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Off topic: mistakes in English lesson
Thread poster: Richardson Lisa
Richardson Lisa  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:27
French to English
Oct 20, 2010

Hi all

I wonder if anyone has had this problem and if so how did they deal with it? My daughter has just started college (6ème) and has come home with this written in her workbook- "there isn't any absent today". I imagine this is a literal translation of "il n'y a pas d'absents". Anyway, the question is not so much linguistic as what to do about it? I obviously said to my daughter that it was incorrect, but should I just ignore that the others are being taught incorrect English? A difficult one I think. This has come up before in her primary school, but at that level the teacher's are only required to have a 'licence' in English (I believe)so it seems more acceptable for mistakes to be made.

All ideas welcome

TIA Lisa


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
+ ...
Definitely correct your daughter's English. Oct 20, 2010

It's pretty clear to me that you should definitely correct your daughter's English. Explain to her that her English teacher is not mother-tongue and that your daughter has a natural advantage that the other kids haven't. Tell her to keep this to herself, and it's probably not a great idea for her to correct her English teacher in class, either.
If your daughter were a French girl in an English school she would have exactly the same problem, but in reverse. Her French parents would DEFINITELY make sure she spoke correct French at home and at school.


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Cécile Sellier  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:27
English to French
+ ...
Happened to me at university! Oct 20, 2010

It makes you wonder how some people got their job...

When I was in my 3rd year at university (Licence) I was appalled at my Phonetics teacher when he wrote the phonetic transcription of the word 'mountain' on the board and transcribed the 'ain' part as a diphtong instead of the short 'i'. I had to stand up to him, and it took him a while to admit before the whole class that he was wrong!!

How can you trust such people to teach you the right things??


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Richardson Lisa  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:27
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
yes, but Oct 20, 2010

Hi ryancolm and thanks for your reply.
I quite agree with all your points, and my daughter is very reserved so she would definitely not correct the teacher. I think that this mistake is not too important as it was written along with the date at the beginning of the lesson. What I mean is that it was not part of the actual lesson to be learned. My concern is more about mistakes that occur within the structure of the lesson itself. This means that she will have to learn and use the incorrect term, grammar, construction whatever, in order to pass the regular tests. That, I'm not happy about. Anyway, I'm hoping that the teacher won't make anymore mistakes!
Thanks
Lisa


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It's sad. Oct 20, 2010

Der Lisa,

I went through this with my son for many years. In primary school the only correct answers on a test were what is in the book, so when he wrote that "large" was the opposite of "little" it was marked wrong since "big" was in that lesson. In gymnasium he had to learn British English, although he's an American. The some tenses and usages are different. It is very hard to tell a teenager "just learn the teacher's way and get a good grade with a little extra work." The teacher claimed that his near-native students are all arrogant. He never had a native speaker as a teacher - except me - and that doesn't hold much weight.
Now, he's studying science and - hey - most texts and papers are written in US English.

I think all you can do it have a positive language environment at home, my son did survive to speak and write English correctly. And let your daughter know she's not alone with this problem.

Best wishes

lindaellen


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Richardson Lisa  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:27
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
yes, me too Oct 20, 2010

Hi Cécile

Yes, this has happened to me too at University when I was on an Erasmus exchange. The English teacher regularly made mistakes and all the native English students just looked at each other in amazement. It's a tricky one isn't it , and the ideal answer is that languages should only taught by native speakers(as with us translators), and this really seems so obvious. Unfortunately, it's not realistic. I've offered numerous times to go and speak English to the children in my kids' primary school, but they never take me up on it because of red tape - you need to be 'agrementé' etc. I've been living in France now since 1995 and I still make mistakes in French, so imagine a native French English teacher who has maybe lived a short while in an English speaking country and perhaps visits a couple of times a year to keep up...

