The Role of Grammar in ELT



The Role of Grammar in English Language Teaching

  • What is Grammar? It is the anatomy or practical analysis of a language. It categorizes a language under different classes and formulates a few general laws and principles of usage for the guidance of the learner. It is the scientific inquiry into the structure of a language. It is a map of the language. An idioms is subject to no rules and no laws, is an independent entity based on the authority of tradition or current usage. But Grammar “presents the facts of language arranged under certain categories and deals with what can be brought under general laws, and stated in the form of general rules”. Thus Grammar establishes the laws of language and organizes them under specific headings such as the different parts of speech and their specific functions.
  • Teaching grammar involves not only the presentation and practice of a series of structures, but also the detailed explanation of the meaning and the contexts in which these structures should be used.
  • Until relatively recently, the study of grammar was considered highly relevant in language teaching. However, today, the importance of teaching grammar is being questioned. What is clear is that knowledge of grammar rules is essential for mastering a language. But the acquisition of these rules is approached very differently by a native speaker and by a language student. The acquisition of the mother tongue in childhood is an unconscious process and does not require planning for learning. On the other hand, a second language student carries out a conscious learning process that requires more or less dedication.
  • The role of grammar in the teaching of foreign languages ​​has raised antagonistic positions; While some maintain that it is necessary to avoid grammar as much as possible, since the important thing is that students are able to express meanings, whether grammatically or not, others consider that the study of the grammar of the target language is essential, as it contributes to developing the communicative competence of the students. From this perspective, grammar should be taught not as an end in itself, but to aid effective oral and written communication.
  • It is not advisable to teach grammatical patterns in the abstract, but they must be directly linked to the communicative functions of the language, that is, to what we really do with the language in our daily communication. For this reason, it is said that a good and complete teaching of grammar implies taking into account the form, meaning and function of the grammatical unit that is the object of study.
  1. What is the best way to learn grammar?
  • As language teachers, we must then consider. What is the most appropriate way for our students to learn the grammar rules of the language they are studying? First of all, we have to take into account that our students learn the language, English in this case, in order to communicate. Our students must be able to express their thoughts and purposes in an efficient way because, after all, what defines a language is its communication capacity.
  • Second, it is important to note that the process of acquiring a second language is not linear in nature, but requires a global approach. Therefore, in the early stages of learning, considerable simplification and exclusion of all non-essential features will be necessary. So, we can define progress in mastering a language as a process in which the communicative system is gradually being completed and enriched.
  • From the 1970s on, interest in the study of grammar decreased and the study plans have emphasized the communicative function of the language ever since. This is not to say that the study of grammar is not important, but it is no longer considered the only organizing principle of curriculum design. A language is not simply a system of formal elements to be studied in isolation; rather, this system of signs is always framed within a specific communicative situation. Despite the fact that students have to obtain grammatical competence from the first level, in order to communicate efficiently and thus be understood; we must not leave aside what properly defines a language, that is: its communicative function. So the classes must be eminently practical and our students must have the opportunity to practice everything they have learned in situations that are as close as possible to real life.
  • For an effective teaching of grammar, it is advisable to use techniques that present it in an attractive way, and not as something monotonous and devoid of interest. Prior knowledge of L1 should be used, although it is advisable to reserve contrastive analyzes between L1 and L2 for the more advanced levels, in order to avoid confusion and interference ( interference). Likewise, it is convenient to contextualize structures and examples, as well as to avoid the introduction of superfluous terminology. Finally, although the rules help learning, their proliferation should be avoided to explain isolated cases, and ensure that students understand and accept ambiguities and exceptions.
  • Traditionally, in the teaching of grammar, two different approaches have been distinguished that, although different, do not have to be contradictory, but in many cases, depending on the circumstances, they may even be complementary. On the one hand, there is the deductive approach by which students are provided with a series of rules that are subsequently endorsed with concrete examples that illustrate those rules ( deductive reasoning). With this type of didactic strategy, he contrasts the inductive approach by which the student infers rules and linguistic norms from a set of data and examples. In the first case, one can speak of an explicit teaching of grammar, while in the second it is done in a more indirect way and without the student being aware of it.

