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Spending much time analyzing sentences grammatically is useful? Options
A cooperator
Posted: Monday, May 08, 2017 9:30:02 PM

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Location: Ḩāḑírah, Hadramawt, Yemen
Hi.
I am only here respectfully requesting you to give me your own advice about whether spending much time analyzing sentences grammatically is useful or futile?

I always spend much time of analyzing any sentences I come across to know how they are used grammatically. However, now I even believe like I am stumbled with what I have been doing after I came across a Yemeni speaker in a 21-yrs old age who wrote grammatically correct although when I asked him what kind of tense your sentence was in, he always said I didn't know. He rarely did grammar or vocabulary mistakes although he typed in relatively quickly while chatting with me through WhatsApp. He pretty much wrote much more correctly than some English-Yemeni teachers. He told me that he had been taught at the Amid-east institute in Yemen for about a year and a half under English-English teachers. He also told me that his teachers in Amideast had taught him how to write Songs lyrics while listening to them. Although he didn't admit he knew any grammar rules while asking him, I think he must have been taught those grammar rules in institute. Or otherwise, he could wrote grammatically correct. Even he didn't post his questions at any English forums. But he only depended of English songs lyrics, and talk shows on Youtube. Do you think this can be believable?


I want to know if I was going in the right way or not since I found that young person has been better than me in speaking and writing, listening, and vocabulary. Though he knows nothing in grammar terms. I cannot imagine how anyone can know the use of a language without knowing its grammar rules. But, this young person did.

Whoever doesn't own what he promises to those who do not deserve must not promise it.
Andrew Schultz
Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2017 1:11:10 AM

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I think it's quite possible. Often you learn by doing and making mistakes.

Now, some song lyrics will help more with English than others, but after a while, things start to sound right...or not.

As an English speaker with good command of the language, I went back to some of the grammar quizzes and realized I couldn't remember what tense meant what. I realize I always said: I need this verb to say this. And I am very good at proofreading others' work. I don't think what tense my verbs and sentences are in, and I know that when I learned French, I stopped thinking of that after a while. I understood the rough English equivalents. Having to read a French book or two helped, a lot.

In addition, I think being able to read a short straightforward book in English can help a lot, and besides, it's just more fun.

There is more than one way to learn grammar rules. One is by the book and one is by seeing a lot of actual usage. Before the Internet, the second wasn't very practical, but now that we have a lot of data, I think it is. You can get a general idea of what is wrong and right and fill in specifics later, as opposed to just memorizing and hoping the rules make sense some day.

So this seems quite possible.

I particularly enjoy the idiom section of this fine website.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2017 4:50:47 AM

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Hi A Cooperator.

I think that the key is in one small part of your post.
Quote:
He told me that he had been taught at the Amid-east institute in Yemen for about a year and a half under English-English teachers.

If his teachers were English, he would have had a lot of opportunity to use English with native speakers of English.

This is how a child learns to speak.
Do you analyse every sentence you use in your own language in normal life?
Did you know all the grammar rules of your own language before you learned to speak?

There are two ways of looking at grammar.

The INCORRECT way to look is "There are grammar rules and they tell people how to speak and write".

The CORRECT way is "People learn how to speak and write, then grammarians try to write rules to explain it."

You already know a LOT more rules of English grammar than 95% of English people do.

**************
I cannot see someone learning to speak and write well only from song lyrics (because many lyrics are NOT the way people normally speak and write) but it is easy to learn a language by having to use it. I went to Germany when I was seventeen. I had never had a lesson, but within a few days, I could converse in a very basic way. Within a month, I was not making too many mistakes, though my vocabulary was small. I never learned any grammar rules in German.

I would think that doing BOTH (taking a course and having to use the language in life) would be the best method.

***********
A few more opinions:
1. Don't try to learn by reading any book which is more than about fifty years old.
The idiom, vocabulary and even some grammar will be different.
2. Don't try to learn from Rap, Anime, Avant-garde, Punk, Alternative lyrics - they are nothing like 'normal' English.
3. Don't try to learn from poetry of any sort unless you know it is written in standard English.
4. Newspapermen don't write in 'standard English'.



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
A cooperator
Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017 10:13:44 AM

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Location: Ḩāḑírah, Hadramawt, Yemen
Drag0nspeaker wrote:
Hi A Cooperator.

