Friday, September 27, 2013

English as a Submerged Language

This week, I borrowed a book on teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Though there is good advice in it, the writing, particularly early on, makes for slow and irritating reading. The good sense is buried in jargon, and found myself thinking of having to dig for tools. For one example of many,
[Communicative Language Teaching] sees fluency and the ability to communicate in a variety of settings ... at the core of teaching and learning.
There are many sentences like that, in which words appear to be piled together in the notion that they mean something, but without later examination of whether they do mean it. The cumulative effect is numbing.

Much of the introductory matter seems to call for a treatment such as Graves and Hodges gave to a number of paragraphs by famous writers in the "Rough Drafts and Fair Copies" section of The Reader over Your Shoulder.  Such treatment, applied to the whole book, would probably shorten it by 10%.

One can write well about the learning of languages. The essay "Tongues and Areas" in Jacques Barzun's Teacher in America says a good deal of what this author says in her introduction, but in fewer, more pointed, and far clearer words. There must be someone who can write a book on the teaching of English as a second language, in clear English. Where is that person and where is that book?


  1. Polly might be interested, don't you think?

  2. Polly might well be. I had already mentioned my discontent with the text to her in an email.