Language analysis: what teachers should know about it

Language analysis for CELTA and beyond

Language analysis for CELTA and beyond

28.10.2022

267
3
minutes
  • Grammar
  • Methodology

Many teachers who decide to take the CELTA course find out that besides inputs, observations, and detailed lesson planning, they have to analyze the language items they teach. 

However, language analysis is not only one of the assignments of the CELTA course. It is an essential part of planning a lesson, and, in my opinion, every English teacher should do it for some reason. This is not something that has to be forgotten once you're done with the CELTA course.

Two kinds of teachers

There are two kinds of teachers in the ELT industry: native speakers and non-native speakers. However, this is not a topic of our discussion. It does not matter where you were born or which passport you hold. These things do not make you a better teacher. 

What makes you a good teacher is the ability to clearly communicate knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, functions, and other features of the language to your students.

What native speakers probably lack is declarative knowledge, which is what keeps them from being able to organize and deliver the necessary grammatical input to learners or to clearly explain grammar to them. 

This often happens when in schools grammar is not taught in depth or at all and has the side effect of revealing how pitifully little many teachers (and some teacher trainers) might know about the grammar of their own or any other language.

As a non-native speaker of English, I am definitely at an advantage. I was learning English at school, and then at university where we had courses in English grammar, phonetics, lexicology, linguistics, etc. 

Many non-native teachers have similar experiences, i.e. they know most things their learners might experience, and they have a deeper knowledge of the language. They are fairly proficient in grammar and most likely have a wide vocabulary to discuss it. They know the terminology and have this declarative knowledge. 

How is this related to language analysis? During the CELTA course, you are required to analyze specific grammar structures or lexical items and describe how you would go about teaching them.

Trainees who do not have knowledge of grammar or lexis, find this task challenging. Whether you are a native English speaker or not, it might be wise to review or familiarise yourself with English grammar.

Language Analysis for Teaching and CELTA

Purposes of language analysis

Have you ever been in a situation where your students asked you questions about the use of that specific piece of language, and you didn't know or weren't sure about the answer?

Reason #1. Language analysis prevents you from not being prepared for the questions your students may ask you when you are explaining something. The added confidence that comes from being well-prepared makes you appear more knowledgeable in the classroom. 

Reason #2. Language analysis helps you explain formal structures. Students need to know how to build and use certain items, i.e. know how they work. Then they will be able to use them in communication. This is necessary even for basic comprehension.

Reason #3. Language analysis helps you deal with errors. English teachers can speak the language, of course. They can also tell you right away whether a sentence contains a grammatical or structural error. 

However, particularly if you are a native speaker, you might not be able to pinpoint exactly what went wrong or to find the most effective approach to communicate what is good. 

 

You ought to be able to analyze the language in real-world situations as well as in your studies. This will help you give proper feedback to your students and understand how to fix those errors.

What to analyze?

When preparing a lesson (TP)  for your CELTA course, you are required to complete a form that varies slightly from cencenter centre but generally has the following elements:

  1. Meaning
  2. Form
  3. Pronunciation
  4. Anticipated problems with meaning/form/pronunciation
  5. Solutions to anticipated problems

When anaanalyzingammar, write what grammatical structure you are going to teach in your lesson and specify the area of use if applicable, e.g. "the Present Perfect for past experiences". 

When analyzing vocabulary or functions, write a word or phrase, or a functional language exponent respectively, e.g. "Make yourself at home", "How about…", "magazine", "examine", etc.

Next, we need to contextualize the grammar structures we are analyzing, i.e. put them in sentences. Sentences with clear examples of the lesson's target language are known as model or marker sentences

They help students in comprehending the usage, structure, and meaning of a new language. They can also serve as a trustworthy model for students to record and convey context information, including collocations and connotations. For you as a teacher, this will help write your CCQs later. 

For a word or phrase, consider its "concreteness" to determine whether you can illustrate it with a picture/flashcard, sketch it, mime it, etc. It may not be as difficult as you believe.

