The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

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Deinonysus
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Re: The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:05 pm

Cainntear wrote:
SCMT wrote:Look at the sky! It will rain! This may not be common usage, but it is not wrong. "It's going to rain," is more natural speech.

It is wrong. We have a problem in English that we insist on calling [i]will
"the future tense", when it's something far more specific than that. "Will" denotes a decision, a promise, a consequence or a prediction. The doorbell rings -- "I'll get it" => decision. "I'll always be here for you" => promise. "If you build it, he will come" => consequence.

Every one of these involves some sense of volition, which is perfectly logical if you think about it -- I mean, the word is will after all.

The prediction doesn't always imply volition though, and while "It will rain tomorrow" is possible (albeit slightly "stiff" sounding), it really, really needs something to say when.

But despite the fact that "will" is not, and has never been, the "future tense" in English, it has been taught that way for a long time. I have witnessed teachers deliberately teaching it as "the future tense", training people to use it in situations where it's not appropriate.

Heck, even Cambridge examiners use it wrong, describing the procedures of a test with "will".


Which leaves me kind of pulled both ways about international English.

If the emerging "learner English"/"English as lingua franca" is a result of natural processes, that's fine. But some parts of it are just a result of poor teaching, and "natural process" becomes a nonsense if it's used to paper over bad teaching.

I'm not sure I understand the distinction. Could you provide more examples of where "will" can't be used as a future tense marker? "Look at the sky! It will rain!" does sound unnatural to me but I can't think of any other examples.

Maybe this is a difference between US and UK English. In speech I would use the contracted form "it'll rain tomorrow" interchangeably with "it's gonna rain tomorrow".
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Re: The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

Postby Iversen » Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:06 pm

I agree that "(it) will rain" isn't simply a future, and a simple prediction about the immediate future would probably be expressed as "it is going to rain". It might function with a conditional clause added or some suitable adverbs ("if there is enough moisture in the air and ..., then it will rain"), but then you have already altered the context of "it will rain".

But couldn't the troublesome construction "Look at the sky! It will rain!" exemplify an ominous prediction against all odds? The weather channel says it will stay dry, the meteorologists say it will stay dry and my travel agency claims that it never rains in Egypt at this time of the year, but I tell you that it will rain - just look at the sky! This is of course not quite the original statement since you would emphasize "will", but the words are the same.

And yes, I know this is an unlikely scenario, but the world is full of even more unlikely scenarios.

PS: I just read the post from Deinonysus above and got an idea. Could "will" or shall" be more acceptable in their abbreviated forms, like in "It'll rain tomorrow", said without any special emphasis? Maybe writing/saying "will" in full calls for a specific reason, because it would have been easier just to use the abbreviation?
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Re: The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

Postby SCMT » Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:52 pm

Deinonysus wrote:I'm not sure I understand the distinction. Could you provide more examples of where "will" can't be used as a future tense marker? "Look at the sky! It will rain!" does sound unnatural to me but I can't think of any other examples.

Maybe this is a difference between US and UK English. In speech I would use the contracted form "it'll rain tomorrow" interchangeably with "it's gonna rain tomorrow".


I agree.

It'll rain soon.

It will rain a lot in the spring.

It won't rain today.

I'm not qualified to get into the weeds of linguistic hair splitting, but I side with the aforementioned Cambridge examiners in thinking all of those are correct English.
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Re: The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

Postby Ser » Wed Aug 14, 2019 7:11 pm

(EDIT: Urgh, I didn't notice there was some discussion regarding "will" here. Please note I wrote this post wrongly thinking tussentaal's post had gone completely ignored.)

tussentaal wrote:Common errors in Euro English:

It is not allowed to smoke here.
Please speak slowlier.
How does he look like?
I recommended her to try the cake.
Look at the sky! It will rain!
I feel quite better now.

I agree with you regarding the first three errors as well as the fifth one. They should be "No smoking" (or "Smoking is not allowed here"), "Please speak more slowly" (or simply "Please speak slowly"), "What does he look like?", and "Look at the sky! It's going to rain!".

However, "I recommended her to try the cake" was a perfectly acceptable construction as recently as the first half of the 20th century, so using it today would be old-fashioned. It is likely still found in use among a minority of native speakers. However, it is true that nowadays we would prefer to say "I said she should try the cake" (or, formally and chiefly in American/Canadian English: "I recommended that she try the cake").

I am suspicious of there being any error in the sixth one. A speaker from California that I mentioned this to at least told me that "I feel quite better now" is conceivably acceptable, although it's true that "I feel a lot better now" or "I feel quite a bit better now" would be the preferred expressions.
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Re: The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

Postby tommus » Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:49 pm

Ser wrote:However, "I recommended her to try the cake" was a perfectly acceptable construction as recently as the first half of the 20th century, so using it today would be old-fashioned.

I would say that using it today would just be considered wrong. "Recommended" begs something to recommend, not who to recommend something to. So you could say "I recommended to her to try the cake" or "I recommended that she try the cake". If you say "I recommended her", that would be OK if "she" was part of the recommendation such as "I recommended her for the job." So again, "recommended" begs something to recommend or "to" someone.
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Re: The implications of English proficiency among non-native speakers

Postby golyplot » Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:06 am

tungemål wrote:Ok, this one is hard. Let me try:
- Please speak slowly / more slowly


"More slowly" is technically correct, but it sounds a bit stilted. In everyday speech, people would instead say "Please speak slower".

Speaking of which, I got curious so I looked it up. Apparently, this phenomenon is known as flat adverbs.
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