Internet memes & concept checking, by Marcelo de Cristo

Internet memes are all around us these days. Whether you like them or not, you are bombarded with them 24/7 through social media. And so are your learners – kids, teens and adults who sometimes find learning about grammar difficult… or just dead boring! So how can you take advantage of internet memes to help your learners understand grammar? In other words, how can you use internet memes for checking key grammar concepts? Read on and find out. Continue reading Internet memes & concept checking, by Marcelo de Cristo

Subject / verb agreement mistakes: 7 things to bear in mind.

First things first: What is subject / verb agreement?

It’s a grammatical rule that states that the verb must agree in number with its subject. In English, present tense verbs change to show agreement in the third person singular form by adding an S (or ES). Seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? So how could it be that students of all levels, nationalities and age groups seem to get this wrong far more often than would seem reasonable? Continue reading Subject / verb agreement mistakes: 7 things to bear in mind.

teaching inversion – guest post by Ricardo Barros

It has long bothered me that the use of inversions in speaking is largely seen as unnatural. Time and time again I would go to a training session or overhear other teachers speaking and inversions would come up in a mocking tone, as if using this particular structure in speaking is hilarious in itself. In my experience, inversions (and to be more specific, inversions after negative adverbials) are commonly presented in advanced course books (CEFR C1) as a formal structure that should only be used in writing. Continue reading teaching inversion – guest post by Ricardo Barros

Things that maybe you didn’t know about despite and in spite of

Last week I attended an interesting talk on the role of corpora in language teaching and it reminded me a small-scale, corpus-based study I carried out in the late 90s as part of my coursework at Lancaster university. Here are some of the questions I sent out to investigate using the British National Corpus:

1. Which linking word is more commonly used to express contrast: however, although or on the other hand?
2. Which linking word is more common: despite or in spite of?
3. Despite + in spite of are followed by an ING verb (e.g.: despite not knowing) far more often than by a noun phrase (e.g.: despite his lack of money). True or false?
4. Is despite + the fact that a common collocation?
5. Both despite and in spite of “attract” mostly negative words (e.g.: despite the recession, the rain, the lack etc.). True or false?

Answers:

1. However, with sixty-one thousand occurrences, followed by although, with forty-three thousand. On the other hand, a textbook favorite, had as few as five thousand.

2. Based on the BNC’s 1998 data, despite is apparently five times more common than in spite of. It seems, however, that since the 2000s, there’s been a slight drop in the total number of despite occurrences. It would be interesting to carry out the same study using the British National Corpus and compare the results.

luiz otavio barros in spite of

3. False. The overwhelming majority of occurrences (approximately 90%) contain noun-phrases. This is something textbook writers ought to take into account when tackling despite and in spite of.

4. Yes. Other collocates include: attempts, efforts, setback, lack of.

5. Probably true. Based on the BNC data, the semantic prosody of despite and in spite of seems to be predominantly negative.

It would be interesting to carry out the same study using (1) the BNC fifteen years later; (2) a corpus that was not predominantly based on written data.