Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

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nedthelonelydonkey
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Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby nedthelonelydonkey » Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:34 am

Is it really impossible to learn a language without having to memorize countless rules about the subjunctive clause or what a conjunctive adverb is? I don’t understand how learning terminology could aid in learning a foreign language. Maybe it’s because I’m young and most people my age I know get bored listening to the teacher drone on about the preterite tense and its use in Spanish, but I wish foreign language classes in school were a little bit more communicative.

Is the traditional grammar rule method still effective for some people? Or are schools to lazy to look for more engaging methods and prefer students to memorize grammar rules because it “works?”*

*spoiler, it usually doesn’t judging by how my felllow classmates talk in English
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Feb 27, 2019 12:49 pm

It is not.

It depends on the classes. Based on my experience, the problem is not some distant theory away from the real use of the language. Lerning the grammar is extremely important, especially for speaking and writing. The problem is how the grammar is taught and learnt, not that it is learnt too much or with too much terminology. It works just like the rest of the class content, it depends on the quality of the teacher, the teaching resources, and the students.

What are the usual problems:

-learning too little of the grammar. More and more teachers are trying to "save" their students the supposed boredom and more and more coursebooks get watered down. Guess what, the students are unable to put together a sentence even after several years, because just memorisation of phrases without a real explanation doesn't work. Doing a communicative class is useful, but only if the theoretical part is present too. But it is definitely possible that speaking is too rare in your class, true. But I think it is a different problem than "too much grammar"

-not getting the bigger picture or learning it in a weird order. That happens a lot and also has a lot to do with the students' individual talents and thought process. I had to unlearn a few mistakes because some teachers had not introduced certain grammar points fast enough and I had learnt to survive without them and with mistakes, just because I hadn't known about the missing pieces. You can fix that by self study

-too little application. But that is also on the students' part. You cannot expect to read books, watch tv, or do enough exercises in class, there is simply too little time for that. And you also don't need teacher for that. If you are not regularly exposed to the language and getting used to the grammar applied, it is no wonder you struggle. But this is something you can fix yrouself.

-not that good resources. I'm convinced that the best is to tackle the grammar appropriate for the level, get through direct explanations, overview, examples, and practice. Some grammar workbooks are awesome at that. Some are simply not and they complicate the grammar too much. Again, you can fix this by learning the stuff from better books yourself. You'll still be bored in class, but you'll actually have the knowledge.

-but I don't think the complication is "learning what a subjunctive clause is". That is basic knowledge. Do people complain they have to learn some basic physics terminology, in order to learn the subject and apply the knowledge? It seems to me, that people are too consumed by the marketing strategy of many language schools, that languages should be hyper easy and fun (with weird definition of it) to learn. Well, not in this sense. Not, if the goal is giving you a foundation to potentially build good skills upon, not just the touristy phrases.
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby romeo.alpha » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:01 pm

nedthelonelydonkey wrote:Is the traditional grammar rule method still effective for some people? Or are schools to lazy to look for more engaging methods and prefer students to memorize grammar rules because it “works?”*


There's a book published by McGraw-Hill about successful language learners. It looked at 7 examples of students who were successful, and the interesting thing that stood out to me is some of them achieved success with methods that were completely at odds with each other. So yes, it is possible that it is effective for some people, but I would also imagine that it isn't the majority, or even a significant minority.

I think one of the reasons it's prevalent is because grammar errors can be objectively tested for. If you ask for a particular conjugation, and something else, perfectly understandable is written, then it's still clearly wrong. Then since that's what's being tested for, it's also what needs to be taught. This is compounded by the fact that traditionally languages are not taught by teachers who speak the language well. When I was learning French in elementary school, it was taught by classroom teachers who couldn't speak it themselves. So they aren't in a position to assess someone's progress.

When I moved to high school, my French teachers were either native speakers, or who had learned it very well. I think one of the most striking examples is when a classmate and I didn't want to make a poster, so we asked if we could write an essay instead. The teacher allowed it, marked it and handed our essays back to us with a bunch of corrections and a 10/10 grade. I felt it was a bit odd getting 10/10 with all those mistakes, but she explained that mistakes were to be expected, and overall it was very good for our level (9th or 10th grade).
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby Brun Ugle » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:18 pm

I would have said it is the opposite. There is often far too little grammar explanation in modern classes and books. And they seem afraid to use the actual terminology and instead call verbs “action words” and adjectives “describing words” or other such nonsense. A simple five minute explanation of a grammar point can save weeks of frustration and confusion, in my opinion.
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby reineke » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:58 pm

Nine commonly made errors in L2- grammar instruction and how to address them

Gianfranco Conti

co-authored with Steve Smith of The Language Teacher Toolkit and Dylan Vinales of Garden International School

"Based on my professional eperience and on my readers’ accounts, much ML and EFL grammar instruction in the UK and, I suspect, across the world, is undermined by a number of shortcomings that stem from a misunderstanding of grammar acquisition and/or ‘sketchy’ curriculum design. In this post I discuss nine of the most serious shortcomings I have observed in 25 years of ML and EFL teaching. Please note that each of the points I make below is valid only if one espouses Skill-theory based theories of L2 language acquisition (also referred to in the literature as Skill-building or Cognitive Code approaches). If you operate within the C.I. / T.P.R.S. paradigm, you are very likely to disagree with every single one of the points I raise below.

