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TASK 1 :
Consider this statement. To what extend and in what respects do you agree/disagree?

Question 1 :
Learning a language is first and foremost a question of learning its grammar

In my opinion, learning a language is first and foremost not the question of

learning its grammar but the important part of learning a language is to be able to
communicate. Without doubt grammar is important but not for a beginner. The phrase
you have to learn to walk before you can run rings true. Students firstly need to have
basic speaking ability before they start with grammar. When ESL learners study with
English teachers of their nationality the grammar isn't entirely based on conversation and
the lesson uses 2 languages. This confuses students and isn't a transferable skill for
communication purposes on a daily basis. Once a student reaches a reasonable level then
yes grammar is important. Many stated that as a second language grammar is important
and the backbone of the language but in as for example, in England they have not studied
grammar since the 1970s as their first language, but still they survived.

1. First, we need to realize that there’s a difference between language learning and
language acquisition.

 Stephen D. Krashen has been doing some great research to language

acquisition. He has also written several books and articles.

 Children acquire their mother tongue through interaction with their parents
and the environment that surrounds them. Their need to communicate
paves the way for language acquisition to take place. As experts suggest,
there is an innate capacity in every human being to acquire language.
 This suggests that it is through exposure to the language and meaningful
communication that a first language is acquired, without the need of
systematic studies of any kind.
 There are several important constraints on the use of the Monitor. The first
condition is that in order to successfully monitor, the performer must have
time. In normal conversation, both is speaking and in listening, performers
do not generally have time to think about and apply conscious
grammatical rules, and, we see little or no effect on the Monitor in these

2. A second problem is that, even if he/she has time to think(monitor), the student
isn’t focused on form (the grammar), but rather on the message he/she wants to

 This pretty much blocks the ability to think about form.

3. A paper published by Ritchie in 1978 contains an interesting observation; there

are -generally speaking- three types of users: “overusers”, “underusers” and
“optimal users”

 “Overusers” use their monitor extensively, mostly limiting them in

speaking correctly (although they focus on grammar).

 “Underusers” are people who trust their feeling for the language. This can
result is a less correct language usage at times (although not always), but
these “underusers” use the language fluenty and also use complex
structures like natives speakers do.

 “optimal users”; people who mostly use their ‘feeling’ for the language,
but do use their monitor when appropriate.

4. Language learning as seen today is not communicative.

 It is the result of direct instruction in the rules of language. And it
certainly is not an age-appropriate activity for your young learners - as it is
not for adults either. In language learning, students have conscious
knowledge of the new language and can talk about that knowledge.

5. Research has shown, however, that knowing grammar rules does not necessarily
result in good speaking or writing.

 A student who has memorized the rules of the language may be able to
succeed on a standardized test of English language but may not be able to
speak or write correctly.

It seems that many ESL teachers consider it heresy NOT to teach the name of
things in grammar - how many native speakers know the terms conjunction, adverb,
clause, and yet still function well in all aspects of the language? It's like learning to drive
- you have no need to name all parts of the engine to drive well - you just need to know
something about its function and listen to make sure it is running smoothly. In fact,
worrying about naming the engine parts while driving may well lead to an accident!"

Some people think that because languages are made of words and rule to
assemble them, if you learn the dictionary and read a grammar book, you'll be all set. Too
bad it doesn't work that way. In fact, if you do that, the best you will achieve is filling
grammar exercises or being able to read some texts. But oral fluency will remain a
dream. Some people, especially people in the second half of their life, refer to the "old
school", where you were taught languages the hard way. This means that their teachers
were heavy on the grammar book and vocabulary lists. Of course, this does not work if
your aim is to speak a language with any fluency.

If some things are really difficult in a language (genitive plural in russian,

subjunctive in french), most of the rest can be learned in a pleasurable way. Don't begin
with studying complicated grammar rules, this will only discourage you and destroy your
spontaneity. You should end with the grammar rules, but begin with short, useful phrases
that you accept with faith. Same thing for exercises: if they look like advanced physics,
something is wrong. The right idea in this misconception is that you can't learn a
language without effort, but there's no rule written on a stone that it must be boring or

Grammar is a cold entity, a ball and chain. It has the potential to turn a lesson into
a bottomless pit full of confused and overwhelmed souls. Depends on how deep you want
to take them. I think the basic grammar framework is enough to help students keep
account of the things they have covered. It helps teachers review previous lessons by
eliciting specific forms, verb endings for example. Keep it concise and easy to manage.
Small talk about the lesson content helps students get over the "Post-grammatical stress"
and relax a bit."

