Confronting the grammar question

Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur

Important note: This article is not about grammar. This article uses grammar to explore a bigger and deeper myth about learning.

Do we need to learn grammar?
Answering this question in the negative in a teacher’s magazine might be politically incorrect! So, let’s start with a slightly different question? Do we want to/like to learn grammar?

If we do a survey, more people are likely to say no than yes. Also, these days with computers coming with built-in grammar checks, they don’t see the need to ‘learn’ grammar. Our theory is simple – if most people do not like learning about a topic, then there is something wrong with it or with the way it is taught or with the reasons why it is taught.

So let us once again rephrase our question: What do most people like to do with respect to English language? What we have observed is that most people like to read newspapers, magazines, novels, etc. They also read emails, posts, and tweets. Some people also like to listen to other people, the radio, and the TV. With such constant exposure to the language, usually grammatically proper, it is obvious that most people learn basic grammar without actually realising it. If you haven’t thought much about this before, just watch how most toddlers are able to master sentence formation, tenses, and other idiosyncrasies of English only by exposure to the language and no direct instructions on grammar.

Does this mean that we can absorb grammar without actually learning it? We are all aware of the traditional ways of learning grammar, but there can also be alternative ways and one of these alternative ways is to read good books. Let osmosis happen from the well-written to the novice writer.

The authors run Geniekids, a learning centre in Bangalore that works with children. To know more about their work visit www.geniekids.com.

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