Teach English in Chengui Zhen - Huangshi Shi

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Grammar is probably one of the most polemic subjects in regards to language teaching. One of the main issues might be the fact that there is no globally agreed definition of what it is, its use or how to teach it. There seems to be disagreements among theorists about how to perceive grammar. Discussions revolve around whether grammar is the underlying knowledge of rules, a skill which people use to communicate, or if it is about meaning and clarity. Among researchers there has been an ongoing debate for years about whether grammar should be taught, and whether students benefit from grammar instruction at all. There also seem to be disagreements about whether grammar instruction is best taught in the students' first language or in the target language, or if a combination of languages should be used. On top of that, different theories of language result in different types of grammar with varying purposes and assumptions. In an educational context, we usually talk about pedagogical grammar. This is considered to be a grammar developed for learners of a foreign language that can be defined as a set of tools, such as a grammar course book with grammar exercises, designed to facilitate the development of grammatical competence and the skill of using grammar. Pedagogical grammar is, however, the most controversial area of modern language teaching. The reason would possibly be the lack of consensus about how grammar operates as a communication system and about what methodology should be used to facilitate grammar acquisition among learners of the target language. As a result , teachers often teach grammar in a traditional way, teacher-orientated, and based on a presentation-practice-production model, with a focus on form rather than meaning, and with close-ended grammatical exercises. There are mainly two shortcomings with this approach. One is that traditional grammar methodology separates grammar from other aspects of communication, while it also places too much emphasis on explicit knowledge of rules and deductive learning. Another is that it does not provide sufficient methodological support to develop an awareness of grammatical rules and their use (Newby, 2015). Instead, more recent research argues that teaching grammar should be integrated into the language teaching in a more holistic approach (Newby, 2015). Based in the Communicative Competence (CC) and Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) theory proposed by Hymes in the 70s (Hymes, 1972), Newby explains how teachers should only function as facilitators of the communication process and then guide learners to use various strategies to explore for themselves how language works (Newby, 2015). In this model the focus in on student-centered learning, and the holistic practice of language, as opposed to focusing more narrowly on grammatical or linguistic competence. Fluency and accuracy are seen as complementary principles when using the language productively and receptively. Furthermore, task-based instruction is a central feature of this teaching style. Brown describes a task-based instruction in this sense as “an activity in which meaning is primary, there is a problem to solve and relationship to real-world activities, with an objective that can be assessed in terms of an outcome” (Brown, 2014). We could summarize it as the emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language, the introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation and the provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language, but also on the learning process itself. It is also an enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning, and an attempt to link classroom language learning with language activation outside of the classroom. It is beyond question that grammar instruction should be made an integral part of English lessons, but at the same time with greater variation and better integration with other aspects of the English instruction. As the past few decades research suggest there should be little or no teaching of grammar out of context. Instead, it should be integrated with the topic at hand. A good choice would be to integrate grammar teaching and literature by using literary or expository texts to find grammar elements the students do need to pay attention to. Literary texts used in this sense will not only function as a springboard for learning grammar rules, but also for communicative tasks. It is also important to get the students to use the grammar points learnt through the task-based activities by providing them with more engaging and meaningful tasks that will get them to communicate more with each other. In this way they not only become more aware of the meaning in the grammar structures used, but they will also produce output, which will push learners to process language more deeply (Swain, 2000). Using the language this way might encourage the students to develop their communicative skills and to develop skills in grammar as well. Works Cited Brown, J. (2014). Why grammar lessons should be renamed ‘understanding language’. The Guardian. Hymes, D. (1972). On Communicative competence. Harmondsworth, UK: J. Pride & J. Holmes (Eds.), Socio-linguistics. Newby, D. (2015). The role of theory in pedagogical grammar: A Cognitive+ Communicative approach. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 13-34. Nunan, D. (1991). Communicative tasks and the language curriculum. TESOL Quarterly, 25(2), 279-295. Swain, M. (2000). The output hypothesis and beyond: Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue. Socio-cultural theory and second language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.