Supplementing with traditional grammar studies?

Hello there all!

This is my first post in the forum, as I am pretty new to this community. Just got through challenge 4 (did three yesterday, one today), and just wanted to ask something on the forum as recommended by aran in the message at the end of challenge four!

I’m not very far along yet, so I want to keep going with this approach for a while to see where it takes me, but I was also wondering…has anyone else here supplemented this course with other, more traditional grammar-based lessons? I love this method, but I’m just wondering how much breadth and depth of understanding it will give, in the end.

shrug maybe this is a confusing question, but at least it introduces me, and hopefully can spark some productive discussion!

Hi Matthew
John here, I like to think back to when I was a child, learning my native language, and I ask myself the question, “what did I know about grammar when I was say, 6 years old, 7 years old etc…?” the answer is… ZILCH!! but I (like every other 6,7 etc. year old) spoke perfectly understandable English, using all the verb tenses, along with idiomatic phrases etc. Understood what adults ( i.e. parents, teachers) said to me. Ok, the vocabulary probably had a bit to be desired, but all the basic structures were there with no knowledge of “grammar”!!
As an example, you ask most people what the subjunctive mood is, (rarely used in English). In no way am I trying to be patronising but lots of people will have no idea!!. Normally we’d say “I was this” or “I was that”; but, introduce some degree uncertainty; the word “IF”

We’d say “If I WERE you” not “If I WAS you”… Subjunctive mood!! but we say it this way naturally, not by thinking of grammatical implications!!

Like I said in a post on another topic, I went through the grammar mill learning languages at school and, all this approach did was convince most pupils(including myself) that they would NEVER learn another language; far too complicated!

As you’ve probably gathered, my opinion is not to get hung up on grammar and, just persistently and consistently work through the lessons and, at the end of lesson 25 decide whether you need to study additional grammar aids.

Hope that helps.



I think the rule of thumb when it comes to grammar study is, it’s fine if you happen to be interested in grammar or you want to have a technical understanding of the language - but it’s certainly not necessary in order to be able to use a language, and it’s absolutely possible to speak excellent Spanish without ever touching a grammar book.

Technical knowledge is great if you want to analyse sentences, and can often be useful while reading, when you’ve got time to stop and ponder. But in speech, nobody has time to consciously apply rules - and if you try, it’ll only end up breaking the flow of conversation and hindering communication! :smile:

I love it when people take any notice of my suggestions…:wink: :star2:

As the others have said - you’ll end up a confident speaker without needing to learn any ‘rules’ - but if you enjoy studying grammar and would like to do it for its own sake, then there’s no harm done (as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing your speaking and listening work!). I know many people like Gareth King’s work on grammar…

Thank you all for the excellent advice.

As someone who is quite interested in linguistics (intending to pursue a Masters in the subject, actually) I shall definitely at least dabble in some grammar studies, just for the fun of the analysis…it’s good to hear how others have found the two methods can interact, though.

My experiences with language learning to date definitely support the idea that the more natural, conversational style in these courses will help much more in gaining actual familiarity with Spanish. Looking forward to seeing how that goes. :smile:

Looking forward to interacting with you all more in the future!

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By all means study the grammar in the more traditional “school way” of learning languages, but don’t consider it essential. The natural order of learning languages is not to learn grammar first, but at a relatively late stage. Sadly, this is forgotten in academic circles, so students are put off by subjunctive clauses, pluperfect tenses and heaven knows what else! If you can, immerse yourself in a language by speaking with native speakers. Later, when you are fairly comfortable with the speaking basics, and if you have an interest in the grammatical aspects, take a look at the grammar. But essential? No!

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Absolutely. It’s also surprising how much easier most people find it to acquire functional ‘grammatical’ rules if they don’t have to name them - there’s nothing difficult about equating ‘lo que sea’ with ‘or whatever’ and using it correctly every time - but once you start trying to explain the subjunctive to someone, and they start considering their options… it’s time for glazed looks and umm sounds…:wink:

…unless you’re a strange bird like me, that starts to get excited whenever anyone mentions the subjunctive.