The best way to learn a language is to watch and hear them (through readings,
tapes, TV, radio, conversations) and then let your brain to do the work of conclusion, that
is, of deducting what is right and what is not. Then you can look in a grammar book to
get a precise "rule" or explanation of the pattern.

During WWII the Americans had to "produce" efficient speakers of german,

japanese and russian very quickly. With not that many Germans willing to help, they
developped methods using audio tapes that the intelligence officers (language learners)
could use without teachers, saving these for advanced students. The programs were
centered on dialogs to be learned by heart and, not surprisingly, drills that stressed
patterns of speech (phrase structures). The system was so efficient that after 6 months the
officers could begin active work. These efforts were at the beginning of the Defense
Language Institute in Monterrey (California), which nowadays teaches 10% of all adult
language courses in the USA.

In one extreme we have those language courses that teach grammar almost
exclusively, as if preparing the students to be grammarians of the second language rather
than users. In the other extreme we have those “communicative” courses in which the
only thing that is done is to talk about something or to read an article and comment on it.
In many cases, what is seen in one class has no resemblance to what is done in the next.

A good command of the grammar of a language does not imply that the person is
able to communicate effectively, as we usually see with students who have only been
exposed to an all-grammar-oriented approach sometimes for many years. Many could
recite the grammar by heart but if asked to express basic information, they would hesitate
too much and browse through all the grammar rules in their heads before making an
utterance, or simply dry up.

Just talking in class without anything else done in order to learn from the actual
conversation is not good enough either. It may be helpful of course, but up to a certain
point. This approach may be more useful for very advanced students who just need to
brush up their second language, but for those in need of building up the foundations of a
new language, it is certainly too vague and flux, without any consistency.

So then, when asked: "is grammar really important for a second language
learner?" I always say "yes", but, the real question, or issue here is not whether grammar
is important or not but rather how we should present grammar to our students. You
may be surprised to hear that most of my own students, even advanced ones, have very
little awareness of grammar jargon and terminology, in spite of the fact that they can
make a pretty good use of the second language. "How is that possible?" you may ask.
First and foremost, teachers need to know precisely what they are trying to prepare their
students for. I do know that what I want is to "create" users of a new language. People
should actually get engaged in communicative situations using appropriate language and

For example, think of your own native language. Name all the tenses that you can
find in your own native tongue with their corresponding uses and structures. Unless you
are a teacher, a translator or someone who needs to have a very good grasp of this meta-
language, more likely than not you may feel at a loss to answer that question. And that
does NOT mean in any sense that you are not a terrific user of that language. After all,
you can understand and express whatever you want with ease. What is more, by being
able to do so, you show an awesome command of the internal grammar of the language.
If you knew no grammar patterns you would not be able to make a single sentence but
you can. This means that although you may lack the conscious ability to describe how
your language works (i.e. its grammar) you can use it perfectly. You are a user of the
language. You make a perfect use of the grammar of your native language intuitively or

Again, our primary goal as second language teachers must be to create users or
the language, not linguists! It escapes the aim of this article to describe how we can
achieve this but basically we are going to name the main elements to consider to create
"language users."

To begin with, it should be noted that whatever we present our students with
should follow a progression from the very general meaning to the very specific pattern or
structure we want them to learn (or that they need to learn of course). I would like to
highlight that all this takes place within the same class.

Before we start to use the material we have selected, it would be good to

introduce the students to the topic you are going to work on. You can have them guess or
infer what the material will say about it, they can make predictions and when they fail to
use appropriate language, you may provide it. This is good to elicit vocabulary that may
be necessary for them to know in order to understand the topic. After you have created
curiosity in the topic and provided students with key terms on the topic, make sure you
follow a progression such as the one that follows:
1) Provide them with exposure to real language and real situations IN CONTEXT.
2) Initial focus on gist, not form.
3) Focus on more specific meaning.
4) We can then focus on very specific meaning.
5) Analysis and systematization: after we make sure the students have a good
understanding of the whole material, you can have them focus on particular items or
patterns that may be important for them to learn at their stage (i.e. grammar) You can
systematize it more formally and teach them how it works. After all, they have already
seen it in practice and they have also worked around meaning, now it is time for them to
learn how to use it.
6) Give them exercises for them to practice the new structure. Do not be afraid of using
grammar drills and patterns. They could be VERY useful for them to fix the new
structures in their brains.
To recap shortly. Is learning grammar a shortcut to fluency? NO. Can it help you
later on if you want to become an “optimal user”? YES, but only if you really want to,
and only after you gained a ‘feeling’ for what’s correct and what’s not. As teachers, it is
our duty to make sure that our students "acquire" rather than "learn" the language.