What is truer than truth?
The teaching of English in Oatlands aspires, in a carefully graduated fashion, to enrich students in their understanding of five fundamental ideas about language and language development, identified in the Draft Guidelines for Teachers of English issued by the Department of Education’s Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Unit.
They are introduced, during the course of their studies, to the work of many masterful storytellers from a range of different eras and places, specialising in a range of different genres, including drama, fiction, film and poetry, which ensures the subject becomes an indelibly rewarding experience for all concerned.
Language and Language Development
1. Language, identity and power
Language is the chief means by which we make sense of our experience. Language gives
us a sense of personal and cultural identity, enables us to relate to each other and
empowers us in multitudinous ways from engaging in gossip to rejoicing in poetry. If we
lack expertise in language we become vulnerable to the power of those who are
proficient in language. Language gives power in more ways than one, it can liberate but
it can also imprison.
2. Language, meaning and values
Language is neither a transparent medium nor a neutral instrument of communication.
Language in use is value laden; it carries within its structures and choice of words an
implicit statement of the writer’s or speaker’s social and moral outlook. However, meaning
in ‘language in use’ is not fixed but is always an area of interpretation depending on the
context and point of view of the specific users. Think about the contrasting range and
nuances of meaning which the term ‘Irish’ carries when used by such different individuals
as an Irish-American ,an Ulster Unionist, or a person from the Gaeltacht.
3. Language as shape
Language does not reflect reality like a mirror, language creates its own view of reality.
Language is dynamic and depending on a variety of factors puts specific shapes on
reality. These language shapes can be called genres.
The role of English is to develop students’ ability to comprehend these genres in all their
diversity, understand and appreciate how they work and so come eventually to compose
in them. In that way the students themselves will be interpreting, making meanings and
learning to communicate effectively.
4. Critical literacy
This syllabus seeks to develop a critical literacy in students. This is a stance relative to
texts, no matter what their source or pedigree, which takes its stand in questioning texts,
in challenging their authority and problematising their apparent and accepted statements.
In this way it is hoped that an authentic dialogue can take place between students and
texts which will generate significant personal meanings and enrich the students’ lives.
Critical literacy encourages students to see texts not as statements of closure or as answers
but as opportunities for dialogue and speculation.
5. Language awareness
To use language most effectively students need to develop an understanding of how
language actually works to create meanings; they should be able to reflect on their own
language use and that of others. Therefore students must have a language that talks about
language, a meta-language; lacking this students remain embedded in words and instead
of controlling words the words are controlling them.