Sunday, April 1, 2007

"I am traffic accident"

Any English grammar problems here? There's a subject. There's a verb. We have the makings of a complete sentence. But there may be a problem or two. How about verb choice, verb tense and a missing article?

This is a sentence one of my beginning ESL students wrote for homework. I believe we were working on the past tense of "to be." (It was a couple of weeks ago, so I don't remember for sure.) OK. It was easy enough to correct the grammar problem of the tense used ("am" should be "was"), but that doesn't make the sentence correct either.

Here are possible grammatically correct sentences:

I was in a traffic accident.
I had a traffic accident.

Since this student was a beginner, it was easier (and I hope wiser) to show the correct options with just a little explanation.

Knowing how much to explain (the metalanguage) about a grammar point is often a fine line, or at least an invisible one. Too much explanation causes confusion and the student doesn't learn the point you are trying to make.

Working with advanced ESL learners allows us to use metalanguage to better explain the grammar points. When working with beginning level ESL students, it's often best to just provide correct examples.

I know that my learner finally understood the issues because of the great laugh we were able to have afterwards. She understood what her original sentence meant. And it is kind of funny.

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