Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

This is our main forum. Here, anything related to languages and linguistics can be discussed.

Moderator: Forum Administrators

Do you like learning grammar

Yes
18
75%
No
6
25%
 
Total votes: 24

User avatar
Polyglotus_Maximus
Posts: 5
Joined: 2017-06-13, 19:12
Real Name: Polyglotus Maximus
Gender: male
Country: PL Poland (Polska)

Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby Polyglotus_Maximus » 2018-10-07, 18:23

Hello, everyone. I am new here.
I noticed a lot of online resources treating grammar like an unwanted child.
Personally, I believe learning grammar is a must, if you want to learn a language.

I hate those courses, which make you remember whole sentences without explaining the grammar.

I love grammar, it helps me make my own sentences and reduces my study time.
Maybe some people have school trauma, or something?
:hmm:
Now, there are grammar books that are very convoluted and hard to understand for a layman (if you don't understand specific linguistic vocabulary) , but most grammar explanations in textbooks are pretty easy to understand.

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 22648
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Austin
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-10-07, 18:39

There are good explanations of grammar, and there are not so good ones. Sometimes, even textbooks do a horrible job of explaining grammar. I have limited patience with bad grammar explanations, although for a language where almost the only resource I have is a grammar, I am somewhat more willing to put up with (potentially) poor explanations.

There are also languages for which no grammar has been written yet, and there are grammatical concepts I'm just not initially familiar with; in those cases, I'm kind of okay with just memorizing whole sentences, at least at first.

User avatar
OldBoring
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 5805
Joined: 2012-12-08, 7:19
Real Name: Francesco
Gender: male
Location: Milan
Country: IT Italy (Italia)
Contact:

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby OldBoring » 2018-10-08, 8:02

because grammar suck
speak langauge good grammar no need

User avatar
Naava
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 873
Joined: 2012-01-17, 20:24
Gender: female
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby Naava » 2018-10-08, 8:22

OldBoring wrote:because grammar suck
speak langauge good grammar no need

I swear this is how I speak Finnish! :lol:

User avatar
IpseDixit
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 9714
Joined: 2013-05-06, 21:06
Gender: male
Location: Bologna / Florence
Country: IT Italy (Italia)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-10-09, 10:00

Because except for a fringe of nerds, nobody likes spending time on conjugation tables or other grammar stuff, so it's pretty much a marketing strategy I guess.

On a related note, maybe it's a bit pedantic of me but I hate those people who say "I learned to speak language X without studying the grammar". Well, if you can speak the language then you did study its grammar somehow, maybe not from books but in other ways yes.

kevin
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 1935
Joined: 2012-03-29, 11:07
Gender: male
Country: DE Germany (Deutschland)
Contact:

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby kevin » 2018-10-09, 10:54

You certainly must have learnt the grammar somehow, but I don't think that means you must have actively studied it.

Personally, I hate when I have to infer how the grammar works from examples because it feels so much more inefficient. But I guess, yes, it's possible and then you don't need to learn grammatical terms etc. to even understand the explanation.

It's a bit like doing a 1000km trip on foot because that saves you the effort of learning how to drive a car. In fact, getting a driver's license just for this trip might actually take you longer than just walking. But once you got the license, you can use the car any time in the future and not just for that one trip.

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 22648
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Austin
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-10-10, 0:14

I'm totally the kind of person who would walk 1000 km on foot just to avoid learning to drive a car. :lol:

kevin
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 1935
Joined: 2012-03-29, 11:07
Gender: male
Country: DE Germany (Deutschland)
Contact:

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby kevin » 2018-10-10, 9:54

Car analogies are supposed to be faulty. :P

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 22383
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-10-10, 16:54

I think it's a lingering reaction to the grammar-translation method of teaching languages. For centuries, this was the only formal method of language instruction in the West. It works well enough if your primary goal is learning to read a language, but it leaves much to be desired when it comes to practicing speaking and listening.

Its shortcomings really became evident in the 40s when the USA needed to train a lot of personnel in oral use of foreign languages for fighting abroad. That led to the birth of the audio-lingual method. The end of WWII ushered in an age of mass overseas tourism, which was perfect for the spread of the audio-lingual method (since it was aimed at building basic oral skills for immediate communicative purposes).

In the process, "grammar" got a bad name. Concurrently there was movement in the teaching of English in American schools away from traditional grammar instruction (rooted, as it was, in the study of dead languages like Latin) and towards more "holistic" methods. The pendulum has swung back somewhat since audio-lingual methods have fallen from favour, but there's never really been a strong impetus to bring back rigorous grammar instruction.

