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  1. Unregistered
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    #1

    How to teach Grammar

    Dear teacher,
    Although I am not a new teacher but I find it very difficult to teach Grammar due to what I believe in that grammar should be spontaneously not rules .

    PS.I teach fourth and sixth grades

    Islam Hamdan

  2. apex2000's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Dear teacher,
    Although I am not a new teacher but I find it very difficult to teach Grammar due to what I believe in that grammar should be spontaneously not rules .

    PS.I teach fourth and sixth grades

    Islam Hamdan
    "Although I am not a new teacher, I find it very difficult to teach grammar because I believe that the use of grammar should be spontaneous, not governed by rules".
    This is a better way of putting your point.

    You have a point. It all depends upon how you learn grammar, and that normally begins in the home. If the parents speak good, correct English then the child should grow up knowing intuitively what is right and wrong. But the longer a child is exposed to incorrect English the harder it becomes for the child to choose the correct grammar - that is when teaching the rules becomes essential.
    An example of this is the double negative. "I don't know nothing", which should, of course, be either " I do not know anything" or "I know nothing". There are areas where this usage is endemic and no amount of teaching has managed to erase it, probably because the child may well understand the teacher whilst in school but surrounded by everyone else outside school using the double negative will fall back into that regime.
    Very few of us, including regrettably myself, always get all our grammar correct. It is, therefore, helpful to be able to look up correct use when in doubt, so having the rules set out must be a good thing.

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    #3

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by apex2000 View Post
    An example of this is the double negative. "I don't know nothing", which should, of course, be either " I do not know anything" or "I know nothing". There are areas where this usage is endemic and no amount of teaching has managed to erase it, probably because the child may well understand the teacher whilst in school but surrounded by everyone else outside school using the double negative will fall back into that regime.
    Be careful, here. Double, and even triple, negatives have always been a feature of many -- probably most -- dialects of English; they're just not a feature of Standard English, which is what is taught in schools. Standard English is used on formal occasions, dialect on informal occasions, and there's actually nothing "correct" or "incorrect" about dialects: merely "appropriate" and "inappropriate" use (e.g. when writing a business letter or a newspaper report). What's happening is not that the children are wilfully abandoning the "good rules" taught in class, but are becoming (hopefully) bilingual within their own language.

    This, though, is why I think some kind of grammar should be taught to ESLs, rather than letting it develop "spontaneously", because they may conflate different registers and produce a kind of hybrid mix, which would sound uneducated in a formal setting, and just plain weird in an informal setting.

    But it's probably possible to disguise the teaching of grammar to a certain extent. For example...

    OK, folks, now, last time we talked about using "will" to make promises: "I will get back to you on this", "We will send the goods first thing tomorrow"... But sometimes, you need to put a condition on that promise. Well, to make a condition, we just take a simple sentence, like "You send us the specification", and put an "If" in front of it, and add it to the promise: "If you send us the specifications, we will make an offer".

    And in one easy step you have taught the so-called "first conditional" without ever saying "conditional" or "modal auxiliary".

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    #4

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    Funny thing dialects. We hear quite a few in the UK but all the double negatives I have heard, over very many years, have come from those with a less than acceptable education. Never mind standard English, which is a bit like saying received English, I am used to hearing English without any such obvious lack of understanding or deliberate misuse, and as I have travelled around quite a bit I do not believe that it has anything to do with dialects.

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    #5

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by apex2000 View Post
    Funny thing dialects. We hear quite a few in the UK but all the double negatives I have heard, over very many years, have come from those with a less than acceptable education.
    That could be because you regard as "acceptable" an education which results in the elimination of double negatives. In fact, double (and even triple or quadruple) negatives have a venerable tradition in English, and Chaucer could string several negatives together without raising an eyebrow. Even relatively recently, Shakespeare had no qualms about writing "Nor never none shall mistress of [my heart] be, save I alone" (Viola in Twelfth Night).

    Our word "not" is actually half of an old double negative, originally the phrase "ne a whit" ("not a thing") added to an already negative sentence, the original negative particle ("ne" placed before the verb) gradually disappearing. It wasn't until the Renaissance that formal grammar tried to impose logic on the language and declared the double negative as a Bad Thing.

    This did not happen in other European languages, notably French and Russian. The curious exception is German, in which the double negative now only survives in the Franconian dialect, but has disappeared from every other dialect.

    I am used to hearing English without any such obvious lack of understanding or deliberate misuse, and as I have travelled around quite a bit I do not believe that it has anything to do with dialects.
    There's no lack of understanding involved, nor any deliberate misuse. It's how people speak. When a Cockey says to you, "I din't see nuffin", you know exactly what is meant. This is perceived as uneducated because uneducated people are usually portrayed in movies and on TV as frequent users of the double negative, and because the mass media, scientific journals and so on use standard English, where the rules call for a careful avoidance of the double negative. (And not a bad thing, either, because some double negatives when written down -- although seldom when spoken -- can be ambiguous.)

    If you are implying that you have seldom heard double negatives in natural speech, that doesn't really tally with my experience.

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    #6

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    That 'venerable tradition' you mention comes from old English and if it was acceptable we would all be using it today. As the vast majority do not use it, and all the teaching that I have come across does not include it, let alone English grammar, it has nothing to do with 'acceptable' education, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    Of course I hear double negatives (and must admit they make me cringe) but it is not good English and neither should we be implying to students, especially foreign students, that the double negative is acceptable.

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    #7

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    apex, I'm not suggesting that we should tell ESLs that it's perfectly fine to use double negatives (although there are some teachers who believe quite strongly that we should). We teach ESLs standard English for very good and practical reasons, and standard English proscribes the double negative with a negative meaning. That, however, has little to do with the natural evolution of the language, and more to do with an arbitrary decision made by academics who were great logicians, but lousy linguists. You don't use double negatives because you've been told it's unacceptable: but saying something doesn't make it so.

    I sometimes have to tell my students that double negatives are a feature of most non-standard dialects (they often find examples in literature and are quick to ask), but, never fear, I do tell them they shouldn't try to use it themselves: in most situations they're likely to be in, it would be frowned upon and would give a very unflattering impression of the speaker. This is a question of style and register rather than grammar.

    I'm merely saying that you shouldn't put a value judgement on such things. What violates the rules of standard English may be perfectly acceptable within the Cockney grammar, or the Westcountry grammar. Standard English is the de facto standard we all agree on, but that makes it useful and desireable, not "better" or "more correct". Indeed, speaking standard English where a non-standard dialect is expected can -- and often does -- expose the speaker to ridicule, borne of a kind of inverse snobbery: it's "posh talk", and marks the speaker out as an outsider.

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    #8

    Re: How to teach Grammar

    Interesting comments, Boss, and it seems that we are not divided by a big margin; quite the reverse. On your last sentence I would suggest that it is not the use of standard English that would lead to such comments, rather the accent employed. I have never had a problem in communicating in circumstances where the spoken English fell way below the standard version. It is not what you say, so much, as how you say it.

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