We’ve finally reached it, Pre-intermediate 2, my favorite course without a doubt. This course covers a lot, so why don’t we jump right in.
In the first week I do a review of present perfect simple, expanding it a bit and using it more in questions and in speaking. A lot of “Have you ever…” There is also a bit on writing a biography which can be interesting. They need a lot of help with transitions and time clauses for writing. Simple things like: then, after that, after (verb-ing), soon, etc. can work wonders in making a student sound a bit more fluent. I am in the constant business of encouraging students to be creative, but it is no small task.
Toward the end of week one and beginning of week two, we enter the territory of obligation verbs, mainly focusing on have to, must, should and their negatives. This always brings up interesting conversations about where I should travel, what people have to do vs. what they should do, especially as it relates to their faith life. For whatever reason, students often have trouble with “don’t have to…” And one of the most applicable examples for them (at least in Turkey) is “Women don’t have to wear head scarves.” If they do, it isn’t a problem. If they don’t, it isn’t a problem.
Toward the end of week two, we talk about future topics, mainly focusing on time clauses such as: before, after, when, while, until, as soon as and conditional clauses such as: if and unless. May and might also come up for future probability. We then expand upon the zero conditional (When/If + present , present) and the first conditional (If (etc.)+ present , future).
Now we get into a whole new brand of thinking, the passive voice. Up until this point, everything students have done has been in the active voice. Before coming to Turkey, all I knew about the passive voice was that Microsoft Word didn’t like it when I used it. It measured my passive sentences and a lower number seemed to be better. Essentially, all the passive voice does is switch which comes first the subject or the object. Active example: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Passive example: The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell. Same meaning, whichever one is more important goes to the front. We tend to use the passive voice when the subject (or agent) isn’t important, isn’t known or is obvious. We also use it in headlines for newspapers in a reduced form. “A boy was found alive by rescue workers…” becomes “Boy Found Alive” in a much bigger font size.
We now move on to one of the unreal conditionals, the second conditional (If + past simple , would/could v1). This is a great grammar topic for speaking practice. It is used for unreal situations, unlikely situations, dreams/wishes and advice. We spend a lot of time practicing the unreal. For example: “If you were on a desert island, what 3 films would you bring?” Or “If you had a million Turkish Lira, what would you buy?” Then we also get into advice. “If I were you, I’d …” So long as the class is willing to be a bit creative, this can go on for hours.
Then phrasal verbs, the bane of nearly every student. A phrasal verbs is a two or three word verb phrase using a normal verb paired with a preposition or adverb. For example: pick up, try on, put away, go out, take off etc. The problem with phrasal verbs is their ambiguity. Nearly every phrasal verbs has more than one meaning and oftentimes that meaning is idiomatic. So students have to treat them like completely new vocabulary, which is difficult because there are so many of them. Occasionally students will ask me for a list of phrasal verbs and I tell them there are thousands, buy a phrasal verb dictionary (which do actually exist).
Here we revisit present perfect again and compare the difference between the simple form and the continuous form. The basic difference is that present perfect simple is finished action in unfinished time, uses numbers, asks “how many”, focuses on result, can use state verbs, can use the passive and needs an object. In contrast, present perfect continuous is unfinished action in unfinished time, uses duration, asks “how long”, focuses on action, can’t use state verbs, can’t use the passive and doesn’t need an object. Most of the time, both simple and continuous are possible: “I have lived in Ankara for two years.” Or “I have been living in Ankara for two years.” The second would be preferable, but the first isn’t wrong.
There can be some funny examples with this grammar point. One example in the book asks the students to choose which is correct: “I’ve cut my finger.” Or “I’ve been cutting my finger.” Showing them the difference always produces a laugh.
Again, we finish up with review and the exam. One thing I tend to review is relative clauses. Even though they’re taught in the previous course, they show up on this exam. The highest score I’ve seen is 92, but most students hover around 75-80 points.