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How to Basic English Teaching of Grammar

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The place of formal grammarThe teaching of formal grammar has been a controversial question. If there are many advocates in favor of its inclusion in the curriculum for teaching of English, there are equally many critics who oppose any formal grammar teaching in schools. There are also varied and opposite views about the extent and type of grammar to be taught.

Modern researches in linguistics and language teaching have brought to light the actual use of the language. In order to understand, we should speak or read English. According to modern researches, no formal or specific grammar is necessary. A new language can be learnt easily without the knowledge of any formal grammar as such. In fact, the earliest emergence of formal English grammar was introduced as late as the sixteenth century with the work of William Bullokar (1580) and in the seventeenth century with the work of John Walls (1653). But that does not mean that English literature did not exist before that. Some of the greatest literary works in English i.e. the work of Chaucer, Milton and various other poets and dramatists were written long before formal grammar was formulated.

In India, the earliest traces of grammar were found in Panini’s Astadhaya in 400 B.C. while among the ancient Greeks, formal grammar made its appearance in the writings of Aristotic and Plato. But in England, i t made its appearance much la ter. This shows that knowledge of formal grammar is not essential for reading and writing English.


The same holds good when a comprehensive English course is planned for Indian schools. The different aspects of language teaching i.e. speaking, understanding, reading and writing need no formal training in grammar. Hence, formal teaching of grammar should be totally avoided during the early stages of teaching and learning English. But a time comes when acquaintance with some grammatical terms and their usage becomes essential. This should be attempted only  after children have built up a fairly good writing vocabulary and stock of numerous sentences about their  actions.

Grounds for teaching grammar

Some grammar teaching becomes inevitable in the higher classes of secondary schools. But a t no time it is necessary for the students to bother about detailed analysis of sentences and other long grammatical exercises, such as parsing exercise etc. such exercises are a relic of old Latin teaching of grammar and do not have much value in. teaching language in the modem times. In fact, such difficult and complicated exercises are responsible for the horror that most children feel towards grammar.

The true nature of grammar and its place in the teaching of any language is not clearly understood by many teachers. One must not forget that grammar is taught for the sake of language and it is not an end in itself. The nature of grammar and its relation to language have been summed up by Morris, as follows:-

  (1) The formation of a living language is the spoken and not the written form of the language.

       (2) A living language is not static but is always changing according to the interests and tastes of people.

       (3) English has developed as a language on its own lines and cannot be forced to conform with the rules of any other language.

      (4) The true unit of any language is not the word, but the word group.

      (5) The function of words or word-order is more important to


      (6) The examples of language and observation of these examples is more important than grammatical rules.

      (7) Grammar does not lay down rules for any language to be followed . It merely observes and records the language. If it has become customary to use a particular idiom, grammar notes the trend. It has no power to stop or change that trend.

The rules of grammar are, thus, not super-laws that must be followed under all circumstances. These rules merely explain the use of language and its practice. They record the trend that the language is taking.

Position of grammar in language teaching today

First of all, it must be remembered that grammar is neither a separate subject nor a separate division of English teaching or learning. It is an essential part of English course, but not a separate subject. If it is so marked in the syllabus or time table, it is for our convenience. It helps us to get the ‘feel’ of the language. It must be taught for the sake of composition and reading.

Grammar is the study of the language as we hear it. It is the study of the behavior of words, word groups and changes in the meaning of words. Thus it helps composition and reading. It is a useful means of collecting faculty speech or work of composition. Hence, the modern belief is that all grammar teaching should be linked with reading and composition lessons.

Mere theoretical knowledge of grammar is not advisable rather it is the actual practice that is more important. This has always been the trouble with grammar teaching. Instead of being an incidental practice in the English courses, it has been allowed to assume a natural position and necessary importance. It has been allowed to become a law itself.

The important point to remember here is that grammar must as always follow. It must always follow speaking, reading and writing. A child’s learning of grammar should be gradual and not by instant rule. Moreover, students should be guided to discover the new forms of language. This is the inductive form of teaching grammar.

Method of teaching grammar

Too much time in often given to written exercises. But there should  be  less  writ ten  work  and  more  of  oral  work . The mere” memorization of rules and definitions given in grammar is futile. The test of the value of grammar exercise is the help it gives to oral and, written work in English.   

The grammar book should be based   on the reader and should contain sufficient material to cover what’ the class has already done in oral and reading lessions. It should be graded in the same way as the reader, to provide ample drill to what has been taught. Grammar must go hand in hand with oral work and reading; in respect of structures and vocabulary. It should appear quite easy to the pupil. But the present position is just the opposite. The students are forced to learn the rules of grammar and memorize the definitions given in it. Hence, they take no interest in grammar because it is not connected with the oral practice in English. It has also no connection with the reader or the text book which they are reading in the class.

The grammar work should grow out of reading and speaking of the students, In oral work, the student picks up one new structure after another and drills it until he can use it without any difficulty. On the grammar front, he should be trained to look more carefully at the pattern of structure and understand how it is built. In this way, he can collect a number of rules that grow out of the language use. Thus, the grammar work proceeds along with the reading work.

Every student must have a separate exercise book for grammar. He should write the rules that he arrives at on his own after noticing the functions of different types of a sentence.

