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Teachers' vote

Which of these approaches to teaching grammar do you generally prefer?

  1. Discovery: students are guided to work out the rules for themselves.
    (57.3%)
  2. Didactic: the teacher presents the rules to the students.
    (42.7%)

Total votes: 796

Figures do not represent public opinion as a whole

Teaching materials

Discuss

As a teacher, how much importance do you place on grammar compared to other skills such as speaking, listening and vocabulary? What are your top tips for improving learners' grammar?

Thank you for sending your comments. This topic is now closed.

Luojun, China
I think grammar is rules, without rules there is no understanding and no communication at all. Unfortunately, often, I feel puzzled --I am weak at this point, even though I have been a teacher of English!

Kaz, Japan
Students's mother tongue counts, but grammar explanation is reall important when you teach Japanese students, because Japanese grammar, especially its word order, is totally different from that of English. Without rules, they have difficulty making even a plain sentence though they have a lot of vocabulary or fixed expressions. If you have them exposed to considerable amount of input, their patience soon snaps.

Md. Nazrul Islam Khanm, Bangladesh.
Really, it is beyond description how much important to know the grammar for the perfect use in every skills of English Language.

Mohamed Abdel Rasoul, Egypt
It is not a priority for me to make my students talk like books.The most important thing - from my own point of view- is to see things in their real world without exaggeration. You have to ask your self " Why are my learners taking this course"? The objectives of the course and the needs of your students accompanied with their language standards will be of help to determin the priority of teaching grammar. For example if you are teaching a group of tourists -every day English- because they are going to travel to UK, I guess the priority and effort will be directed to communication. If you are addressing a group of students who are studying M.A or PH.D. I guess you can know your way now how grammar is important along with syntax,idioms and other things.To make grammar better for my learners, I guess there are zilion of tips to be offered:Use fairy tales sentences.Use Holy Books Citations ( Bible, Quran)Use poetry ( Milton, Edmond Spenser etc)Use drama ( Shakespeare etc)Use speaches of ( Royal and Presidential releaces)and of course use deduction methods to let learners guess the rules and patterns.I hope my ideas will be of value.

Janet Milne Netherlands
I teach Business English, so my students need English as a practical communication tool, rather than for any theoretical or literary purpose. They are usually lower-upper intermediate (CEF A2-B2) Dutch native speakers. Their biggest need is usually vocabulary, because they've already acquired the grammar basics, and in the world scheme of things, Dutch grammar is pretty similar to English. But they often think that they need more grammar, so I usually spend some time (as little as possible though) tidying up the notorious stumbling blocks, such as the verb forms.When I do have students with a non European native language, such as Chinese, then I have to spend more time on grammar simply to make the students' speech and writing comprehensible to listeners/readers not acquainted with the phenomenon Chinglish. So then I spend a lot of time on parts of speech, sentence structure and analysis and word grammar, as well as all the usual topics you find in a grammar textbook.Whoever I'm teaching, I don't think grammar is important per se, but it is the skeleton of the language - you need some bones to hang your vocabulary on.I always teach with examples rather than rules. In my experience, there are no 100 percent rules in English, and the curious and attentive students tend to home in on the exceptions, so they don't really absorb the rules anyway. As soon as the students' overall language level allows it, i.e. pre-intermediate and above, I like using real English to teach "grammar in practice". Together with the class I dissect a piece of real text, such as a piece of a magazine article, for example by finding examples of a particular tense and discussing why it has been used.The more analytically minded students will then "discover" the rule for themselves and the rest of the class can learn the examples. And if none of it sticks at all in the minds of the weaker students, then at least we've done some useful and hopefully interesting reading practice! That's infinitely better in my view than trying to learn a rule imposed on you by the teacher, misunderstanding it and then misusing it.