I think that the key is in one small part of your post.
Quote:
He told me that he had been taught at the Amid-east institute in Yemen for about a year and a half under English-English teachers.

If his teachers were English, he would have had a lot of opportunity to use English with native speakers of English.

This is how a child learns to speak.
Do you analyse every sentence you use in your own language in normal life?
Did you know all the grammar rules of your own language before you learned to speak?


Thank you both of you.
Yes. but even our native Arabic language was being taught to us while in schools according to some grammar rules. Or otherwise, we couldn't have written correctly in Arabic. Though we might be speaking it correctly without being learnt to us by any Arabic-Arab/Non-Arab teachers. As a result, if our native Arabic language required being learnt under certain of grammar rules to be able to write correctly, then what about other foreign languages?


Whoever doesn't own what he promises to those who do not deserve must not promise it.
EPT31
Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017 11:13:48 AM
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A cooperator wrote:
Yes. but even our native Arabic language was being taught to us while in schools according to some grammar rules. Or otherwise, we couldn't have written correctly in Arabic. Though we might be speaking it correctly without being learnt to us by any Arabic-Arab/Non-Arab teachers. As a result, if our native Arabic language required being learnt under certain of grammar rules to be able to write correctly, then what about other foreign languages?


Hi A Cooperator,
I don't know about Arabic language, but I feel the same with my own native language.

And maybe you are in the same situation as we French are.


We actually need to study French grammar in school, because written French use a lot of subtleties that are not pronounced anymore, but because French is a language that is normalized (even legalized!) since centuries, we still write them.

For example, most past participle ends in "-é" and are pronounced exactly the same way as infinitives ending in "-er". So, "Un chien a mangé" (One dog ate) and "Un chien à manger" (A dog to eat, a dog that can be eaten) are pronounced the same. The plural "-s" suffix is not pronounced either (but shall be put after noons, adjectives and participles).

It means that most spelling mistakes made by French pupils are grammar errors, so grammar is central in French learning especially for native speakers. And our school system live in the illusion that grammar is central in learning any language.


On the other hand, most of English grammar can be heard, or has no impact on spelling. (Except for the infamous its / it's, your / you're, and there / their / they're.)
I feel, and we are taught, that most spelling errors in English are more likely traced to etymology than grammar.

In fact, it is said in France that French people are bad learner of other European languages because French school tends to teach grammar first and so we fail to grasp the basic pronunciation and rhythm of the language. (At least for English, German and Spanish.)

For instance, I will personally never mix "than" and "then" or "affect and "effect" while writing, but I still struggle to pronounce them the same! (And probably pronounce all of them wrong.) And when I say I *can* do something, the answer is "Hold on... Can you, or Can you not? I can't hear if you said can or can't.".

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017 9:49:01 PM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
It would be good to have the opinions of other British people (and any other "native English speakers") to see whether I am just an unusual case.

I'm looking back sixty years here, but my memory is:

I started speaking when I was about two years old - I know I spoke in simple four- or five-word sentences by the time I was three years old.

I started learning to read individual words and then short sentences before I was four.

I know I used past/present/future tenses and plurals (more or less correctly) before I was four.
I asked HUNDREDS of questions (my mother complained of this for the next twenty years).
I knew the difference between 'a' and 'the' and when to use them.

I started at school (mostly listening to stories, counting, some lessons in reading/writing) just before my fifth birthday.
In the first couple of years, I learned about capital letters, spelling, full stops, question marks, commas, exclamation marks.

By the time I was seven, I was reading children's novels and could write a story.
I probably mainly used many short simple sentences, but they would be (usually) grammatically correct.

At eight years old, I had my first English grammar lesson and learned some of the parts of speech.
This was probably the first time I had heard the words 'noun, verb, subject, object, article'.
A little later, I learned about adjectives and adverbs, then conjunctions.
It was quite simple, because it was simply putting names to concepts I already knew.

By the time I went to secondary school (at age eleven) I could read a normal (adult-style) book and could write almost anything correctly (usually correctly - there were mistakes) - including conditionals, modals, subjunctives, etc.

At age sixty-two, I first heard of 'determiners'.
At sixty-three, I learned some of the rules of subjunctives (I still don't know them all).
At sixty-three, I heard about first, second and third (and zero) conditionals, but I still can't remember which is which.

