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  1. #11

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Hi Kumiko,
    You've writen "English is the most complicated language in the world".
    I'm not sure about it! Haven't you heard about hungarian language?
    They say it IS the most difficult one after the chinese.
    Alice

  2. Steven D's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2004
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    #12

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    There is often a problem with students who 'know' rules of grammar but cannot communicate. Sadly, the increased dominance of exams in ESL in general is likely to reinforce the grammar-heavy approach at the expense of communication because, quite simply, grammar is the easiest thing to test.

    1. What's your approach to students who obviously have enough knowledge of English to speak but seem very uneasy about speaking because their previous experiences in learning English did not require them to speak?


    2. Whenever I read or hear of viewpoints that promote communication and not grammar, I think, well, one does have to know how to put words together or one simply doesn't speak at all. Grammar does have to be taught. Comments?

    3. Whenever I read or hear of viewpoints that promote grammar, I think that there's no way one will learn how to speak unless one speaks.

    4. There has to be a balanced approach. Grammar is necessary, but one must practice what one is learning.

    On the other hand, sometimes grammar is the main focus. I know of someone who wants to learn how to write properly in English. He's been in the U.S. for twenty years and learned how to speak English only by speaking English. His speaking is, for the most part, very good. It's actually very native-like. He sounds American when he speaks. However, he hasn't had any instruction at all. Grammar is all he needs for now. As his writing improves, this will surely have an effect on his speaking. He's aware that some of the thngs he says are not "standard" English. He needs someone to tell him what his mistakes are. Some of his errors are ESL student errors. Some of his errors come from having listened to nonstandard English as spoken by people whose first language is English. I think it's a combination of both. For example, "we was" is an ESL error and a nonstandard form one occasionally hears coming from people whose first language is English.

    Anyway, some people really need instruction in grammar. There's no way any amount of "sitting around and communicating" will help in some cases. This person's method of communicating will be writing. It will mean learning how to organize one's thoughts well on paper. This requires a focus on grammar and good and correct sentence structure.

  3. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #13

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Ooh, nice row of Qs, X Mode. Allow me to add my two cents.

    1. What's your approach to students who obviously have enough knowledge of English to speak but seem very uneasy about speaking because their previous experiences in learning English did not require them to speak?
    As a language provider you can do only so much for your students. The responsibility to want to learn is the learner's and the learner's alone. We are neither psychologists nor miracle workers, but we are educators, which means knowing your students and most importantly their culture is where it's at. Communicative activities that don't place the learner in the spotlight work wonders with EFL students in Japan, who, by the way, tend to lack confidence in speaking aloud, and not necessarily because of 'previous experiences' but more deeply so because of culture: Make a mistake, just one, and your classmates will snicker and laugh at your apparent need to stand out. Make no mistakes and your classmates will hold you responsible for stepping out of line. If one knows it, then all should know it, and if everyone doesn't know it, then you set a bad example for the rest by answering. Point to "a" student and ask a question, single them out of "the group", and you might as well grab a seat and a newspaper 'cause that students probably won't answer even though s/he knows the answers you're looking for. Japan's culture is based on group cohesion. In order to successfully meet learners' needs the language provider needs to know something about the culture. It's what drives us, all.

    2. Whenever I read or hear of viewpoints that promote communication and not grammar, I think, well, one does have to know how to put words together or one simply doesn't speak at all. Grammar does have to be taught. Comments?
    Communication houses grammar. Take first language acquisition. The child finds the patterns, the rules of the grammar, without the help of a grammarian. "Grammar", or rather formal grammar, doesn't need to be taught. I was fluent in English at the age of 8, fluent for that age, and yet when my elementary school teacher started talking about nouns and verbs I was terribly lost. Didn't know "Grammar", but was communicatively fluent just the same.

    3. Whenever I read or hear of viewpoints that promote grammar, I think that there's no way one will learn how to speak unless one speaks.
    Writing, Reading, and Speaking are three separate skills. One could also say, there's no way one will learn to write unless one writes; there's no way one will learn to read unless one reads. Grammar is housed in both methods. One could also teach grammar through oral communication alone--hey isn't that how children learn grammar? Writing, though, provides something concrete, something to remember visually.
    I've several friends who took Ancient Greek in university and they formed a Greek Club so they could speak in Ancient Greek. It was their way of being able to remember the language, 'cause as you know Ancient Greek isn't spoken anymore. If a language is dead, what's the point of speaking it? And if a language is alive, what's the point in not speaking it unless that is your instructor doesn't speak it, which is pretty much the case for most EFL students in Asia. Grammar through writing and reading seems to be the best possible method.

