Another month has passed, so now my French is 7 months old. This log entry is supposed to be about my progress in French, but it won't be. First off, because there was not much of a progress. Maybe there was a tiny one, I don't know. I just feel that I wasn't spending enough time on French to make a real progress. Besides, I think that there always are the periods of time when it seems nothing really happens. But still, I often think that in the first two years of learning English I'd been speanding a lot more time on and with the language... Maybe it was because the whole language learning thing was something new to me... And here comes the second reason - English. Today I'm going to write about English and why (I think) I fail to learn the English grammar just from input. Do I really need to learn grammar from textbooks? So English, grammar, and the English grammar - that's what this post is going to be about. I believe, I'm going to repeat myself, and also I'm going to quote two posts of mine written in Russian from that other forum. So... Warning - this is going to be a very boring post but I wanted to write down these thoughts and conclusions, just for myself.
Last week on efl.ru I took part in a discussion.. well.. let's say about different goals in language learning, Krashen's theory, etc. At some point, speaking of my English learning experience I wrote this:"Насколько я помню в самих перфектных конструкциях я have/had игнорировала и ориентировалась только на смысловое слово. Мне было достаточно знать, что, например, did и done это "прошедшее" для do. Примерно так. Воспринимать смысл пассивно это вообще никак не мешало. Возможно какие-то нюансы терялись, но если воспомнить, что англичане, американцы и австралийцы использут Презент перфект не совсем одинаково, то вероятно эти нюансы дейстительно незначительны. Однако это самое игнорирование вспомогательного слова потом и привело к проблемам. Согласно моей теории)), если бы я вообще была не в курсе про смысловые/вспомогательные слова, я бы обращала внимание на всю конструкцию и заметила бы разницу, ..."
and then this:"Я не воспринимала язык отдельными конструкциями до тех пор, как решила свернуть в сторону грамматического подхода. Для меня текст был един и я воспринимала его в целом. Я не знаю как объяснить... Т.е. были какие-то моменты, которые я выделяла, потому что знала, т.е. я знала что такое существительное и что такое глагол, например, или предлог и артикль и т.п. Знала про сущестование вспомогательных слов. Но мне всегда было достаточно конекста - он и давал смысл. Разбор членов предложения я не делала."
I put these two texts here to use them as a take-off point for later musing and conclusing (I mean, 'conclusions' of course
) There's a theory that writing helps thinking, sorting things out. That's what happened when I wrote these two posts - something clicked, and I got the answer to a question that I'd been asking myself the last four or so years - why after (previous) four years of listening to and reading in English my grammar was so bad that I couldn't string a sentence without making mistakes? very basic mistakes, actually.
In the first Russian text above I wrote that in my before-I-started-writing period normally I would ignore the words 'have'/'had' in the perfect tenses (Present Perfect, Past Perfect) and pay attention only to the meaning bearing word. IMO, this is the root of my problem, and the reason why I didn't pick the grammar up from input, or maybe did not pick up every thing but only some things.
As far as I remember I had problems with using the Present Continuous, the perfect tenses, the articles, and prepositions. In case with the Present Continuous I omitted 'to be' (am, are, is, etc.). So I would write "I doing" instead of "I'm doing", and the like. Plus, as I found out later I didn't understand, or misunderstand how to use the tense in general. The perfect tenses I didn't understand at all. What was similar about these tenses to me - I knew the pattern from textbooks. I knew that those were kind of grammar constructions with auxiliary verbs, even if I didn't know the term. In my first "serious" attempt to learn English (in the early 2000's) the Present Continuous was probably the last topic I learned (then I gave up). And the textbook I used back then was rather an old fashion one with a lot of exercises and texts with word-lists. With the perfect tenses was a bit different story. I looked at them, leaf through them, I knew what they looked like, I knew they were kind of different ways of speaking about the past, I knew they were something difficult and confusing that most learners couldn't understand. I decided I wouldn't be able to do it either. To sum up, what these tenses have in common are - auxiliary verbs. Did I know the patterns from textbooks? Yes, I knew. And because of that I treated the auxiliary verbs as something meaningless. I didn't pay attention to them, as if they were background noise. The result was - I did not acquire them. The mere fact that I knew the patterns didn't help me, in fact that knowledge prevented me from learning/acquiring those grammar patterns.
I don't want to say - do not learn grammar the traditional way from textbooks, etc. What I've written above is my story
. I believe that there are many people who really need the patterns being pointed out to them. Maybe sometimes just to be sure. There is nothing wrong with it. I don't need it, because I don't need that kind of patterns at all. That is not how I see a language. The logic and patterns that I use are different from the ones we normally see in a textbook. I don't know how to explain it but, for instance, it is important to me to see both 'have' and 'been' in 'I have been' as words with meanings, I don't need to see 'have been' as a pattern, or I'd rather say I need to not
see it as a pattern/a unit. By the way, I started understand how articles work only when I realized that they are a meaningful part of a phrase or sentence. I guess, I still make mistakes with articles here and there but, well, I'm still learning
... mmm... the post is really long and boring... but I warned...