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LINGUIST List 18.2812

Thu Sep 27 2007

Sum: The State of Applied Linguistics & TGT

Editor for this issue: Dan Parker <danlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Ronald Sheen, The State of Applied Linguistics & TGT

Message 1: The State of Applied Linguistics & TGT
Date: 27-Sep-2007
From: Ronald Sheen <ronsheenmailme.ae>
Subject: The State of Applied Linguistics & TGT
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A summary of responses to my posts on traditional grammar teaching. (See
LINGUIST Issue: http://linguistlist.org/issues/18/18-1805.html)

In April 2007, LL published on my behalf a piece on traditional grammar
teaching (TGT) in which I pilloried applied linguists for constantly
stigmatizing TGT whilst ignoring the appreciable evidence in its favour. My
purpose in doing so was to engage applied linguists in an LL debate on the issue.

Unfortunately, there were no responses to this post. Therefore, in June, I
posted a piece providing a description of what TGT has become in making itself
appropriate to contemporary classroom needs. This received seven responses
from LL members who are Humphrey P. van Polanen Petel, Zev bar-Lev, Brian Ó
Curnáin, Reza Falahati, Richard Hudson, Stahlke, Herbert F.W, and Natasha L
Warner. Their responses were all positive in terms of the points made though
none actually addressed either the issue of the nature of TGT or the reasons for
the stigmatization of TGT by applied linguists or their apparent reluctance to
engage in open debate on the issues

The seven respondents (to whom I have responded individually to thank them) did,
however, make valid points which concerned respectively: the fragmentation of
academic disciplines in which factions tended not to communicate, the importance
of sequencing in grammar instruction, the failure of learners to grasp the
importance of grammar in the accurate expression of language, the confusion
created by having two distinct approaches to grammar teaching by having two
almost identical names: focus on form and focus on formS, the caution required
in interpreting the lack of response to LL queries as a manifestation of lack of
interest, the existence of other websites such as the Assembly for the Teaching
of English Grammar (ATEG) where issues such as TGT were the subject of
enthusiastic debate and finally, the importance for teachers to understand that
though some students might benefit from explicit knowledge of grammar, others
might not - a point I made implicitly in citing Carrell et al. (1996) and Horan

Perhaps most importantly it is worthy of note that none of the respondents is
an applied linguist. This is both unsurprising and depressing -
'unsurprising' because it is consistent with the continuing failure of applied
linguists to respond in the literature to critiques of their stigmatization of
TGT and 'depressing' because it demonstrates the preparedness of applied
linguists to advocate positions for which there is scant published empirical
evidence and to ignore contrary evidence. It is even more depressing that the
editors of applied linguistic journals continue to fail to oblige contributors
to support their advocacies with reliable empirical evidence derived from long
term comparative studies. It is even tragic, for this failure during the last
half century has resulted in the condemning of countless numbers of students to
learn a language with approaches which have proved to be failures. (see Sheen,
2005, for a discussion of this issue)


Carrell, P.L., Prince, M.S., & Astika, G.G. (1996). Personality types and
language Learning in an EFL context. Language Learning, 46, 75-99.

Horan, A. (2003). English grammar in schools. In P. Collins & M. Amberber
(Eds),Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society.

Sheen, R, (2005) ''Focus on FormS as a means of improving accurate oral
production'' A chapter in Investigations in Instructed Second Language
Learning, (Eds.) Alex Housen & Michel Picard, "Studies on Language Acquisition"
(SOLA) at Mouton De Gruyter, Series Editor, Peter Jordens. 271-310.

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

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