• Elena Lacy

Perception of English Tenses as a Kaleidoscope


Teachers of a foreign language know that they not only teach another language, they 'mess' with the perception of their students. Probably some students experience difficulties with learning a language only because their perception is fixed and resists that intrusion.

English tenses are certainly one of vivid examples how our perception of the reality is constructed by the language. Just like many other nations, English speaking people discern three types of time: the past, present and future.

But that's not enough for them. They really want to feel more control in order to manage everyday life and have the instruments to change it. How do these changes happen? - Through communication with one another. This is where language is a primary tool.

The abundance of English tenses scares a lot of learners of English language. Why do they need so many? - That's the first question you have to deal with if you are an English teacher. Well, tenses appear to be English speakers' answer how to deal with the constantly changing universe. We're such creatures that need a reference point to express the changes we experience. So we come up with meters and kilograms, miles and pounds, centigrades and Fahrenheit, etc. to ground our fleeting feelings in order to communicate to one another.

If we are talking about the language, then the Simple tense seems like this reference point. It plays the role of the omnipresent God in the universe of our feelings and emotions. It sets the background against which we can describe particular moments in our lives: "Usually I play pool with my friends (Present Simple tense) in a bar, but today I've broken (Present Perfect Simple) my cue, and I'm going (Present Continuous) to replace it." C