Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


A teachable moment for unexpected errors in ESL/EFL contexts


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


The widespread use of English around the world has led to some unexpected consequences that ESL/EFL professionals have to face. Teachers who predicate their explanations of syntactic errors and vocabulary misuse by English learners on published codified rules will quickly find themselves hard pressed to explain some of the most unusual English on billboards, public signs, commercial advertisements, restaurant menus, and the internet in many parts of the world. A hotel bathroom sign that cautions patrons to slip carefully because of the wet floor, a yogurt-transporting truck carrying the label acid milk, a trash dumpster with the word seedcase printed on it, a restaurant plaque that warns customers to take care of the good personal luggage are only several of the many and more complex examples that may well befuddle English teachers. While classroom teaching typically focuses on the usual organizing communicative activities, facilitating learner-centered language development, teaching grammar rules and vocabulary usage, fostering cultural awareness and pragmatic competence, language use in what Bachman (2010) calls the real world takes on its own twists and defies what a classroom teacher would expect to happen in an error-prone ESL/EFL environment. If a teachable momentis one in which a certain lexical, grammatical, cultural, or pragmatic phenomenon triggers extended learning, thinking, and analysis of a larger context applicable to a larger population of learners, then the real-world English errors by creative and yet misdirected users would constitute a very enlightening topic for classroom teachers and learners. The presenter has tracked down and aggregated various unusual errors not traditionally tackled in a typical ESL/EFL classroom, will argue for a teachable moment for them, and suggest ways of doing it.

Conference Name

3rd Asian Conference on Language Learning

Conference Location

Osaka, Japan

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