Saturday, January 29, 2011

Relearning Grammar

Relearning Grammar 

You would think an English teacher would know his or her grammar, right? Unfortunately this is not always the case. Native English speakers often did not take grammar as a subject. It was included in ‘English’ classes but not as a subject unto itself. From the 1960s to almost 2000, grammar virtually disappeared from British classrooms. It has begun to reappear and I think this is at least partly in response to student demand.

In Asia particularly, students want to know ‘why’ everything is the way it is. Teachers don’t always know. I mean why can ‘ough’ be pronounced eight different ways? Is there a rule? No…not really. Sure, English has rules…and an equal number of exceptions.

Oxford University Press and the other ESL publishers now feature whole series dedicated to grammar. Personally, I view teaching grammar alone as not a good idea – particularly to younger students. In high school when students are getting ready for university and its many writing tasks, then you need it. So I can understand including it at that level. But, I’m not sure of its value at primary levels. English should be taught as a whole. If you teach Listening, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Speaking and Vocabulary-building, you will have plenty of opportunities to incorporate grammar into your lessons.

Having said that, Betty Azar’s Fundamentals of English Grammar is a very good book with a separate workbook and many exercises. But, for me, doing a lot of reading will teach you how the language works just as well as a grammar book . It won’t teach you ‘why’ but do you really need to know?

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