re looking for the perfect outdoor space to practice your English skills, you’ll be spoilt for choice. With over 2,000 hectares of parkland and miles of cycling and walking paths, the Phoenix Park is the largest in Europe. Dublin Zoo is also based here, which is second in size only to New York’s Central Park.