14 October 2012

How much grammar?

This subject is again begin discussed at a thread on our LingQ forum. 

My comments were as follows.

I agree with Evgueny. The issue is not whether to study grammar or not, but rather how much to focus on grammar and at what stage in one’s learning. Vey experienced language learners, and analytical people with a taste for grammar, may want to spend more time on grammar even at the beginning. For most people, and certainly for me, I find that grammar is hard to digest, especially at the beginning. As I progress in the language, listen and read more, have more words, in fact have more experience with the language, I am better able to digest the grammar since I have already come across many of the phenomena described by the grammar, as Rae says. 

Often the language text book, or even the commercial language courses, will tell you that in this lesson you will learn the “subjunctive” or something. I don’t find that to be the case. All that lesson does is explain a particular point of grammar and give you some examples. You will not learn this form or pattern until much later, but you now have a place to go back to over and over. 

The ideal grammar lesson is what Evgueny has done in the target language. I can go back to these over and over, and stay in the target language. This is more difficult to do at the beginning where some light description of the grammar in a language that is known to the learner is probably useful.

So, in my view we need to mix input with some grammar help, and the amount will vary according to the tastes and interests of the learner.

 

5 Comments

  1. Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Definitely agree with you there. I’m doing a DELTA at the moment and it’s opened my eyes to the importance of grammar, but mainly it depends on the interests of the learner.ThanksBarry

  2. Amer
    Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Any insights based on your recent experience in Prague?

  3. Posted October 16, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    The way grammar should be taught, if you’re going to do it, is to teach a single, simple aspect of it, and then spend a LOT of time having the learner really get that concept down pat by having them utilize it to comprehend spoken language (that uses the grammar rule in question), read the language, speak the language, write in the language, etc.Teach them the grammar rule, just a single one, and then have them utilize it many different ways, over and over again, until they have really, actually…LEARNED it. And that’s <i>how</i> you learn something like that as well. Like you said, most courses merely explain it, they don’t get the student to actually learn the concept.Cheers,Andrew

  4. William
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion, in order to make a grammar point easier understandable an adequate number (not just one or two) of daily life usage examples (sentences) with different types of potentially occurring patterns could be provided in listening, reading, speaking and writing practice. For example when learning English verb tenses, different types of sentences with affirmative and negative verb forms, and all personal pronouns (I, you, she. he, it, we, they) and other kinds of potential subjects (as doers or agents of actions) can be included as examples to show all types of potentially occurring patterns of use which must be dealt with sooner or later anyway.

  5. William
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Learners of English for example should be encouraged to make up their own sentences on each grammar point taking into consideration their personal daily life activities (thus using English grammar for their potential relevant needs in realistic situations). Imagination and creativity play a major role in this practice as learners prepare for potential use of English grammar for their needs.

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