Advancing the advanced
by Diane Hall & Mark Foley
To continue with the work on gradable
and ungradable adjectives, it's best to use examples that
students might easily come across in the real world:
Ungradable adjectives are not usually used in
comparatives and superlatives and we do not use very to make
x Entrance to the museum is very free.x
Entrance to the museum is absolutely free.
xThe Ming vases are more priceless than the Egyptian mummies.x
xThe Ming vases are more valuable than the Egyptian mummies.x
[from page 233, Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar]
It is also desirable to practise language as
much as possible at discourse rather than sentence level.
While sentence-level practice is useful at lower levels and
when learning rules of formation, it is often less appropriate
for advanced students. Typical examples of discourse-level
practice are multiple-choice exercises but based on a text
(example 1 below), and error correction in discourse (2):
... Muscarella's earlier claims have been (1) ... by some
museum officials who are (2) ... opposed to his arguments.
But Muscarella has (3) ... good scientific evidence for his
claims, showing that over 40 per cent of the objects examined
by the Oxford Thermoluminescence laboratory are fakes.
1 A - discussed B - rejected C - criticised
2 A - bitterly B - highly C - rather
3 A - perfectly B - absolutely C - somewhat
[from page 237, Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar]
[Students have to find the unsuitable adjectives and substitute
We've seen most of the sights in the city. Karen was absolutely
pleased when we went to the 'Sagrada Familia' - she loves
Gaudi's work. It's certainly a totally rare building. And
Steve was very ecstatic about going to the Maritime Museum
- he seems to find anything to do with boats utterly interesting.
I can't understand it myself. I was absolutely annoyed when
he suggested we stay there over lunchtime - especially as
I was a bit famished at the time ...
[from page 239, Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar]
* Answers to these extracts are given at the
end of the article.
4 General tips for awareness raising
It is important when presenting grammar to provide contextualised
examples and information from the real world and actual environment,
in order to illustrate real language use more effectively.
When checking understanding, get students to go beyond the
sentence level and put the target language into a wider context,
e.g. not It couldn't have been my mother at the bus
stop but The woman you saw at the bus stop
yesterday couldn't have been my mother, because my mother
always drives to the shops.
One of the reasons that we find some errors
difficult to classify is that they are lexical rather than
grammatical. Encourage students to recognise the links between
lexis and grammar, and to see patterns, so when they learn
new vocabulary they learn it in a grammatical context. We
should encourage students to learn, for example, phrasal verbs
with an object (put something down), verbs
and adjectives with their dependent prepositions (complain
about something), adjectives with their adverb
collocates (deeply religious), or reporting
verbs with their patterns (thank somebody for doing
To help students use language naturally and
fluently, encourage them to see the structures that underlie
everything they read and listen to. Make them aware of authentic
reading texts as a source of grammar and have them analyse
these in terms of grammar use as well as meaning. Cloze tests
and tasks involving the reassembling of cut-up texts are useful
in helping students understand the importance of discourse.
When doing these sorts of task it is important to talk about
the clues (e.g. collocates, linkers) that help us to fill
the gaps or to put the text back together.
In this article, we have looked at reasons why it
can be so difficult to teach grammar to a class of advanced
students, with reference to the Longman Advanced Learners'
Grammar. We have looked at a way of assessing students' weaknesses,
by using diagnostic tests, and we have looked at how to analyse
the kind of errors that advanced students make that are not
easily recognisable. We have then looked at ways of helping
students to 'see the bigger picture', i.e. to focus on larger
chunks of text and not just on sentences. In all of this,
with students at advanced level, the most important thing
is to raise their awareness: their awareness of their own
weaknesses, or how to tackle and improve those areas of weakness,
and of how the English language works at text and discourse
level, i.e. the level at which advanced students should be
* Answers to exercise extracts:
x absolutely pleased >> absolutely delighted
x totally rare >> totally unique
x very ecstatic >> very pleased/happy
x utterly interesting >> utterly fascinating
x absolutely annoyed >> absolutely furious
x a bit famished >> a bit hungry
Hall has been involved in English language Teaching
and Publishing for over 25 years. She taught for several
years in the UK and Germany before moving into publishing
and writing. She has written a number of books, notably
the Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar and Distinction,
a course for advanced learners (with Mark Foley), and
Pacesetter, an upper secondary course, with Derek
Strange. Diane has a teaching qualification in ELT and
an MA in Second Language Learning and Teaching from the
University of London.
has worked in English Language Teaching for over 23 years
and has extensive experience in teaching (mostly in the
UK and Spain), teacher training, examining and materials
writing. He is the co-author of a number of publications,
including the Longman ELT advanced titles Distinction
and Advanced Learners' Grammar.
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