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  1. #1
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    Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Hello All-

    I've been reading some very interesting articles by Dr. John Truscott and Dr. Dana Ferris. In Dr. Truscott's papers, he argues that grammar correction is unnecessary and even harmful to language learners. On the other hand, Dr. Ferris admits some forms of grammar correction are unproductive, but as a whole, grammar correction is necessary.

    My question is: Have you found grammar correction to be helpful or harmful in your experience? I would love to hear your stories!

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    As a learner, I have found it useful and never taken it personally.

  3. #3
    Airone is offline Newbie
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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Quote Originally Posted by scmatsuura View Post
    Hello All-

    I've been reading some very interesting articles by Dr. John Truscott and Dr. Dana Ferris. In Dr. Truscott's papers, he argues that grammar correction is unnecessary and even harmful to language learners. On the other hand, Dr. Ferris admits some forms of grammar correction are unproductive, but as a whole, grammar correction is necessary.

    My question is: Have you found grammar correction to be helpful or harmful in your experience? I would love to hear your stories!
    Recently I had a breakthrough with a difficult student who is a senior manager in the company I work in as an in-house English teacher. The student has good theoretical grammar knowledge but often fails to use proper grammar when speaking. Typical mistakes are failing to use third person "s", misuse of the simple present, improper question construction, bla bla.

    For months I did grammar lessons, typically involving a listening, focus on a grammar point, guided reconstruction of grammar rule, and production of rule. But in unprompted conversation, the student reverted to incorrect grammar.
    I shifted my approach, and we started to do free conversation, during which I would let him know when he made a mistake (we know each other well enough that I can simply raise an eyebrow and he will stop and self-correct).

    In a business meeting with English-speaking consultants a few weeks ago, my student did great, producing correct forms, asking relevant questions, and functioning at a useful level. He was previously unable to function in a social context for anything other than salutations in English. Two of his colleagues shook my hand and complimented me for "unblocking him".

    I conclude that error correction definitely has its place. My and my student's lessons are one to one, which in my experience is better for error correction since ego in front of one's peers is not an issue.

    Many factors come into play when correcting students: the student's ego, whether his peers witness the correction, how you deliver the correction, how much credibility you have as a teacher. The perfect situation in my opinion is to be able to let the student know he or she is producing an incorrect form without making him or her feel bad or slowing down the flow of the class.

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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    That we are discussing the ability to communicate clearly, in this day and age.
    Any 'correction' should have been happening in schools, rather than the 'modern' fear in America of stifling free expression - and seeming neglect in the UK with a curriculum that doesn't think instruction in correct grammar is important.

    So now, we debate whether to place ourselves in the position of telling someone they have grammatical bad breath?

    Forgive me - my outrage is not directed at yourselves.

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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Hi David L.-

    I think you're right to be angry at permissive teaching practices. There are plenty of programs that claim to purport high teaching standards, but leave their students empty handed. It's inexcusable and unethical.

    However, I think that Truscott still supports extensive grammar training, but he is concerned that grammar correction in the traditional sense is counterproductive to students. I've read his article and have been disappointed with it- Truscott offers no alternatives to traditional grammar correction!

    Ferris, on the other hand, has admitted that some faulty grammar correction practices exist. She suggests that traditional methods should be augmented and revised to fit modern times. I think that she may consider using indirect methods such as peer review as being more effective.

    What do you guys think?

  6. #6
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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    I looked up Truscott's article, and the research he draws on.

    Research has shown that corrections made by second language writing teachers are frequently arbitrary, not consistent, and greatly dependent upon the age and amount of time the teacher has with L2 students. According to Zamel (1995), teachers also commonly misread student texts and evoke abstract rules and principles in their comments. Moreover, students often find teachers remarks vague, confusing, and contradictory, and feel that teachers do not provide sufficient grammatical explanations about their writing mistakes (Cohen 1987)

    Are we talking about the futility of 'grammar correction', or how grammar correction she is done.

    In this forum, the majority of thread-posters are not just asking for the correct answer, but a simple explanation as to why one is correct, the other is wrong.

    I notice other threads asking about the most arcane of linguistic terms and sentence structure analysis. Surely, surely, it must be that they are taking a Uni course in Linguistics, and this is not basic teaching in ESL classes.

  7. #7
    helen manoli is offline Newbie
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    Red face Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Grammar is useful,and if we don't correct how will students learn the correct way as teachers it is part of our job.
    I've been reading some very interesting articles by Dr. John Truscott and Dr. Dana Ferris. In Dr. Truscott's papers, he argues that grammar correction is unnecessary and even harmful to language learners. On the other hand, Dr. Ferris admits some forms of grammar correction are unproductive, but as a whole, grammar correction is necessary.

    My question is: Have you found grammar correction to be helpful or harmful in your experience? I would love to hear your stories![/quote]

  8. #8
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    englishhobby is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Hello everybody,
    if you ask me, I'll tell you that, in my opinion, "immediate" correction. or correction "on the spot" is harmful. I mean that when a student is speaking he or she shouldn't be interrupted, as it makes him stumble. Airone's idea of "raising an eyebrow" is good for one-to-one teaching only. My method is a bit different. While a student is talking I quickly put down his or her grammar mistakes, so as not to interrupt him, on the one hand, and not to forget the mistakes, on the other (alas, I don't now trust my memory as I used to). Then I ask him or her to reproduce this or that form of the word or verb tense, using my list of mistakes. I think this method is quite effective and what do you think? Should the student be shown at once that he is making a mistake or should the mistakes be pointed out to him later?

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Quote Originally Posted by english-help.okis.ru View Post
    Should the student be shown at once that he is making a mistake or should the mistakes be pointed out to him later?
    It depends on the context- if you're practising some grammar point, it may well be appropriate to deal with mistakes as and when they appear, but when engaged in discussion, it could easily be intrusive and counter-productive.

  10. #10
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    Re: Grammar Correction: Helpful or Harmful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    It depends on the context- if you're practising some grammar point, it may well be appropriate to deal with mistakes as and when they appear, but when engaged in discussion, it could easily be intrusive and counter-productive.
    That's a good point. It also applies to posts here. Should we correct grammar mistakes unbidden?
    If a poster asks "What means 'obtuse'?" should we correct this, or simply explain what 'obtuse' means? Linguists who believe that second language acquisition is a similar process to children learning a native language (and there are still plenty of them, apparently) would argue that this poster will eventually mature into writing "What does X mean" when they are ready for that grammar lesson, and that pointing it out will not make a difference until the learner is developmentally ready for it.
    Also, there are the social aspects. Do posters/learners really want all their errors pointed out?

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