Time to stop avoiding grammar rules!

The evidence is now in: the explicit teaching of grammar rules leads to better learning. At least that is what this article from The Guardian in England claims.

Unfortunately the article does not offer any proof that the evidence is in, but rather just makes the statement. In fact, there are other studies, such as this article by Benkiko Mason in Japan, entitled “Impressive gains on the TOEIC after one year of comprehensible input, with no output or grammar study”, which tend to prove the opposite.

Personally, when it comes to language learning, I am somewhat in the middle. I think that massive comprehensible input is a necessary precondition for language improvement, even in your own language. If you don’t read a lot, you will not write well. In my experience, if you read a lot, and listen a lot, in a foreign language, you will improve faster than by trying to nail down grammar rules.

However, I find that output, speaking and writing, that is based on a solid base of input acquired language experience, which includes the acquisition of a rich vocabulary, helps you to notice your mistakes. The occasional review of grammar rules helps to notice patterns in the language, but only if you have acquired some experience in the language via input.

However, a grammar centred form of instruction, with limited time for input based activities, will, I think, be counterproductive.


One thought on “Time to stop avoiding grammar rules!

  1. In my opinion, in order to make a grammar point easier understandable an adequate number (not just a few) of daily life usage examples (sentences) with potential types of occurring patterns could be provided in listening, reading, speaking and writing practice. For example when learning English verb tenses, different types of sentences with affirmative and negative verb forms, and all personal pronouns (I, you, she. he, it, we, they) and other kinds of potential subjects (as doers or agents of actions) can be included as examples to show all types of potentially occurring patterns of use which must be dealt with sooner or later anyway.Learners of English for example should be encouraged to make up their own sentences on each grammar point taking into consideration their personal daily life activities (thus using English grammar for their potential relevant needs in realistic situations). Imagination and creativity play a major role in this practice as learners prepare for potential use of English grammar for their needs.

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