2. Value of Grammar:

  • Why is grammar necessary for teaching English in preschool?
  • Starting from the definition offered above, we can say that, if we master the grammar of a language, we will master the language itself; since we will be able to handle and manipulate words and form meaningful units that allow us to express ourselves and be understood.

i.      The forgoing discussion clearly establishes the point that Grammar serves as a beacon-light to illumine the path of a student in clearing many cobwebs in his way. Although it does n`t directly confer the power of expression, it certainly helps him in gaining an insight into the correct construction of sentences and their proper farm. A student of English must have a scientific understanding of the language under study. He must have a clear idea of the correct construction of a sentence and must be able to distinguish the correct from the incorrect form.

ii.      Grammar helps in systematizing our knowledge of language. Every language is built on definite patterns and its different units can be arranged under certain categories. Understanding these patterns and categories helps us to accelerate our linguistic acquisition. We not only learn the correct usage, but acquire the ability to build similar language “forms” or patterns. To learn these language forms as they occur in the course of conversation and reading would be unsystematic and therefore a tedious and wasteful process. A much more economical method is to bring the related language forms together, i.e. to classify them, to study them in relation to one another, and to learn and memorize them as parts of a single whole. Having done that, with knowledge of the rules of grammar, the student has then the capacity for framing original sentences of his own.

iii.   Grammar leads to a systematic study of language and it helps to secure the necessary exactness and correctness in the use of language. Imitation and practice are certainly useful to start with, but they can`t be taken to be the safe guides under all the circumstances.

iv.      Comparing and contrasting the constructions of the English language with those of the mother tongue is a useful device to bring home to the child the significance of English patterns. The comparative study of grammar is more helpful in understandings the foreign language.

v.        Throughout knowledge of grammar is very useful for the teacher who is expected to be able to explain to his students the why and wherefore of their mistakes.  He should be fully conversant with the rules of Grammar so as to gain an insight into the function of various words in the sentence and their proper place. Thereby he can satisfy his explanations. For their guidance systematic explanation is essential.

  • In short, the knowledge of grammar is not an end in itself; it is just a means to an end. That end is the acquisition of correct English to the teacher it suggests method of instruction, to the student it brings insight into the structural details.

3. Defects in Teaching Grammar:

  • There are certain defects in teaching grammar at the school stage. They are as follows:

i.       There is more stress on teaching formal grammar i.e. definitions and rules rather than on teaching functional grammar, that is, correct usage.

ii.       The teaching of grammar is isolated from that of the textbook. It is considered that grammar is something separate from the textbook

iii.   The study of formal grammar is introduced even though students don`t have sufficient command of the language.

iv.      In most of the school, grammar is taught deductively, that is, students are told the rules and they apply those rules to a given exercise.

4. Why can`t we dispose with Grammar?

  • There are certain reasons why we can`t dispose with th study of grammar. These reasons are as follows:

i.    Nobody can learn a foreign language accurately only through a process of unconscious assimilation. Grammar is a sure ground of reference when linguistic habits fails us.

ii.       Grammar helps us to consolidate forms and structures already learnt.

iii.     Grammar helps a person to distinguish between correct and incorrect forms.

iv.      Grammar leads to the improvement of written work. It makes a person understand a number of stylistic problems such as linking one sentence to another.

5. How to improve the Teaching of Grammar?

i.    We should start teaching formal grammar when the students have sufficient command over the language. The study of formal grammar has no place in the first two, three years of teaching English. The studies of Grammar should follows, and not precede, the study of language.

ii.     Teaching of grammar should be integrated with that of the textbook. Examples should be taken up from the textbook itself.

iii.     Grammar should be taught inductively, that is, examples should be presented to the students and the rules educed with their help. Later on, the rules are applied to exercises.

iv.      Grammar should be taught as a means to an end and not as an end in itself.

6. Aim of Teaching Grammar:

  • Grammar may be taught with a view to giving idea regarding the function of individual words in a sentence and their relationship with one another. That enables them to gain a clear insight into the meaning of language. In the light of the accepted principles of usage it helps their oral and written expression. It is a useful training in thinking clearly and disconnectedly, to judge and sift the correct from an incorrect sentence. In short, it gives an insight into the structure of a sentence and incorrect and why it is so?


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