Naif
First of all, grammar is a main component of any language in the world. Without grammar, you can't understand,for example, the time of action whether it happened in the past or in the present. So, it has a fundamental role in the language, but I don't give grammar the whole time. I think we should concentrate on the four skills of the language. The English course we have in the school has many units, and each unit has four lessons. A lesson for vocabulary, a lesson for listening and speaking , a lesson for reading and a lesson for writing. Grammar is involved in each lesson we take.So, as I said before, grammar is an important factor in learning a language.Best Wishes

Pedro, Mexico
Unless an english learner is exposed to the language many hours a day during a long time, the only way to really succeed is through learning grammar.I always tell my students to compare a language with a game: they both have rules and an objective, if you learn the rules you understand it and become a player, once you're a player you enjoy it and this is achieved by learning the rules, in this case: Grammar.When students grab the grammar they are on their way to become autodidactic thus they are in a far more advantageous position compared to someone who always has to rely on someone to learn.

David, Czech Republic
Somehow the idea that English grammar is "difficult" has made its way around the world; riddled with exceptions, proscriptive, inhibiting, complicated - these are just some of the attitudes expressed. It's no wonder learners are apprehensive about or resistant to or indifferent towards grammar-based lessons. If English grammar were as unfathomable as many have suggested it is unlikely English would have become the lingua franca of the modern world (socio-political considerations notwithstanding). And although grammar is certainly important, and frankly I enjoy teaching grammar, of far more worth is lexis. As David Wilkins says (quoted in Lewis) "Without grammar little can be conveyed; without lexis nothing can be conveyed."

Dr. Saleem Altamimi, Yemen
Teaching grammar is of a fundemantal importance.However, the question is, how it should be tackled or what kind of aaproach or methodology should be applied.There is no a simple rule or a rule that can be generalized.This depends on the teacher'experience and preference based on his actual assesment of the learners needs.

Abdullah, Bangladesh
I think that learning must be made seriously interesting and a teacher should prepare materials according to the audience,i.e. type of students in the class. Personally I found no 'thumb rule' in teaching, but of course there is always a road map which comprises of grammar, interactive lessons, related things and lots of situational examples. Practicing Speaking from the beginning till end gives high confidence to the students. And no doubt reading practice gives lot of boost up in learning. Listening makes a students familiar to world class English rapidly.

Sajjad, Bangladesh
I have been teaching English for about 12 years. My experience has convinced me that students are apprehensive of grammatical rules. They find it quite boring and the classroom is anything but lively while teaching grammar. But I sincerely believe that some fundamentals of grammar such as parts of speech, tenses and voice are the real building blocks on which skills can be developed. Personally I prefer reading comprehension.

Brian Curry, A Brit in Brazil
I've been teaching English here in Brazil for 15 years where the emphasis at the language schools is on grammar. The majority of students don't really get a chance to put it into practice. Nowadays, I teach privately, however, I believe the basic teaching principles are the same.Whilst I would never dismiss the importance of grammar - after all you can't really get away from it - I do feel that students remember the examples more than rules.Let's say that I've just given input on the prepositions in/on. I then ask the student to change a sentence so it's true for him/her, and then try to expand on it. For example, "Her brother Tom, who's an engineer, was born on 19 December 1949 in New York."As you can see, there's quite a lot of information for the student to handle,and the prepositions are really a minor part of the sentence; they're almost hidden.A possible change could be: "My father, who's a doctor, was born on 1 April 1960 in Rio de Janeiro. He's been working at the General Hospital for a couple of years." I would probably have to help the student with the extra prepostion 'at', but I don't see any problems with this.I feel that saying a couple of sentences like this is worth a dozen grammar exercises, and it seems to be working. The students are more relaxed about the grammar,and they're opening up.

Manaf , Iraq
I think that we should give the student and learner the Grammatical rules and give the student many examples and practice and we should try to make the lesson more interesting by talking about details of daily life matters . So, I believe that the teacher should give his students the grammatical rules and give them the opportunity to practice the target language freely and try then to correct their mistakes and give them homework and continue using english every day according to the given rules .

