Teach English in Zhuzhen Zhen - Nanjing Shi

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Based on my own experiences learning new languages, along with teaching English to foreign students (particularly students from Korea), I find that grammar is often overly emphasized in the learning process—especially in the early stages. That isn’t to say that grammar isn’t important; it is very important. It is only to say that people, including myself, tend to see grammar as a crutch. That if only the student would learn grammar, they could speak the language. But in practical reality, grammar is only one of many core facets that is necessary to learn a language. Moreover, all these facets do not operate independently of each other. They operate holistically, and one cannot proceed without the other. This seems largely to be the failure of school systems (ie. in the teaching of French in Canada and English in Korea). The classrooms in the school pay too much attention to worksheets and grammar drills, that the student will graduate with a sophisticated understanding of grammar principles, but are unable to speak. The irony does not go over anyone’s head. I think it is good to see grammar as a limiting factor, rather than as the principle matter of interest. In other words, people should learn how to speak; they should learn vocabulary, phrases, and instances of exchange over grammatical principles. Those principles should be involved in solidifying and making a solid foundation for those practical elements of speaking to rest upon. Grammar is the support structure, and should be built around the use of words. You could think of it like laying brick. When one lays brick, they apply the cement in between in order for the next brick to stick. It would be nonsensical to apply two layers of cement between two bricks—you would apply what is necessary. As such, I believe when learning grammar, one should learn what is necessary to get them to the next level of understanding. If one only learns grammar, they run the risk of falling into the sinkhole of marinating in principles and lofty ideas and never get around to actually being able to speak the language. Some caution though must be made as to not to form bad habits. So, as much as I like to promote the actual real life use of the language over sitting in a room learning textbook grammar, if a student were to only learn language through use, they could potentially pick up bad habits that would be hard to break later. This comes back to the idea of the holistic process of learning a language. The grammar they learn would support them in their deep understanding of usage that is right or wrong, and allow that structure to guide them as a compass would through the forest of language acquisition. Another way of thinking about it is that grammar dictates the potential ceiling of their learning. Efforts must be made to reach the ceiling to make sure you have applicable skills in the language, and then to constantly move that ceiling higher. When teaching a new student, it is then important to assess whether the student learns best in a textbook setting or in active play. For those that learn best in a textbook setting, efforts must be made to get that student to participate as actively as possible (as I know from personal experience because I am this type of student, they will tend to want to lean back on the crutch of continuing their textbook studies without actually having to use the language).