Interesting subject though

Regards
Lisa


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Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
France
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Be very diplomatic! Oct 20, 2010

Now that your daughter is at collège, you could well be at the beginning of a long exercise in diplomacy! How you handle this now will be crucial for the future, for yourself, for your daughter's comfort in class, and for the teacher.

However good the English teacher might be, and however diplomatic your approach, he/she is very likely to feel threatened by having a native speaker watching every move, ready to pounce on the slightest error. Unless, that is, the teacher has enough self-confidence to bring you on board as an ally. If you can speak to the teacher sooner rather than later, this ideal scenario might just be possible. I wouldn't bank on it, but it's well worth a try.

I found myself in a similar situation with 2 very different music teachers. At my girls' primary school, the music teacher was very unsure of herself and when (at the invitation of the head) I helped out in an end of term concert, she refused to speak to me for months. This made for a ridiculous situation as my elder daughter was in her class! Had I known she was so touchy, I'd have handled things differently. At secondary school, the music teacher was delightful, but rather innefficient and overwhelmed by his workload. Because of his personality, he didn't take it badly when I provided extra coaching and notes for my daughter and a friend to help them with their GCSE compositions. If anything, he was relieved (they were a couple of lively and demanding girls!) and we were able to exchange ideas and laugh about it!

So much depends on the personalities involved. Tread carefully and good luck!

Alison


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
+ ...
We can't change the world Oct 20, 2010

This is one of the casualties of English becoming the world's lingua franca, unfortunately.
What's important is that your daughter learns what's correct and what isn't - if she has to produce an occasional "wrong" answer to keep her teacher happy, then that's a little life lesson that she just has to learn to live with. But she must know the reason why she's doing it, i.e. politics.

But if she's producing those errors on her own time, then that's a real problem and you need to sort that out. It's my opinion that a child can never be truly bilingual unless they spend a large part of the year in both cultures/countries; so if your daughter has that facility, she'll be OK. If not, not. As a former English teacher myself, I taught numerous students who had one English-speaking parent; most of them were "high intermediate" level, and a long, long way from bilingual.

People say about my baby daughter, "Oh, she's so lucky! She'll grow up speaking perfect English!" Which is idiotic, when you think about it. Unless I send her back to Ireland for the whole summer for every year of her childhood (which isn't really possible), she'll grow up in Italy, geographically, culturally and linguistically. Her English will be very good, but never mother-tongue. I've already resigned myself to this.

[Edited at 2010-10-20 08:35 GMT]


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Miranda Drew  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
same problem everywhere Oct 20, 2010

a few years ago I caused a huge uproar with my nephew's elementary school teacher, because I had the gall to, diplomatically through my sister-in-law, mention that what the teacher had dictated was wrong "There are a chair, some books, etc. in the room." I'm American, but all the Italians are "supposed" to be learning British English, yet they are never taught "have got", they are taught an incorrect version of "have":
Have you a dog? I haven't a dog, etc., completely leaving off the "got".
Yes, Colm, I know that that would be correct in Ireland


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
+ ...
I never knew you were such a pedant... Oct 20, 2010

Miranda Drew wrote:
Have you a dog? I haven't a dog, etc., completely leaving off the "got".
Yes, Colm, I know that that would be correct in Ireland


Where I come from, both forms would be entirely acceptable. We even let our hair down sometimes and say, "Do you have a dog? I don't have a dog."

By the way, what's wrong with "There are a chair, some books, etc. in the room."? It's 100% correct... There are several objects in the room!


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
+ ...
US vs Brit English Oct 20, 2010

On a related note, it always used to drive me nuts when students asked me which should they learn, US or British English (answer: whichever you like, just don't mix the two). It's a legitimate question for a language student, but it was the way they phrased the question that bugged me: "Which is BETTER, US or British English?"
Or they'll think that I'll be mortally offended if they use US English with me (while in the same breath assuming that I hate all English people simply because I'm Irish; see Nesrin's thread on assumed stereotypes).