Mahesh Chandra Dash, India
The importance placed on grammar is a learner-driven mechanism.Methodologies differ because we have different levels of competence in learners.A thorough understanding of different areas of grammar is a fundamental need,I believe.Grammar is the basis upon which the superstructure of the skills of a language acquired by a learner is built.But I don't think that teaching of grammar is an exclusive affair and therefore has no connection with the development of other skills such as speaking, listening and vocabulary.My focus is always on context-based teaching which helps me hone different skills of my students simultaneously.This is possible if a teacher doesn't work within the strict limits of the syllabus.

TIPS FOR IMPROVING LEARNERS' GRAMMAR

  1. Context-based Learning
  2. Increasing Learners'Participation
  3. Ample practice for all skills through interactive and fun-filled exercises.

Rampal Singh Rajput, India
I feel grammar as believed by a few of my friends is the driest subject but what we need to do is to personalise the activities so as to make it glamorous.Listening activity should be followed by a criss-cross activity of Oral brainstorming encouraging the students to be a Fault-finder.Wherever required a discreet correction by the teacher may be made.It does raise the interaction as well as the motivational levels of the students.

Olivia Mathews, Singapore
Hi, I believe that the emphasis on grammar is subjective according to how fluent the students are already in the language. For instance, if teaching a group of students who have just arrived from their home country, I feel that we should first focus on speaking and vocabulary followed by listening and lastly grammar. Grammar for use in speech is quite simple to teach and learn. I feel that games is a very good way to teach grammar. To many, grammar is pretty boring and so games, even at higher levels is an interesting interactive activity. :0)

Lorna, Italy
I'm from Australia, have been living in Northern Italy for 26 years and teaching English for most of that. They can't go anywhere without knowing some grammar first!

Fofanah, Umaru
As an English language teacher for the past seven years, I made to understand that as an English language teacher in Africa you should lay more emphasis on grammar. Knowing your grammar will help you to speak good English without any fear. My first top tip is:

  1. All students in my class should know what grammar is and its importance.
  2. The eight parts of speech to their finger tip
  3. Proper pronuncation of words and correct spellings (Preference to British English)

Roberta, Italy
I try to balance them all. By the way I think that good grammar skills are basic. It's important for students to have a good knowledge of grammar structures in order to build up their overall knowledge. My favourite tips for improving learners are written exercises of every kind!

Nidhi, India
I strongly believe in Frank Smith's idea that one can only learn to read through reading and similarly learns to write through writing. I dont belive in teaching grammar, rather i spent more time in providing relevant literature to my students and encourage them to read. I help in developing their interest in reading. I feel the most crucial task for a reading teacher is to help their learners get the confidence and interest in reading, once taht is done there is no stopping. All grammar rules will be internalised on its own.All this I am saying has a strong grounding in practice.

Jane, Ukraine
I think that it's very important to have skills not only in stylystics, lexycology but also in grammar. In Ukraine the teachers of comprehensive schools lay not much attention on grammar skills tthough it's a first stage in learning English

Sangeeta Heines, India
I feel grammar is the "backbone" of a language and just as a person is crippled if his backbone breaks so is the person who lacks proper grammar knowledge. I prefer the "interactive" way of teaching grammar than the traditional way.So I write sentences on the WB and ask students to find out the "common" factor.I always ask students to work in pairs to do this.Once the students have worked out the main Tense I ask them to write a couple of sentences.Then elicit a few and discuss them especially if there are exceptions or if the majority makes the same mistake.This way the students feel involved and feel a sense of achievement .This gives the teacher thats me to circulate and help students too.I am ofcourse talking about teaching Grammar in EFL class at University level with a mixed ability group of 32 students.

R.L.Underwood, Italy
One word:READING! Grammar is about the driest subject in a School curriculum, immune to ketchup and salad cream, persuasion, or anything else. Some pupils are adapted to learn it, some not. Why not spend that energy encouraging them to read a good book? Like most things in life reading, once the habit has been acquired, can be quite addictive. Reading can also teach!