I don't see this changing until we change our view of "grammar". The traditional prescriptivist view of it is as something difficult that you need to formally learn as opposed to something you know already by virtue of being a fluent native speaker. If we taught people how their languages really work instead of keeping up this pretense that they can all be stuffed into the straitjacket of Latin and put less emphasis on how not to say things, I think people would fear and loathe it less and want more of it in their lessons.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 22648
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Austin
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-10-11, 0:56

kevin wrote:Car analogies are supposed to be faulty. :P

But in my case, the analogy works perfectly! :D

Linguaphile
Posts: 1647
Joined: 2016-09-17, 5:06

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-10-11, 5:51

Polyglotus_Maximus wrote:Hello, everyone. I am new here.
I noticed a lot of online resources treating grammar like an unwanted child.
Personally, I believe learning grammar is a must, if you want to learn a language.

I hate those courses, which make you remember whole sentences without explaining the grammar.

I love grammar, it helps me make my own sentences and reduces my study time.
Maybe some people have school trauma, or something?
:hmm:
Now, there are grammar books that are very convoluted and hard to understand for a layman (if you don't understand specific linguistic vocabulary) , but most grammar explanations in textbooks are pretty easy to understand.


It is inductive grammar instruction, which has been around for a long time but has become more popular in recent years, especially in the teaching of English as a non-native language. The sentences might be for memorization in the beginning, but they are also meant to be models of the grammar rules. In a formal classroom setting, the students would be expected to figure out the rules and discuss them (so grammar may not be explicitly covered anywhere in the course materials but will end up being discussed in class eventually, as the students figure out the grammar rules that are presented through examples). Or, if it is not discussed, the teacher will probably be creating situations in which the students have to use particular aspects of grammar in context and then will correct the errors students make as they use those aspects of the language.
With self-study that last part (discussion of the grammar rules as they are discovered, and/or correction by the teacher when students aren't using the rules correctly) gets missed.
In my opinion a mix of both approaches is best; different people learn best in different ways. Personally, I like studying grammar, but I also love figuring out the patterns in things, so I do okay with both methods. For myself I like to start with some basic grammar when I first start studying a language, and then as I get more proficient, I prefer the inductive method for learning more advanced grammar.
I think that for studying on your own, some explicit grammar is really needed, because there is no teacher to lead any discussion on (or to confirm the correctness of) whatever grammar rules you are able to figure out on your own.
This is one of the pitfalls of using materials that were designed for actual classroom situations, if you are studying on your own.

Some links:
Inductive and deductive grammar teaching: what is it, and does it work?
Inductive and Deductive Approach in TESOL
Inductive Approach and Deductive Approach

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 22648
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Austin
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-10-11, 12:24

Linguaphile wrote:With self-study that last part (discussion of the grammar rules as they are discovered, and/or correction by the teacher when students aren't using the rules correctly) gets missed.

I think that's only true if by "self-study" you mean "not sharing anything you're doing with other people." I think it's fair to say that a lot of people here on UniLang study languages by themselves, without a tutor or anything, but still get corrections (sometimes) from native speakers and definitely still discuss grammar rules.

Linguaphile
Posts: 1647
Joined: 2016-09-17, 5:06

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-10-11, 13:17

vijayjohn wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:With self-study that last part (discussion of the grammar rules as they are discovered, and/or correction by the teacher when students aren't using the rules correctly) gets missed.

I think that's only true if by "self-study" you mean "not sharing anything you're doing with other people." I think it's fair to say that a lot of people here on UniLang study languages by themselves, without a tutor or anything, but still get corrections (sometimes) from native speakers and definitely still discuss grammar rules.

That's true to some extent, but it depends on which language. I've studied several languages for which there aren't native speakers or even non-native speakers or learners on this board. I'll be really surprised if you tell me the same isn't true for you. Sometimes we post what we're learning, but no one here corrects grammar in those languages or knows enough to be able to correct the learners much. For example, Votic, Livonian, Inari, Veps, Aymara, Mixtec, Iu Mien. (Plus a thread in which a learner specifically did not want to discuss Zapotec grammar or any corrections.) Even with K'ichee, with a couple of us studying it, we still aren't sure about some grammar points because we are all beginners. There is no teacher trying to lead us to discussing certain grammar points that we've missed, or correcting errors. We would probably learn a lot quicker if there were, but at least the materials do explain grammar.
And before finding this site, that was even more often the case. So a lot of my earlier learning was the way I described above in my earlier post. That's why I preferred materials with explicit grammar for those languages, even though I think my more natural tendency would otherwise prefer the inductive approach. In the absence of native speakers I need some way to verify that I'm on the right track, like grammar exercises with an answer key.

SM11
Posts: 13
Joined: 2018-08-30, 14:56
Real Name: Simon Marion
Gender: male
Country: FR France (France)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby SM11 » 2018-10-15, 20:14

Polyglotus_Maximus wrote:Hello, everyone. I am new here.
I noticed a lot of online resources treating grammar like an unwanted child.
Personally, I believe learning grammar is a must, if you want to learn a language.

