How to teach Grammar
What is Grammar? Why should we teach Grammar? APPROACHES The deductive approach – rule-driven learning The inductive approach – the rule-discovery path The functional- notional approach Teaching grammar in situational contexts Teaching grammar through texts Teaching grammar through stories Teaching grammar through songs and rhymes Some rules for teaching grammar 2 3
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What is Grammar?
• • Language user’s subconscious internal system Linguists’ attempt to codify or describe that system • Sounds of language • Structure and form of words • Arrangement of words into larger units • Meanings of language • Functions of language & its use in context
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Phonology Morphology Syntax Semantics Pragmatics
“Grammar is the business of taking a language to pieces, to see how it works.” (David Crystal) Grammar is the system of a language. People sometimes describe grammar as the "rules" of a language; but in fact no language has rules. If we use the word "rules", we suggest that somebody created the rules first and then spoke the language, like a new game. But languages did not start like that. Languages started by people making sounds which evolved into words, phrases and sentences. No commonly-spoken language is fixed. All languages change over time. What we call "grammar" is simply a reflection of a language at a particular time. Grammar is the mental system of rules and categories that allows humans to form and interpret the words and sentences of their language. grammar adds meanings that are not easily inferable from the immediate context. The kinds of meanings realised by grammar are principally: • representational - that is, grammar enables us to use language to describe the world in terms of how, when and where things happen e.g. The sun set at 7.30. The children are playing in the garden. • interpersonal - that is, grammar facilitates the way we interact with other people when, for example, we need to get things done using language. e.g. There is a difference between: Tickets! Tickets, please. Can you show me your tickets? May see your tickets? Would you mind if I had a look at your tickets. Grammar is used to fine-tune the meanings we wish to express.
Why should we teach grammar?
There are many arguments for putting grammar in the foreground in second language teaching. Here are seven of them: 1) The sentence-machine argument Part of the process of language learning must be what is sometimes called item-learning — that is the memorisation of individual items such as words and phrases. However, there is a limit to the number of items a person can both retain and retrieve. Even travellers' phrase books have limited usefulness — good for a three-week holiday, but there comes a point where we need to learn some patterns or rules to enable us to generate new sentences. That is to say, grammar. Grammar, after all, is a description of the regularities in a language, and knowledge of these regularities provides the learner with the means to generate a potentially enormous number of original sentences. The number of possible new sentences is constrained only by the vocabulary at the learner's command and his or her creativity. Grammar is a kind of 'sentence-making machine'. It follows that the teaching of grammar offers the learner the means for potentially limitless linguistic creativity. 2) The fine-tuning argument The purpose of grammar seems to be to allow for greater subtlety of meaning than a merely lexical system can cater for. While it is possible to get a lot of communicative mileage out of simply stringing words and phrases together, there comes a point where 'Me Tarzan, you Jane'-type language fails to deliver, both in terms of intelligibility and in terms of appropriacy. This is particularly the case for written language, which generally needs to be more explicit than spoken language. For example, the following errors are...
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