This is a letter from a six-year-old who has probably never had a grammar lesson in his life:



Quote:
Dear Mr. Tucker
Application for director
I am writing to apply to be the next Director of the National Railway Museum. I am only 6 but I think I can do this job.
I have an electrick train track. I am good on my train track. I can control 2 trains at once.


If you asked about his use of a modal auxiliary verb in the last sentence, he would not know what you are talking about.
He just knows that it is the correct way to write it.
He doesn't know how to spell 'electric'.

*********
Hello EPT31.

The difference in pronunciation between 'than' and 'then' and between 'affect' and 'effect' is almost the same as between 'à' (in 'à la carte') and 'est' (is) in French.

I (and more than 50% of British people) say 'can' with that 'à' sound and "can't" with the 'ar' sound of 'par' in 'par avion'. Very different.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
TheParser
Posted: Saturday, May 13, 2017 8:55:31 AM
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Joined: 9/21/2012
Posts: 4,674
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A cooperator wrote:
[1] give me your own advice about whether spending much time analyzing sentences grammatically is useful or futile?

[2] I cannot imagine how anyone can know the use of a language without knowing its grammar rules.



NOT A TEACHER


Hello,

May I add my two bits (humble opinion) to DragOnspeaker's and EPT31's comments?


[1] Spending time parsing (analyzing) sentences is useful. It is not futile. In fact, you should seriously consider learning the Reed-Kellogg system of diagramming.
(Check out a website entitled German - Latin - English.) Being able to diagram a sentence gives you a tremendous amount of self-confidence.

[2] Many Americans speak English very well, but they could never explain the grammar.

a. They learned their English by listening to their peers.
b. They learned their English by reading "good" English.
c. Most Americans, I dare say, could not name the traditional 8 parts of speech. But many of them speak English well.
d. Most American high schools now try to get their students to write well and to read well. There are no "boring" lessons on grammar. Students nowadays simply will not tolerate such "boring" lessons.

Today, I hear many "educated" people say something like "Mona baked a cake for you and I." Why do they speak such "bad" English? Well, more and more "educated" people are speaking like that. It would be a waste of time to tell them: "The object of a preposition requires the objective form."

The bottom line: Knowing the grammar of a language is not necessary in order to speak a language well. If you went to China, for example, and lived with a well-educated family for a reasonable time and spoke only Chinese, you would speak Chinese well without being able to explain Chinese grammar.
tunaafi
Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2017 7:57:00 AM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
It would be good to have the opinions of other British people (and any other "native English speakers") to see whether I am just an unusual case.


My experience has been similar to yours.

My opinions are similar to those you expressed in your first response. I will expand on my opinions in a response I intend to write to TheParser's post,
tunaafi
Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2017 8:46:23 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

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Location: Karlín, Praha, Czech Republic
A cooperator wrote:
I cannot imagine how anyone can know the use of a language without knowing its grammar rules.

I would guess than 99.99% of people who have ever lived have known nothing of the grammar of their own language.

I would guess that over 90% of people who have acquired communicative skill in another living language have done so with little or no knowledge of the grammar of that language.

I have had a lifelong interest in grammar, particularly English grammar. Nearly all I have learnt from this interest and my study has been a knowledge of grammar. It has contributed very little to my ability to speak and write what may be considered as a a reasonably educated form of standard British English. That came from a lifetime spent with speakers of a reasonable variety of standard English, and of reading thousands of books and articles written by speakers/writers of standard English, all building on the language I acquired from family and friends in the firsts five or six years of my life, a time when I though 'Grammar' was my my mother's mother.


TheParser wrote:
Spending time parsing (analyzing) sentences is useful. It is not futile.

I have never seen any hard evidence that analysing sentences improves communication skills for the majority of people.

Quote:
In fact, you should seriously consider learning the Reed-Kellogg system of diagramming

I know of no evidence that shows that learning how to diagram sentences teaches you anything but how to diagram sentences.

Quote:
Many Americans speak English very well, but they could never explain the grammar.

It's the same with many British people. Fortunately, most British and American people have no more need to explain grammar than they need to explain the workings of the internal combustion engine.

Quote:
Today, I hear many "educated" people say something like "Mona baked a cake for you and I." Why do they speak such "bad" English? Well, more and more "educated" people are speaking like that. It would be a waste of time to tell them: "The object of a preposition requires the objective form."

