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  • 1. How to teach grammar?Guido RiquelmeJaime SaezThe following essay is focused on the grammar system, based on authors suchas Freeman, Douglas Brown, Celce-Murcia, and Nunan. While the essaydevelops, it will answer interrogatives as, what grammar is? How to teachgrammar? Which is the suitable manner to teach grammar?Grammar is a subject of knowledge which teachers and researchers have beenstudying for several years. Think in a specific manner to see grammar is a verycomplicated job to do, because grammar is part of the language, and languageis in constant changes, developing new words, theories and rules. Two teachersof grammar could teach the subject slightly different, for the wide-range oftheories that can be handled nowadays.Grammar is one of the most difficult aspects to learn and teach, Larsen-Freeman (2003) pointed out that “Grammar is much more about humannessthan some static list of rules and exceptions suggests” (p.142). In fact, whenundergraduates hear the word grammar the things that comes to their headsare a well-structured set of words forms, rules, theories and more, yet grammaris more than a basic set of principles, outlines or guidelines used in order tocreate coherent sentences. The word grammar encodes many different types ofthings, and not all that compendium of knowledge can be equally teach or learn.Learning grammar can be a difficult, hard and tough task to do; however,according to Larsen-Freeman (2003) states that “Grammar is acquirednaturally; it doesn’t have to be taught” (p.19) She also adds “it is difficult torefute the statement that grammar can be acquired naturally because such isthe case with native language acquisition. More to the point here, many of usknow of successful second language learners who have picked up the languageon their own, that is, have learned it implicitly through immersion in anenvironment where the language is spoken. However, compellingcounterevidence to this statement is the experience of all those learners whohave lived for a long time in an environment where the target language is
  • 2. spoken all around them yet who have failed to acquire even its rudimentarymorphology. So perhaps this statement is more a comment on languagelearners than it is on language learning” (p.19). Even when grammar can belearned by nature, why second language learners find so difficult to achieve thisknowledge? Is there a problem with the subject? Is there a problem with themethodology of the class? Or just a problem with the students who are notcapable of put grammar into action?Celce-Murcia (1996, pp19) recommends one specific and successful way ofteaching grammar. Teaching in groups, in other words, students work in groupswhile they are in a grammar class. The base of this theory is that grammar itselfis considered, according to Murcia, as a monotonous subject, and that teachingstudent who work in groups is easier and more stimulating. Also, this techniqueis held on the fact that when student work together as a group the student-student interaction is improved. As well, It must be considered that a studenttend to admit in a better manner a correction from a pair than a correction fromthe teacher.As Larsen-Freeman (2003) notes, “Even those who subscribe to an innatistUniversal Grammar (UG) perspective, for instance, allow that core grammarmay be innate but that peripheral grammar may be learned through a differentmechanism. However, it is the case that language teaching methods havesometimes been based exclusively on one view of the language acquisitionprocess. Thus, for example, there was an affinity between audiolingualism andbehaviorism, and between cognitive code approach and cognitivism. Suchaffinities gave rise to general claims about the whole of language acquisition,that is, that language acquisition is a product of habit formation or of ruleformation”(p.20-21) as Diane Larsen-Freeman mentioned in this fragment of herbook, every aspect of grammar can be learned in the same way, but this doesnot mean that students can learn it with the same methods, in order to learngrammar students must use a great variety of techniques and methods, andbeing constantly studying the subject with the objective of learning in asignificant way to apply the structures, rules, and theories of grammar in real lifesituations.
