Grammar is universally considered as the backbone of any language, but focusing on grammar explanation and neglecting any reference to meaning can be detrimental to language acquisition. Grammar knowledge can be helpful in producing accurate forms of language and acts in monitoring its use. This shows that grammar alone does not make the language. What is more, language use can be tremendously affected by conscious language usage as this may create a stressful environment.
In a book titled: The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language (Heinemann, 2005), Mary Ehrenworth and Vicki Vinton state that grammar matters not only for how it transfers power but for its intrinsic beauty and revelatory qualities. On the other hand Brock Haussamen, professor of English at Raritan Valley Community College of New Jersey asserts that people associate grammar with errors and correctness but knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise. It offers a window into the human mind and into our amazingly complex mental capacity. It is about finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns.
Therefore, a balanced approach to grammar teaching takes into consideration the appropriate use of language and does not reject the (conscious or unconscious) internalization of the rules. A perfect blend of grammar and vocabulary is the main ingredient in the program that Eureka employs in its English Grammar Lessons.
The power of exploration over explanation
Explaining a rule does not necessarily lead to full understanding of the language point. It is preferable to let students discover the essentiality and depth of the rules by themselves. A grammar-discovery approach involves providing learners with data to illustrate a particular grammatical point and getting them to analyze it in order to reach an awareness of how the feature works. In effect, this needs acquirers to be active thinkers in order to discover for themselves how the grammar works. Instead of giving students a set of model examples to repeat and drill, it would be wiser to give them the opportunity to explore the examples by noticing/observing, making hypotheses and drawing conclusions about the language forms. This leads to raising an awareness about the grammar and a meaningful and active understanding of the rules. Habit formation through drilling and repetition cannot lead to language mastery. However, using authentic language (instead of artificial language) to unconsciously internalize language forms might be much more beneficial to language acquirers.
The following are the advantages of grammar-discovery:
- Students discover the usage/application of grammar after learning the theories.
- Grammar becomes a content to be communicated about.
- Acquirers develop analytical skills to understand and internalize language rules.
- Grammar discovery leads to a deeper understanding and awareness of the mother tongue or the first language as well as the target language’s grammar.
- Grammar discovery teaches students to be autonomous learners.
In a nutshell, grammar must be a part of any language instruction. But the approach one adopts in the grammar teaching differs from teacher to teacher. While some may underestimate any importance of grammar in the teaching practices; others put grammar in the forefront of the language teaching. Eureka Tutorial and Learning Center believes in a balanced view that considers grammar important, as long as it leads to better language use in context rather than being a set of rules about the language that do not help much in the communication of meaning.