Tokyo British Council:

EFL: Defining the Subject

Date: Wednesday, November 27th, 2002 Time: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Speaker: Henry Widdowson, University of Vienna

Henry Widdowson is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Vienna. Professor Widdowson sits on the Board of Management of the ELT Journal and, among other projects, he is the general editor of the Oxford Introductions to Language Study, designed to provide brief, clear introductions to the main disciplinary areas of language study, such as Second Language Acquisition, Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, Language Testing, and Language and Culture.
In this presentation: Teachers teach subjects and for English teachers their subject is English. But how is this subject to be defined? The traditional assumption is that it is done by reference to what native-speakers know of their language and how they use it, and that the proficiency which courses should develop is to be measured against the competence of native speakers as this is represented in linguistic descriptions. In this presentation Widdowson argue that these assumptions are of questionable validity on a number of counts. The notion of native-speaker competence is itself problematic, as is the idea that it should set the norms for all English learners and users to conform to. The English that is taught as a subject, he argues, is bound to be in certain crucial ways quite different from the English as it naturally occurs in contexts of social use, and has to be contrived in one way or another in order to make it appropriate for learning. The discussion will involve giving critical consideration to a number of popular beliefs about English teaching, some of long-standing, like the belief that any reference to, or use of, mother tongue should be avoided, and more recent ones like the idea that classroom language has to be authentic. This presentation welcomes audience participation and will offer an occasion for further discussion on key issues in the field of English language teaching.
This program is co-sponsored by JACET (Japan Association of College English Teachers)

Organization: The British Council Tokyo Centre (Tokyo British Council)

Cost: free

Venue: Kobe Unity Hall

Location: Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan


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