Can Grammar Be Taught Through Games

Topics: Language education, Second language acquisition, Linguistics Pages: 13 (4235 words) Published: January 25, 2013
Can Grammar or Phonetics be taught through Games?

What is Grammar?
Before starting to talk about the place of games in the grammar description and whether it can contribute effectively to the mastery of a language, it is suitable here to start with a definition or two of grammar: I. Grammar is the rules of a language set out in a terminology, which is hard to remember, with many exceptions appended to each role (Rivers, 1968, p. 56). II. Grammar is the way a language manipulates and combines words (or bits of words) in order to form longer units of meaning (Penny UR, 1988, p. 24).

What, then, is grammar? Batstone (1994: ix) remarks that grammar is ‘an immensely pervasive phenomenon’. People used to accord the rules of grammar a very special position. These rules have been taught since schools began and may not be questioned. They describe ways, in which people can write and say, and anyone who had sufficient knowledge of these rules means that he has learned the language.

The Place of Grammar in Language Teaching
To many people, language learning and teaching is essentially a question of grammar. Hence, language teaching should concentrate on linguistic units or forms or language structure, which is the trend of the day. Despite the fact that the mastery of a language entails a very knowledge of the rules of grammar, some attempts of a new description of the language have arisen. The goal is to shift the emphasis in the area of grammar from the formal study of grammatical structures to the more actual use of a language. Consequently, the interest in the language description, which has been keen during the last few decades, results in the emergence of several new approaches to language description. It is therefore more appropriate at the present time to speak of multiple grammars of a language rather than of the grammar: formal grammar, functional grammar, transformational grammar and the minimalist grammar. The newer approaches to grammar lead to different teaching methods such as structural and communicative which, in turn, require more explanation and will now be discussed individually.

On the one hand, the structural approach to language teaching is ‘more top-down, giving forms and structures, a focus on form rather than meaning or use’ (Good, 2003). Such focus on form, as Ellis (1985) states, aids the acquisition of grammatical knowledge. Grammar in this approach is, therefore, an essential part of the product of language teaching and this, in turn, entails adopting the product-based teaching method as Good (2003) points out that ‘the product approach (tightly controlled target language) utilizes noticing and structures, analyzing language into structures, notions and functions’. The approach to structure grammar is associated with the names of such linguistics as: Bloomfield, Fries and Bloch. The focus is, as Fries (1957) points out, on the grammatical system and ‘physical terms’ (p.8) in which the linguistic units can be combined. Fries goes further to suggest that the essence of grammar lies in the structural meanings which are ‘specifically singled by a complex system of contrastive patterns’. For instance, by analyzing the members of a sentence, one is supposed to know the meaning of the sentence. In other words, it lets language use to take care of itself.

On the other hand, the communicative approach (hereafter CA) to language teaching and learning is ‘more bottom-up, starting from content and task- based, completing a task’ (Good, 2003). Therefore, grammar in this approach is considered to be a major part of the process of language learning. The emphasis is on the use of L2 without a thorough understanding of its systematic operation. Such emphasis manifests itself in the process-based teaching method, as learners, in this context, are very fluent in using the language for communicative purposes. By focusing on meaning and self-expression, learners develop...
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