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Why grammar? Options
Mansoor Nasir
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 5:55:51 AM
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Location: Pakistan
It is said that grammar is for the fools. Though I don’t claim to be a fool myself, I do take interest in reading grammar. But my observation and experience is that grammar is a big hindrance in the way of learning any language especially English. Language learning is a natural process. We do not teach a new born child what is verb or what articles are or how singulars are converted into plurals and so on. The child learns all these things himself as he grows up and interacts with the people around him. When we start teaching the same child grammar at the age of four or five he gets confused. Grammar affects his flow and fluency both in written and spoken English. Prior to that he was comfortable with ‘Mama loves me’, but after learning Grammar he was puzzled as to why he was using‘s’ with ‘love’.
Grammar does not teach a language; it just polishes it. Therefore, isn’t it better that grammar should be taught at least after the ten years of schooling when through direct method (not through translation method) a student has learnt the basic rules and structures of the language?
pedro
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 6:25:47 AM
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I largely concur. I think we had a couple of half-days being taught formal grammar in school which most of us promptly forgot. If Noam Chomsky is to be believed then it is hardwired into us anyway. It is sufficient to point out anomalies where they occur and where they matter (eg if they render your sentence ambiguous). I suspect there would be far fewer such corrections than for spelling, which has its own wayward logic in English.
DavidL
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 7:52:27 AM
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My response to both of you, is look at the state of American education, and what comes out of their mouths...that NOBODY has corrected/corrects.

'I had went...' : is this meant to be "I had gone..." or "I went..." ? So much for the use of Past Perfect for creating suspense in writing!!!!!!!!!!!!

and
'I had tooken...'
'I had boughten...'

One is reduced to being satisfied by just getting the gist of the communication. The use of language for an interesting turn of phrase that brings a smile to someone else; for wit, for poetry, and meaningful prose, goes out the window!
intelfam
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 8:25:10 AM
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I am of the opinion that children learn by immersion but isn't there some evidence that this learning is greatest when they are young? I seem to recall somewhere that children are far more alert and "searching" for rules to guide their behaviour/acceptance and so pick out rules, OK in an unconscious fashion.
As someone who learned French from 11 to 16 and German 12-16, both in the classroom, I struggled with the grammar. The languages were taught by a mix of vocabulary learning by drill and grammar units. We were not exposed to the literature unless we went on to learn the languages post-16.
Later (in my late twenties) wanting to holiday in France, and believing that it was more respectful to try to speak the language rather than adopt the method used by UK tourists I had seen in Spain - which was to shout in English, when one was not understood in a normal voice - I studied again, this time through radio programmes, newspapers and conversation. In the same vein I started to learn Welsh.

For me, the grammar then became invaluable. It is akin to being dropped into a foreign country. It is OK being able to read the road signs, but the grammar was a map. By referring to the "map" of grammar, stuffed into me as a boy, I was able to extrapolate which speeded my learning.

My children were taught the same languages by immersion. This year (10 years after leaving school) we went to France as a family. They had retained the vocab but could no longer string a sentence together, basically they had forgotten the country and didn't have a map. So, al in all, I think both have a place.
Julya
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 8:25:42 AM
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I couldn't take lessons and study English with the help of those who speak incorrectly but whom the native English speakers understand perfectly. It is the fact. Therefore I am for useful grammar as for a basis of studying of language at least for adult . If you don't know any second language, it doesn't mean you are a fool. Otherwise the most of people would be fools around the world.
Marissa La Faye Isolde
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 9:11:15 AM
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I wonder if each language has its own grammar?

I have been seeking a grammar tutor in English my whole adult life. One of the things I have discovered is that almost no one (English speaking people) truly understands English. Here on this forum is the first time that I think there are people who truly know their English grammar. I am very appreciative of those here who act as "guides" to those of us who are uncertain.
Ravindra
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 9:39:52 AM
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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Grammar, of course with a basic vocabulary, is like health along with the bare necessities like food, clothing and shelter. The more vocabulary is like more wealth. Then health plus wealth is ...........!!
Grammar controls a language, like a traffic controller (including the automatic signls) in a junction or on the road. Let's imagine a junction without this controller. And it is a pellmell. If grammar were not there, I speak the way I want and you understand the way you can. A defective communication. If the communication has to be effective, that is what I am thinking has to be translated into sentences, I ought to honour the rules, lest I will never be understood.
Mansoor, I agree with you, no parent teaches his or her child,at a very young age, grammar. The child picks up the right thing. A child's first school is its home. It is true that, at times the child's vocabulary or pronunciation or construction of a sentence could be wrong. At a very young age the kid needless to be corrected. Many of the errors get corrected, without being taught grammar rules, as the child grows up.
In case someone, even after getting into a school, sounds senseless, the mistake has to be explained by quoting the rules. At that time, the child can logically comprehend the issue.

