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COLOURLESS GREEN IDEAS SLEEP FURIOUSLY

Воскресенье 8 Январь 2012

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редактор: Natassa Manitsa
Natassa Manitsa holds a BA in Educational Psychology from the University of Athens, Greece and a Diploma in Translation and British Studies from the Institute of Linguists, London, England. She has worked as a teacher, a teacher trainer, a director of studies, an author and translator for more than 15 years. She has travelled extensively, delivering seminars and workshops all over Europe and the Middle East. For the last five years she is the Head of the ELT Consultants Department in Express Publishing and the Chief Editor of the ELT Teacher’s Corner site of Express Publishing — http://www.teachers-corner.co.uk

ключевые слова: grammar rules, Noam Chomsky, true or false, tenses, Samuel Johnson, Grammarway, George Bernard Shaw

A FEW THOUGHTS ON GRAMMAR

Is the sentence at the top of the page grammatically correct? Well, it follows the rules about combining words (adjectives + noun + verb + adverb) in the right way, but does it mean anything? Something cannot be both colourless and green. It’s hard to imagine sleeping furiously (unless you are violently tossing and turning in the bed). Can an idea sleep? The only possible meaningful paraphrase I can think of is something along
the lines of: dull ecological ideas don’t result in action, despite all the angry talk. But taken literally, Chomsky’s famous sentence is lacking in the second part of a definition of grammar, which is that the correctly combined words should form acceptable units of meaning within a language. The form must have a function. So, you can be perfectly grammatical but say nothing meaningful. (And vice versa.)

WHAT IS GRAMMAR AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
People often liken grammar to a skeleton — it is rigid and supports the language use (words), much as our bones don’t move,
but we can do whatever is physically possible using our muscles. Other common similes for grammar are blueprint, glue and building blocks. They convey the idea of grammar
as either a structure or an adhesive.
Well, whatever your preferred simile, here’s a definition: grammar is a communicative device which is functionally motivated. What grammar we use depends on choice and point of view.

e.g.: “The bill hasn’t been paid yet.” vs “I haven’t paid the bill yet.”
Here the passive would be used to shift responsibility.
The fact of the unpaid bill is
the same in both sentences.
e.g.: “I lived there…” vs “I was living there…”
They both tell you where;
the fact is the same, but the attitude different.

Grammar can be seen as expressing distance, which can be:

  • Psychological: “The boss says we have to work on Saturdays… vs “The boss said we have to work on Saturdays.
    What’s the difference? Both sentences are relaying the same information. I met with the boss yesterday and that is what he told me. Why would I use the present simple “the boss says” when it’s about a past conversation? Well, the present simple conveys permanence. (The sun is in the sky.) What was said in the past can be negotiated. So, by using the present simple, I am closer to the boss’s wishes.
  • Social: “Would you please pass the water? vsChuck the water over, mate.” Here, the intention is the same — I’m thirsty, give me the water — but I can choose quite different grammatical structures, depending on my relationship with the person I’m talking to.
  • Hypothetical: “I wish I were a millionaire. / If you loved me, you would buy me a diamond ring.
    Why in conditionals or wishes do we use tenses one step back? I want to be a millionaire now, so why use the past tense? It’s because there’s a distance from reality.
  • Temporal: “Spain beat Germany.” “Spain are the European champions.
    Obviously here the past is used to describe a particular event which is over and the present to say what is true now. Recently, there has been an emphasis on the primacy of lexis — particularly the way words chunk together in set phrases, collocations and idioms — as well as the importance of learners actively and continuously noticing features in authentic texts — both spoken and written. Learning a language is not seen as learning the grammar and slotting in the words; however courses and tests continue to be written around a grammatical syllabus. If we are going to “teach grammar” and cut up and present language in this way, we should be aware that because we’ve had lessons on a particular point, that doesn’t mean learners have assimilated it and can freely use it. (How often do even high-level students get agreement wrong?)