The starting-from-zero approach

More often than not, the teaching of a given grammar structure occurs ‘from scratch’, so to speak, with the students having had no previous exposure to it. However, learning – any kind of learning – is much more effective when the students can relate new input to past experiences. This is true of language learning too. That is why the ‘planting the seed’ technique or ‘anaphoric recycling’, facilitates and enhances grammar learning...

Minimal receptive practice and the ‘PPP-in-one-lesson obsession’

This refers to one of the greatest shortcomings of grammar instruction. Most grammar lessons unfold through a PPP (presentation, practice, production) sequence which goes way too quickly from the explanation of a grammar point to production. However, a very important stage, which plays a decisive role in grammar acquisition is nearly always missed out: receptive practice through the aural and written medium.

This hyper-neglected stage is very important, especially for the less confident of our learners, for the following reasons; (a) receptive processing is less cognitive challenging than production..."

https://gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com/2 ... ress-them/
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby trui » Wed Feb 27, 2019 2:06 pm

grammar very be important, if Even it teachers teach wrong sometimes: still be important very it.
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reineke
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby reineke » Wed Feb 27, 2019 2:22 pm

trui wrote:grammar very be important, if Even it teachers teach wrong sometimes: still be important very it.


“While without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed”
Wilkins (1972)

“Learners carry around dictionaries and not grammar books”
Schmitt (2010)

The key principle of a lexical approach is that “language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar.”
Michael Lewis

“Language is very difficult to put into words.”
Voltaire
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby trui » Wed Feb 27, 2019 2:41 pm

More seriously, like Brun Ugle said, being able to use specific words that are consistent across learning materials to identify what you're learning/teaching is very useful.

Just think of how you'd describe the problems with my previous sentence without using any standard grammar terms whatsoever.

On the other hand, you don't have to take your grammar terms from Latin (?). Although Dutch students are learning the Latin terms, there's perfectly good Dutch grammar terms too such as:

bijwoord "by word" adjective
werkwoord "work woord" verb
naamwoord "name word" noun
hoofdzin "head sentence" main clause
bijzin "by sentence" subordinate clause

But the specific terms don't matter, although I prefer the Dutch one; what matters is that they're consistent.

reineke wrote:
trui wrote:grammar very be important, if Even it teachers teach wrong sometimes: still be important very it.


“While without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed”
Wilkins (1972)

“Learners carry around dictionaries and not grammar books”
Schmitt (2010)

The key principle of a lexical approach is that “language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar.”
Michael Lewis

“Language is very difficult to put into words.”
Voltaire


Yes vocab matters more in the end, but if you want a fast track to sounding natural/native in a language, then grammar and a couple thousand words is a good start (What I did with Dutch).

Of course trying out what you learn with native speakers goes without saying. It might not be strictly necessary, but it's a quick way to see if you're on the right track. For every piece of grammar I learned, I tried it out with a native speaker and asked if it was correct and natural.
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby Sayonaroo » Wed Feb 27, 2019 2:52 pm

Isn’t it so that they can give quizzes, tests, homework so they can give the students grades ?? It’s hard to give grades if all you do is give the students comprehensible input and not test them by forcing them to output via speaking, or writing.
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Re: Why is learning ABOUT grammar so prevalent in today’s language classes?

Postby neumanc » Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:13 pm

I don't know what today's school lessons look like, but I remember mine. They definitely were first and foremost about grammar, in Latin in the form of translation exercises, in English and French in the form of grammar drills, at least up to a certain grade. Why do I think this was the case? Well, think about the teacher's perspective. It is quite easy for the teacher to give grammar lessons, because there aren't too many rules, and to have the student's do grammar and/or translation exercises and then correct them during classes. In order to do this, the teacher needs nearly zero preparation, at least if he chooses the exercises contained in the textbook (for which he has an answer key!), and this makes his job so much more time-efficient. Designing an intelligent curriculum and creative exercises himself would cost him significantly more time. So what else to expect? We are all human, after all.
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