The Convoluted Verb
Lewis Michaels, author of the highly-successful bestselling efl book the convoluted verb was interviewed by Sandra Attard Montalto.
I: Your latest book has made quite a success in the TEFL world... When did the idea to write this book occur to you?
LM: I think the idea has been fermenting for a long time. I look at language from a highly scientific point of view, and the structure, though very logical, was not being exploited enough.
I: What sort of research led you to the results you reached?
LM: I carried out tons of research, starting with very young children, and recording reactions right through to adulthood.
I: And can you tell us, in a few words, what your results showed?
LM: Amazingly enough, the younger the brain, the more receptive it is to the structure. Adults seem to lose their sense of feeling for it, and rarely use it. You could say that it complements Chomskys view that language is innate. The strange thing is, there is an inverse ratio between comprehensibility and age. The older one is, the less one understands. Therefore, and this is the really exciting discovery, a breakthrough ... which I can modestly compare to Einsteins E=mc2 theory which revolutionised thinking ... the USE of the Convoluted tenses varies with age.
I: Electrifying news for the TEFL world. So... can you give us an example?
LM: Well, in simple terms, what a child might use for communication, something that another child might understand perfectly, can create a complete breakdown in communication between adults. Children use the Convoluted Tenses easily and have no problems whatsoever.
I: Amazing. And how do you see this developing now? Do you think teachers will take on board your ideas, and adapt their teaching to them?
LM: Absolutely. The English Language has been changing over the last few years, and the fact that it is now the Lingua Franca of the World, a truly global language, has reinforced the use of structures such as the Convoluted Tenses.
I: How so?
LM: The advent of so many different nationalities speaking English has created what is now termed International English. It is highly likely that varieties such as British English, American English and Australian English will totally disappear and be replaced completely by International English. Foreign Language Learners can easily understand each other. My research has led me to conclude that there is another equation to consider..... the Foreign Language Learner Connection, which I refer to in my book as the FLL Connection.
I: How exactly does it work, then...?
LM: Simple ... FLLers brains are closer to childrens than an adult native speakers brain.
I: Perhaps youd like to elaborate a bit for our readers...
LM: By all means... lets take a verb... emmm.. BEHAVE will do nicely, I think. Well... Take the Present Convoluted Progressive Tense... I AM BEING HAVE This can be understood perfectly by children and FLLers. There is communication.
LM: An adult NS (native speaker), however, has difficulties. There is a high likelihood of breakdown in communication. A few adults might be led into quickly following up with functional language, for example, an apology.
I: I am being have ...Very interesting... And what other tenses have you discovered to be Convoluted Tenses?
LM: English, my dear, is, of course, a Two-Tense System. If we also include Aspect, namely, the Continuous and Perfect, we can see that the whole range is operational with the Convoluted Aspect. I use the word Aspect guardedly.... In my book, I have preferred to use the term: PENSANT CONFUSANT From: Latin, to think, and Confusing, which it can be.
I: So this... uhhhh... the Pensant Confusant can be used across the whole range?
LM: Certainly..... let me run through a few examples:
BELIEVE: Present Pensant Confusant Convoluted Progressive Tense: I am being lieve
BESTOW: Past Pensant Confusant Convoluted Simple Tense: I was stow
BEGRUDGE: Present Pensant Confusant Convoluted Perfect Tense: I have been grudge
BESMIRCH: Present Pensant Confusant Convoluted Perfect Progressive Tense: I have been smirchin
BELITTLE: Past Pensant Confusant Convoluted Perfect Tense: I had been little
BEGET: Past Pensant Confusant Convoluted Perfect Progressive Tense: I had been getting
BEFRIEND: Future Pensant Confusant Convoluted with WILL: I will be friend
I: And do you really mean to say that your research shows that FLLers have a greater command of these than Native Speakers?
LM: It is a common misconception that FLLers do not speak English well. They do! International English. The days of TEFL teachers are numbered. How many teachers can use these tenses appropriately?
I: It is a rather difficult concept to master.... Ummmm..... Is there a passive for the Convoluted Tenses?
LM: Absolutely..! BESEECH: Present Pensant Confusant Convoluted Perfect Passive Tense: I have been being seeched.
I: Well, thank you very much, Professor Michaels. Can you tell us about your next project?
LM: Yes, of course. I am currently doing further research on Communication & Comprehensibility... and my next book will be all about ... noises.
LM: Yes, precisely! Noises. Sounds. I am delving deeper into the language babies use to communicate with their parents. There is obviously communication there. Mothers are particularly known to excel at learning these sounds very quickly. Taking Chomskys thinking a step further back, and using Krashens Input Hypothesis, I am working on my Sounds & Noises Language Acquisition Theory... SNLA. Quite revolutionary thinking ... I believe it will bridge the gap between work that scientists and linguist are also doing with species in the Animal Kingdom. Animals also communicate. I fully expect to see a shift in Language Learning after the publication of my book. English, I can quite accurately predict, will lose its place as the Lingua Franca of the World. SNL, with its simple grammar and vocabulary, will replace it. Of that, I am fully confident.
I: Thank you very much, Professor Michaels. We wish you every success!
[This article appeared in the Spring 2004 newsletter]