TEACHING GRAMMAR

The most common ways are:
1. Inductive: Write an example
“I am standing.”
Explain the rule
Practice applying the rule
The students are given the rule
2. Deductive: Demonstrate meaning with examples
Orally produce forms
Grammar is elicited after practice
The students work out the rule
3. Task based: The students pick up regularities intuitively as they did their mother tongue by being exposed to progressively more complex language. (This is obviously the way to go with younger learners.)

What’s your method?

We like to think there are grammar rules. We read them in books and pass them on to our students. Below are some statements from teachers.

RULE: ARE THESE TRUE OR FALSE?

Some does not occur in negative sentences.
Would is the past of will.
Uncountable nouns are singular.
Must is stronger than have to.
Will is the future tense.
Double negatives are wrong.
You can’t use will after if.
We always use the past perfect to talk about something that happened before something else in the past.
I didn’t do it yet is wrong.
It’s a lovely day, isn’t it is a question.

Maybe you agree with most of these statements. Well, none of the rules are hard and fast. Check out these sentences and the comments.
I don’t like some food.
… for example oysters, but I love fish.
Would you pass the salt?
This has nothing to do with past time
I’d like two teas.
Meaning cups of tea.
I really must go.
If you used have to, would it make any difference? No.
I’m going to leave now.
There are only two tenses in English. There is no future tense.
I can’t do nothing right.
Double negatives in certain spoken contexts reinforce the power of the utterance. It’s not maths.
If you will, I will.
OK?
I woke up late and got dressed in a hurry.
Not if the order of events is clear or two actions happened close in time to one another.
I haven’t done it yet.
American English is quite happy with
the simple past when British English would prefer the present perfect.
You’re John, aren’t you?
Question tags are connected with their intonation. In the example we both know it’s
a lovely day. I’m not asking a real question,
I want you to affirm me and my opinion. Depending on the way you say it (with a rising or falling intonation), this utterance could be a statement or a question. If I put a question mark, it implies that I’m not sure of the answer.

GRAMMAR TEACHING MATERIALS
Samuel Johnson (1709–84), the famous lexicographer wrote: “I have laboured to refine our language to grammatical purity, and
to clear it from colloquial barbarisms, licentious idioms, and irregular combinations.” Well, I’m afraid you can’t do that to language; it is organic and grows on what it feeds. No generation speaks or writes in exactly the same way as the previous one; thus grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive — it tells you what happens rather than what (according to self-appointed judges) should happen. This being said, teachers, learners, administrators (and parents) usually want there to be good, clear material on grammar structures in courses.
In Grammarway (Express Publishing), learners encounter particular language in appropriate contexts with visual stimuli, their attention is drawn to form and function through everyday (usually conversational) examples, and they move through exercises practicing patterns leading to speaking and writing activities. There are frequent revision boxes and units to check and consolidate learning.
Learners are supported by having at hand a guide they can refer to with explanations in their own language and gain thorough practice in when, why, to whom and how to use it.
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) has Eliza Doolittle say of Professor Higgins attempts to educate her in Pygmalion:
“I don’t want to talk grammar; I want to talk like a lady.” She has a communicative need to speak appropriately and any focus
on grammar should clearly serve that end. Knowing about grammar isn’t the same as being able to use it for your own purposes. We can all speak our own language quite grammatically before we go to school — we are born with some sort of language acquisition device — we can build on learners’ innate capacities to grasp patterns to guide them through appropriate tasks to greater accuracy and fluency.

2 Comments »

Я соглашаюсь с идеями данной статьи, и констатирую, что в изучении иностранных языков грамматика является самым неприятным аспектом.На уроках стараюсь делать ее достаточно наглядной, где-то даже с чувством юмора, для более легкого восприятия.

22 Январь 2012 | 16:07
Татьяна:

занятно, граматику обожаю, есть чем воспользоваться на уроках

31 Январь 2012 | 23:54
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