Saturday, June 16, 2007

“What’s a Syllable?”

When I teach my adult ESL students the rules for adding a syllable to past tense verbs that end with a /t/ or /d/, I often use the word “syllable,” of course. I have found that about 50% of the time “syllable” is a new word, and sometimes a new concept, for my adult students.

Now I no longer make the mistake of assuming that students know the words (sometimes called the “metalanguage”) that I use to talk about the language. After all, ESL and EFL teachers should really use a minimum of metalanguage when teaching English. It’s just so much easier to take these shortcuts that sometimes I have to remind myself that my students are, after all, coming to me to learn to speak or communicate in English, not to learn to speak about English.


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