Actually, the reason so many people say things like that is because it was drilled into them at school that 'You and me are in the same class next term' was wrong and they came away with the impression that 'you and me' was always wrong. In fact, people have been saying things like 'Mona baked a cake for you and I' for centuries. It was only when self-appointed experts began churning out grammars in from the seventeenth century on that prescriptive rules formulated. These rules were largely based on the writers' own varieties of English and/or by analogy of how another language (Latin) worked. The phrase 'for you and me' is not bad English. It is merely the form insisted on by those speakers of certain varieties of English who happen to be in posotopns of power. Fortunately, the influence of such people has declined in recent decades, and such artificial rules as never splitting infinitives are dying the death they deserved.

Quote:
The bottom line: Knowing the grammar of a language is not necessary in order to speak a language well.

Applause
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2017 3:52:02 PM

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I know actually nothing about the grammar, nor English, and nor Finnish either. Nevertheless I wrote maximum points in both when I graduated from High School.


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
thar
Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2017 4:35:15 PM

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The situation has changed a lot, very recently, in England. Ridiculous tests on grammatical metalanguage. Although some have now been scrapped again.

Even the panel that set them says they are bollocks. (My paraphraseWhistle )

Schools risk breeding a generation for whom English is at best a chore and at worst a nightmare. Too much of that and they will doubt their own ability and will probably never read, and certainly never write for pleasure for the rest of their lives.

And, no - I have no idea what a fronted adverbial is.
And determiners - I have been reading the questions on this, drago's carefully researched replies, and others from teachers) for a while on this forum and I still couldn't tell you what one is - although I could probably label one.
But that offends my sense of understanding- if I don't know why, then I don't​ really know.


Quote:
This morning, more than half a million primary children will take a test that may ask them to identify the grammatical label for the two-word phrase at the start of this paragraph. Could you do it? If you are unable to recognise this as a “fronted adverbial” then you will have fallen short on knowledge expected of 10- and 11-year-olds in the controversial spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) tests.


The term, which even professional writers such as the novelist AL Kennedy have said they are not familiar with, has been at the centre of a fierce debate over the grammar requirements in Sats tests and the curriculum they assess.

Now Richard Hudson, the academic who says he bears most responsibility for introducing the fronted adverbial, has said the process through which the national curriculum was changed under Michael Gove, the former education secretary, was “chaotic”. He admits it was not based on good research evidence and says he feels many teachers are not equipped to teach it.

Hudson’s comments mean that all four of an expert panel that advised the government on placing greater emphasis on traditional grammar in its primary curriculum now have serious reservations about either the tests, or the curriculum development process.

The fronted adverbial is defined in the national curriculum as (deep breath) “a word or phrase that is used, like an adverb, to modify a verb or clause and has been moved in front of the verb or clause”. It has become emblematic of a fierce dispute over grammar teaching and the role of politicians, teachers and academics in shaping it.

The government’s key curriculum adviser, Tim Oates, has already warned that the Spag tests, introduced last May, “need a rethink” as there was a “genuine problem about undue complexity of demand” in terms of the “language about language” that children were expected to know.


Primary tests would have stumped Jane Austen, says teacher

In fact, although pupils take national tests including the term “fronted adverbial” at the end of primary school, since 2014 England’s national curriculum has expected children to be able to understand it from year 4, when they are eight or nine. Meanwhile, “subordinate clauses” should be known and labelled correctly from the age of seven, “determiners” from age eight, and “modal verbs” and “relative clauses” from age nine.

David Crystal, one of Britain’s foremost English language academics, has argued that the Spag test, and the view of language lying behind it, “turns the clock back half a century”. There is too much emphasis on linguistic labelling as an end in itself, he says, rather than on using this as the starting point in discussions of effective writing.

Michael Rosen, the children’s author and Education Guardian columnist, has said we are suffering from “terminology-itis”: a mistaken belief that talking about grammatical structures will improve pupils’ writing. It’s a waste of children’s time, he says.



I would go further. It makes English lessons incomprehensible and pointless, and damages every child. The normal ones think they are idiots, and the bright ones think they are good at English just because they can label it correctly.

Grammar is a tool to help you, not a chore to work through.

