“When a truth is presented as the only truth, it is nothing more than a deception”. If applied to English teaching, this could be, perhaps, rephrased as: when a tense is presented to be used only for the time its name represents, it is nothing more than a deception. Generally, it is taught that the tenses are only to express actions of the time they “represent”, allowing the student to gain the misconception that tenses are entirely connected with time, even though their uses are by no means limited to their names as such, i.e. “present tense” for “present time” only. This is "a truth presented as the only truth" and thus erroneous in its very nature.
The fallacy of time-tense relationship lies in the fact that English language has only two tenses yet there are three “parts” of the timeline: past, present and future time. When a learner is faced with the grammatical use of the tenses, the common teaching configuration will be, for example, that “Present tense” is associated with events happening in the present: the now of the timeline, or the general idea of an action. Nonetheless, it is commonly omitted by the teacher, who by virtue of being a native English speaker does not voluntarily think about the full-spectrum application, that the tenses are not bound to the timeline and that the word “tense” is merely a term used by the grammarians to label the form of the verb (Lewis, 1986: 50)
In an attempt to explain why this is so gravely disregarded, it might be logical to have a quick look into the psychology: “The human brain is an inveterate pattern-seeker. Once found, patterns are classified, related to other patterns and used to predict yet further patterns and correlations and it is in fact an aggressive process driven by search for predictability” (Blevins, 2009: 1) Such predictability is what the teachers are after; it simplifies the process of explanation based on the rigidness of the books and teaching methodology concerning the herein discussed...
Bibliography: Lewis, M. (1986). The English Verb. (UK: Language Teaching Publications)
Blevins, J.P. and Blevins, J. (2009). Analogy in Grammar, Form and Acquisition (Oxford: Oxford University Press.)
Stillman, A. (2010). Grammatically Correct. (Ohio: F+W Media, Writer’s Digital Books, EPUB)
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