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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 3; Issue 3; May 2001

An Old Exercise

Dear Mario,

I think HLT mag is great. I have found lots of favourite old activities in there. However, I would love it if you dug out the activity in Challenge to Think, Frank et al., about Meaning and Contexts and put it in the mag. It's pity this book is now out of print.

Lynn Bradshaw clbcz@yahoo.co.uk

Dear Lynn,

It is a very great pity Challenge is out of print, as I do not know of any other book that so directly appeals to the mind of strongly logical-mathematically intelligent students. The exercise below is a very primitive form of pragmatics exercise.

Like you, Lynn, I often forget activities that were part of my stock-in-trade 15-20 years ago and yet when they some how float back into view, I am best of friends with them.


Context and Meaning
The meaning of a very simple statement depends on who says it, who they are speaking to and where the two people are. Because the people are both in the situation, the meaning is clear to them - it doesn't need to be said. For example:

Statement Meaning Context
' The door is open' You forgot to lock it again, idiot! A bank manager to a clerk standing in front of the safe first thing in the morning.
What a relief! Don't have to sit out here, waiting for some-one to come home. Person arrives home without a key, no one there, the person tries the door and opens it.
No wonder I'm bloody freezing! A person sitting in a draughty room.
Shut the door. Two people in an office. It's very noisy next door and one person wants the door shut.
Please come in. Receptionist to someone who's just knocked.
Come and see me anytime Boss to new employee

Exercise 1
Ask the students to fill in the meaning column.

StatementMeaning Context
' It's raining' Mum to young son dressed only in shorts and T-shirt who is going outside.
Farmer to harvesters.
Noah to his wife.
Man dying of thirst at sea in a small boat.
Driver with broken wipers to passenger on dark road.

Exercise 2

Ask the student to fill in the context column.

Statement Meaning Context
' I feel tired' I don't want to make love
It's time you went home.
Carry me!
I'm ready to die.
I've done enough work today.
Wow, maybe I can get to sleep!

Exercise 3

Ask the student to fill in both right hand columns

Statement MeaningContext
' He's not answering '

In Challenge to Think, Pages 23-26, you will find another 18 exercises of the sort outlined above.
The statements used in these exercises are:

    ' The sun is coming up'
    ' I do wish they'd get here!'
    ' I got a headache'
    ' I've had this dress for years'
    ' Want a cigarette?'
    ' Would you like to stay the night?'
    ' I don't know what to say'
    ' When are you coming back?'
    ' No need to explain.'
    ' Think I'd better get down to work'
    ' Well, wha d'you think?'
    ' A bit late for that.'
    ' His glass's half empty.'
    ' I'll be in touch next week'
    ' No, not hungry, thank you.'
    ' She needs a change.'
    ' Where d'you think you're going?'

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