Focus on content not language form

During classroom observation we noticed an overall focus on content, on communicating ideas and conveying message. The focus on content is expressed by the teachers' fairly strict attitudes towards knowledge of the subject matter on the one hand, and quite relaxed or liberal attitudes to language form on the other. We also noticed that most of the creative uses of grammar and pronunciation were passed over in silence by both teachers and peers. The typical features of teachers' and students' LF English included the following: omission and insertion of definite and indefinite articles, heavy reliance on certain verbs of high semantic generality, omission of third-person '-s' and use of universal question tags (Seidlhofer 2005: R 92).

Teachers' attitudes to language use, expressed in questionnaire answers, were a mixture of demanding in terms of what is taught, that is, content, definitions and vocabulary, and relaxed in terms of how students express themselves. Examples of comments describing these mixed attitudes are the following: '[I] give emphasis to science as opposed to English', '[...] I try to separate "language issues" from subject matters', and '[a]s long as they can communicate what they want to say (in maths) it doesn't matter how proficient they are.' Generally, there seems to be less focus on grammatical accuracy (e.g., 'We want their ideas, not proper grammar.'), although this varies according to different subjects and tasks. Both teachers and students distinguish the subjects and tasks that may require more accuracy and focus on form than others; in other words their approach is marked by a distinct level of flexibility.

 
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