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How to put Grammar into practice
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wolfstone



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Posts: 3
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi everyone

This discussion seems to me very intersting as well, and although I am a mere English student, and this is a discussion among teachers, I would like to weigh in with some arguments

All that is vey simple. Most of English adult learners, included myself, are compelled to learn to speak English in order to communicate with our bosses or foreigner clients in my country. When I studied English in Spain, my fellows were complaining about they had the feeling to get bogged down, I mean, they were taking courses in order not to lose their fluency rather than improving their skills. I confess I had the same feeling, and so I think all this question can seldom be figured out by you, dear teachers, by searching the best way of teaching grammar or trying to encourage your learners to be more communicative. Here also native speakers, among them our bosses and clients should be more sympathetic with us, for example, by speaking slower or not using so many slang words or idioms.

However, I don't blame them for this problem at all, but since English is a grobal language and a very important business tool, I wonder native speakers who have got contacts with non-native speakers in foreign countries should be taught to use their own language properly, without creating "linguistic barriers".

Summing up, I opine that we students have to make a effort to improve our communication and our grammar, but also native speakers should come down to our English level, so that grammar makes sense for us as a way of communicate correctly

Take care
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 2:32 pm    Post subject: keep on rolling Reply with quote

People study English for MANY reasons. Here in Japan, you will find that most people attend the language schools (which I think our original poster was focusing on with her mention of adults; correct me if I'm wrong) just to get out of the house and socialize. Most language school students in Japan are housewives. They may want this social hour, or perhaps just pick up a few words here and there to help them in their travels overseas. Few are looking to become fluent, as has been my experience. Others in Japan include businessmen who need more English to get promotions or overseas appointments, and a smattering of high school or college students take language school classes for their own academic reasons. The college and HS kids have other types of specialized language schools of their own.

Let's not forget that language schools (at least the ones in Japan) offer classes infrequently, about once a week in most cases here. How can you expect anyone who is just socializing to improve in their language skills at that rate? Only the very diligent, or the very basic learner will show signs of improvement, I think. (It's late at night, so I may not be thinking clearly.)

Teaching adult students how to "be students" at their age may not even be worthwhile for the reasons I've stated above. Scary, but true, I think.

I think the best advice one can give students is to make the attempt, try, fail, make those mistakes, just TRY! Silent students don't make mistakes, but they don't learn how to talk, either. Students need to know that mistakes are ok, and that they can learn from them.

As for the other point of using terminology to present grammar vs. using alternate grammatical definitions, it may depend on the country where you teach, too. If I'm not mistaken, certain European countries tend to have a better grasp of the grammatical terms than, say, Japan (where I work). Telling a staunch German student that the [insert alternate grammatical term here] means such-and-so could prove fatal.[/quote]
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I wonder native speakers who have got contacts with non-native speakers in foreign countries should be taught to use their own language properly, without creating "linguistic barriers"

I can certainly appreciate, Wolfstone, your frustration when you don't understand what native speakers are saying. I have the problem myself with Chinese, which I am trying to learn.
But I think we students must realize that users of a language use it naturally however they do. It is up to us to learn how that is. When communication problems develop between native and non-native speakers, it is the failing of the non-native which causes the problem. Of course, a sympathetic interlocuter will notice the difficulty and try to assist in getting around the problem before going on. I still feel, however, that it is the responsibility of the student to strive for improvement in using the language as the natives do.
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strider



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 160
Location: France

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wolfstone, thanks for your input, good luck with your learning!

I agree that, in business, native speakers should make more effort to communicate clearly. I have sometimes seen native speakers of English deliberatly use 'difficult' expressions just to change the balance of power between themselves and their non-native English-speaking colleagues. But, as the Japanese say, 'Business is war'!


Larry, I agree with you 100%. We don't help our students by simplifying our English. Of course, we can help by using words that everyone can understand and speaking more slowly if necessary.
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Gary B



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
One reason why Wolfstone may get frustrated when talking to native speakers is because we don't say what we are supposed to say. In many cases we don't say, "What are you going to do today?" We say, "Whach ya doin' today? This is just the tip of the iceberg. A second point is many students are not taught idioms, compound verbs, or phrasal verbs that native speakers use constantly and naturally. It's quite common to RUN ACROSS expressions such as the one just mentioned. The question is how to teach them? I say give them a list from A-Z with as many of these expressions as possible and explain, model, and have the students practice maybe three a day. Don't expect them to know them all, but at least they may recognize some of them in a real context. In a Master's Program I'm in they say no. Only use them by giving them context. I say sometimes lists are useful even though I don't like them myself.
Chow for Now,
Just An Opinion In Motown Gary B.
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...because we don't say what we are supposed to say. In many cases we don't say, "What are you going to do today?" We say, "Whach ya doin' today?

