Interference errors

The question in the exam was ‘Put the words in the correct order to make a sentence’. One set of words was ‘next / they / What / are / do / to / going / year / ?’. Most students got it right, several wrote ‘What they are going to do next year?’, and eight of them wrote ‘What are they do going to next year?’. My first thought was that they had ‘cooperated’ on the exam, but checking their names showed that they were sitting in different parts of the room, and the rest of their answers showed no signs of ‘cooperation’.

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Pronouncing Korean

My Korean pronunciation apparently still needs work. One class was practicing ‘can’ for ability. After eliciting sentences like ‘I can play (sport/computer game/musical instrument)’, ‘I can cook (food)’, ‘I can ride (bike, motor scooter/motor bike)’ and ‘I can drive (car)’, I asked:

Parlez-vous fraçais?
them: (blank looks)
me: Can you speak French?
them: No.
me: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
them: (blank looks)
me: Can you speak German?
them: No.
me: 한국어를 하세요?
them: (blank looks)
me: 한- 국 – 어 – 를 하 – 세 – 요?
them: (blank looks)
me: Can you speak Korean?
them: Of course!
me: 한국어를 하세요?
them: (blank looks)
me: 한- 국 – 어 – 를 하 – 세 – 요?
them: (blank looks)
me: (internal sigh)

The French and German translate as ‘Speak you (language)’ and the Korean as ‘Do you speak (language)’, but it’s the standard question to ask in each language. Korean has several other options; maybe French and German do, too. In English, we might ask ‘Can you speak (language)?’ or ‘Do you speak (language)?. Those aren’t necessarily the same question or answer. One might not speak a language which one can speak, for example, being the only speaker of your language in the vicinity or for socio-political reasons.

adjuncts

“In linguistics, an adjunct is an optional, or structurally dispensable, part of a sentence, clause, or phrase that, if removed or discarded, will not otherwise affect the remainder of the sentence. Example: In the sentence John helped Bill in Central Park, the phrase in Central Park is an adjunct.” (Wikipedia)

Perhaps the biggest categories of adjunct are place (where – as in the example above), time (when), manner (how) and reason (why). But there are more. In A student’s introduction to English grammar, Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum list: manner, place, time, duration (how long), frequency (how often), degree (how much), purpose, result (so ~), condition (if ~) and concession (although ~). I would also add how many times.

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the dog, the cat and eleplant

Yesterday, after my students and I compiled the sentences ‘A big, black jaguar ate spicy pink pasta with [one of the students] in [our university’s restaurant] this morning, because it was hungry’  and ‘[My name] wears a lovely white lace one-piece in a wedding hall every morning because he is cute’ (explained in yesterday’s post), I set the students to writing their own sentences. The results were mixed.

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A jaguar ate pasta

The summer mini-semester started last week in some disarray. My class was in three classrooms on the first three days (the first had been double-booked and the other person outranked me, and the second was too small), and the expected technology was either absent or not working, or required someone to come to log me on to it (who did some days but not others). As a result, I’ve had to improvise a lot of lessons.

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a/an, some and countable/uncountable nouns

A good multiple choice grammar quiz/exam question should have exactly one correct answer and one, two or three incorrect answers. The other choices should be plausible enough for a student to have to think about it, but not an alternative correct (but lesser used/dependent on context) answer.

Last week, my students had their final exam for this semester. I compiled it from the question bank provided by the publisher. It wasn’t until I was marking one of the exams that I noticed that two questions had alternative correct answers. In each case there was an expected answer, but one of the other choices was not, by any standard, incorrect.

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