After rather a long break, the Alternative TEFL Jargon Dictionary is back!
Defective modals– This somewhat negative expression for modals that do not have a seperate past or future form (e.g. must) is now being replaced by the expression “modal with special future and past needs”
Mixed abilities– Strictly speaking, this means classes where students have a differing ability to pick up the language or differing prefered ways of doing so, although it is often used to mean classes where students have a different starting level. Recent test have shown that teachers who mix their sandwich ingredients, especially those that add crisps and/ or peanut butter to everything, or more likely to be able to deal with and enjoy mixed ability classes.
Morpheme– A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language and a morpheme cannot be broken down further. It can however change shape at will, jump through a solid table and pester you when you are trying to draw something on “Take Hart”.
Perfect– Perfect tenses are made from the verb have plus the past participle. The names of the “Present Perfect” etc. come from a groundbreaking psychological study of student errors that show that students who overuse the Past Perfect tend to idiolise the past etc.
Person– In linguistics, this refers to the use of the “first person” (me), “second person” (you) and “third person” (he/ she etc.). However, some American university Liberal Arts academics believe that these terms perpetuate the selfish individualistic tendancies of right wing society and propose the alternative terms “equal first person”, “also equal first person” and “just as equal as all the others first person”.
Phatic language– Language used for social purposes such as chit chat rather than to acheive a particular task. Derived from the street word “phat”.
Phoneme– This is the technical linguistic term for the gesture of holding your hand up to the side of your head with thumb and little finger extended while you wave at someone in a train that is pulling away from the platform.
Polyseme– Something with many semes.
Polysemy– Many semies.
Portfolio– A portfolio is a method of testing where students are given marks for a selection of work they have put together rather than/ as well as a final test. The difference between a project and a portfolio is that with a portfolio the teachers give more credit for being in a nice leather binder.
PPP– Presentation Practice and Production. This is a natural form of language learning that was based on how babies naturally learn. For example, presenting the language is like showing a baby a lovely Playdoh model of a banana you have just made and handing it over to them. Students practicing that language is like when the baby randomly massages the yellow Playdoh, occassionally coming up with something that looks vaguely like a banana but then mangling it again straight after. When students are given the chance to produce that language in free communication is like when the baby hands you back 10% of the yellow plasticine (the rest being all over the floor and their clothes) in a random shape with a proud look on their faces, and you try your best to look pleased and say “What a nice banana!”
Prediction– When you make a prediction about something in the future you are talking about something that, unlike an arrangement (Present Continuous) or a plan (Going to), is somehow out of your hands. Language used to give predictions include the verbs “will” (e.g. “If I teach ‘will’ for the future first, all the students will talk about things which should be used with ‘going to'”).
Present Simple– The tense used in English to talk about routines, habits etc. It is called “simple”, because it is very easy for students to understand that you only time you change it is when you add the “third person s” with “he”, “she” or “it”. Anyone who fails to use this correctly in the first few weeks of English instruction can therefore safely be told to give up.
Priming– The way in which words are stored in the mind by forming associations with other words. The word comes from how watching a student trying to trace back through their memory to find a word they studied in week one until it finally dawns on them looks just like watching a fuse on one of those comedy bombs burning down until it sets off the flash of an explosion.
Process writing– Teaching students to enjoy the process of writing so much that they never actually want to finish a piece of writing, because that would mean they have to stop.
Word class– A word class is a group of words that act in the same way, for example eat peas in the same way or buy the same kinds of things in Marks and Spencers.