Cainntear wrote:Well, there's the other side of the coin -- sentences being boring because they're pointless and/or mundane.
But if you look at Hashimi's second example -- the manager is absent -- it manages to evoke its own context. Even if the wording is slightly odd (why "absent"?) as soon as you say "the manager is..." then we're presumably in the situation where a customer is complaining -- and that's even if this sentence stands entirely on its own, absent any other context. That makes it a very meaningful sentence indeed.
And now you've taken an example, that vast majority of high schoolers will consider boring and pointless. And the very first post starting this discussion is about language class content not being relevant to a high schooler.
You see, the individual phrases' usefulness is very subjective. That's why I am convinced the too small subset of phrases and dwelling on them too much is more of a problem than "The book is red"
Truth be told, I think the language courses should start completely differently, based on my observations. I think lots of learners would appreciate starting from a detective story (the detective gets introduced, you describe suspects, you describe objects in the room, people talk about their alibi, about their motivations,.... you know, an Agatha Christie styled language course. And you would actually have a real motivation not to give up in the middle), or a fairy tale or encyclopedia styled book (kids excited about fairy tales, dinosaurs, animals, are all forced to "The book is red" or "How many rooms does your home have" (a real example thirty minutes were spent on in a class of ten year olds) or supposedly conversational phrases about nothing). There would definitely be space on the market for stuff like that.
"That is the problem" is a reductionist sentence. Why can't there be more than one problem?
My issue with what I call "expository" sentences (sentences that exist to teach a particular concept, and don't closely model natural utterances) is that they recur in the context of various different teaching methodologies, and every time they are criticised, it's as a criticism of the teaching method, rather than on their own merits as teaching examples. The first big criticism that I'm aware of was Otto Jespersen, writing the century before last, and propounding the direct/natural method. Yet fast forward to today and direct/natural teachers use weird expository sentences too -- for example in some early Lingq lessons you'll find monologues like this:
"Listen and repeat: What is your name? My name is Ana. What is his name? His name is Juan. What is her name? Her name is Maria. What age are you? I am 25 years old. What age is Juan? He is 22 years old. How old is Maria? She is 19 years old."
It's not natural, right? You can see pretty easily why the writer structured it that way and what she/he intends you to notice.
And now I agree and think you may have named a huge part of the problem.
The problem with "What is your name" parroting in the first sentences is how ever double: first is the weirdness of those sentences. Second: they are more boring than The book is red. As the other one is a pattern you can turn into many other sentences with substitution. The "He is 22 years old" allows just changing one tiny and boring variable.
aaleks wrote:but just "The book is red" is doing me a huge disservice because it inadvertently teaches me that the article is not important. The article in this sentence standing alone looks more like an accessory to me rather than a meaningful part of the sentence.
Thank you. I wish I had been able to put it so succintly.
As someone who had struggled a lot with the English articles at first, I cannot see how is this sentence harmful. In a context of several various sentences with use of articles, it is a very good example, in my opinion. Trust me, differenctiating between "I see a book." "The book is red.", was a huge problem for me. So, I cannot see how such a helpful sentence could be harmful to anyone struggling with the same problem. It is perhaps about the individual differences between the learners. But trust me, I would have loved to practice the definite article on "The book is red" instead of writing the official and full name of the UK a million times.