Apart from a few words and a couple of frankly very easy grammatical points they're almost identical as dialects, anyway, so I often wonder why people get so worked up about it.


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Letizia Ridolfi
Italy
Local time: 12:27
English to Italian
+ ...
Right! Oct 20, 2010

Wordeffect wrote:

Now that your daughter is at collège, you could well be at the beginning of a long exercise in diplomacy! How you handle this now will be crucial for the future, for yourself, for your daughter's comfort in class, and for the teacher.

However good the English teacher might be, and however diplomatic your approach, he/she is very likely to feel threatened by having a native speaker watching every move, ready to pounce on the slightest error. Unless, that is, the teacher has enough self-confidence to bring you on board as an ally. If you can speak to the teacher sooner rather than later, this ideal scenario might just be possible. I wouldn't bank on it, but it's well worth a try.

Alison


I agree with every single word!
My 6 years-old nephew had his first English class at the beginning of the school year.
After a while, his mother (she graduated like me in English Literature) found out that the teacher was teaching the kids not to add the "S" of the third singular person in the present tense. She tried to correct her son, but again the teacher corrected her correction...(sorry for the joke!). So when my sister went to talk to her, she was told that "the point" was being ignored on purpose, becaause she did not want to make confusion, meaning giving too many information, to the kids.
Now my point is: is it corrrect to teach something that is completely wrong only because you suppose it will make things easier? And one more question: I was always told that kids learn languages very fast and easily, isn't like that any more???

Best regards
Letizia


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Miranda Drew  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
Don't know if this is a US English thing. Oct 20, 2010

ryancolm wrote:

By the way, what's wrong with "There are a chair, some books, etc. in the room."? It's 100% correct... There are several objects in the room!


I have never ever said, and would never ever say, "There are a chair, some books..." I would say "There is a chair, some books, ...." there's more than one object, but I would match the verb with the first object on the list.
"There are a chair, some books" sounds extremely wrong to me, but as several Italians have told me, "Americans don't use grammar" !


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Italian to English
+ ...
Oh all right then. Oct 20, 2010

Miranda Drew wrote:

I have never ever said, and would never ever say, "There are a chair, some books..." I would say "There is a chair, some books, ...." there's more than one object, but I would match the verb with the first object on the list.
"There are a chair, some books" sounds extremely wrong to me, but as several Italians have told me, "Americans don't use grammar" !


All right, I was just jerking your chain!


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 12:27
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Chain rattling... Oct 21, 2010

Going off topic for a moment, but I promise to return.

There is/are is the subject of great debate, but what happens in "real English" (as opposed to what appears in the older-fashioned course books) is that the verb agrees in number with what is closest to it. A similar case might be "there are a lot of people who" or "a lot of people think" - in the first a plural precedes an apparent singular, and in the second an apparently singular subject has a plural verb. Though there are those who say that since "a lot of" here = "many" and is therefore plural. There is always an argument for everything in grammar!

But, perhaps more interestingly, it is now many years since I first heard comment on BBC radio about the advance of "there's" (pronounced with the schwah, the weak form) over "there are", and the prediction that it would become the dominant form for both singular and plural. I haven't followed this up with any research and I'm sure there has been much comment since, but just listen to a few "natives" chatting, and you're bound to hear it.

Back to the real point now.

Having been in v close contact with English teaching and students of Spanish in Spain for the last nearly 25 years, as a teacher, a DOS, a teacher trainer and so on, I would love to have a penny for each time I have diplomatically explained about how English has many alternative pronunciations, and that therefore the school teacher's pronunciation is probably just one of them, but that please, just as a favour to me, could they mimic my pronunciation when talking to me...

btw, Michael Swan, who I would describe as my "grammar guru", has a lot to say about the relative lack of importance of the "3rd person s", but however much of a fan of his I may be, I'm afraid I'm obsessive, and have been known to hiss at people when they miss it off. I try to curb this practice when at public events!


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