Functional grammar

Functional grammar is the grammar learnt by the student unconsciously and consciously in the course of his reading and speaking English. The learner displays his knowledge of grammar by speaking grammatically correct sentences. Grammar learnt in this informal manner is called functional grammar which functions in correct speech.

In it the students are not required to memorize the rules and definition given in grammar. They are given ample drills in speaking by the teacher and thus, they absorb unconsciously a sufficient amount of grammar, which helps them to speak, read and write English correctly.

Conscious study of grammar for formulating generalizations, rules and terminology can be started at a later stage. A good grammar book is needed for reference in order to confirm rules learnt by drill or observation.

Thus, the teaching of modern grammar is practical and not theoretical. A grammar lesson should directly help composition writing and enable the child to realize and diagnose his own mistakes and correct them with conficience.

Points to be borne in Mind While teaching grammar

Following points should be borne in mind while teaching grammar:

  1. The study of grammar should not begin until the student has acquired a working knowledge of English.
  2. Grammar should never be treated as a separate subject. Points of grammar should arise naturally out of reading and composition lessons.
  3. A teacher must never ask the students to correct grammatically correct sentences.
  4. Points at which English differs from Indian languages must be clearly stressed e.g. word order, indirect speech etc.
  5. A new sentence pattern should never be introduced in a grammar lesson.
  6. The teacher should try to avoid boredom in the class and make the grammar lessons as lively and interesting as possible, so that the students may show greater interest in grammar.
  7. Link new usages with the old and the old with the new to give rise to an integrated approach towards language teaching and learning.

Formal grammar

       Formal grammar is concerned with the ability to describe the language. It teaches the rules and regulations of different aspects of the language. In other words, it deals with the formation of words and sentences. As a matter of fact, rules and definitions are unreliable because they are faulty and not wholly applicable to a living language, which is dynamic and not static. A living language always imbibes new influences and changes. It cannot be bound forever within the framework of rigid rules. This form of grammar which deals with rules and definitions cannot be dispensed of with, of course, but should stand after at least two years of teaching and learning language.

       Formal type of grammar is known as old or traditional or theoretical grammar. It is also called prescriptive grammar, because it prescribes rigid rules and regulations, to be followed while learning a language. It ignores the behavioral side of language. It does not tell how language is spoken by the native people but tells how language ought to be spoken. It acts as a law given for the teacher as well as the student. In a way it acts as a bad- master. The mastery of a language does not come by cramming certain rules. It has been often seen that a  person who knows the rules of language well tends to viola to them in his own piece of composition for stylistic effects.

Formal grammar needed at secondary stage

Teaching of grammar has become a subject of controversy. But there is no denying the fact that some amount of grammar has to be studied by the student at the secondary stage. It is quite true that at an early stage there should be no teaching of formal grammar. The grammar learnt by a student at an early stage should be functional. It should be learnt incidentally or unconsciously. But there is need of teaching some formal grammar at secondary stage. We are to see how much of formal grammar should be taught at the secondary stage.

       (a) Identification and recall of parts of speechThe students at secondary stage should be conversant with identification and recall of parts of speech on the basis of their forms and functions in an utterance. That is to say, he must know what function each word is performing in a sentence and what part of speech it is.

       (b) Identification of different kinds of phrases and clauses­:– It means that he must know whether a given phrase is a noun phrase, an adverb phrase or an elective phrase. Similarly, he must be able to differentiate between a noun clause, an adjective clause, an adverb clause and coordinate classes.

       (c) Recognition of parts of a sentenceHe must be able to distinguish between subject and predicate and must know about modifier, object, complement etc.

       (d) Ability to analyze and synthesize sentenceHe must acquire the ability to break a sentence into its parts or combine simple sentences into complex and compound ones.

     (e) Knowledge of diff errant kinds of sentences-He must know the difference between simple, complex and compound sentences.

Methods of teaching grammar

There are two methods of teaching grammar, they are :­

(i)     Inductive method

(ii)   Deductive method

(i)     Inductive method-In this method, the students are given

  • examples and they induce rules, for example, the teacher tells some sentences in present indefinite tense. After it, the students also frame some similar sentences. Then, they are in a position to induce rules about the construction of such sentences for example, from the sentences given below:
  1. I play cricket.
  2. We get up early.
  3. You sing well.
  4. They come on time.
  5. Children love chocolates.
  6. He helps one a lot.
  7. She cooks delicious dishes.
  8. It rains here in July.
  9. Ajay works hard.

One may conclude that:

(1) Its form of verb is used with I, we, you, they and plural

(2) Use ‘s’ or ‘es’ with the verb in the case of he, she, it and singular nouns.

P.C. Wren has recommended in this connection, “Teach   . Grammar inductively. Teach English as you would by action and practice the rules in both. Rules need not be learnt first. Nor would a boy be able to define a football or a cricket ball before he can play with one. Why should he define a noun or a verb before he can use it?”

        (ii) Deductive method-In this method, the teacher tells the rules of grammar to the students. who apply those rules to different exercises while learning sentences. For instance, the rule may be :

Use ‘is’ with singulars and ‘is’ with plurals.

Which method is better:

The real value of a method depends upon two things :

(i) The situation

(ii) The types of students learning it.

For beginners, inductive method is very useful while for mature students, inductive method may not be of much use while deductive method may be of greater advantage.

However, generally speaking, inductive method 1s more useful as compared to deductive method and it should be generally used.

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