If you are spending even one fiftieth as much time on labelling your grammar as in using it, you are doing it wrong.
Just my opinion! Whistle


This 'not supported by research' strikes me. There are few rules in English, but a lot of patterns. Learning grammar doesn't help you much in constructing something, because there is so much variation.
It is like being drilled on stripping a bicycle and labelling all the parts, while for the rest of the day you are flying a jumbo jet and piloting a submarine, depending on who you are talking with.
Just my opinion. Not supported by any research. Whistle


My bold.
Source article from respected newspaper https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/may/09/fronted-adverbials-sats-grammar-test-primary

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2017 7:57:22 PM

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Thanks, Andrew, EPT, Parser, tunaafi, JJ and thar.

Very interesting opinions.

"Fronted adverbials" - another thing that I've never heard about!

It's not surprising, as the person who invented the term was born shortly before I finished school and published his first book less than thirty years ago.
It's not part of traditional English Grammar.

Thinking that you know a language just because you can label all the parts of a sentence is like thinking you are a good doctor because you know that the "proper" name for a pain in the stomach is dyspepsia.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
tunaafi
Posted: Monday, May 15, 2017 6:07:42 PM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:

Thinking that you know a language just because you can label all the parts of a sentence is like thinking you are a good doctor because you know that the "proper" name for a pain in the stomach is dyspepsia.


Applause Applause Applause
A cooperator
Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 2:27:56 PM

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Location: Ḩāḑírah, Hadramawt, Yemen
Thank you all of you very much indeed.
However, talking a lot to myself, I think, will not be interested as much as talking to a person face to face. Furthermore, how can I create a conversation script to myself? I think wordings to be spoken while taking with anyone should be automatically come out. However, while talking to myself through an already- prepared conversation script will make me be used to talk according to the wishes I prepared in script, not necessarily according to natural language or behavior.

I really read this discussion below between two native English speakers and one who is pap_308 is not native speaker. In one thread of mine there, they were discussing whether watching movies was useful or not in improving spoken English:::: where A and B are speakers.

pap_308
Quote:
Surely listening to anything will help. But it's very difficult (at least for me) to understand
(or rather to hear what they are actually saying) if they speak fast and colloquially, not to speak about slang.



Briton:
Quote:
Watching movies is a useful aid in learning the ways that English is spoken, but movies are not necessarily the best place to look for good grammar.



Leonazol:
Quote:
This is especially true of American films. An audience goes to the theater expecting to be entertained by a contrived fantasy. Even though this was in fact recorded by a camera, the actors and actresses read from a script and respond to each other according to the wishes of the director, not necessarily according to natural language or behavior.

In my opinion, a much better guide to spoken English would be a talk show where people are having conversations with each other that are not prepared or scripted—although someone promoting their latest book or film will certainly have a statement of some sort prepared. This is a good way to see how people interact, and the different responses to different phrases. It is also a good way to hear a variety of accents and vocabularies, and how they work together—or sometimes how they don't.


Whoever doesn't own what he promises to those who do not deserve must not promise it.
A cooperator
Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 3:00:24 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

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Location: Ḩāḑírah, Hadramawt, Yemen
thar wrote:
This 'not supported by research' strikes me. There are few rules in English, but a lot of patterns. Learning grammar doesn't help you much in constructing something, because there is so much variation.
It is like being drilled on stripping a bicycle and labelling all the parts, while for the rest of the day you are flying a jumbo jet and piloting a submarine, depending on who you are talking with.
Just my opinion. Not supported by any research. Whistle


Thanks a lot, thar

Do you think you can play any games or enter to any other unauthorized places without knowing their rules?

As a result, if I don't know how the past perfect tense should be used I will never know how to write the sentence below grammatically correct.
I couldn't get in because I had lost my keys.

I, myself, only knew how to choose the correct tense in "had lost" since I looked up the typical use for the Past Perfect tense in my "Practical English Usage" book for Michael Swan. I found that past perfect must be used in a typical use as"action before a particular past time". However, others insist on saying it is not helpful knowing grammar. Though they write grammatically correct. Think
For instance, if asked what typical use for the Past Perfect tense is, you would need to go to your grammar book. For instance, these sentences below would be correct in the Past Simple, Present Perfect, or Past Perfect tense unless you know grammar correctly.
"I couldn't get in because I had lost my keys", " I had never ever had any love stories or relationships here in Yemen". I'll give you my knowledge after seeing your view point.



Whoever doesn't own what he promises to those who do not deserve must not promise it.
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