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  1. #1
    blouen's Avatar
    blouen is offline Key Member
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    Default grammar or conversation

    Which do you think is much better for a learner to develop/know first, grammar or conversation?

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    From my own experience of learning languages, the two go hand in hand.

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    blouen's Avatar
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    From my own experience of learning languages, the two go hand in hand.
    But where do you give "more" attention to? grammar or conversation?

  4. #4
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    I once led a converstional course in English for adults who wanted to learn and dare speak English freely, for practical reasons. It was pointless to teach them to say "what are you going to do?" because what actually came out of their mouths was "watcha gonna do?" (which is grammatically incorrect). And this is also true of younger people, who will lose their enthusiasm and interest for language learning before they even started to learn it, if we teachers begin feeding them grammar before they are a little more confident about their word-knowledge. In the real world, native speakers don't pay so much attention to grammar. And look at how little children learn to speak, they will make their grammar mistakes but get better at it as they acquire a varied vocabulary by listening. Only when they go to school and learn to read will they realise that there are six words in the question above, and not three. They become more and more articulate (grammatically) with an expanding word-knowledge, and not vice versa.

    I have seldom - if ever- heard of extracurricular courses in writing skills, most are about oral communication. Rarely do adults say that they need writing skills more than speaking, and yet we teachers put so much emphasis on grammar and the written word. We often treat language learning as a purely academic exercise.

    What is your experience of teaching (grammar vesus vocabulary)?
    Last edited by bianca; 06-Sep-2007 at 04:32.

  5. #5
    skorpion is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    Bianca,

    I'm not a teacher; however, I have been thinking about this matter for a good while now.

    In my opinion, language learning should follow almost the same process taken for learning your mother tongue. What I mean by this is that even though grammar rules are ok, they don't make the language (in a manner of speaking). Grammar's based on the language, not the other way around.

    For instance, in the question "Do you like your breakfast?" you know that a grammar rule will say something like "use the auxiliary verb 'do' at the beginning of a question blah blah blah." The grammar rule explains what usually happens in the language, see? Grammar is for identifying patterns in the language, which can ultimately be expressed as rules.

    When a language evolves (all languages evolve) grammar rules have to be modified to reflect the new "patterns" used by most people. That's why reading old English is not the same as reading modern English.

    Now, when teaching people the language, try not to use grammar books. That'll come handy when the person is able to speak the language fluently -- no matter whether mistakes are made or not.

    Ask yourself this question: Do you have to teach a toddler grammar rules for her to learn to speak? No, not at all.

    I think that the biggest problem teachers face is that most students usually ask "why?" Why is it said this way? Why do I have to conjugate the auxiliary verb and not the main verb in a question? Why? Why? Why?

    When this happens, teachers usually answer the question by saying "because this grammar rule says..." In my opinion, that's wrong. Both the question and the answer.

    Asking "why" is pointless to language learning. Languages don't have a reason for every grammar rule you come up with. They're the result of ways people have chosen to use to communicate. That's it.

    Why is this sentence wrong?: "I must to go work." The answer is very very simple: because people say "I must go to work," not "I must to go work." Period.

    People usually want answers to questions they have, but most questions are wrong. They focus on wondering why instead of focusing on the development of their listening and speaking skills, of finding patterns.

    Well, I guess this is the beginning of a good thread. So this is it for now.

    Best regards,
    CÚsar.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    Quote Originally Posted by blouen View Post
    Which do you think is much better for a learner to develop/know first, grammar or conversation?
    It should be a poll.

    My vote: aural practice (listening for patterns), then oral practice (conversation) with guidance on grammatical accuracy.

    1. listen for it
    2. use it
    3. work it out
    4. apply it in a new way

  7. #7
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    I love language and linguistics in general but books on grammar put me right to sleep. If a systematic grammatical error comes up, fix it. If a rule can be identified, do it and learn it, otherwise forget grammar.

    Ideally we would just pick up grammar naturally as we learn, unfortunately when we are learning a second language we apply our grammar to the new language. Here it needs to be corrected.

    For native speakers, most don't really know or understand grammar, they only know "what sounds right" or "what people say, and what people don't say". For a learner it depends on how much exposure they have to the native language, and why they are learning the language (to talk with people informally, or to take exams and communicate formally).

  8. #8
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    Grammar is the result of observation. When speaking a language people make observations. Grammar is not an objective in itself (unless for philosophical or intellectual exercise) but a help to understand language retrospectively. So don't teach grammar but let your students find out themselves through observation. Once I wrote down some nouns that take the indefinite article "an" and some that take "a" and asked my students to find out why. Students can make their own grammar through observation.

    Native speaker's situation is different. They are exposed to language nonstop in different situations whereas those who learn English as a second language don't have that duration of exposure nor a natural environment for learning the language. We would better call it: Grammar and Observation
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 22-Aug-2007 at 20:20.

  9. #9
    Fleur de mort Guest

    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    interesting Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim.
    The grammar is the most important than any thing. When we need to make a conversation we have to speak rightly.
    Thanks baloun I've studied in the English academy and I realy feel my skills going well.
    Last edited by Fleur de mort; 23-Aug-2007 at 02:35.

  10. #10
    TheKnower is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: grammar or conversation

    Quote Originally Posted by blouen View Post
    Which do you think is much better for a learner to develop/know first, grammar or conversation?
    I reckon both completes each other. However, i would give priority to developing | improving and mastering Grammar 's rules first, since you can not be a good conversationist without being a good words-former and sentences-maker. Conversations, on the other hand, may enrich your language vocabulary but does not help you much to correct your mistakes.

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