Hearing voices in the Barr report

I’ve unexpectedly spent a good chunk of my sabbatical semester thinking about heteroglossia. This might sound as if I’ve had just too much time on my hands, but I’ve become convinced that it’s one of the key concerns in academic writing. (Tl;dr version: skip to the bottom for the teaching implications!) Continue reading “Hearing voices in the Barr report”

Grammar Choices: What’s new in the second edition?

Grammar Choices (2nd edition coming January '19) | More information
Second Edition

The second edition of Grammar Choices has been published by the University of Michigan Press (available only directly from the press right now, and soon from Amazon). This is an exciting moment because it means enough people bought and liked the first edition to warrant a new one!

Why did we produce a second edition? The first edition of Grammar Choices was published in 2012, so it’s had a healthy life-span of 6 years, but of course academic English hasn’t changed much in that time! With any second edition, you have to strike a balance between adding and changing enough to justify a new edition, while not alienating users who liked the first edition. There’s always going to be a reading, exercise, or example that you’re angry at me for dropping (sorry).

My philosophy with this revision was to: Continue reading “Grammar Choices: What’s new in the second edition?”

Language learning as a tornado (or: yes, we do need to teach this again)

Don’t raise your hand because you might be in public, but are there any other ESL teachers out there who, in moments of frustration, have thought or said, But we covered that last class/week/semester/level/year? Yeah, thought so. Continue reading “Language learning as a tornado (or: yes, we do need to teach this again)”

Preparation for what?

I work in an intensive English program, whose purpose is to prepare international students for undergraduate and graduate degrees in the US. (So this would be a good time to note that all opinions on this blog are mine alone!)

I’m increasingly bothered by the idea of education as preparation. To some extent, it’s true: we need our schools to prepare young (and not so young) people to contribute usefully to society and fulfill their own potential. Such has always been one of the functions of schooling: education is a public as well as a private good. It’s also true that we in ESL have a duty to help our students develop the language proficiency that will help them accomplish their future academic, professional, and personal goals. To that extent, my teaching is very much concerned with preparation.

But I have a problem when the goal of preparation so dominates our mindset as teachers, curriculum designers, materials writers, and administrators that the lesson, course, or program ceases to have any meaning as an educational experience in itself.

Continue reading “Preparation for what?”

Can you reduce a non-restrictive relative clause?

Yes, I know that’s a question which has been keeping you up at night, but head on over to Cambridge’s Grammar and Beyond blog for my attempt at answering it. I’m not entirely sure I’ve got it quite right yet. While you’re there, you can play my new favorite game: find the sentence that faintly suggests the cover photo for the blog post!

My other recent posts there have been on there is/are and this/that/these/those, and they are equally riveting.

Grammar titbits and tidbits

I have a column in this month’s Grammar and Beyond newsletter on one of my favorite topics: noun + noun modification. It’s a nice segue from my recent articles on shifting from everyday to academic registers using nominalization and relative clauses. Suggestions for future topics are especially welcome right now!

I also just discovered that the reason I couldn’t get the title of this post to look right is that we say titbit in British English but tidbit in American English. Apparently, according to my favorite blog on the subject, this isn’t a case of Puritanical prudishness (you may titter all you like, dear reader), but an example of American English using the historically older form while British English goes off on its own tangent.

Introducing “Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Students” (video)

Here’s a short video I made last week at the Symposium of Second Language Writing at Purdue introducing Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers and explaining how and I why I cross-referenced my  book with the new edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students, both from the University of Michigan Press.

And yes, the piece of paper on the table was my cheat sheet (I don’t get a teleprompter!). It was actually quite easy to tie my book into AWGS because Swales & Feak’s approach to writing is inextricably linked to language (grammar and vocabulary), and they were already using a somewhat functional approach to grammar. In fact, the third edition has a wonderful expanded discussion of old-new information patterns, which I develop in the last unit of Grammar Choices (my students’ favorite part of the book, usually).

We put a lot of thought into how much new terminology to introduce in Grammar Choices, and on the advice of Chris Feak (as in Swales & Feak) and our mutual editor, Kelly Sippell, I tried to stick to terms (technically, a metalanguage) that would be familiar at least to North American readers and especially to those using AWGS. I also wrote an expanded introduction which explains concepts that are a little less frequently used here, as well as a glossary. I was greatly encouraged at the recent Genre 2012 conference to hear Jim Martin, no less, of Sydney University endorse teaching materials that simplify systemic functional grammar’s daunting metalanguage into familiar terms, so hopefully my attempt to use functional principles with more “traditional” (structuralist) terminology will help writers benefit from the major insights of functional grammar without me having to explain it or them having to learn it!

I welcome feedback from users or reviewers of Grammar Choices. You can leave a comment below or on the Michigan ELT blog or contact me directly. Exam/review/desk copies are available now from the publisher, and you and your students can buy the book directly from the Press, from amazon.com, or in class sets from your university bookstore.

“Grammar Choices” — available now!

I just got word that my new textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers, has been printed and will be on show at the Symposium of Second Language Writing at Purdue this week (which is also when I’ll get my hands on an advance copy!).

You can also see it here on the University of Michigan Press website and download Unit 1 to whet your grammatical appetite!

Update (9/6/12): I just saw a pile of the books here at SSLW. Makes it all seem rather more real!

I welcome feedback from users or reviewers of Grammar Choices. You can leave a comment below or on the Michigan ELT blog or contact me directly. Exam/review/desk copies are available now from the publisher, and you and your students can buy the book directly from the Press, from amazon.com, or in class sets from your university bookstore.