Czech EFL

Let the Czech check it out

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Context over meaning

I believe that as we draw the focus of our attention from single words to chunks (especially fixed phrases, sentence heads, semi-fixed frames and the like) we also have to increasingly rely on context in which the chunk is usually used as its defining element.

I've had a couple of really interesting business people today (incidentally, all have been put through a few years of devastating grammar-translation) and when the issue cropped up I took the phrase: "You alright?" as an example. If we want to look at the meaning the translation inevitably comes in and it becomes clear that a Czech native speaker may get easily offended by such a question when it's fired at him right at the outset of any conversation because it simply suggests there's something wrong with them!

It's much easier to describe the context in which it's usually used and have the learners each suggest their own L1 equivalents. In this way, we let the learners construct the meaning for themselves and lay the foundations for introducing a more meaningful (sorry, contextful) approach to L2 learning.

See a related article: Context developing activities

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