Whoa, Gary B,
I gotta take issue with you on this one. It is precisely "Whach ya doin' t'day?" that we teachers must teach. Because, exactly as you've pointed out, thats what English speakers use. It's fine to use What are you going to do today? for analysis of grammar, or other technical work, but when you're modeling how to talk, it's the contracted and somewhat distorted expression we should use. No native speaker (at least none that I know) would ever say, "What are you going to do today?" Moreover, in this particular case, we have an institutionalized utterance, or at least a fixed expression. We ought to teach it all at once, and not break it down into individual words. The whole expression is a single lexical item to be learned just as "Good morning" or "Fine, thanks." might be.

And by the way, I agree with you that sometimes lists can be useful as long as students are not overwhelmed with them. Perhaps what your teachers are disparaging is "vocabulary lists." If that's right, then I agree with them. They're nearly useless.

Larry Latham
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Gary B



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 4:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
No Larry, perhaps I didn't make myself clear. What I meant was, yea, of course you here things like, "Whata ya doin' today?" This is probably more natural for native speakers as opposed to, "What are you doing today?" You're exactly right, the natural speech is what English instructors should be teaching. What I meant to say was that ESL/EFL students quite often study the formal grammar without being exposed to informal speech so when they communicate with native speakers they may sometimes feel lost. That was my whole point that we should be teaching them formal grammar as well as the informal speech to go along with it. With some sort of lists of compound verbs, phrasal verbs, and idiomatic expressions I still stick to my guns. A list and teaching from it is better than nothing. Of course in context is much better, but a list is at least a start.
Chow for Now,
Clarification From Motown Gary B.
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, Gary B. Clarification noted and understood.

There's much more to this general topic of "How to Use Grammar in the Classroom", but I have the feeling we've about wrung out as much as we're going to get here on this board. To sum up my general feelings, it seems to me that grammar has a definite place in the teaching of English (or any language, for that matter) simply because it's supposed to make the task of producing and understanding easier for the user. Far from being a list of "rules" for the learner to memorize and adhere to rigidly, grammar is a set of principles to be understood and used as a guide for communicative clarity. That being the case, it then is communication which is the ultimate goal. Being able to transfer thoughts clearly from one individual to others is what's important. So communicative success in the classroom is much more desirable as interlanguage than reproduction of grammatical "correctness." If your students understand what you say, that's a winner. If you and other people (in or out of the classroom) understand what a student means--even if grammatical form is non-standard--that's also a victory. In any course of study, purity of form is always the last achievement of the student. We teachers must recognize and reward interim successes of communication.

Is this controversial? I hope not. I hope this is pretty much universally accepted by language teachers everywhere. It seems so basic to me.

Larry Latham
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Ann



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 60

PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2003 3:26 pm    Post subject: Ahem... Reply with quote

Gary B,
I've joined this discussion a little late, but I do want to comment on your stance on teaching explicit grammar in adult classrooms.
You write that your MA program teaches you NOT to do this--well, don't you think that that is so because of a reason?
There have beeen numerous (and I understate that expression here) studies done about the teaching of grammar on non-native and native speakers, and teaching them grammar with cheat sheets and lists has NOT helped them.
Of course, you're going to do exactly as you feel like in your classroom, Gary...but it's a pity that we will have regressed back to when "grammar was being taught independent of the language."My two cents,
Ann
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Ann



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 60

PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2003 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Larry,
I totally agree with you. We are not teaching in a rigid school system. We are teaching adults who want to learn the language simply and quickly. We have to make them effective communicators FIRST.
Teaching grammar exclusively is not helpful and does not help adults learn the language.
On a side note: I wonder how many people are familiar with language acquisition in adults.
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Gary B



