The importance of grammar in your language learning journey
Generally speaking, grammar is regarded as a very boring task for students both children and adults in the language learning process. It is often seen as the part of a language that most people want to avoid or that feels like challenging and unpleasant. Every word has a name and a place in a sentence, therefore that can feel overwhelming and unachievable for the majority of students.
Before considering how grammar can be less daunting, let’s explore together why grammar is a fundamental part of a language:
It gives structure to a sentence
Gives a refined and precise way to express yourself
Makes it easier to read and to listen when you write or speak to an audience
Spelling and grammatical mistakes can change the meaning of what you are trying to convey to the reader or listener resulting in misinformation or miscommunication.
Punctuation is also not be underestimated. It gives a sentence or a paragraph the right pauses and if used properly, it can add to the overall meaning of the content.
Grammar: foundation of a language
You will find that grammar can make you gain skills for life. It is very useful to be able to build a sentence, express your opinions and thoughts. When in high school or university you will be able to get higher grades for your essay, oral or written exams, and most importantly when looking for work or as an employee you will be able to write a polished email or a letter to a client. Your job application or your resume will certainly have a plus point and boost your chances of landing that dream role. If you have a business of your own, you can communicate in a clear efficient manner and organise your sentence for your social media posts that will make you land lots of likes and comments by your followers.
I believe that grammar should be taught and learnt in context and not as an activity disconnected from the rest, or seen like an arduous task that it doesn’t have to be used ever again. Grammar is the basics of an idiom without which you cannot speak, write and make yourself understood properly. What does in context mean exactly? It means using the grammar rules you have learnt when writing a story or a sentence or an essay. Grammar is applied to other tasks like writing a story, an article or a cover letter for a job. When speaking to an audience or in a job interview, when people listen to you, they will realize you know your grammar. Real life examples are also a good way of learning this essential part of a language and it should be blended effortlessly during the lesson. By adopting this method of grammar in context, students do not just learn rules by heart but they understand what role each word plays in a dialogue text or book.
Ways of teaching grammar in a class
There are two ways you can teach grammar: passive and active. The passive way is based on the teacher telling and explaining the rule by giving examples. The active way is founded on requesting the learner to determine the rule by analysing examples.
In the second case the teacher can guide the learner by asking questions. So for example in the case of English plural nouns make the student notice that every plural noun has an -s at the end.
In the case of Italian articles, why do we use LO and not IL for certain words? Lo is used with masculine words starting by Z, GN, PS, PN, S + consonant like SP, SG, SB., therefore the student can determine the rule by studying recurring patterns.
Or in the case of French the gender agreement (as in other neo-latin languages) can be tough for English speakers as the noun has to agree with the related adjective in the sentence.
For example: La fille a les cheveux blonds (cheveux= hair is the noun, blonds=blond is the adjective). By examining the sentence, the learner can observe the words in question are both plural and masculine.
Another example can be prepositions. There are many of them in every language. For example in English phrasal verbs, one wrong preposition linked to a verb can change the meaning completely. These can be learnt with practice and there is no need to spend time in class learning these by heart. Just learn as you go!
When to start worrying about grammar
Grammar is an important bit of the challenge of learning a language. However, you shouldn’t worry too much about grammar when you are starting off a new language. Like a child just focus on listening and repeating, writing and speaking even with mistakes. After a while you can slowly start adding up grammar rules, conjugations and details as you grow in confidence. It is not about speaking or writing correctly straight away as that will build up with time. What matters is to convey what you want to say with as many mistakes as you like at the beginning, find every excuse to listen to anything online, TV, radio maybe with subtitles which is good practice. After you feel you can make yourself understood and you have built up a good vocabulary, then you can start your grammar learning journey.
One tip I always give my students: enjoy the learning process and have fun with it!