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BANGKOK 18 April 2019 22:24
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Mikey7

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I am trying to help my neighbors daughter improve her English. I am wondering, at what point do you teachers introduce the use of articles and how do you convey the meaning of them to your students?

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Do you mean that at the moment you're NOT using articles? :D I really think you're doing learners a disservice if you "simplify" sentences into things like "red apple on table". It's much better to use articles naturally so that you are constantly giving examples of correct usage.

It's a pretty complicated area of grammar when you start looking at the details and it wouldn't be appropriate to give a young learner loads of rules and exceptions to learn. A lot of mistakes can be prevented if students apply two basic rules though.

1. All singular countable nouns need an article.

2. Uncountable nouns and plural countable nouns take no article when talking about generalities.

I'd recommend first trying to get the concept of "countable/uncountable" nouns across. It's the basis of so much English grammar.

(Yikes, remember that food thread a week or two ago? :o )

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Thanks for the input nomade. No I haven't been trying to teach her without the articles. We have just begun and in the little English she speaks she has not been using them. Not being a true teacher myself I felt that she should learn using articles but didn't want to completely confuse or overwhelm her. You have given me a great deal of help here. Now I know how to simply explain it to her so that she can learn correctly. I really do appreciate it.

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My guess is that OP is asking more - when and how does one enter the complex vista of teaching articles - rather than if one should start using them?

So, my suggestion, as with all things grammar and pronunciation, is to teach them when they come up – as they happen.

Regardless of the original lesson – a quick little mini-lesson needs to occur to highlight the unique aspects of the grammar and pronunciation issues in EACH lesson as they happen. This is preferable, rather than specific full-blown lessons on the rather uninteresting aspects of grammar and pronunciation only.

Grammar, and pronunciation, are much more relevant when taught in the context of a regular lesson – and their relevance is what facilitates motivation to learn them – as well as helping the student understand and assimilate the information.

Just my opinion. All lessons should have little contextual “min-lessons” that highlight the specific grammatical aspects of the content being covered.

Otherwise, the points suggested by nomade - are a good place start. That, and given the correct situation - almost all uncountable nouns - can be countable!

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given the correct situation - almost all uncountable nouns - can be countable!

Here we go... I knew it! Hehe

Bob, you have made some excellent points and I agree totally that grammar should be taught in small doses and within context. But I disagree about the last bit you wrote! In what circumstances could words like ...advice, information, software, luggage, furniture, accomodation, permission, laughter etc ... be countable? :o

Mikey, it sounds like the mistakes your student is making are probably due to first language interference. I don't speak Thai but I'd guess articles aren't used in the same way as in English? A lot of language learning involves students "noticing" things. (The ahhhh!! factor) It's usually better if you can get students to notice grammar structures on their own rather than just telling them. Give loads of examples and see if your student can work out the "rule" for herself ... she'll remember it better if she does.

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given the correct situation - almost all uncountable nouns - can be countable!

Here we go... I knew it! Hehe

Bob, you have made some excellent points and I agree totally that grammar should be taught in small doses and within context. But I disagree about the last bit you wrote! In what circumstances could words like ...advice, information, software, luggage, furniture, accomodation, permission, laughter etc ... be countable? :D

In India and Malaysia! :o

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Yes,yes, I have so many happinesses, or as the Chinese say: Double happiness. :o

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Nomade,

Notice I said "almost all" - not "all".

Try this one: The variety of coffees grown in Africa is incredible.

Or from your list: The different softwares on my computer are not compatible. (I have Korean, Thai, and English Windows - and different components of each).

When an uncountable noun is used to indicate types or kinds - it can often be used as a countable noun. But this, again, is not a hard and fast rule.

Notice also, that I said, "Given the correct situation" - so, if when planning the launch of a new product in a new country and you are seeking the permission (again from your list), for example, of a variety of government entities - I might ask you, "Have you obtained all the permissions that are required?"

Okay, I realize these are all a bit on the fringe - and I would not typically teach these type situations to a less than advanced student - but they do exist and can, at times, be very appropriate.

What you'll learn after you taught a while is that almost (notice that d*amn almost again!) all grammar rules have innumerable exceptions. I've become a bit hesitant in my old age about being to absolute on almost any rules - unless I am quite aware of all the possible exceptions.

I had an office next door to an incredible grammarian for five years - and had many a grammar bubble burst.

And, btw, which of the Englishes (that d*amn "s" again!) of the world do you intend to say are correct or incorrect? Tongue in check here really, as I agree with you on many uncountable nouns - but I just wanted to write "Englishes"!!

Enjoy our language!

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1.

The variety of coffees grown in Africa is incredible.
No problem at all with that one Bob. It's perfectly acceptable ... just like the number of wines and cheeses produced in France is incredible.

2.

The different softwares on my computer are not compatible.
Personally that sounds wrong to me. I'd say "The different types of software on my computer are incompatible"...

3.

Have you obtained all the permissions that are required?"
Again I don't think that sounds right. I'd say "Have you obtained all the authorizations that are required?"

Note that when I disagree, I say "That doesn't sound right" ... obviously somewhere in my head I have assimilated "rules" that tell me this without my having to check it in a grammar book. However your assimilated rules seem to be different, which is quite interesting!

Conventional grammar explanations are rarely entirely satisafactory. To say that a grammar rule is both simple and accurate is usually an oxymoron. The way we try to describe "grammar" is obviously flawed ... I often feel there are some other rules that nobody's noticed yet. How come children learn to speak languages effortlessly and perfectly in a relatively short time with no formal grammar input at all?

Finally, I agree that there are many different "Englishes" and that just because we teach "standard" English doesn't make the other types less worthy. And I noticed while teaching TOEFL that there are many differences even between "standard" American and British grammar. There's also the fact that what is accepted as "correct" grammar changes over time.

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QUOTE 

Have you obtained all the permissions that are required?"

Again I don't think that sounds right. I'd say "Have you obtained all the authorizations that are required?"

'Permissions' is fine for a plural form... My feeling is that your 'feeling' might likely come from your own personal preference for use...Quite natural, and your form is correct, too.

Good point about the differences in British English and American English. There are many differences in grammar, especially prepositions of place, and also many differences in spelling, pronunciation and definitions...examples...'to table something'- opposite meanings...'Fanny'...American= cute word for 'bottom', 'butt...British= pussy :D

I learned that last one the embarrassing way... :o

And American English is the dominate English language now, I'd say.

Oh, here's a translator for those in need.. http://esl.about.com/library/vocabulary/blbritam.htm

And some more info and examples... http://www.sussex.ac.uk/langc/skills/ambrit.html

http://www.uta.fi/FAST/US1/REF/usgbglos.html

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Thank goodness the OP is about WHEN to start teaching articles.... HOW to teach them would be MUCH harder!

I'd say start off USING articles right away. The earlier the better- don't try to explain them at first; that'd just be wasted effort. Use sentences and examples and a lot of modelling (with appropriate confirmation from the students of course) to demonstrate and elicit meaning. Ideally, the kids will construct the meaning for themselves and get into the right habits and patterns. Later, when the formal usage is taught, they'll find they've been doing it all along without knowing the rules- just like we do!

"Steven"

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