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How Myths about Language Affect Education

What Every Teacher Should Know

David Johnson

Publication Year: 2013

How Myths about Language Affect Education: What Every Teacher Should Know clarifies some of the most common misconceptions about language, particularly those that affect teachers and the decisions they make when they teach English language learners. The chapters in this book address myths about language in general, about first and second language acquisition, about language and society, and about language and thinking. Each chapter concludes with activities for teachers that give examples, exercises, or simple questions that relate directly to teachers' everyday dealings with ELLs and language. How Myths about Language Affect Education is not intended to be a complete introduction to linguistics; it does not contain information on phonetics or complex syntactic explanations, and technical jargon is kept to a minimum. The aim of this book is not to settle language issues but rather to highlight popular misconceptions and the ways that they influence debates regarding language and affect language policies in and out of the classroom.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Cover Page

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p. 1-1

Title Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-9

Language fascinates and captivates. I have never met an adult who could not or would not talk about language. Everyone seems to have an opinion on language, dialects, and grammar, and few people seem interested in changing any of their linguistic opinions. When people find out that I am an English teacher (and a linguist), ...

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1. Myths about Language in General

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pp. 10-37

The quotes represent two dichotomous views in a fundamental and longstanding debate regarding language. Samuel Johnson, an eighteenth-century lexicographer, intimates that language can degenerate. This represents a common and somewhat alarmist opinion about language that was not only prevalent in Johnson’s time but is in fact still prevalent now. ...

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2. Myths about First Language Acquisition

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pp. 38-55

Parents have an instinctive understanding that language skills are among the most crucial for a child’s success, and indeed they are. Yet parents are not always quite sure how to develop these language skills. They worry if they are doing the right things to teach their children language. ...

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3. Myths about Second Language Acquisition

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pp. 56-73

Few Americans are proficient in a second language, yet they seem to criticize ELLs for not learning English quickly. This criticism is not only ironic, it also demonstrates a plethora of misunderstandings about second language acquisition. This chapter will clarify some of these misconceptions and show how policies or viewpoints based on these misconceptions do a disservice to ELLs. ...

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4. Myths about Language and Society

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pp. 74-84

Language and society are linked; neither can exist without the other. We identify ourselves and others as members of language and dialect groups, as the character from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath points out. This has sociological and pedagogical ramifications. The study of this intersection of language and society is known as sociolinguistics, ...

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5. Myths about Language and Thinking

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pp. 85-97

At some point in a linguistics course, students question the relationship between language and thought. It occurs to students that somehow language and thought are connected, but they are not quite sure how. The lexicographer Samuel Johnson understood the relationship, but he did not know exactly how the two were related. ...

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pp. 98-99

Twenty years ago, searching for academic information was a time-consuming task. Libraries had card catalogues, big file cabinets with small cards that one had to explore to find a text on a subject. Finding articles in periodicals was even more laborious. Researching took time, and there was no guarantee of finding the right information in a particular library. ...


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pp. 100-106


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pp. 107-113

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029792
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472032877

Page Count: 120
Publication Year: 2013