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
In all due respect to the last two comments I have to say bull! Teaching styles have gone in trends and the communicative approach dominated language teaching for a long time and still does. It won't surprise me if some jokers doing more research will come out and say that according to our studies there is some room for grammar. However, after teaching ESL to adults for the last year and to many of them that have been in the States for many years, I can see why they can't pass their GED exams and are stuck at go nowhere jobs. One reason is because they can't even write a simple paragraph though they know how to shop, write checks, carry on day to day conversations and bascially survive. The problem has been emphasis on communication and not form. That's all fine and dandy, politically correct, but when it comes time to passing GED exams, trying to get into community colleges, and going for job interviews they often lack the grammar skills to cut the mustard. I'm not saying a whole class should be grammar based, but it is important that they not only be able to communicate, but they also need to communicate correctly in CERTAIN SITUATIONS! I also strongly advocate a balance of grammar and communcative activities. As an ESL instructor of mine in New York once said, "That's great! Now we have a bunch of people that can communicate, but they are basically still illeterate and can't write.
Chow for Now,
Sticking To My Position About The Importance Of Gramar In Motown Gary B.
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anitka



Joined: 23 Jan 2003
Posts: 10
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2003 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ann wrote:
Larry,
Teaching grammar exclusively is not helpful and does not help adults learn the language.

Sorry, I wasn't able to participate in the discussion organized by myself for a while Sad
Just want to add something, I do believe that we should teach grammar when we teach adults. 100% we shouldn't devote to it all our time, but nevertheless.
I agree with Gary B that in other case adults won't able to write a short and sweet paragraph, but most of them need English for their work and for written communication!
The other question is how to put it into practice - I mean when we have communication practice - they say everything correctly, but certainly they tend to forget some points when they make unprepared speech or when we just discuss something.
Probably, this is a right idea to teach them how to learn, because I think that the language can't be taught, it can be learnt!
So, without their will to learn more and practrice more and not only in a classroom, the progress won't be rapid.
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Gary B



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2003 10:52 pm    Post subject: Grammar Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
In response to "teaching grammar exclusively isn't useful." I had a student from Puerto Rico who lived in the States for something like 20 years. I was presenting explicit grammar rules with WH questions and the verb to be. The specific point was explaining that the verb to be has to immediately follow the wh question word, Example Why am I here? The student said, You mean we're not supposed to say, Why I am here? I said yes, you can say that and people will understand it, but just don't do that on a GED test. He thanked me endlessly for the following classes afterwords. I rest my case in the defense that teaching explicit grammar does adults a world of good, but in balance with other activities.
Chow for Now,
Just An Opinion Based On Experience And Not From Fancy University Research Studies In Motown,
Gary B.
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2003 6:04 am    Post subject: Grammar - what and how? Reply with quote

Hi, everyone. I'm late again, but I wanted to hear you all again to try not to miss something. Great discussion.

Last year I was asked to take over a class for the last term, and because I didn't know them I based most of the term on "Did you-do you" and "what did-when did-where did ... " questions and answers. They were using the structures pretty well by the end of it. But when we had the review a couple of them said: "The course was OK, but I think we should have been doing more grammar!" As you'd guess, they were older people whose idea of language learning was formed in their very formal schooling. As dduck and Gary B say (in different words) : 'horses for courses'.

Which leads to the question: have any of you come across the work of Manfred Pienemann, which has been picked up in Sydney by Malcolm Johnson? It's never fair to simplify, but they make a lot of the order in which we learn.

They suggest that the order in which we learn to use language structures is influenced in two ways: the first is that each language has its own natural order of learnability; and the second is that the indiviudal learner's experience will determine that certain things will need to be learned before others.
So, for all learners of English, B must follow A, and C must follow B ...; but for learner Jacques, p might be learned before q; while Than might learn q before p. Shocked (looks more nerdy than "shock" to me).
Unfortunately, the actual orders have only been developed for English at a fairly primitive level; but the theory on which the experiments were carried out is reasonably compelling, and a practical conclusion for us teachers is that maybe we shouldn't get too frustrated Laughing if some, or even all of our class is not showing much progress in putting a particular structure into practice. There might be some other things they need to learn first.
The one thing the experiments do show is that the ORDER set out in most grammar books is unlikely to be order that second language learners will follow all the way.

So it looks like a mixture of communicative and focus on form could be the best way to go until one of you convinces the authorities to give you a fifty thousand or so for some long term research on the learnability order of English.
Have I been "teaching you all to suck eggs" or not?

Cheers
Norm

Norm
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2003 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, everyone, my server has just slotted in a whole lot of your messages AFTER I'd sent mine, and it looks as if I've definitely had you trying to suck eggs. Anyway, it's good to keep in touch.

Norm
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