Tag Archives: presentations

How to teach the present perfect without tears

When I told my colleague Jim I was writing about how to teach the present perfect, he compared teaching the present perfect to climbing up a hill backwards in flippers: time-consuming, frustrating and difficult. Looking back, the present perfect would have to win the prize for the grammar point over which the most metaphorical tears have been shed in my classroom- and not only by the participants!

The majority of the people I have presented the present perfect to have been German speakers, for whom it often proves extremely challenging. One of the greatest obstacles to understanding appears to be the fact that in German the combination of have with a verb form which signifies the past is used to convey finished time. The same issue can also arise with French speakers for the same reason. In Arabic too, a difference in grammatical assumptions may lead to confusion. Some Arabic speakers would find that it makes more sense to use their equivalent of the present simple to convey a situation which began in the past and continues into the present, for example.

The bottom line is that it can be tough to implement a linguistic concept in a foreign language when it doesn´t exist in your first language. Fortunately, the concept of the perfect does exist in Spanish, where it is also formed using the verb have, and in Portuguese, so, in theory at least, learners who speak these languages should have fewer difficulties with the English present perfect.

You´ll notice that I use the word concept, rather than tense, since I believe that seeing the present perfect in this light is a step towards making it easier to grasp for our learners.

In the lesson plan, I have focused on introducing learners to the present perfect for the first time (or perhaps, re-introducing them to it after a twenty year hiatus during which they have had no or very little contact with English).  My approach definitely pushes function to the forefront and focuses on strategies learners can employ in order to be able to use the present perfect effectively.

Download the lesson plan here. If you try this approach out in your classroom, please leave me a comment below because I´d love to hear how you got on with it.

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The missing link: Linking words

I have often found myself being asked by participants in upper-intermediate or advanced groups if we could cover how to use words like: however, although and nevertheless in future lessons. They had heard about these mysterious words, or maybe they had even read them in a text, but they didn´t know what to do with them and felt that they should. I´m not sure if learning something because you feel that you should is always a worthwhile thing to do, yet learning something new which will increase your range of expression can definitely make for a positive learning experience.

A member of one of my groups, who has been taking an English course in his company for over ten years- no one is exactly sure how long he´s been in training anymore- remarked with great surprise while completing this activity on linking words, that he had actually learnt something new. He hadn´t known that the word since could also be used to give a reason/ as a substitute for because and not only to link a point in the past to the present.

Challenging learners to see the English language in a new light or teaching them something they didn´t know when they thought they already knew it all, can feel like a breath of fresh air to them.

In terms of “usefulness”, linking words are more useful for learners who have frequent contact with native rather than non-native speakers of English. More specifically, they can help people who have to write reports, evaluations and other similar, extended texts in English or have to make presentations. In these situations, the use of linking words can increase the clarity of what they want to say and enable them to appear more sophisticated in their use of the English language, thus leaving a positive impression on their readership or audience.

For learners preparing for an exam, such as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), linking words are also a must and cannot be ignored.

I would suggest starting with a linking words quiz to establish what the participants know or don´t already know and then move on to a text-based activity where they can practise using the linking words themselves.

Click here to download the lesson plan.

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