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Yup, grammar is fun for people who enjoy grammar…:wink:

And the impact of personal preference might in some instances be more important than a methodology, which is why we never try and tell people who enjoy grammar that they’re not meant to :sunny:

Although I do often end up in conversations about how learning grammar isn’t the same as learning language. But everything you enjoy learning is good :sunny:

Yes, I thoroughly agree. Learning grammar is a good thing, a fascinating thing even, but it really is different from learning language. Now at the later stages of language learning, this might change. I don’t think you can really gain a deep familiarity with a second language without some grammar study during the later stages.

But there’s a difference between information-knowledge and familiarity-knowledge. The former is grammar, the second is language.

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Good post, Matthew, diolch. :sunny: I suspect the kind of deep familiarity we’re talking about here would require some grammar study for a first language speaker as well, though…

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That’s absolutely correct. And it also applies to one’s native language. Most native speakers I know of various languages have little or no knowledge of grammar, yet are able to communicate. It all depends what you wish to get out of a language, I suppose. I do, however, believe that at least a basic knowledge of the grammar of a language is needed in order to write acceptably in that language.

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It’s interesting (given that we’re talking about linguistics!) how slippery the terms around grammar are, and how little vocabulary we have for discussing different ways of understanding/using the structure of a language. Clearly you can’t write (or even speak) without an understanding of how the language works - but whether or not that understanding has to come from (let’s call it) a formal study of grammar is a different question…

Absolutely, Aran. I suppose what I’m trying to suggest, is that a knowledge of grammar is required in order to write formally. Both relatively informal speech and writing can be carried out in a satisfactory manner without an academic knowledge of grammar, but we tend to prefer our writing to be “correct.” To take a very simpe example in Spanish, when speaking, one can be fairly undisciplined when agreeing an adjective with its noun, perhaps not even being aware that agreement is necessary. My wife speaks Spanish this way and nobody seems to worry about it, understanding what she is saying. I would not, however, wish to read a book that was written with such a neglect of grammar.

Yup, I see what you’re saying, and I’d certainly agree that’s the standard approach - although I remain inquisitive about how far it might be possible to replace that with an input-based approach - I suspect that a confident speaker can become a confident reader comparatively quickly, and that a confident enough reader is likely to produce a good standard of writing even without a formal study of grammar.

We’ve got lots of tests we need to run over the next few years…:wink:

Well, at least the quality of my written Finnish diminishes the less I read stuff in Finnish. Nowadays I need to check quite often if words are compound words or not. And nothing says “I’m stupid” better that making lots of typos and grammar mistakes in your native language (the written version of course). :fearful:

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Hah, you should see the quality of my written English these days… oh, hang on…:wink:

Harhar. But at least English don’t have endlessly those stupid compound words. :anguished:

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It seems we as humans have a need to make order out of apparent chaos, and in terms of language, grammar is the retrospective classification of parts of language which evolved organically over a long period of time.

However, sometimes in trying to make order out of observed chaos, we may make false assumptions. e.g. interpreting the lines on Mars as canals.

I wonder if sometimes grammar can lead us astray as well e.g. not everything conforms to an apparent “rule”, and the “rule” turns out to be merely a statistical measure, true only for a percentage of occurrences.

Perhaps those who like grammar (and I have a love-hate relationship to it myself) are just opening up to their inner collector / curator. :slight_smile:

Thinking about this a bit more and considering my own experiences with Dutch and Spanish, I think you’ve got something there. Reading might well be the key. I’ve never had a formal Dutch lesson, yet write it with fewer grammatical errors than many native Dutch speakers (no D-T errors for a start!). Having lived in Belgium and not in the Netherlands might have helped, but reading must also have played a major role. Now I’m in Spain and, again, have had no formal lessons in the language: I started to learn Spanish by reading books for children with the aid of a dictionary and trying out a few sentences with native speakers. This gradually built up to literature of all types and I now even dare to venture into written Spanish. I assumeded that my grammar-based language studies of yore (English, French, Latin) helped in the process, but perhaps this was just academic brain-washing.

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