    4. There has to be a balanced approach. Grammar is necessary, but one must practice what one is learning.
    Agreed, X Mode. In Asia, though, there just isn't sufficient opportunity or occasion for the majority of people who want to learn English fluenty. Most importantly, the majority of language providers welcomed into Asia to "teach" English aren't qualified to teach grammar nor do they speak the Standard either. Same holds true for ESL students who learn English as a survival language. Native speakers aren't necessarily qualified teachers of grammar either. If a student is serious about learning "English" then the student needs to know that language encompasses three skills: reading, writing, and speaking.

  4. Steven D's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2004
    • Posts: 834
    #14

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Casio,

    Thank you for your answers and comments. I have one thing, at the moment, to say in response.



    Communication houses grammar. Take first language acquisition. The child finds the patterns, the rules of the grammar, without the help of a grammarian. "Grammar", or rather formal grammar, doesn't need to be taught. I was fluent in English at the age of 8, fluent for that age, and yet when my elementary school teacher started talking about nouns and verbs I was terribly lost. Didn't know "Grammar", but was communicatively fluent just the same.

    While this is true, I really believe, and know, that some grammatical structures simply aren't learned unless they are explicitly taught. With ESL/EFL speakers, I don't think one can rely too heavily on the idea of "acquisition". In my so-called "advanced class", I do lots of lessons on conditional sentences. Some of them have even completed other advanced courses but do not know how to speak using hypothetical language. They need to see that sometimes we use "will" and sometimes "would". Sometimes we use the first conditional and sometimes the second conditional. I was just talking to Spanish speaker. She seemed to indicate that the equivalent of the second conditional in Spanish is simply more polite. In English, it's more complicated than that I'd say. Anyway, hypothetical language can be acquired, but acquisition should not be relied upon. Some simply don't ever get it. I've heard in some courses teachers only spend a couple hours on it. They show the form. Students are never really asked to answer hypothetical questions out loud. I use speaking, writing, and grammar exercises to teach this aspect of English.

    If my advanced class were really advanced, I'd spend more time on vocabulary. But as it is, I know they won't get what they need unless someone shows it to them and asks them to practice it both verbally and written. Of course, there are different types of advanced students with different needs.

    I have an Iranian student in another class. She spent a year in another program and didn't have a clue about what the "present perfect" was. I know she's been very pleased that someone is providing her with what she needs to progress. She needs to learn grammatical structures. She didn't understand how to use "so that, for, to, because". We've been practicing those. She's very capable. I can't imagine how she spent a year somewhere else and only got as far as she did. I don't think it had to do with her.

    Some ESL/EFL students acquire grammar by speaking. Some do not. Even the ones who do still don't acquire all of it. Explicit instruction in grammatical forms is often necessary.
    Last edited by Steven D; 18-Jul-2005 at 21:06. Reason: spelling and left out words - typos

  5. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #15

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Oh, I whole-heartedly agree, X Mode. Instruction is necesssary, but it doesn't make a supporting argument for teaching grammar only. ^0^

  6. Steven D's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2004
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    #16

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Oh, I whole-heartedly agree, X Mode. Instruction is necesssary, but it doesn't make a supporting argument for teaching grammar only. ^0^

    Sometimes I get the impression there are those who do one or the other and not both.

    There is, of course, conversational grammar.

  7. Steven D's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2004
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    #17

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Most importantly, the majority of language providers welcomed into Asia to "teach" English aren't qualified to teach grammar nor do they speak the Standard either.
    Well, your comments and answers seem to provoke more comments and questions on my part. I hope you don't mind.


    A couple questions come to mind. How far does their language deviate from what we can call the Standard? Can you give an example of one or two things you've heard native speakers say that you would find unacceptable coming from one who teaches English? I hope you're not talking about informal-formal usage issues such as using "like" as a conjunction instead of "as".

