>Grammar teaching – a fading star

>A teacher said, “That is what I wanted to hear – ‘Communicative Language Teaching doesn’t exclude grammar or even translation’ !!!”

Rest assured, Grammar will never be without a job.

Up until the 1970’s, Grammar used to be the mega movie star of English teaching, a true prima donna. Grammar was simply adored by all fans; teachers and students, alike. Grammar’s name featured prominently on every textbook or coursebook. People memorized every aspect of Grammar. It was near worship. Then Chomsky released his blockbuster which, while not widely accepted by the entire public, marked a new era and saw Grammar’s popularity begin to wane. Grammar suffered further humiliation when Krashen came along. Now many people respect Grammar just as many people regard Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, one of the greatest movies ever made. But when most people want real entertainment, they don’t go to these old movies any more.

That doesn’t mean Grammar is out of a job by any means. It still plays an important supporting role in many movies just like many former stars appear in smaller parts in movies and TV shows. (Alan Alda even won an Oscar for his supporting role in the new movie Little Miss Sunshine.)

As Krashen puts it:

“I recommend delaying the teaching of these rules until more advanced levels. I would first give acquisition a chance, and then use conscious knowledge to fill in some of the gaps. There is no sense teaching rules for Monitoring that will eventually be acquired. Grammar, thus, is not excluded. It is, however, no longer the star player but has only a supporting role.”

More from Krashen:

In my reviews of these studies, I have concluded that they confirm the correctness of the Comprehension and Monitor Hypotheses: they show only that even after substantial grammar study, even very motivated students show only modest gains in accuracy, and these gains occur only on measures that encourage a focus on form. Truscott (1998) has arrived at very similar conclusions.

Some have interpreted this position as a claim that all grammar teaching is forbidden. Not so. There are two good reasons for including grammar in the EFL curriculum.

The first is for “language appreciation,” otherwise known as “linguistics.” Linguistics includes language universals, language change, dialects, etc. The second is to fill gaps left by incomplete acquisition and places in which idiolects differ from the prestige dialect. Society’s standards for accuracy, especially in writing, are 100%: We are not allowed “mistakes” in punctuation, spelling or grammar. One public error, in fact, can result in humiliation. Even well-read native speakers have gaps, places where their grammatical competence differs from accepted use.

Consciously learned rules can fill some of these gaps, which are typically in aspects of language that do not affect communication of messages. The place to use this knowledge is in the editing stage of the composing process, when appealing to conscious rules will not interfere with communication.

I recommend delaying the teaching of these rules until more advanced levels. I would first give acquisition a chance, and then use conscious knowledge to fill in some of the gaps. There is no sense teaching rules for Monitoring that will eventually be acquired.

Grammar, thus, is not excluded. It is, however, no longer the star player but has only a supporting role.

More: http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/eta_paper/02.html

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One Reply to “>Grammar teaching – a fading star”

  1. >I completely agree with Krashen and his approach. Unfortunately, I always find myself amazed at comments from teachers who claim that they have problems with children who are fluent in English by the age of 9 or 10, but tend to ‘avoid’ grammar and spelling. They usually conclude that the ones who are not fluent, but hard working (read: the ones with immaculate spelling & responsive to learning grammar by heart) tend to surpass the ‘lazy’ ones. In reality these teachers don’t bother taking some extra time to find ways and means to motivate the ‘talkative’ ones, and in a way they are afraid of children’s fluency which often surpasses their own (in case of NNS). They are afraid to learn from their students and cannot see the beauty in the fact that such children are able to understand and hear all the subtleties of language.

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