>Chinese grammar troubles

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In a discussion with another teacher he suggested that Chinese students may have trouble learning pronouns of gender. However, recall that the question is if grammar teaching works.

Bringing up the question of the way Chinese deal with pronouns really only points out more problems with grammar teaching. After being taught the grammar rules, after being drilled endlessly, as they are in China, on the grammar, they still have trouble with something as simple as pronouns of gender.

If Chinese did have pronouns of gender in their own language, then it is not so much a matter of teaching grammar but more like translating the language of the pronouns from L1 to L2, teaching that xxxx = “he” and yyyy = “she”, in which case no grammar teaching is necessary.

How to use pronouns of gender can be taught in one day but take years to acquire. This implies to me that “teaching” is playing a minute role in the learning process. Now, if you consider how much students do learn that is not “taught” then a lot of questions are raised as to the usefulness of grammar teaching.

Where do students gain the ability to form complex sentences, was it from that lesson in Mr. Smith’s class in September, 1999?…or was it eight years of reading 24,000 articles in The Guardian newspaper and Time magazine, 12 John Grisham and Stephen King novels, 24 university text books on physics, psychology and history, writing 85 reports and 175 essays? Really, which one helped our student to master the complex sentence?

Of course, you could say that Mr. Smith got our student started off on the right foot. But most students will admit that they forget grammar teaching, that grammar is very difficult to learn, and students in high school and university will cram it for the exam one day and forget it the next.

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