Last month Oxbridge University Press announced that there would be a new entry in the next edition of “Practical English Usage” giving details of the construction for expressing futurity. As well as showing the form, the new PEU suggests several time adverbials to be used with it including, “followed by a transition period;” “as soon as a compromise has been reached,” and “no later than the proposed deadline.”
Prof. David Crystal, of Bangor University is excited about the recognition the new construction is receiving. “Languages have always evolved,” he tells us. “Over the last couple of decades we have seen a rise in the use of nouns as verbs, for example, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen much grammatical change. Now we have a new construction to denote an action which everyone has agreed to do, but doesn’t want to.”
As Macpearlan Education have revealed that they will be including a corresponding lesson in the next generation of their ubiquitous Cutting Heads books, we caught up with EFL stalwart Arabella Grace as she gave the new materials the acid test.
In the classroom, the students sit in a circle engrossed in their debate. They all lean forward, eager to add their own opinion to the melting pot, with the exception of Abdullah Bin Waheed and Valeria Rodriguez, drafted in from an Elementary class to replace students whose positions in the class have become untenable. On the whiteboard behind them, we can see a presentation of the form of the tense beneath a time diagram showing an arbitrary deadline.
The students have all agreed to go to Pizza Hut the following evening, and are now debating the specifics.
“The thing that’s so great about this lesson,” Arabella proudly tells us, “is that it’s task-based. It’s not just a performance of accuracy for the teacher. If the students successfully fail to plan the trip to Pizza Hut, they’ll get a video call from Andrew Neil asking them if they’re going to resign.”
“So what we really need to agree upon,” says Nguyen Thi Linh to the group, “is whether there will be free movement to and from the salad bar after we’re seated.”
“I simply cannot agree to any plan which includes a pineapple backstop,” Mario Romana says with unguarded disdain.
“They’re doing so well,” Arabella beams.
Half an hour later and the lesson has been a resounding success. Not only did the class get the video call from Andrew Neil but Jeremy Clarkson has written a column pouring scorn on their competence using metaphors accessible to unskilled labourers while Frankie Boyle has tweeted about several of the students in the class using strong sexual swear words and implying that they have Down syndrome.
As Arabella allows some time for decompression, Valeria raises her hand. “Could I just ask, what does the word ‘Brexit’ actually mean?”
“Why don’t you look it up?” suggests Arabella, keen to empower the students in their own learning.
Valeria finds the page in the updated version of the Marrion-Webster dictionary and reads the new entry.
Brexit (noun, occ. verb) /’b3ksIt/ : brexit.
“So, brexit means brexit?” she asks.
“Precisely,” Arabella replies, glad to end the meeting on a moment of clarity.