On Linguistic Rebellion

After having read Josette LeBlanc’ post Linguistic Rebellion, I gathered I had nothing to share related to the topic. I’m not a rebel after all; I’ve never done anything truly rebellious. Well, my mother says that I once (I was just coming of age) seriously rebelled against her authority, but that’s all I can think of. But this challenge seemed too interesting not to take it up. I’m not a rebel but when something captures my attention, I’m bound and determined to go for it, no matter the effort. So I there must be something I can recall ………………. Damn it! No, there’s nothing I can come up with. Sorry.

Nonetheless, I’m a witness to a serious type of rebellion on a daily basis and that is when L2 learners rebel against important authority figures (English teachers) and the authority of English grammar. Luckily for me, they use various non-violent methods of rebellion; such as refusing to follow the rules I’ve taught them (so laboriously). Here are a few examples: on purpose and repeatedly, they omit the -s ending in the third person singular verbs. They purposely forget to use the auxiliaries do, does and did in questions. They deliberately use the past tense where the present perfect is appropriate. What’s more, they intentionally add -ed to verbs which are clearly irregular. They keep using totally inappropriate prepositions, such as look on the picture. Why on earth do they do it? Out of spite? For a cause? Is it the need for independence and a separate identity? Are they just testing authority? Are they showing off? Is it part of their growing up?

It’s no secret that all of them go through similar phases and the truth is that they soon become fed up with this kind of ‘rebellion’. By now the reader has undoubtedly discovered that I’m just teasing them (as you might have noticed, I’ve just put the word rebellion in inverted commas for the first time in this post, just in case .. I don’t want to discredit my reputation). Anyway, I have no doubt that we all are familiar with the term interlanguage. However, there are still teachers who truly believe that learners make mistakes on purpose, intentionally, deliberately, out of spite … or simply because they are not paying attention (at best) or because they are not clever enough (at worst).

To conclude, I’m utterly convinced that any kind of non-violent rebellion (conscious or inadvertent) is desirable at some stage of development. It’s even inevitable. In language learning or acquisition it’s even more obvious – we need to do things in a wrong way in order to realize what the right way is. So, let’s be tolerant and patient with our little rebels; they’ll grow out of it. 🙂


About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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4 Responses to On Linguistic Rebellion

  1. we need to do things in a wrong way in order to realize what the right way is….couldn't have said it better my L1 self.

    This is a very interesting take on Josette's challenge, and an important thing for all us educators to be reminded of, or taught.

    Thanks for sharing, your recent prolific blog work has been very enlightening.



  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks John. It's nice when people pop round and leave a comment. That's why we do it, and for the satisfaction we feel when writing up a post 🙂


  3. lizzieserene says:

    I love this post. It made me smile big. Yes it is important to remember that they will grow out of it. When I was a new teacher, I used to get angry at my students' mistakes. I drilled and drilled and got mad when they didn't do it right. “We've been learning this every day for weeks! How can you still get it wrong!” And you know what? *I* grew out of that, too.


  4. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your comment, Anne. You've just made a great point – like our students, we also have to grow out of certain attitudes. It's also a kind of rebellion to think: 'No, I'm going to be a better teacher than my teachers were. I'm going to do things in a different way'. The fact is that one has to make compromises all along the way.


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