276 - The Future of English

Michael Swan é um verdadeiro guru da gramática inglesa, além de um poeta brilhante. Veja sua opinião sobre o ensino moderno de línguas, e conheça também uma divertida poesia.
by Mark Worden.

TEFL, or “Teaching English as a Foreign Language,” is the reason why Speak Up exists. And, when it comes to TEFL, Michael Swan is an authority: his book Practical English Usage is used by students and teachers the world over. And yet the English language is only part of his work. He is also an {yootooltip title=[ accomplished ]} accomplished - talentoso, perito {/yootooltip} poet and Speak Up {yootooltip title=[ caught up with him ]} caught up with him - esteve com ele {/yootooltip} when he attended the recent Poetry on the Lake festival. We asked him how the “TEFL” industry had changed over the course of his career:

Michael Swan
(Standard British accent)

It’s very, very different {yootooltip title=[indeed]} indeed - mesmo, de fato {/yootooltip}. In fact {yootooltip title=[I hardly like to admit this]} I hardly like to admit this - não gosto muito de admitir isso {/yootooltip}, but I can go back 40 years to the... for instance, the first IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language – ed) conference, before IATEFL was IATEFL, when it was just “ATEFL,” (Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language - ed) and we talked about teaching grammar, teaching pronunciation, planning lessons, testing, {yootooltip title=[that sort of stuff]} that sort of stuff - esse tipo de coisa {/yootooltip}. If you go to an IATEFL conference now, there is an enormous {yootooltip title=[range of topics]} range of topics - gama de tópicos {/yootooltip}, a lot of them seem to be quite a long way away from the basics of language teaching: people talk about identity, there’s a big socio-cultural element, you get a lot of stuff on pragmatics and strategies and there’s a big periphery. And a lot of this {yootooltip title=[is to do with the move into communicative teaching]} is to do with the move into communicative teaching - tem a ver com a abertura para o ensino comunicativo {/yootooltip}, where people have become perhaps more interested in doing things with language, {yootooltip title=[ than actually ]} than actually - do que de fato {/yootooltip} in the language that you need to do those things. And my own feeling is that that’s probably gone too far and it would be nice if we could move back towards the centre, while preserving everything good that the communicative revolution has brought us, but concentrating perhaps more than we often do on {yootooltip title=[ on the nuts and bolts ]} on the nuts and bolts - “o feijão com arroz”, os detalhes práticos, os fundamentos (lit.: porcas e parafusos) {/yootooltip} of teaching language: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation; {yootooltip title=[basic skills]} basic skills - habilidades fundamentais {/yootooltip}.

English has undoubtedly become the dominant language since the Second World War. Is this simply historical luck, or are there reasons {yootooltip title=[within the language itself]} within the language itself - intrínsecas à lingua {/yootooltip}?

Michael Swan:

I don’t think there are very many reasons within the language itself: I mean, at different times in history, very different kinds of language have been dominant; Latin, for instance, {yootooltip title=[ highly inflected ]} highly inflected - com tantas declinações {/yootooltip} language, quite difficult to learn. The fact that English has become the dominant language is kind of good luck for people who have to learn it because it’s morphologically very light, it doesn’t have a lot of inflections, so it’s easy to get a moderately accurate {yootooltip title=[ working knowledge ]} working knowledge - conhecimento instrumental {/yootooltip} quickly. If Russian was the dominant world language, {yootooltip title=[we would have a much harder time]} we would have a much harder time - teríamos um trabalho muito mais duro {/yootooltip}.

And in conclusion we asked Michael Swan to offer some advice for students of English:

Michael Swan:

Don’t be too perfectionist, don’t worry too much about making mistakes, get as much contact with English as you can: if you’re studying in a class, work hard inside the classroom, but get a lot of contact outside, on the internet, seeing films, listening to songs, reading stuff that you like reading. That’s what you have to do.

In a {yootooltip title=[ shabby ]} shabby - desgastado {/yootooltip} pub
down a back street
late one evening
I found my old {yootooltip title=[ maths master ]} maths master - professor de matemática {/yootooltip}
sitting at a corner table

Not a pretty sight,
an old maths teacher
weeping into his beer.

‘Let me tell you this’,
he said.
‘{yootooltip title=[It does not add up]} it does not add up - isso não faz sentido {/yootooltip}.
It does not fucking add up.

Two plus two
is a random number.

The angles of a triangle
make 37 degrees,
or 460, or minus 11,
or nothing you can determine.
{yootooltip title=[Circles bulge]} circles bulge - os círculos se deformam {/yootooltip}.
Squares don’t have enough corners.
Parallel lines
all meet
or do not exist
or go where they bloody feel like.
The x axis
does not come on the same page
as the y axis.

There is no geometry
that fits our space.

You get on the number 4 bus for the station
and when you arrive
it is flight 968 to Istanbul
diverted to Manchester
and you have to walk back.

{yootooltip title=[Time leaks out of the clock
and scampers off sideways]} time leaks out of the clock and scampers off sideways - o tempo vaza do relógio e foge de atravessado {/yootooltip}.

One woman
is three women
or no woman,
not necessarily
in that order.

You bastards knew all that
didn’t you?
You knew it all along,
he said,
knocking over his beer.

‘We tried to tell you,’
I said.
‘We tried to tell you.’

{yoogallery src=[images/stories/galery/materias/ed276/] thumb=[polaroid]}

Fill in the blanks after reading The Future of English.