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Jest to blog Bartosza Goździeniaka.

Context

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on czwartek, 05 wrzesień 2013 in Learning English

What is it?

Cambridge Dictionary online (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/) gives the definition of context as 'the situation within which something exists or happens, and that can help explain it.'. Let's turn our attention to the very important word 'situation'. It makes a big difference.Use your creativityPlease try to think of as many situations as you can, when the word 'bitch' wouldn't be considered as offensive. It's really easy. When you're talking about your pet, or at a vet, or at a dog show. Now, let's think of the situations, when the word is rude. Do I really have to mention them?

 

The King

Context is the King. One of my fellow teachers coined this phrase. He couldn't be more right. Unfortunately, when we look at the most self-study books, especially about grammar, they're totally deprived of context. The student is asked to do exercises which often have nothing to do with real life merely because there's no context to the sentences which you need to put the right tense in. Let me show you this with a random example from a random website offering free English grammar exercises of this kind.

→ When Jonathan (do) a language course in Ireland, he (visit) Cork.

So, OK, when did Jonathan visit Cork? After or during the course? If after, then the sentence is: 'When Jonathan had done a language course in Ireland, he visited Cork.'. If during it's: 'When Jonathan was doing a language course, he visited Cork.'. Or maybe the sentence isn't about the past time at all? Maybe it's about the future, for example: 'When Janathan will be doing a language course in Ireland, he's going to visit Cork.'. There are as many options as there are contexts we can think of! And every answer might be, in fact, correct!

 

Learning aid

The awareness of importance of context is crucial in language learning. Don't just learn new words or grammar rules in lists. Don't think of examples only. Think of the whole situations. One exercise I like giving my students when they want to learn Simple Past irregular verbs is this: take a list of the words and make a story with them. Sentence by sentence, each with a different irregular verb. In this way you'll provide context for the words, and studying will be more fun. One important thing, don't write the story down, just remember it and every time you sit down to learning the verbs create a new one. Your brain needs to work!

 

Think

Yes, as hard as it may seem, when we're learning a language we need to think. That's the topic for next entry. I hope you'll all read it! Bye!

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