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Grammar

Advice

You can learn the grammar of a language in different ways:

1. Contact with native speakers, listening to the radio, watching television, reading magazines ... We all have an inborn mechanism for decoding and making sense of foreign languages; this is how we learned our mother tongue as a baby.  By immersion in the foreign language and culture you should be able to pick up any language over a long period of time.  When you acquire a language in this way, you learn the rules of the language (or grammar) just like native speakers do.  You may not know the names of all the tenses, but you know how and when to use them.

2. Exercise practice.  There are many types of excercises you can do to learn the grammar of a language.  You can write out the exercises or repeat them orally (drills).  The repetition of key structures helps you to remember them.  There are also sentence completion, substitution and transformation exercises which allow you to manipulate the language and gain a greater understanding of how it works.

3. Studying a grammar designed for learners of the language. You need to find a book that meets your needs, with clear explanations of the rules and useful examples.  This approach appeals to those who enjoy a logical and rational way of learning.  In this way, you can learn how to form grammatically correct phrases, utterances and sentences, and when it is appropriate to use them.  Unfortunately, the rules of formation and use are sometimes very complicated, and only really useful when you have the time to use them e.g. when writing.

4. Working out the grammar yourself. For those of you who like a challenge you can take a short phrase or text and try to work out the rules yourself. It is not as difficult as it seems, especially if you have a tutor to help you. You may also be surprised to find that some of the rules in your grammar book are only over-simplifications of the real rules. You can use a concordancer, a computer programme to help you analyse texts more easily. This approach is mainly recommended for students of linguistics and potential language teachers, to help them gain a deeper insight into syntactic complexity and the real rules of use.  

Web of Grammars - lots of online grammars for many languages

ENGLISH GRAMMAR CAN SEEM DIFFICULT TO LEARN

But what makes it difficult?

  • Is there such a thing as a difficult language?
  • Is it more difficult to speak or to write?
  • Is it more difficult to read or listen?
  • Is English a difficult language for speakers of other languages?
  • Is it difficult for you to remember the grammar?
  • Do you get confused with complicated rules?
  • Were you a complete failure at school?

It may depend how close the target language is to your mother-tongue e.g. Italians often find it easier to learn French because they have common Latin roots. It also depends on how the language is presented to the learner. In fact, it depends on a host of factors, such as your age (is your memory as good as it was?), your past experiences of learning, your aptitude for languages, how keen you are, and how confident you are.

HOW TO MAKE IT EASIER

Here are a few tips:

1. Contact with authentic English is very important: this can be achieved by contact with a native speaker, listening to English radio, watching English television, reading English magazines or fiction. Whatever the learning method you adopt, you will gradually get to grasp the "English system" i.e. the mechanism of the language and how all the different parts of the sentence relate to one another: English grammar and its many rules (and exceptions... for extra spice!) will make sense at last!

2. Exercise practice. How can you learn grammar? By using the language of course but for accuracy, one also needs exercise practice.

3. Studying a grammar for learners of English. You need to find a book that meets your needs, with clear explanations of the rules and useful examples.  For a helpful review of some English grammars click here.

4. Working out the grammar yourself. For those of you who like a challenge you can take a short phrase or text and try to work out the rules yourself. It is not as difficult as it seems, especially if you have a tutor to help you. You may also be surprised to find that some of the rules in your grammar book are only over-simplifications of the real rules. You can use a concordancer to help you analyse the samples of text you are studying.

 

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