  • 3. The vast majority of the second language learners believe that grammar is aboring subject to learn, they are constantly avoiding it, the more they avoidgrammar the more they slow down the progression of their own learning. But,what can teachers do to handle with boredom in class? Larsen-Freeman (2003)established that “First, although I do not think that it is my job to entertain mystudents, I do believe that it is my job to engage them. It is at the point ofengagement that most learning is likely to take place-when students arefocused, relaxed, and attentive. Second, if grammar is presented as a system ofrules, students may not put in the time that they will need to master it. Third, Iwill have to work on the attitude of (some of) my students. Just as I believe thatteachers are well served when they cultivate attitudes of inquiry, I suggest thatthis is a good attitude to nurture in students” (p.21). As Larsen-Freeman statesteachers must engage their students, engagement is essential in class, is thebest way to fight boredom and laziness, motivate students to be responsiblewith their own learning is a task that every teacher must fulfill, motivatedstudents learn more and faster than bored students, also motivation improvesthe learning environment, providing the appropriates learning tools in order toovercome the obstacles that can appear while learning grammar.Another point that teacher should consider to teach grammar is the students’purpose to learn grammar, students needs goals to reach in order tosuccessfully acquire knowledge in every field such as chemistry ormathematics, giving purposes to students will generate motivation to learn, theywill look for the knowledge by their own free will instead of waiting for theinstructor to teach them everything they need.According to Douglas-Brown (2000, pp363-364) on Celce-Murcia (1991) thereare six variables that can easily indicate, how important grammar is in languageteaching. First of all, age, as long as the student cognitive capabilities developsthe way of teaching grammar is different, for instance, a older children will becapable of understanding grammar by generalizations, yet an adult will learnand use some grammatical aspect in order to develop their communicativeabilities. Secondly, the proficiency level, this means that beginner learner’slessons should not be focused on just teaching grammar, this may cause ablock on communicative fluency; however, for advanced learner’s lessons
  • 4. grammar should or should not take a privileged place during the learningprocess. Educational background is also a variable considered by Celce-Murcia, non-littered and highly educated students are completely different interms of facing focused grammar lessons. Highly educated student will acceptand will ask for corrections when is needed; on contrary, non littered studentswill hit upon a wall because student will misunderstand the rules. As Celce-Murcia states, the language skill are also a variable that is necessary to keep inmind. This variable is also related with the English proficiency. For instance,grammar is given more importance in listening and reading when the learnersare beginners, and grammar is focused on writing when the learners areadvanced. Style, needs and goals are the last variables considered by DouglasBrown on Celce-Murcia. These variables are focused more in the way of usinggrammar and not on the way of teaching it or acquire it. The style refers to thefact that a person will not care about using a perfect grammar, for instancewhen speaking with a peer. And also, little mistakes will not be considered orpointed out.On the other hand needs and goals, refers to the final use of the language thatis learned. If the language learned is used for “survival”, grammar mistakes, asin style, will not be considered or pointed out. But, if the language is learned inorder to be used in professional contexts the grammar used is more accurate.At the moment of teaching grammar, Douglas Brown states, the best way ofteaching grammar is the inductive way, this means, focused on grammar, theteacher do not give the rules explicitly; instead, the student get the rule by theirown based on the examples provided by the teacher. This approach is wellrecommended because the students tend to learn faster for the reason that theyare acquiring the rules subconsciously. Also, the motivation of the student forgrammar increases. Furthermore, he affirms, that at the moment of teachinggrammar the vocabulary used by the teacher in order to explain grammar,should be simple a concrete, long instructions and excessively difficult tounderstand will result in the misunderstanding of the students. Likewise, if thestudents do not understand the instructions in English, the teacher should usemother tongue. When he is asked about is grammar should be taught in
  • 5. isolated grammar class, he declares, that grammar should not be taught inisolation and that should be learned from context.David Nunan, on his article on ELT Oxford journal (1998, pp101), expressed theissues of teaching and learning wrongly the English grammar due to the meansof teaching grammar, in other words, teachers tend to teach grammar inisolation based on isolated sentences. Nunan states that grammar should betaught in context. How this is possible? Nunan on his article presented a newapproach that should replace the old lineal approach. The organic approachimplies that the grammar should be taught in context, not just isolated rules thatmust be learned by heart. This approach also encourages students to beresponsible about their own learning.To conclude there is a lot to said about grammar, how to teach the subject andalso how to learn the topic, the wide-range of theories, structures, words formsand more are undoubtedly difficult to acquire if the one who want to learn it isnot focus on the process of learning, also the motivation and engagement withthe theme can foster an appropriate environment to learn in a proper way, thisdoes not mean that if students are motivate grammar will be easier, but it willbecome more enjoyable the process of learning grammar. In addition to thisteachers must be aware of the techniques they use to teach grammar, if themethods they use are not working, change it to another in order to maximize thelearning of their students. Teachers should motivate students to avoid theboredom and laziness that some of the students feel when they hear the wordgrammar that is the reason why teachers should use dynamic methods ofteachings.
  • 6. References.• Larsen-Freeman, D. (2003). Teaching Language from Grammar toGrammaring. The University of Michigan and the school for internationaltraining. Donald Freeman series editor, Thomson Heinle.• Douglas Brown, H. (2000). Teaching by Principles: an InteractiveApproach to Language Pedagogy. Longman.• Nunan, D. (1998). Teaching grammar in context. ELT Journal OxfordUniversity Press.• Celce-Murcia, M. (1996) Integrating Group Work with the TeachingGrammar. Journal of NELTA 1996 Vol. 1 No. 2:19
  • 7. References.• Larsen-Freeman, D. (2003). Teaching Language from Grammar toGrammaring. The University of Michigan and the school for internationaltraining. Donald Freeman series editor, Thomson Heinle.• Douglas Brown, H. (2000). Teaching by Principles: an InteractiveApproach to Language Pedagogy. Longman.• Nunan, D. (1998). Teaching grammar in context. ELT Journal OxfordUniversity Press.• Celce-Murcia, M. (1996) Integrating Group Work with the TeachingGrammar. Journal of NELTA 1996 Vol. 1 No. 2:19