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There has been much debate about language and thought, and many theories have been put forward. (Again, these can be found summarized in David Crystal's book The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.) It is important to consider the relationship between language and thinking skills because, as a teacher of english, you will be dealing entirely with language, in one form or another, and with thinking. It is generally agreed that language and thought are related, although there are different opinions as to how far one affects the other. It is interesting to see how the NLS reflects the general view of language that ‘to see language and thought as inter-dependent…is to recognize that language is a regular part of the process of thinking, at the same time recognizing that we have to think in order to understand language' (Crystal, 1987:14). In the NLS a similar statement reads ‘teachers have a genuine stake in strong language skills because language enables thought' As a new teacher you will soon see how important
it is that your pupils are thinking, not just doing. And this is where teaching english is so rewarding. Consider a lesson, for example, where a class is asked to read a text and then answer a series of questions, the answers to which can be found in the text. Which skills are the pupils using here? They may well be reading, but are they really being required to think? Now consider turning the task around so that the pupils read a text, then make up their own questions which they swap with a partner and answer each other's questions. Here they are still reading and answering questions, but they are forced to connect with the text on a deeper level as it is almost impossible to set questions without engaging with the text, whereas it is quite simple to answer questions by finding the relevant lines in the text. When planning lessons, seek and exploit opportunities to get the pupils thinking,
even if they don't appear to like it Language has long been recognized as a crucial tool in the learning process. ‘Language may not determine the way we think but it does influence the way we perceive and remember and it affects the ease with which we perform mental tasks' (Crystal,1987:15). There is an obvious need to develop the language skills of pupils if they are to benefit fully from the education system. This is a great responsibility and a challenge for all teachers. Although english teachers have a leading role to play in developing pupils' language skills, it is not their sole responsibility, and other teachers should play their part in this vital area. There have been various attempts over the years to promote the importance of language in the curriculum. teachers support the need for good language skills for pupils to make progress in learning, but have limited resources.
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