What is the difference and why should it matter?
This is just going to be a short post on something that I encounter a lot as I teach my students a university. My students know linking words. They equate them with good writing. They use them frequently, but with little distinction in their meaning and actual function. This is hardly surprising, below is a list of linking words listed as “To transition to a different or even opposite idea.” on a popular website aimed at helping students achieve an 8 in writing in the IELTS exam.
Conversely, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, despite, in spite of, although, even though, but, yet, while, however, except, in comparison, by contrast, however.
From an IELTS and other exam classes perspective, this perhaps makes some sense. I can even bite my tongue at the fact they are grammatically different in many regards, because ultimately, in IELTS, the students are not predominantly marked on their stance and argument, but on the language they use to get there. Their answer is merely the boat which neatly carries their language to the assessor. So, what is the problem? Students need good IELTS scores and we should help them to prepare for that.
I agree to a point, but it doesn’t prepare students for what will come next. At university, we care far less about the language; our metaphor is reversed. Now, the language is the boat, and the answer is our precious cargo. This total reversal can cause issues for students. They move from writing generally about topics in lots of long words, to a preference for giving clear indication of their ideas and arguments in clear language. I may come onto building lexical chains through repetition in another blog, but for the moment, let’s focus on linkers or as I would prefer us to see them ‘signposts’.
What is the difference between the following two sentences?
A “Although many teachers believe that students expect teachers to teach in a top down deductive approach, others have argued for a more inductive approach.”
B “Many teachers believe that students expect teachers to teach in a top down deductive approach. However, others have argued for a more inductive approach.”
Which of these two examples implies that the writer might side with an opinion?
Or, to look at it a different way, which sentence is more likely to be followed by this sentence: “This would mean changing the way that materials are written and ensuring our students have the tools needed to be able to discuss their learning.”
I hope the answer you came to was B. When we use although and other concessional conjunctions at the beginning of sentences, we are often guiding the reader to our opinion. We are likely to give more weight to the second clause. However doesn’t work like that. It compares two equals. So, we have an issue with the list above. Students may be signposting their opinions without realising it, or worse, misleading readers with these terms.
Ways to address it in an ielts classroom
This is only going to be a short blog post, so I am not going to go into a lot of detail here. However, firstly, we can stop telling students these are all the same. Rather than looking at them as linkers, tell students that they ‘signpost’ the way for the reader. They help us map our way.
Secondly, when you see examples, ask simple questions like the one above.
Thirdly, bring in examples. I am a big fan of using authentic materials for things like this. If you wanted to show students some academic abstracts, this may be a useful site for them: http://collections.flax.nzdl.org/greenstone3/flax
I have an abstract below and a very short activity.
Short activity for with an abstract
- Ask students to highlight any of the linking words / signposts they can see in the text. (Here, you can see however – though it is used more as an adverb than a true linking device. Despite here is used as Although was above. Equally and but are possibly the only true linkers here.)
- Ask the students if this these words or more, or less frequent than they might have expected.
- Ask them to identify how cohesion is being achieved. (Use of This / The + noun)
- Ask students if they could swap However for Despite here and if they do so, how would the meaning change?
Any of these activities will help students along the journey of linker to signpost and hopefully better prepare them for after their exam and their future studies.
A force to be reckoned with? : the Temperance Movement and the “drink question”, 1895-1933
The Temperance Movement was one of the most important and influential of the great nineteenth century social and moral reforming campaigns, firmly integrated with the central Victorian values of self-help, hard work and sobriety. As the values of the Victorian period dissipated with the rapidly changing social and ethical mores during the twentieth century, most historians have seen a similar demise in the role of the Temperance Movement. The drink question, however, remained a significant issue with two Royal Commissions, unprecedented state intervention during the First World War and innumerable bills and legislative debate between 1895 and 1933. Equally, the Temperance Movement maintained its resolve, resolutely campaigning and lobbying, proving itself to still be a key factor in the drink debate. This thesis studies the role and activity of the Temperance Movement in the continuing national concern around drink between 1895 and the Peel Commission to the conclusion of the Amulree Commission in 1933. The thesis concentrates on the major temperance societies and examines their effect on English attitudes to the drink question. Despite its continued activity, the Temperance Movement failed to make a significant mark on policy toward drink during this period. The reasons for this are several – loss of political support, the changing nature of drink issues, and fragmentation in the Movement. The Temperance Movement was very heterogeneous, some organisations seeking moderate reform or moral suasion but the more radical campaigners demanded central or local prohibition. Such demands were the root cause of temperance division and a large factor in the loss of Liberal political support. With the Conservatives tied to the Trade, the Temperance Movement sought the assistance of the Labour Party but Labour’s response during the period was vague and indecisive. Social and moral arguments used by the Temperance Movement in its attempt to secure the abolition of the drink trade were being steadily eroded as secularism, post war cynicism and a huge increase in leisure activities undermined older values. Demand for alcoholic beverages fell dramatically as did reported cases of drunkenness. Despite these changes drink remained on the political and social agenda, but with many temperance reformers disillusioned and dispirited the Movement failed to present a comprehensive and coherent abolition strategy.