is grammar and how should
we teach it ?
by Jeanette Corbett
has Grammar been taught
It used to be that a study of a language was the study of
the grammar, as in the grammar translation method, with
a syllabus focus and explicit rules. Learners were instructed
to do exercises involving translation in and out of L1 &
Which challenged the above by prioritising oral skills.
Learners acquired the language through the formation of
correct habits, irrespective of rules. A syllabus was graded
list of sentence patterns which were practised through drilling.
Involved explicit language teaching.
There after the explicit teaching of grammar was rejected,
as in audiolingualism. Learners acquired the language in
a similar form to the direct method, but LA was viewed as
an innate human capability rather than habituated behaviour.
Probably it was here that the focus of language learning
shifted towards the learner. We became more interested in
how they learnt and sought to apply this to our teaching.
It was apparent that there was genuine interest in the learner.
The approach underlined the views of Krashen that language
could be picked up by immersion, as a child with their mother
Which can be split between ´shallow´ and ´deep´.
The shallow approach did not reject grammar teaching and
sought to use grammar and vocabulary to achieve communicative
goals. Whereas the deep approach rejected grammar teaching
and acquisition was encouraged through a system of tasks
and the emphasis was on the successful completion of the
Synopsis of past teaching methodologies
Grammar seemed to have been taught indecisively, swinging
from a pro to anti approach. Yet learners did acquire the
necessary language. We created double edged sword- it may
have been irrelevant if the methodology was pro or anti,
learners acquired the language through the natural process
as argued by Krashen or what was formally learnt did pass
into the acquired system as argued by McLaughlin.
The earlier methodologies placed a higher emphasis on production
in a limited form (Grammar Translation, Direct Method),
but never considered the needs of their learners or presented
language as a package, therefore in my opinion failed the
recipient of instruction - the learner. Whereas later methodologies
did not, they combined learners needs with tasks to enhance
their communicative competence but arguably sacrificed accuracy
over fluency, as there was no focus on form (CLT shallow
& deep approach).
reference : 4 & 5
Teaching grammar in context,
Nunan, ELT Journal 52/2 April 1998
The role of context in the presentation of grammar,
Petrovitz, ELT Journal 51/3 July 1997
Grammar and the Language Teacher,
Bygate, Tonkyn & Williams, Prentice Hall International,
How to teach grammar,
Thornbury, Longman, 1999
Language Teaching Methodology,
Nunan, Longman, 1998
Johnson, ELT Journal 46/2 April 1992
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