Divya Mehta, India
I have been teaching English for the past thirteen years to learners of different age groups - professionals, home-makers and students. My experience says that adults do need a little bit of formal grammar, grammar which helps in building conversation. Tenses, prepositions, direct indirect,articles and subject verb agreement.Besides this, teaching has to be extremely interactive wherein the learner is given maximum opportunity to speak. It could be a real life situation, a simple story, narration of an incident and so on. The learner is introduced to vocabulary automatically through this speaking practice. A lot depends on the patience and ingenuity of the facilitator!Reading and listening skills are a must which have to be pursued everyday as practice. Whereas students require written practice, adults who are lookiing at english only as a tool of communication can do away with written english.A new born baby picks up the mother tongue without being taught grammar. Hence any language when learnt in an environment where it is spoken maximum, can be taught to students by focusing only on the skills. However, adulds do need to be given grammar hints.

J.Praveen Paul Joseph, India
Grammar is the platform of learning English. It speaks about the accuracy but not fluency. Grammar can be taught basically with examples using our routine day to day activities, action oriented examples can be explained to reach the students in casual and friendly manner. First thing, students are in the grip of fear for English grammar, and it must be removed gradually. Teachers should deal with examples which would trigger their minds to raisequestions to be more interactive, as a sign of healthy practice. Grammar should be taught lively in cordial atmosphere. When things are practised studrnts will acquire mastery of the subject.Thank you.

Will, Japan
I place grammar in second place behind communication skills. I teach in Japan where students are commonly very anxious about accuracy. Therefore I intentionally de-emphasize grammar and emphasize successful if imperfect communication.My answer would be different in other countries I have taught!

Nina, Taiwan
I think grammar is the foundation of learning English. If you want to learn English effectively, you must learn how to use the words rightly. Therefore, people could understand what you say correctly. Language is a tool of communication, so you must let people understand what you say.

Camelia Santa, Romania
Students are usually afraid of grammar, or at least bored with it. So we have the really difficult task to make them be interested in it. We do not have to teach them grammar as a separate lesson, we should integrate it in a context of a speaking or listening activity. Actually they should not even notice that's also grammar we have in mind. And after we finish with reading or listen we should try to center their attention to that specific aspect of grammar. The rules should be discovered by them step by step and we only make an outline at the very end of the class. We shouldn't expect students to learn that at first, but still revise it from time to time. That's so much to talk about it...

Thaís, Brazil
I think grammar is the most important part to learn in a language. Since you learn it, you get more confident to show off all your other skills. My point of view is that first you have to learn as much as you can on grammar, and then you focus in other skills to brush up on the language. Practising all the time is the best way to succeed!

Habba Mohamed, Ouled-Djellal, Biskra, Algeria
Teaching grammar is a vital part of language learning. Whatever the technique is used to present grammar, it should followed by guided practise. This GP helps the learner process the language. Free practise is widely advisable: interaction should be encouraged and multiplied.Once used many time in different situations, the learners practises the grammar language learnt and gains more confidence and 'know how'.

Shakeel Amjad, Pakistan
I think grammar plays a very important role in language learning. It is equally important for the learners of first and second language for accuracy. In case of second language learning it provides the basis for understanding. Besides, grammar helps learners of L2 build confidence in speaking, listening and even vocabulary. A text based learning of grammar can be very helpful and sound.

Laércio Alves, Brazil
Many people from diferent countries speak different kinds of English. I think that's a great idea if the teachers work the grammar side into the informal speaking side. It would be a nice experience.

Nur, Turkey
If you have only 6 months to teach English to young adults, there is no harm in didactic teaching methods of grammar.

Alexander Sean
I think that is very key to the expression skill but it is not better important. And to speaker, the language comes easily and naturally. Therefore the best way to learn a foreign language is to interact with the native speaker as often as possible.

Waood Hasani, Jordan
I don't think grammer is the most important thing. There are other things like vocabululary, body languge, and the most important thing how could my students communicate and understand when they deal with L2.