Meaning

Provide the meaning of the target structure/ word/ phrase/ functional exponent. Remember to keep it simple and at the students’ level. You can do this by consulting a learner's dictionary or a grammar book, and writing your own definition. For example:

Grammar 

"We use the present perfect to talk about events that happened in the past. It's not important when. The important thing is that it happened."

 

Vocabulary

"Magazine – a type of thin book with large pages and a paper cover that contains articles and photographs and is published every week or month" (Cambridge Dictionary)

 

"Magazine – a type of large thin book with a paper cover that you can buy every week or month, containing articles, photographs, etc., often on a particular topic; a similar collection of articles, etc. that appears regularly online" (Oxford Learner's Dictionary)

 

My own 

"Magazine – a type of thin book with a paper cover containing articles, photographs, etc., often on a particular topic that you can buy every week or month

Here I have underlined the most important things that I will build my CCQs around and that will help me explain the meaning.

In this part of language analysis, also think about how the meaning will be conveyed. For example, if you are teaching grammar, you can use a situation, a reading text, etc. If this is vocabulary/functions, you might make use of pictures, a story, reading or listening text, etc.

The next stage of clarifying the meaning after conveying or eliciting is checking the understanding of the meaning of the target language. It's a good idea to use timelines for grammar structures as well as concept-checking questions and answers for both grammar and vocabulary. 

When you're teaching, you'll need to use these frequently, therefore it's worth putting them into practice.  I've been teaching for fifteen years, but to be honest I still struggle to think of them on the spot.

The CELTA Course

Everything you need to know!

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Form

When analyzing grammar, provide the rules for the form of the target language. You should include affirmative, negative, and question forms where it is appropriate. Don't forget about contractions. Use the marker sentence for illustrating these rules.

When analyzing words, it's necessary to mention the part of speech and its relevant features. For example, if it's a verb, write if it's transitive/intransitive, etc.

Include the parts of speech that the phrase or collocation consists of when analyzing set phrases/collocations.

For functional language exponents or idioms, provide the inflexible part as a chunk, and add the breakdown of flexible parts to show how it is used in a sentence.

Pronunciation

Consider sounds, stress, linking, weak forms, and intonation while analyzing pronunciation. 

For grammar structures, write the marker sentence and indicate relevant aspects of phonology. Provide the phonemic script for the part of the sentence which is the target structure.

Don't forget about the pronunciation of contractions, linked sounds, and weak forms. You may consult a dictionary, but it usually contains only the transcription of the strong forms. Mark sentence stress and intonation as well.

For words, provide a phonemic script. For phrases and functional language, highlight the linked sounds, stressed words, and intonation. You will also need to make a phonemic script of the part of the sentence that is the target language.

Anticipated problems & solutions

This is my favorite part of the language analysis. Here you look at the language from the learner's perspective. It's very interesting because depending on the context where you are teaching problems will differ. 

Many people have had illustrious, lengthy careers in the field of comparative linguistics. You don't have to do that, but you should have a fundamental understanding of how English functions and how it differs from or is similar to the language of your learners (s).

You have to think about difficulties your students might have with understanding the meaning, using the form, and pronunciation of the target language you are presenting to them, and offer solutions. 

When talking about the meaning, one of the problems is that students might often not have an equivalent in their own language or they might confuse it with false friends in their native language. 

 

The word "magazine" in English sounds similar to the Ukrainian word which means "a shop". I'll provide sufficient context that will focus on the meaning to prevent this. 

When talking about pronunciation, Thai speakers, for example, might confuse the sounds /r/ and /l/ and mispronounce the words as a result. I'll use model pronunciation and drill it. 

 

When talking about the form, students often do not use short forms, for example. Using fingers, I'll indicate that a pronoun and an auxiliary verb are joined together, thus eliciting the short form from the students. 

It might take some time to consider each aspect carefully. Don't worry. Practice does make perfect, though. It will become a routine part of your lesson planning, so make the most of the time you spend on this task and give it your full attention. 

Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna

    Author

    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English

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