    I once heard a teacher say "if she would have". It made somewhat of an impression on me, as it's not something I would say. It's something that strikes me as not standard even though I might have heard it before. I probably have but never paid attention to it. That's something I would say deviates from the standard - too much. I always caution students against using that form. I think they hear it. I get a question about it now and then. On the other hand, the idea of "standard" and "nonstandard" can also have to do with formality versus informality. So, I would ask, what do you mean by "Standard" exactly? That can be a loaded term. It can be used by prescriptivists to mislead learners regarding extremely widespread and accepted native speaker tendencies to disregard certain so-called "rules" in their speaking. I've noticed that prescriptivists tend to be rather irresponsible when it comes to describing general native-speaker usage in some areas. One can't be too permissive when speaking of what is "okay" or "not okay", but one must also be fair. I think it's better to consider what one "can say" and "cannot say" for practical purposes.

    •In spoken English there is a growing tendency to use would have in place of the subjunctive in contrary-to-fact clauses, as in if I would have been the President, but this usage is still widely considered incorrect.

    http://www.bartleby.com/61/50/I0025000.html
    Last edited by Steven D; 18-Jul-2005 at 21:46. Reason: typos

  8. Steven D's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2004
    • Posts: 834
    #18

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Communicative activities that don't place the learner in the spotlight work wonders with EFL students in Japan, who, by the way, tend to lack confidence in speaking aloud, and not necessarily because of 'previous experiences' but more deeply so because of culture:

    I agree. Those are the kind of activities I use. However, once in a while I ask students to speak aloud in class while everyone is listening. They need to develop confidence. They live here, but their lives don't permit them to use English nearly as often as they should. They can't be afraid to speak up. They're going to need to do that soon enough. I don't ask for much - just one answer to one question. For example, one person asks a "have you ever" question. We get an answer from the person sitting next to him or her. Then that person asks the same "have you ever" question. We go around the room until everyone has asked the question and everyone has answered. This sort of thing is usually spontaneous. It works well for mixed levels, which is what I have. If it's too easy for some of them, it becomes a pronunciation lesson. French speakers need some pronunciation coaching. Some of them have to scrape final syllables of the ceiling. They're getting better though.

  9. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970
    #19

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Quote Originally Posted by X Mode
    Can you give an example of one or two things you've heard native speakers say that you would find unacceptable coming from one who teaches English? I hope you're not talking about informal-formal usage issues such as using "like" as a conjunction instead of "as".
    Deviations for the Standard are acceptable. I'm a descriptivists: a sentence is "unacceptable" only iff it lacks meaning; that includes informal and formal language. When it comes to the TOEFL, though, Standard Rules all the way.

    Deviations from the Standard that I have noticed:

    Phonology: e.g., supposu*bly
    Morphology: e.g., poor spelling (pick an example), PPs (I *drunk beer).
    Syntax: e.g., adverb order (I *sometimes have been known to watch TV.)


    •In spoken English there is a growing tendency to use would have in place of the subjunctive in contrary-to-fact clauses, as in if I would have been the President, but this usage is still widely considered incorrect.


    Ah, yes, but it's "a growing". I'd mention that to my students 'cause they're bound to come across it, as did you.

  10. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #20

    Re: Learn Grammar; I didn't!

    Ooh, cool. Then here's an activity you'll definitely like. It's called Criss Cross:

    Have the students sits in rows (classroom rows). Pick a vertical row and have all the students in that row stand up. Have them raise their hand and ask you a question, something like, "Do you have ____ in Canada/USA/the UK?", say, for example, buses, cheese, etc. If your answer is "Yes, we do" then that student gets to sit down, and if your answer is "No, we don't" then that student remains standing. The last student left standing starts the new row--a horizontal one: the students on her/his left and right stand, hence the name Criss Cross.

    My students absolutely love this activity. I use it for review, and for all ages, even 1st grade, but I usually give them hints about the fashcards I'm holding 'n hiding from view. For example, "This animal lives on a farm. It's pink, and it says, oink, oink." Actual student response: "Is it a peach?" (Hahaha). Students raise their hands, the quickest hand raised wins that student a chance to provide an answer. If "yes". They sit down, and if "No" they remain standing.

    One of the exellent things about this activity is that it gets the entire class involved. Students prompt one another with the right way to pose the question or the different kinds of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs that might be the correct answer. They do so because they don't want to be the next row to stand up.

    I also use the activity if a student has just return from a short trip. We switch seats. I become one of the students, they become the person who says "yes" or "no". The class asks about the trip; e.g., Did you swim?, Do they have _____ in South Korea?", What kind of ___ do they have?", etc.

    It also works well for routines; e.g., "Do you get up at 7:00?". Once the correct time is known, the question changes to "Do you eat breakfast at 7:35?" and so on.

    All the best,

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