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Unlearning as a Process of Learning: Practical Aspects in Teaching English in a Second Language Setting

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This paper addresses pedagogic issues relating to the teaching of English in a second language setting. It argues for a descriptive and functional approach to language teaching and learning and insists that traditional approaches, which tend to be mainly prescriptive, are no longer adequate for addressing the communicative needs of today’s language learners. Specifically, it opines that learning English entails “unlearning” the discomfort we are taught about such things as double negatives. It proposes a dynamic, interactive and collaborative approach to English language teaching and learning. Results of actual classroom experiments are presented to illustrate how instructors can determine the actual language needs of students and thus tailor their instructions to address these. The experiments also support the central argument in this essay that predetermined department-based syllabi might need to be regulated to make them functional to the needs of specific students. As the results of the experiments show, a failure to make such functional alignments could produce students who are only notionally educated but functionally empty. Key Words: unlearn, second language, ESP, ESL, pedagogy, chalkface, elearning


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