I hate those courses, which make you remember whole sentences without explaining the grammar.

I love grammar, it helps me make my own sentences and reduces my study time.
Maybe some people have school trauma, or something?
:hmm:
Now, there are grammar books that are very convoluted and hard to understand for a layman (if you don't understand specific linguistic vocabulary) , but most grammar explanations in textbooks are pretty easy to understand.



Do you have any example of these online resources ? (just curious)

Otherwise, I totally agree when you say it's a must if you want to learn a language. Grammar is like the backbone of the language right ? So you cannot learn a language without learning grammar.

But when I think about it, I never met a single person during my whole school period who said that he liked grammar. But that didn't prevent them from speaking French in the end (I live in France). That's because they live in France, they speak French all the time since they were born. Of course, some have a better way of expressing themselves than others, and they also write better, probably because they were more serious at school (including during French grmmar class).

So I guess it depends on how well you want to speak the language you learn. And I think that most people don't necessarily want to speak the language perfectly. They just want to be able to communicate fluently with the native speakers, and in fact you don't necessarily need to know a language perfectly to be able to do so right? (just like my friends who speak French but don't express themselves correctly all the time).

So yeah I don't know how seriously you take grammar in your learning, that's also why I'm asking for an example of online courses you talk about ^^ But it's definitely a good thing if you take it seriously because you take good habits from the start.

But I could understand if a course doesn't focus too much on the grammar, and gives the main points that you absolutely need to know. I've studied a bit with Assimil, and they give quite light grammar explanations with real dialogues, I don't know if you tried, but I enjoyed learning that way. Of course, if a course only gives you sentences without any explanations behind, well that seems more like a waste of time instead of time-saving to me ^^
articles about French and language learning on my blog (https://blogfrench.com/blog/)

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 22383
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-10-15, 20:25

I was having lunch last week and intermittently eavesdropping on the pair at the neighbouring table. At one point, one of them brought up the topic of adjective order, finding it worthy of remark that in English we say "old blue wool sweater" and saying, for instance, *"wool blue old sweater" would sound odd. The other person said, "I don't remember learning that" and the first replied, "Me either! I wonder why they don't teach that?"

And the answer is, of course, they don't need to teach this sort of thing to fluent native speakers because, by the time they arrive at school, they've fully mastered the rules. Really the only "grammar" we need to teach is when the descriptive rules of how the majority speak clashes with the prescriptive rules of how educators think we ought to.

But this is the sort of thing which can be useful to teach learners, at least when the rules of the target language differ significantly from those of their native language (or a previously learned language). I couldn't give you the rules for adverb ordering in English; I just know what "sounds right" and grammarians apparently don't care enough about the subject to teach something different. But it was hugely helpful to me to learn the formula "time/manner/place" for German, even if it isn't applicable to every situation.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

User avatar
IpseDixit
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 9714
Joined: 2013-05-06, 21:06
Gender: male
Location: Bologna / Florence
Country: IT Italy (Italia)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-10-15, 20:42

I still cringe a bit thinking about the times I told people learning Italian that there is no rule on when to use il and when lo and that they just had to memorize what the right article is for each single word.

(Turns out there is a rule and is also pretty clear and simple but I had never encountered it in grammar classes so I genuinely thought there was none).

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 22383
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-10-15, 20:56

IpseDixit wrote:I still cringe a bit thinking about the times I told people learning Italian that there is no rule on when to use il and when lo and that they just had to memorize what the right article is for each single word.

I was well into adulthood before I learned there was a rule on the alternation of the /ðiː/ and /ðə/ pronunciations of the. I think it was probably when I was studying in Germany.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

User avatar
voron
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 4547
Joined: 2007-07-15, 3:29
Real Name: Igor
Gender: male
Country: BY Belarus (Беларусь)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby voron » 2018-10-15, 21:17

What most courses still seem to underestimate greatly is syntax, even the courses which are otherwise heavy on grammar -- which is mostly morphology.

And this is a huge disadvantage to learner. While morphology is something our brain can figure out pretty fast and easy by repetititon; syntax, on the other hand, is much trickier, because a lot more input is needed until you encounter the same syntactical pattern again so that the brain gets more food for analysis.

An example from Turkish. The rule of thumb of using the accusative case in Turkish is when the object is definite:
Mektup aldım.
Letter-NOM receive-PAST.1SG
I received a letter.

Mektubu aldım.
Letter-ACC receive-PAST.1SG
I received the letter.

However, there is an important exception to this rule. The accusative must be used when the object, whether indefinite or definite, is separated from the verb by another word or phrase (which usually means that the topic is shifted to that other word).
Mektubu postacıdan aldım.
Letter-ACC postman-ABL receive-PAST.1SG
I recieved a/the letter from the postman.

