Wednesday, 23 June 2010

'From Old English to Standard English'

Is it possible to develop a Catholic approach to English language teaching? The dangers are obvious but we shouldn't dismiss the idea out of hand.

One starting point, for example, might be to look at the history of the language, using books like Dennis Freeborn's excellent From Old English to Standard English and its really useful companion website. English spelling and punctuation, to give just two examples, don't really make sense unless viewed in historical perspective and this book and website help provide just that.

Studying the history of the language also helps us to deal with the curious blindness that afflicts most school curricula: anything written pre-Reformation is deemed too difficult for schoolchildren which means that we end up with a wholly lopsided curriculum despite the supposed importance of the English literary heritage.

The book cannot be used straight, of course, but there are plenty of examples that can be profitably adapted for use from Key Stage 3 right through to A Level.

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