CORRECTNESS AND CORRECTION
1. Error or Variant?
Which would you correct?
1. She ain’t here.
2. He come.
3. We spent a fortnight away.
4. The people which …
5. Frontal teaching
6. I am waiting here for hours.
7. They preponed the meeting
8. It was a red line.
Some of these items (1, 3, 7) are based on usages within specific native varieties of English. Others (5, 8) are based on local non-native usages in English. The rest (2, 4, 6) are based on common learner usages. Many applied linguists today claim that such forms should be seen as legitimate ‘variants’ among ELF speakers, rather than ‘incorrect’.(Jenkins, 2006, Tan, 2005). ‘Correct’ has become a politically incorrect term! But how far are insights or hypotheses of applied linguists directly applicable to teaching? (see Widdowson, 2000.) ‘Any kind of teaching is based on a kind of prescription, and it would be simply disingenuous, and also rather silly, to deny this’ (Seidlhofer, 2006: 45)
The applied linguist and the language teacher
The applied linguist is committed to eliciting the truth or gaining further knowledge, through research. The teacher is committed to promoting effective learning on the part of his/her students. The applied linguist may relate to these variants as equally legitimate. The teacher may not.
Why should we relate to such usages as incorrect or unacceptable?
1. Learners have a right to be taught the most useful, acceptable and important forms used for ELF worldwide.
2. I don’t have time to teach everything: need to decide on priorities.
3. Learners want clearcut guidance.
4. We need a clear basis for classroom teaching, materials design and tests.
When we encounter variant ways of saying things in English, I will encourage awareness of and respect for the different varieties of English, with their diverse usages. But I will not relate to usages such as those listed earlier as ‘acceptable’ or ‘correct’ for the students’ own emergent language...