Teach English in Liudong Zhen - Shiyan Shi

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In the realm of English language learning, whether grammar is important or to what extent grammar should be learned have been the most debatable topics. As a non-native English speaker, the questions alike once have been circling in my mind like the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy uttered by Prince Hamlet. Compare to practice speaking, listening, and memorize vocabulary, learning grammar appears to receive less emphasis. Is it true learning grammar is really not that important? Of course not! When it comes to second language or foreign language acquisition, learning grammar is extremely vital. From linguistic perspective, “grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases and words in a natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules and this field includes phonology, morphology and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, semantics and pragmatics.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Grammar”). Grammar is a system composed of many interconnected components that ensures accuracy and meaning of communication, the clarity and correctness in writing and speaking the language, and proper interpretation and usage of words and sentences in the language. Our communication skill, logical thinking skill, all these abilities were established from the foundation of mastering the grammar. Possessing a solid grammar foundation is essential to advance the level of English and good grammar skills lay imperative groundwork for effective communication. Unfortunately in reality, many learners lack accurate concept or even neglect the necessity of learning grammar. Certain notions started to emerge that it does not require specific learning to master the grammar. All the learners need is great exposure to environment with ample language input and acquire the concept via method of “Language Immersion”. Eventually the language instinct or linguistic sense will come naturally to the learners, hence grasped and internalized grammar in an effortless manner. In fact, learning foreign language through substantial exposure of language inputs does not assure the acquisition of concrete grammar standards. After the studies of Canada’s immersion program, linguists have discovered that even with engagement of extensive language inputs, foreign language learners still make numerous language errors and grammatical mistakes such as tense, clauses or phrases. Thus, for foreign language learners, grammar should be specifically learned. Merely relying on the language instinct and linguistic sense cultivated by language inputs and immersion has its shortfalls. Even in English speaking countries, grammar instruction was included for English language classes or as core academic subject. Just do a Google search on internet and we will find tons of grammar teaching materials designed even for native speakers. So, what is the consequence without good grammar skills? Improper grammar foundation has hidden impact and comprehensive influence on learning English language. The underlying side effect is not as obvious when compare to incompetency in listening and reading. However, lack of grammatical proficiency will limit the overall improvement of learners’ receptive skills (listening and reading) and productive skills (speaking, and writing). Simply take a look from the reading perspective. Many learners may have encountered scenario where they recognized or knew all the words in the sentence(s) but did not fully comprehend or understand what the exact meaning was. Another scenario would be difficulties to differentiate defining and non-defining relative clauses. For instance, let’s compare the following sentences: 1) “He is a gentleman, who never breaks his word.” and 2) “He is a gentleman who never breaks his word.”Without absolute grammatical comprehension, it is very easy to miss interpret the meaning in accurate manner. The same effect applied to writing as well. When a message is relayed with the correct grammar, it is easier to understand the purpose and meaning of the message. It is possible for a learner without appropriate grammar background to construct an odd sentence like “This is my mother who loves me very much.” where the correct form should be “This is my mother, who loves me very much.” Hence, without good grammar, clear communication is impossible. Grammar “provides the learner with a perfect understanding of language structures and contributes to eloquent self-expression. An English student who doesn't know grammar, for instance, the parts of speech, is like a composer who doesn't know the music notes.” (Dalil, 2013) Grammar indeed plays an imperative role in enabling the improvement of the overall language proficiency. Good grammar foundation is an instrument to enhance a language listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. However in foreign language learning, solid grammar concepts can’t be subconsciously picked up and internalized merely by language inputs from immersion. Non-native speakers need to develop the grammar skill through explicit or formal instruction. Even for the native speakers, grammar needs to be specifically learned in order to achieve advanced level. In the journey of leaning grammar, besides remembering the rules, it is also critical to fully comprehend each of the underlying principles and practice through reading writing etc., in order to accomplish the desired mastery. References: Ahmadi, Faezeh & Shafiee, Sajad. (2015). L2 Teachersʼ And Learnersʼ Beliefs About Grammar. IJLLALW. 9. 245-261. Retrieved 11:15, August 22, 2019 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280565076_L2_TEACHERS_AND_LEARNERS_BELIEFS_ABOUT_GRAMMAR Chin, B. A. (2008). The role of grammar in improving students’ writing. Retrieved 16:28, August 18, 2019, from https://people.uwplatt.edu/~ciesield/graminwriting.htm Collier, V. (1992). The Canadian Bilingual Immersion Debate: A Synthesis of Research Findings. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 14(1), 87-97. doi:10.1017/S0272263100010482. Retrieved 20:10, August 10, 2019, from http://www.thomasandcollier.com/assets/canadian-bilingual-immersion--.pdf Dalil, Z. (2013). The importance of grammar in second language teaching. Retrieved 15:30, August 18, 2019, from https://www.academia.edu/12284393/The_importance_of_grammar_in_second_language_teaching_and_learning eNotes Edirotial. (2019, June 6). What is the difference between First Language (L1) and Second Language (L2)? Retrieved 12:25, August 10, 2019, from https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-is-the-difference-between-first-language-l1-369410 Inbanathan, S. (2017, November 5). Is learning English grammar important? Retrieved 13:30, August 8, 2019, from https://www.quora.com/Is-learning-English-grammar-important Saaristo, P. (2015). Grammar is the heart of language: grammar and its role in language learning among Finnish university students. In J. Jalkanen, E. Jokinen, & P. Taalas (Eds.), Voices of pedagogical development – Expanding, enhancing and exploring higher education language learning (pp. 279-318). Dublin: Researchpublishing.net. doi:10.14705/rpnet.2015.000296. Retrieved 17:35, August 18, 2019, from https://jyx.jyu.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/47198/1/296.pdf Wikipedia contributors. (2019, August 18). Grammar. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:06, August 20, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Grammar&oldid=911330497 Wikipedia contributors. (2019, July 18). Language immersion. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:30, August 10, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Language_immersion&oldid=906884050 Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 6). Structured English Immersion. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:15, August 10, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Structured_English_Immersion&oldid=891270272