Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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Or is it?

Okay, so let's start with one of the oldest topics about language learning - grammar!

I have been following a few ELT (English Language Teaching) blogs recently. I have to admit it, I'm quite a geek - I love it!

Anyway, on one of the blogs, a very experienced teacher was talking about grammar, grammar rules and if they are necessary or not. (Click here to see his post.)

Now recently I have been thinking about how grammar is taught and if my students really benefited from "learning grammar".

Now for some people, they like to have the rules because they feel more comfortable and it gives them something to study and memorize. But for other people, learning the rules about the use of the present perfect (how many different uses are there - about a million, no?) doesn't help them to actually USE the present perfect in their English conversations.

I would suggest this -

Learning English Grammar is like learning how to use a keyboard. If you learn how a keyboard works, do you know how to use the computer and its operating system?

I'm don't think I completely agree with this idea. But I want to generate some discussion so I'm going to give an opinion for you to agree or disagree with. AND, my opinions aren't important here - yours are!



P.S. The www.englishpage.com link that I've added about the rules of present perfect are NOT complete and, as with all things in English, there are exceptions to these rules. I added it to show a 'perfect' example (hehehe, English teacher humour) of lots of different rules.


  1. Approach of grammar varies whether it's your maternal tongue or a foreign language.
    When I learnt English at school we were drowned by rules on preterit, past perfect, present perfect... And the trouble was for most of the students, that they didn't "hear" english, they didn't know how it was supposed to sound. English was taught pretty much like latin. Resulting in people struggling to make sentences with lack of vocabulary and basically translating what they wanted to say from french to english. Unable to think a sentence on english, finding the subject very dull.

    On the other hand, grammar in my maternal tongue came as essential, probably because I could already speak without wondering. So it just added a little something more to my understanding of french.

    Similar to this, I can explain tons of grammatical rules of spanish, but I'm fairly unable to speak spanish anymore. It's the same phenomenon which happen to my friends who learnt english at school and never practiced since.

    Hope it has been useful.
    (My ID google just freaking old, but too lazy to create a new one, I'll keep that silly name then.)


  2. Well Chicken (nice name BTW), I think your experience of English class at school was similar to my experience of French and German class at school. For me it was vocabulary lists and grammar rules and most of the class was spoken in English! Two words I do remember very clearly are "écoute et répéte!" (listen and repeat) but apart from the most basic basics that's all I remember.

    It also seems you had more classes on your native grammar than I did. In my English class we only looked at nouns, verbs and adjectives (oh, and adverbs once) but I didn't know ANYTHING about grammar when I went to university. Because of this, Spanish lessons were very hard because the classes were based on the grammar (which I didn't understand).

  3. Well, interesting topic.

    In my early years of learning English, the students were forced to learn several paragraphs in the text book by heart,usually those ones with key grammatical rules, then wrote what you remembered from your memory. This was a very common way to build up a student's sense in grammar. However, I could see lots of students hated the task and were not able to remember the whole paragraph. I'm not sure if teachers still use this way nowadays.

    I personally think some people are born to learn languages while others are not. My cousin, for example, just has no talent in learning English...at all.

  4. Leona, that sounds like a method I used when I was trying to restart my Spanish classes. The idea being that through seeing the structures in context and having lots of repetition, you would naturally acquire the grammar.

    It doesn't sound like it worked very well if it discouraged students and made them "hate" the class.

    I want to disagree with you about some people being able to learn languages and others who cannot. I would like to think that almost everyone is capable - but maybe I'm just idealistic. Remember, I said I "want" to disagree with you - not that I actually disagree with you. ;-)

    You didn't say if this method really worked for you personally. Did it?


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