I’ve got a fair bit of training to deliver
over the next few weeks and I need to get some ducks in a row, so here are some
thoughts on the above (which is basically just a glorified way of describing
the inevitable ‘Can we use Japanese in class?’ question). Imagine it’s
addressed to an audience of new or minimally experienced ALTs, and also bear in
mind that I might cut and/or tone down a fair bit of it – writing this is part
of the process of whittling it back to the core message (still need to provide enough
explanation to avoid training by diktat, however).
This Functional Grammar module is slowly killing me, however. It’s not that it’s a grind (though it is); it’s not that it’s difficult to grasp (though it is that too); it’s that there’s a small, nagging, instinctive part of me that can actually see the value of this, but I can’t get that bit to function properly.
So many of the ideas present in SFG chime with weaknesses I see in my students’ work time and time again, but I don’t know how to make it applicable. And here’s the thing: I’m a pretty smart, well-educated, native English speaker receiving specific tuition in this from a top-tier institution and yet I’m getting almost overwhelmed by the detail. How are my kids meant to cope? How, more to the point, can I make it work for them? I’ve been plugging away in the hope that it’ll all come together when I actually have to apply it wholescale for the assignment, but the expected epiphany remains stubbornly unepihanized.
Again, a nicely practical unit so not too
much to say. However, the claim that we can identify sets of items by ‘focusing
on the similarities they share and ignoring the differences,’ seems to warrant
a little discussion. The question is which differences, between which items?
Adverbs, for example, seem to be largely
defined by what they are not (the ‘rag bag category’, and from what I can
remember from the more psychologically orientated literature (cf. Lexis) and
semiotics seems to suggest that we organize categories entirely in reference to
other categories. Groups are not defined so much by internal similarities, but
by their differences to externalities: by what they are not, in other words. Vive la diffarance!
This is either going to be utterly
fascinating or massively grating, nothing in between.
I should probably say a little more than
that, so let’s try this – is it just me, or does the tripartite conception of
Experiential, Interpersonal, and Textual meanings not seem pretty similar to
Peirce’s three elements of the sign (Object, Interpretant, and Representamen
It’s all very well for me to flippantly
sign off with a line like ‘that requires thought,’ but what kind of thought,
exactly? I’ve previously tried to express these ideas more colloquially on my other blog and that post got picked up by a JET messageboard, which was very
gratifying. However, most commenters seemed to interpret what I was saying
primarily as a call to speak more slowly, and that isn’t the main thrust at
all. How, then, do we frame this in a way that inexperienced teachers can
understand and apply? And, more to the point, why would we want to?
It was originally developed (and is still
incredibly influential) for mechanical and electronic communication:
telegraphy, telephony, the internet and the like. We need to be very careful
about taking it too completely as a metaphor for spoken communication. That
said, it can still be a useful model. We can re-label it for L2 or lingua
franca exchanges like this –
Gah. This has been such a frustrating
module. It’s not just that I find the descriptive aspects tedious (though there
is that). It’s that my gut tells me that this is, or at least should be, very
significant, useful, and important for my work in the EFL classroom, and yet
that significance has only threatened to emerge in brief spurts. I don’t mind
grinding out the data analysis if it leads to something more tangible than just
another description. More consistent examples of applicability is what I’m
after, and it’s just very frustrating that it’s taken until the last unit to
But get there we have, finally, and it’s
reassuring to see a bit of research to back up my general approach to the
classroom. Now to track down the references and work up from there. This is
stuff I can use. Maybe.
I must confess that in direct opposition to
the last unit, I found this one tedious as fuck. There is of course a
difference between ‘interesting’ and ‘important’ or ‘useful’, so the boredom
threshold is no excuse for not taking it seriously, but it does make it harder
to pay attention. Some observations though, however disjointed –