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Concourse 2

A short course in comparing languages: start here


This is the first page of a short (well, shortish) course concerned with learning about our students' languages and using that information to help both them as learners and us as teachers.
It is designed as a supplement to the in-service guide on language typology.


You may not use this material for commercial purposes.  The material may be used with fee-paying learners of English but may not be used on fee-paying courses for teachers.  Small excerpts from materials, conventionally attributed, may be used on such courses but wholesale lifting of materials is explicitly forbidden.  There is, of course, no objection at all to providing fee-paying course participants with a link to this course or to materials anywhere on this site.  Indeed, that is welcomed.


Two questions to answer

In some settings, the teacher shares a first language with the learners, in others the teacher is a fluent user of the learners' language(s).
In many settings, however, some at least of the learners' first language(s) may be wholly unknown to the teacher.

In all settings, knowledge, if only in theory, of how the learners' language(s) work is valuable because it helps us to answer these questions:


Doing this mini-course

The activities are divided into short texts with some information and tasks to complete and the occasional exercise to test you as we go along.  At the end, there is an opportunity to test yourself to see how much you can remember.
There are 4 stages following this page but you don't have to do them at the same time.  You can stop, make a note of where you are and come back when you've had a break.  Up to you.
There is a menu at the foot of each page that you can use to navigate around the 4 stages, this page and the example lesson materials.  If this is your first visit, however, the advice is to follow the stages in order.

You can do this course alone or with colleagues with whom you can discuss your reactions to the tasks and exercises.  Whichever way you prefer, please have a pen and paper handy so that you can write not just think about your responses.

From time to time, you will get a task to do.  When that happens, please respond to the task before moving on.

Here's the first task.

think write This is a sign written by someone whose 1st language is not English (obviously?).
Question: Why was the mistake made?
Write down some reasons before you go on to the first stage of the activity proper.


When you ready to go on to Stage 1, please click here.

Index Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 The lesson

References for this course include:
Campbell, GL, 1995, Compendium of the World's Languages, London: Routledge
Comrie, B, 1983, Language Universals and Linguistic Typology, Oxford: Blackwell
Croft, W, 1990, Typology and Universals, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Cruttenden, A, 1997, Intonation (2nd edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Crystal, D, 1987, Encyclopaedia of Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Ellis, R, 1994, The Study of Second Language Acquisition, Oxford: Oxford University Press
https://www.ethnologue.com/ is a good source of information about language types and characteristics
https://linguisticmaps.tumblr.com/ has a range of interesting and informative maps
https://wals.info/ is the site of the World Atlas of Language Structures and contains technical data on hundreds of languages