It's such an easy rule but very few Turkish books explicitly mention it. Guess how much input a learner would require to internalize it; and Turkish has dozens of syntactical quirks like that. The only book I know that covers the Turkish syntax the way it deserves is Routledge's Turkish: A Comprehensive Grammar.
(ku) Kurmanji Study Group - Unit 4/8
(ar) Arabic Study Group - Unit 3/16, Kalila wa Dimna: 15/196

User avatar
Vlürch
Posts: 758
Joined: 2014-05-06, 8:42
Gender: male
Location: Roihuvuori, Helsinki
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby Vlürch » 2018-10-16, 11:46

That's one of the reasons I prefer to read about the grammars of languages on Wikipedia, Language Gulper, etc. and ask people for help on forums, etc. rather than doing courses/lessons. There probably are high-quality courses that give a dozen example sentences for every grammatical feature with glosses and a detailed breakdown of the ways it differs from other grammatical features, but they're likely not free and paying for something that you can't count on being helpful is kinda risky.

Probably a part of the problem is that no language's grammar is 100% neat and regular (maybe with the exception of some conlangs), so explaining only one grammatical feature is difficult if not impossible as there's bound to be at least a little bit of overlap with another, which means there are several ways to divide the grammar into lessons; purely functional, morphemic/orthographic, each abstract case individually, etc.

I really wish it was standard practice to include several example sentences with glosses and an explanation as to why you use X instead of Y in Z context, etc. If all lessons were like that, at least for me it'd be much easier to learn languages. But thankfully that's something a lot of the free online lessons for Japanese do, and also tend to be broken down into grammatical "functions" rather than going strictly case by case like most lessons on the grammars of Indo-European languages that I've come across, which is nice because Japanese is the language I'm most interested in learning.
vijayjohn wrote:I'm totally the kind of person who would walk 1000 km on foot just to avoid learning to drive a car. :lol:

Same. Considering how more people die in traffic accidents than pretty much any other activity, even those considered traditionally "dangerous", I wouldn't even try to get a driver's licence under any circumstances. :para: Since I never even learned to drive a bike and somehow managed to fall with training wheels when I was little, it's probably good for the safety of myself and others that I have no intention to ever get behind the wheel. :P
Linguaphile wrote:I've studied several languages for which there aren't native speakers or even non-native speakers or learners on this board.

This is like the main reason I've pretty much given up on Mongolian. It's still a language I wish I could learn, but I know that's never going to happen seeing as I still struggle with even the most basic things in Japanese, Turkish, Russian, etc. and have already forgotten half of everything I learned about Spanish and French, and literally most of Latin even though I was getting pretty good at it at one point. :(

Also, it seems a bit rude and selfish to always ask for help without ever helping others in return, but I have no idea why in some cases a certain illogical case is used instead of a logical one in Finnish, etc. so I generally can't help much when people have questions about Finnish grammar or something... and if I don't even learn the things others help me with, or forget them, it feels like intentionally wasting their time and I don't want to do that, but at the same time I do wish I could learn various languages...

Is it seen as rude here? Asking everyone, not just you.
linguoboy wrote:I was well into adulthood before I learned there was a rule on the alternation of the /ðiː/ and /ðə/ pronunciations of the.

I still don't know what the rule is, only that sometimes one sounds right and the other one sounds wrong... but I'm not a native speaker and I don't think I'd ever say it with a long [iː] but rather just short [i~ɪ], so...
voron wrote:Guess how much input a learner would require to internalize it

Hmm, I'm not sure if I'd internalised that. I think I had, but at the same time I think that's giving myself too much credit. Maybe I'd learned it subconsciously since I'm pretty sure I'd use the accusative in such contexts, but if I'd have had to say whether that's a thing or not, I almost certainly would've been like "wtf I have no idea".
voron wrote:Turkish has dozens of syntactical quirks like that.

Now I'm really interested. Is there any site that explains them, or if you could arse to post some?

User avatar
voron
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 4547
Joined: 2007-07-15, 3:29
Real Name: Igor
Gender: male
Country: BY Belarus (Беларусь)

Re: Why so many courses seem to hate teaching grammar?

Postby voron » 2018-10-16, 11:54

Vlürch wrote:Now I'm really interested. Is there any site that explains them, or if you could arse to post some?

I wrote the answer in my post. The only resource I know that explains them is Routledge's Turkish: A comprehensive grammar (chapter Syntax). You can find it for free on the net.
(ku) Kurmanji Study Group - Unit 4/8
(ar) Arabic Study Group - Unit 3/16, Kalila wa Dimna: 15/196


Return to “General Language Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest