In my previous post, I mentioned this article, in which the authors discuss ELF (English as a lingua franca) and describe what happens if a priority in communication is color over clarity. They argue that idiomatic and culture-bound expressions can be very difficult to grasp for someone who hasn’t grown up in the inner circle world of English. They conclude that ELF-aware native speakers can optimise their speaking habits to be as comprehensible as possible in a world where fewer and fewer English speakers have grown up speaking it as their first language.
Just a couple of hours after publishing my post, I came across this article. It’s a great read except that it contains so many idiomatic expressions and metaphors that it turns reading into a torture – at least for me. I had to read it twice to be sure that I hadn’t missed anything important.
Its complexity made me wonder who the article was actually written for. I dare conclude that definitely not for me, a person based in the expanding circle of English, and I dare say that while producing the text, the authors only kept a specific group of native speakers in mind.
The fact that the authors are so creative language-wise is nothing that shocks me. Authors do that. I myself like to be creative after all. However, considering the fact that the article discusses a hot issue which educators all around the world (native and non-native) have recently been delving into, I’d really appreciate it if the text was a bit more EFL-user-friendly. Some of the expressions below may be plain confusing – hard nuts to crack (to throw in an idiom too) – not just because they are metaphors or idioms, but because they allude to facts and concepts an average non-native educator may not be familiar with.
- These are big claims indeed, and many people have believed them, some of them with Monopoly cheque books
- Donald Clark has fairly comprehensively harrowed many of the HOTW claims.
- playing games and, I imagine, downloading stag flicks
- It seems to me that the more outlandish the magic bullet claim in education
- But Mitra’s work taps into zeitgeists that are very, very groovy indeed
- the need to replace the ossified dogma of factory-farm learning
- It’s like Ken Robinson regenerated into the next Doctor and the Sonic Screwdriver became a laptop
- It’s proper, of course, to play the ball, not the player
- platforms of ill repute where caveat emptor should be the reader’s watchword
- Besides, there was a little bit of brass action
- Roll that about for a while, really rub your tongue around it
- Holy smoke, we just invented educational cold fusion
- unless you hover like a drone on some of their shoulders
- they’ll be cruising FIFA emulators and Googling PewDiePie all lesson
- for the Kardashian generation
- good intentions are a worthless currency
- to be blown on the roulette wheel of unfathomably bad science
I’m keenly aware that if English is somebody’s mother tongue, they may not have had much practice in thinking about its complexities. It doesn’t even cross their mind that they should try to avoid language that speakers of other languages find challenging.
Still, it makes me wonder why people revel in metaphors and idioms.
- Metaphor is a stylistic device, but it is cognitively important as well.
- Metaphor can serve as a device for persuading the reader of the writer’s argument.
Correct me if I’m wrong but in this particular case, the authors use certain language devices to turn the article into a humorous read. It may seem quite understandable, even though it’s a serious critique of someone’s work. The trouble is that although the authors are trying to discredit Sugata Mitra’s theory (claiming that Mitra’s passion for sci-fi has, unfortunately, bled into his research), they’re actually doing so using means which are rhetorical rather than scientific.
One may oppose that the authors do refer to credible sources which support their skeptical view on Mitra’s work. Nevertheless, their somewhat mocking style and numerous allusions to concepts that are totally unfamiliar to a common educator out there in the expanding circle world may end up as a futile attempt at offering people something valuable to ponder and discuss.
Note: I’m obviously not saying that native speakers of English should resort to Idiot English (Marc Jones’s term), but, maybe, they should start thinking about who their audiences are or may potentially be in the world of so many Englishes, especially if they wish to spread their message as far as possible.