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Future Forms: Insights from ‘ELT Now and How It Could Be’

Introduction

English Language Teaching Now and How It Could Be” is a thought-provoking and meticulously researched addition to the wealth of existing literature on English language teaching (ELT). Co-authored by the esteemed Geoff Jordan and the late Michael H. Long, both of whom have made significant contributions to the field of ELT, this book offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of teaching English.

Jordan, a respected ELT practitioner and teacher educator, is known for his insightful commentary on various critical issues in second language acquisition (SLA) and second language teacher education (SLTE) through his blog. Long, on the other hand, was a leading scholar in SLA, recognized for his pioneering work on the concept of focus on form, age effects, task-based language teaching (TBLT), and incidental learning.

The book posits that ELT is a highly specialized field that necessitates a deep understanding of language acquisition processes for teachers to effectively facilitate student learning. It advocates for an approach to ELT that is not just competent, but exceptional and informed by SLA research. The authors underscore that their teaching recommendations are intended as options rather than prescriptive solutions, encouraging teachers to leverage their expertise and experiences in their pedagogical decision-making.

In addition to providing an updated summary of SLA research and its implications for ELT, the book also critically examines current ELT practices and offers suggestions for improvement. It further explores the often-overlooked political and economic factors that influence ELT, shedding light on the powerful interests and profitable enterprises that shape the field.

While the critique of ELT’s ‘dark side’ is not a new concept, the book’s unique combination of a politically and SLA-informed examination of ELT provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to pure SLA and other areas of Applied Linguistics research. The book is intended for a wide audience, including undergraduate and Master’s students pursuing qualifications in TESOL or Applied Linguistics, and practising teachers of English as an Additional, Second, or Foreign Language to adults.

The Nuances of Future Forms

Futurity is a highly nuanced area of English grammar and all too often, speakers resort to the will future, perhaps believing that this corresponds more closely than in fact, it does to a so-called future tense in their L1. The problem is that there is no future tense in English; instead English makes use of verb forms and lexical phrases to express subtleties of meaning.

The Misuse of Will

The misuse of “will” in English language teaching is a common issue that has been extensively discussed in the book “English Language Teaching Now and How It Could Be”. The authors, Geoff Jordan and Michael H. Long, argue that learners often resort to the “will” future, perhaps believing that it corresponds more closely to a so-called future tense in their first language. However, English does not have a future tense per se; instead, it uses various verb forms and lexical phrases to express subtleties of meaning.

The book further explores how the misuse of “will” can lead to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. It provides a comprehensive review of why “will” is frequently misused and offers a brief demonstration of two contrasting future forms. The aim is to help educators and learners better understand this area of grammar and to provide strategies for its effective use. The authors emphasize that their teaching recommendations are intended as options rather than prescriptive solutions, encouraging teachers to leverage their expertise and experiences in their pedagogical decision-making. This approach underscores the importance of ELT, and first-rate, SLA-informed ELT.

The Role of Instructed Second Language Acquisition

Instructed Second Language Acquisition (ISLA) emphasizes students’ conscious and direct attention to learning target language features in isolation and outside their meaningful context. Focus on forms (FonFs) has been employed extensively in foreign language vocabulary instruction, and earlier studies reported positive results for such interventions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the challenge of future forms in English is a complex one, but with the right guidance and resources, it can be navigated successfully. For those interested in delving deeper into this topic, we invite you to watch the workshop that Neil Harris, a seasoned Teacher Trainer & Director of Marketing at CELT Language School, has produced for GTEFL on Will you or won’t you – The challenge of future forms.

References

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