Reading a grammar book is like reading a manual
Reading a grammar book is like reading a manual. Grammar explanations are very hard to understand and absorb until we have enough experience with the language. As a person commented on a video I did a few years ago called “Krashen and Grammar“:
“This is consistent with James Paul Gee’s statement that textbooks are “manuals”, and we need to give people the “game” in which they can collect experience before the “manuals” make sense.”
Check out the video. It’s quite interesting, especially from 5:45 to 7:06.
When we try to learn to play a video game, or even try to use a camera we have just bought, it is difficult to start by reading the manual. At least in the case of the camera we have a rough idea of how cameras work. In the case of a video game, and I am just assuming this since I have never played a video game, we have very little knowledge about the details of the game. However, we naturally want to try to experiment using the camera, or playing the game, before we feel inclined to read the manual. What is more, without some familiarity with the game or the principles of the camera, the manual is relatively useless.
Languages strike me as being very similar to this. In fact, I find just jumping in by listening and reading in a language, using resources such as LingQ,to be much more enjoyable than trying to read the grammar book – in other words, the manual. This is how I learned most of my languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese. Once I have some experience with a new language, the explanations in the grammar book start to mean something. So as I have said before, my strategy is to get an overall sense of the language, a brief and incomplete overview, and then come back to revisit the grammar explanations later, when I feel like it. Most of my time, however, is spent listening or reading or speaking – in other words, playing the game or using the camera.