Amara, Senegal
Teaching grammar,using the Communicative Language Teaching approach tends to be more approppriate in the sense that the activities designed by the teacher should take into account integrated skills. Students learn all skills in a relaxed and life-style oriented environment. Teaching English then requires activities in which all skills are integrated. Teaching a classic grammar lesson where students have to memorize all the irregular verbs is just irrelevent.

Carlos, Colombia
Based on my personal experience first as a learner and then as a teacher I would say there are three elements to keep in mind when dealing with grammar issues.

  1. Grammar needs to be discovered by students. This is done easier if the structure at hand is presented in a clear and appealing context.
  2. Metalanguage needs to be avoided as much as possible as most students do not really asociate it to the words at hand. It is better to let them use the language in a natural way understanding some minimum aspects.
  3. It is of paramount importance to move from grammar as an isolated part of language and include it as something that is essential to learn the language but not the only thing to learn and master. By this I mean that students need first to discover the rules but then they need to use them in contexts where they see how thay work and what they are for.
In other words, use the grammar as a real thing that lets them express their feelings and ideas.

Salem, Libya
In my opinion grammar is the most important skill, it is the key to learning English if the student knows the rules and how to use them,it will be easy for him to write and to read. So I find it so important to focus on grammar rules especially for non-native speakers because there are so many differences between the two languages.

Iriana, Peru
When I began teaching, I used to consider grammar as the most important factor for learners to learn. If they knew grammar, they were on the right path. Unfortunately, I found out that having learners who knew what the difference was between Past Simple and Past Continuos was not enough. Therefore, I did lots of reading on how to "acquire" a second language and things do seem to be more complex than just teaching structures and having learners practice on worksheets.

Grammar, as we all know, should be presented in context. What is more, learners should discover the rules since this will aid acquisition to take place. Depending on the target grammar, it is really helpful to have learners use the structure without noticing. (This may not work with complex strucures such as participle clauses or so.) Once they know what the structure is and how it is used, I find it quite useful to highlight the target structure on the board. This helps the logical learners remember that particular structure.

Needless to say that in class, "on the field", things do not always work as a recipe book. Every group is different. Hence, what I consider a key factor to teach grammar in communicative way is planning.

Ramesh, India
I don't think grammar is that important, because a person can speak or write a language without learning grammar.It's rightly said that language procedes grammar and not grammar procedes language.So I give more importance on listening and speaking . Again vocabulary is more imporant because vocabulary plays an important role in communicating our ideas effectively.

Ana, Brazil
Grammar is the base to start a good learning process. I try to make my students use it in a practical way, and show them how useful it can be in regular conversation as well in listenig and reading exercises.

Hamid, Peshawar, Pakistan
When compared to speaking or vocabulary, less importance should be placed on grammar.But grammar is very important and should be taught in a systemtic way.I teach it in a direct way but I make my students practice it a lot, a lot, and it has worked well so far. Formal teaching of grammar should be follwed by exhaustive practice.

Somalia
Grammar is nothing, but a small proportion to the larger part of learning a language, so only basic grammar is important.

Julian, UK
Grammar is important for more advanced students, but less so in earlier stages of language learning. It also depends on the student- some students prefer learning all the rules, whereas others are happy to deduct these from the context.

Grammar is important, and there are different ways to tackle it, all leading to proficiency and eventually to unconcious and natural use in language.

José E.Gil-Delgado, Spain
In my opinion and after 46 years of teaching English as a second language(I am 64) I don't place a lot of importance on grammar as far as normal students are concerned (those who study a language with the main purpose of "communicating").It is very important though for those students whose aim is to develop a teaching career and consequently need a good command on the grammar of the language they are learning and going to teach later on in their professional lives.

Grammar is a human invention and it must be assumed as a tool to help both students and teachers in the process of learning/teaching a language. As an example: the FIRST GRAMMAR OF SPANISH was published in 1492 by Antonio de Nebrija, and Spanish language was officialy spoken in Spain five centuries before. Millions of People already spoke the language correctly WITHOUT HAVING HAD ANY BOOKS OF SPANISH GRAMMAR to help them.

