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The role of grammar in learning foreign languages

In this article, you will learn the importance of grammar in learning foreign languages.

4:28 min read
  Esther Crowder  —  Grammar Tips
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Recently, the question has been raised more and more often about the role and importance of grammar directly in the process of teaching foreign languages. As you know, in the history of teaching foreign languages ​​the question of the role of grammar was solved in a variety of ways, starting from the statement that a foreign language can be studied only through grammar (the so-called grammar-translation or conscious method) and ending with the opposite statement that when learning foreign languages ​​should not be engaged in grammar at all (direct or training method).

These extreme approaches to learning foreign languages ​​have significant drawbacks. The first method exaggerates the role of consciousness in learning and does not pay due attention to automation and the fact that not only knowledge should be sought, but also skills and abilities; he overestimates the role of grammar, giving it the main place in the educational material and the lesson. This method was widely used by the old Soviet school and, judging by the final results, showed its failure.

The latter method, opposite to it, exaggerates the role of automation one-sidedly and excludes grammar from the learning process, including grammar rules only in speech patterns, which are acquired by repetition, training exercises and analogies. Thus, the process of learning a language consists mainly of acquiring mechanical skills through imitation and mechanical training, while the role of conscious knowledge in the field of foreign languages ​​is ignored and the task of unconsciously mastering a foreign language is set. This method is probably the only one possible for young children learning a foreign language. But can it be considered ideal or sufficient for those who begin to learn a foreign language at a conscious age, when a foreign language is acquired based on knowledge of their native language? Not, because the role of knowledge (and with it the role of grammar) is underestimated.

It should be noted here that it is necessary to distinguish between a grammar intended for teaching a native language and a grammar intended for teaching a foreign language.

The grammar intended for teaching the mother tongue serves primarily to help the student realize, systematize or understand what he, in most cases, correctly uses grammar before learning grammar, practically based on his “linguistic instinct”. When studying a foreign language, a student, in contrast to a native speaker of that language, at first does not have any “competence” in the studied foreign language. Therefore, a grammar intended for teaching a foreign language, in no case can not rely on linguistic flair and should accordingly contain explicit rules for the formation and use of grammatical forms and structures of a foreign language. The grammar of the mother tongue can come from the competence of native speakers and rely on it; on the contrary, the grammar of a foreign language should serve as one of the means of such competence in the field of a foreign language. The degree of explicitness of grammar depends on social needs: it can be minimal when teaching a native language when language competence is available, and vice versa, increases when teaching a foreign language when competence is absent and is the purpose of learning. The grammar of a foreign language should be practical grammar. The most grammar of the native language is a mixture of elements of theoretical and practical grammar, since they, by their main goal - to explain and systematize - also illuminate the concepts of other authors, argue with them, etc. The latter is excluded for practical grammars, which should be simpler and at the same time contain more precisely formulated rules for the use of grammatical forms and constructions.

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Proceeding from this, the most appropriate methods are those that, developing automated skills, not only do not exclude the recognition of grammatical rules but, on the contrary, include it.

In didactic processing, selection of grammar, such factors as goals and objectives of teaching foreign languages ​​and the corresponding skills and abilities, linguistic factors (for example, statistical data on the frequency of phenomena), educational psychology, the age of students, etc. are crucial. Given these factors, the methodology determines the selection, location, and sequence, the way of explaining the linguistic phenomena to be explained and consolidated.

Based on the foregoing, the following provisions can be formulated:

1. Teaching foreign languages ​​has a communicative purpose.

Its ultimate goal is fluency in a foreign language, allowing you to use it as a means of communication. Therefore, the subject of instruction is the language itself, and not the science of language.

2. The basis for teaching foreign languages ​​are many related to the methodology of science - pedagogy, psychology, didactics, learning theory, linguistics. Therefore, the data of linguistics, including the provisions of grammar, are included in the teaching of languages ​​in an indirect form.

In teaching a foreign language, it is important to manage the process of mastering the language optimally and rationally, which should be facilitated by the rules of grammar, and in particular, didactically selected, grammar rules adapted to the teaching needs. Grammar is only one aspect of teaching foreign languages, however, it is both a means and a condition for communicative activity, and therefore should be subordinate to this goal. 

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