piranha: the word 'language' in a text highlighted in hot pink (language)
renaissance poisson ([personal profile] piranha) wrote2015-06-25 02:30 pm
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I like grammar

another recent (to me) development in language teaching seems to be that people are encouraged to not bother learning formal grammar. i understand; grammar is dead boring for many people, and i can only imagine how many people have been discouraged by boring grammar studies in school. that really sucks, and i grok why people want to get away from it. i agree that learning grammar can lead to perfectionism, and as always, perfection is the enemy of good enough.

instead of actively learning grammatical rules, people are now supposed to suck it up by exposure. i'm sure Benny Lewis and his students have loads of fun while speaking their new languages even if they do so badly for a while, and hey, more power to them. at least they're speaking. and it's true that in most countries, the natives don't mind, and will do their best to grapple for understanding, and be happy that you're bothering at all to speak their language.

to experiment with this i started to learn basic spanish on memrise, also because i wanted to look at another course to see whether it was comparable in quality to the basic french course i am taking. i didn't previously know any spanish apart from individual words i've encountered over the years, and i definitely knew absolutely no spanish grammar.

and i couldn't handle it. it drives me batty to not understand basic things. 30 words in and what the heck is it with the accents? they don't seem to change the pronunciation like they do in french, so maybe they're about stress? but how is that determined? single syllable words seem to also sometimes have accents, and some words that seem to me to need accents for stress don't. and why is it "(él) es español" but "(él) está feliz"? i guess they must be different verbs even though they're the same in English -- which is fine, but at the very beginning i don't need extra confusion, I need some certainty -- even if i get it wrong, at least i'll only get one thing wrong instead of swimming in the dark without any clues. confusion does not help me when learning; it hinders me. one big problem here is that this course starts with useful language for travellers, and such useful vocabulary is often highly colloquial and irregular, and you therefore can't derive grammar rules from it.

so it's clear that i need grammar right from the start in order to minimize confusion -- i just don't need all grammar, only some basic guidelines. that learning grammar leads to perfectionism is a slippery slope argument, and as long as i can stop myself from aiming for perfection when trying to speak, i'll be fine.

when one reads the entire article i linked to, one finds out that, surprise, Benny actually also learns grammar, and he expresses a lot more nuance about it (this is why i generally like him, and think he is a better teacher than many). I am definitely more of a technician when it comes to learning.

PS -- I found myself a student grammar for Spanish and now I know about accents, and ser vs estar. I am much happier already. ;)
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[personal profile] niqaeli 2015-06-26 01:50 am (UTC)(link)
Oh god I remember my first attempt at learning spanish through an online program and going UP the FUCKING WALL with ser vs. estar, which they NEVER EXPLAINED THE DIFFERENCE and i was losing my mind because i could NOT intuit the damn distinction between the two verbs as both seemed to mean 'to be'. which of course, they do, but there's an inflection of meaning beyond that that makes the distinction.

the fact that neither has standardised conjugation didn't help, but honestly I didn't mind that as much -- not being able to tell when the fuck to use which one was what made me go round the twist.

it makes sense once you have it EXPLAINED but -- well I, at least, could not pick that one is used to reference permanent states of being and the other transient ones, not from the "drown less" method of language acquisition. I got that one explained to me by someone here on Dreamwidth as it turns out.

(I did acquire a pretty decent working understanding of Spanish pronunciation from it, at least. But pronunciation is a shit-ton easier for me than grammar is. One is sound, and I have a pretty good ear. The other is conceptual.)
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[personal profile] zeborah 2015-06-26 08:08 am (UTC)(link)
My strength in learning (with languages as other things) is in grokking patterns, and my weakness is in memorisation, so I kind of have to start with the grammar. If the mode of teaching doesn't tell me the grammar rules I'll work them out for myself (which my linguistics studies have enabled me to do, along with the morphophonemic rules, given sufficient data).

To become actually usefully fluent I need to just practise practise practise, though, and that's something I make less time for these days than when I was a teenager in love with French.
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[personal profile] ephemera 2015-06-28 04:18 pm (UTC)(link)
I think my lack of formal grammar in my native language has been a barrier to my foreign language learning - I hit one of the periods in UK education where pick-up-the-grammar-by-osmosis, expression-trumps-correctness was the pedagogy du jour, and thus encountered the terminology of formal grammar for the first time when trying to learn French (and then Latin) in school, which did not combine particularly prettily with my dyslexia. More complicated gramatical contructions (the kind of thing that you're less likely to pick up in a transferable way by ear) are, I think, my weakest spot in French today.