Children come to speak their native language fluently at an average age of 10-12 years and in most occasions grammar is completely alien to them at that time.

To me and after my experience as a graduated teacher of five different languages (Spanish, English, Italian, French and Russian), "the natural way" is the best one to learn "grammar" through a permanent repetition and imitation of the correct models. As far as adults are concerned it is occasionally good to help them with a few rules in order to cut shorter the "natural way". I hope these comments could be of help for students and teachers around the world. Thank you for reading it.

Diogo, Brazil
I'm nineteen years old and I started teaching English in a small comunitary course in my city.In the begining, my classrooms were almost all based on grammar topics with some vocabulary. Then I realazed that it didn't work very much, becouse most of my students only memorized the topics, didn't learn them. So, this semester I usually stard the classroom with a small text that has new vocabullary and then I try to show the grammar part. I prefer this way, I think they learn more...But the problem is with me (I Guess) becouse I can´t find a good way, even with the texts to make them really learn grammar in a nice way, I 'd like you to help...See U!

Hany, Syria
For me I don't like Grammar and I find it difficult to learn and I think you talk English with other people without grammar and they will understand what do you want to say. Listening is the most important thing.

Dina Pen, Cambodia
I normally ask students to read the article and look for the new language and read them aloud and I write them on the board. then, ask them to work out the form. ask them to give few examples and if they know how to use the new language. Finally I explain to them the use and meaning and give more examples and analyse, use and meaning if they are right or not. Exercises shoyld be practised or drilled after each new item they have just learnt.

Nader, Brazil
First, I always prefer students to keep in mind the main substances of language, i.e Subject Pronouns, possessive adjectives, V.to Be, V.to Have and V. to do. Later on I use the conversation and reading as a ' Student's key ' to discover the form of the sentence.

Fredy, Brazil
Grammar is a matter of accuracy. A person is fluent if she/he knows how to communicate, but I consider grammar is important enough to be taught beside other skills. Nobody likes to make mistakes at all.

Noé, Benin
As far as I am concerned I think that all the skills are very important and closely connected. So a good or balance teaching of english should take into account alls skills:reading, listening, speaking and writing. Let me focus on the case of my country to illustrate my answer. Generally, english learning in Benin is mainly focused on grammar and vocabulary. It follows that students make great efforts to master grammatical rules and learn by heart words but neglect all the other aspects of the language. As results of this bad option, most of students in Benin are unable to communicate, to speak english. Sadly enough,this is also true for a huge proportion of students who spent four years at university to learnt only english. The best tips are based on techniques involving game, discover.

John C. Mathew
To a native speaker, the language comes easily and naturally. Therefore the best way to learn a foreign language is to interact with the native speaker as often as possible.

Ayanna, Mexico
Pronounciation from the beginning is critical, especially when the native language is phonetically less complex or dissimilar. I work grammar into topics designed to provoke inquiry as to the grammar structure. Using cognates to elicit meanings in context, we then work with them for adjusting pronounciation. I'm fairy new teaching language, and this has been quite successful. I measure this in terms of how rapidly they are able to pronounce clearly distinguishable words in minimal pairs, for example, and by their enthusiasm to participate. I also use the +1 approach especially in vocabulary and grammar, to avoid overwhelming the learner. It reduces frustration and boredom, but requires me to advance my knowledge of Spanish quite rapidly. I have nine months here learning Spanish. I believe adult learners need and appreciate more concrete grammar presentations. I work with adults to young learners. The system generally taught here in public and some private schools is grammar torture. The results are not impressive. Grammar doesn't have to create resistance to learning. It's a necessary organization of how language is spoken, and progresses the learner's skills in working with it- especially the older and more advanced the student is. Vocabulary is a way to involve the student's interests, so I create lessons and experiences tailored to their own areas of inquiry. Providing a more natural aquisition of language is my goal.