Date Published: Sept. 19, 2016, 8:41 p.m.
Welcome to the eslMaxx blog! This is the very first installment and I’m pretty excited about it. I have various ideas I’ll try out here. I am asked questions every day in the classroom. Often they are ones I’ve answered before, but every once in a while somebody hits me with something I wasn’t expecting, and I have to turn to different resources to come up with an answer. Those are particularly useful teaching moments, and they make me a better teacher, so I will be sharing some of them. The worst answer a teacher can give is, “Oh, well… English is just crazy…ha ha…” even though it’s kind of true. Sometimes a rule doesn’t make sense, but usually it does, and in such cases it is up to the instructor to come up with a useful answer. Followers of this blog who are also my students may therefore recognize parts of conversations they were actually involved in. To them I say, “Thank you very much!”
My Teacher Said
And there are also some interesting disputes in English, like, for example, the incorrectness of starting a sentence with the word ‘and’. Or using a singular ‘they’. Or using ‘much’ in an affirmative sentence instead of defaulting to ‘a lot of’. Some ‘rules’ you come across and you just know they must be archaic and no longer valid, if ever they were, like the one that says not to end a sentence with a preposition. Come on! I’m sure you’ve heard and read plenty of sentences that end this way, and you have likely composed a few yourself, particularly if you’ve ever used a phrasal verb (and you have). For example,
You’ll never guess who I ran into.
Anyway, you may be amazed to learn that not only authors but also everyday language users are pretty serious about their preferences, whether or not they are actually rules. This leads to the common complaint from students: “But my teacher last term told me…”
Very closely related to this is the question of how to write sentences. Of course there are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences, and we’ll talk about them here. But what is an adverb clause, for example? What are the common types? How do you join them to a main clause? I’ll also talk about indirect objects and prepositional phrases. Sometimes they appear to be the same thing, but are they? And there is plenty of room for disagreement here, too. For example, most sources claim that you must have a direct object to have an indirect object; however, at least one world renowned source suggests that you do not. These are interesting questions, but in all cases, my goal is to help the reader use the language with competence.
Sometimes the issue is regarding punctuation. In this blog we’ll look at the comma. The comma! No other mark has caused such frustration for students and professionals alike. If you think you completely understand the ins and outs of the comma, then you have probably adopted one or more preferences or stylistic choices as rules. That’s great. There’s something to be said for consistency. I’m sure that if you wanted to, you could find a standard, current, up to date text book, read some of the instruction on commas, and then go to a library and find a book that violated at least some of what you’d learned. I know because I’ve done it. In fact, you could find many such books. So commas are worth looking at.
Another punctuation mark to consider is the semicolon. People actually get into heated debates (at least online) about the semicolon. In some cases, you see an actual visceral hatred of them! Well, I appreciate the passion, but the semicolon is a great punctuation mark, and we will see why in the near future.
Another issue is pronunciation. I will be blogging and doing podcasts about pronunciation. There isn’t a lot of disagreement regarding pronunciation, but there are many things to talk about. We’ll talk about blending sounds, reductions, syllables, content words and function words, rhythm, intonation, glottal stops, various sounds the letter t could stand for in a word, consonant clusters, vowels that sound very similar, common phrases and so much more! In my opinion, grammar and pronunciation are among the most important components for effective communication in English. They are the foundation and the measure. Without them you have chaos and confusion.
This is the sort of thing I will be writing about.
Also, I would very much like readers to ask me questions and I will address and answer them here. I like the challenge and I appreciate the discourse. It’s a privilege to converse with you, and I am looking forward to it.
Have a great day!
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