Aspects of Modern Language Teaching in Europe

By Wolf Gewehr; Georgia Catsimali et al. | Go to book overview

9

FROM LINGUISTIC THEORY TO SYLLABUS DESIGN AND CLASSROOM PRACTICE

Georgia Catsimali

Introduction

The conflict between theoretical linguists and language teachers is well known. This derives from their different interests and objects of enquiry. Theoreticians are trying to describe the language system and to provide a theory which will account for the systematic character of language, while teachers are trying to find ways to teach the language more effectively.

In this chapter we address the question of whether some insights of recent theoretical linguistics could be used directly or indirectly in foreign language teaching. We will consider only those theoretical results that have strong empirical support and are accepted by the majority of the scientific community.

More specifically, we will focus on some theoretical claims of Chomsky’s recent theory (1981) as they are illustrated in English and Modern Greek, and we will explore the way in which they can inform teaching methodology. This issue will be approached by comparing English and Modern Greek, and it will be argued that clusters of syntactic patterns which result from linguistic analysis could be used profitably in foreign language teaching. For each cluster of syntactic patterns we will propose teaching strategies.

Theoretical linguistics vs. applied linguistics

If we conceive of theory and practice as two sides of the same coin whose value lies in their coexistence, the question of which is more important than the other is reduced to a pseudo-problem. Theoretical linguistics is deeply involved in the study of language(s) in order to discover underlying theoretical principles, while applied linguistics looks for ways to teach language(s) more effectively. However, theoretical perspectives do not remain invariant and in fact often undergo radical changes, something which

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