I am the Roman Emperor, and am above grammar.
Emperor Sigismund





Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.
Richard Chenevix Trench


xsmith
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 9:59:06 AM
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I wonder if each language has its own grammar?

Every language, as far as I know, has its own grammar. I went to primary and secondary school in the 50’s and 60’s. English grammar was part of the language arts curriculum. I remember the Warriners grammar books we used in junior and senior high school. My parents made sure that I was in the academic college bound track, and my course work which included English grammar instruction prepared me to get into a college. These were the days before open admissions.

We began foreign language instruction in eighth grade. I selected Spanish. The emphasis was on reading and writing the language rather than the conversational. I learned and understood more about English grammar because of Spanish grammar instruction.

There is a dearth of grammar instruction in many American public schools. The present-day emphasis is to teach to the test and have students pass English Language Arts tests. Instruction to pass these tests is a year long campaign and formal grammar instruction is placed on the back burner.
Isaac Samuel
Posted: Monday, August 22, 2011 9:47:05 PM
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How do you think English can be taught to non English speakers without grammatical illustrations of figures of speech,etc?—to harmonize communication between the natives and non-natives; and also among the speakers of different languages.

English teachers can not make a living without teaching grammar.

The more one knows the grammar of a particular language, the more proficient one will get when expressing ones thoughts and actions in that language.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 12:35:27 AM
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It is not only Chomsky who believes we have an innate sense of grammar - this has long been the assertion of those who study language. Proof can be seen on this forum among L2 speakers, and heard on the street by L1 speakers. Most of the grammatical errors - including the above 'had tooken' and 'had boughten' (which I admit to never having heard) are a result of native speakers trying to find the logic in grammatical structures. While many others are a result of L2 speakers applying the grammars of their native languages to English.

And yes, Marissa, each language has its own grammar. Students notice when verb/adjective placement differs from their own usage, when singular/plural agreements occurs, and most of the things that are done differently in their own language are noted and accepted along with the new vocabulary and pronunciation.

It is, therefore, possible to teach English fluent enough for communication without teaching grammar. Students are, through their own native languages, aware that there are such things as grammatical constructions and most will accept a particular formula ("If" followed by "were" in the conditional, for example) as part of our grammatical structure. However, most, (notice, dedicated TFD searchers-for-knowledge, that I say "most" and not "all")are quite happy to accept that we phrase it that way without delving too deeply into the strictly grammatical underpinnings/explanations as to WHY.

As I said, in another post, people learn another language for different reasons. If your reason is to speak and be understood by those around you, grammar as a subject is not always necessary. Mistakes can be dealt with as they occur.

If, however, one is learning for the purpose of using this language for specialised reasons (in order to teach, translate, pursue Academic study etc. etc.) grammatical structures are far more important.

Which is exactly as it is with native speakers. The 'average Joe' whose use of English is purely social, can move sucessfully through life getting married, working in jobs where skills other than language skills are required (e.g. skilled tradespersons), begetting families and dying happily in the bosom of thier nearest and dearest, never even suspecting that 'boughten' is bad grammar.

It is those persons (academics; writers; politicians etc.) whose use of English will determine their position in life, who concern themselves with the intricacies, proscription and prescription of grammar.
intelfam
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 5:49:33 AM
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Joined: 1/18/2010
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Romany wrote:

Which is exactly as it is with native speakers. The 'average Joe' whose use of English is purely social, can move sucessfully through life getting married, working in jobs where skills other than language skills are required (e.g. skilled tradespersons), begetting families and dying happily in the bosom of thier nearest and dearest, never even suspecting that 'boughten' is bad grammar.

It is those persons (academics; writers; politicians etc.) whose use of English will determine their position in life, who concern themselves with the intricacies, proscription and prescription of grammar.


I was an Average Joe; OK, I went to a grammar school but I chose the science stream post 16. As far as I can recall, the english grammar we were taught (in english language classes) was very basic. For example the conditional, and subjunctive, imperfect tenses were not taught, I learned about them in French and back-read them into english. Most of my subsequent learning about english grammar has come from learning foreign languages. And from reading this forum, thank you again ESL teachers here. I still don't know what the "future perfect" is and having realised this, I shall post a topic and learn from you enlightened souls.
Ravindra
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 10:19:18 AM
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Joined: 3/23/2009
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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
This is erudite. Lovely!

Every language is spoken informally and formally. The order of the ways, excepting only in official documents or while interacting with the revered, stands the same in every language. Since informality takes place in familiar circles only, a slight deviation of the standards can be noticed. Here the listeners do not hold a magnifying glass to point out the deviation, since they are caring for the contents and undisputedly not for the language. A good grammarian may not be a good speaker; and a good speaker may not be a good grammarian'.

http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Difference-Between-Formal-and-Informal-Writing&id=594208
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