Learning Language is one of the most important spheres in our country. While learning language learners face to many difficulties including grammar, vocabulary and speaking. Some scientists argue that learning grammar is not so important in learning language while others indicate as the main factor of learning language.
However, is it necessary to teach grammar as one part of the curriculum? There is and has always been much debate regarding its position within language teaching methodology; indeed this debate can be shown to have started at least 4,000 years ago, in Greece (Fotos). Its importance may be ascribed to the fact grammar is one of the most significant aspects of any language. During recent decades, answers have ranged from one extreme to the other to the question of whether grammar should be taught or not. These beliefs are radically different; on one hand, some linguists and teachers, including those who prefer the grammar-translation method,believe strongly that grammar should be at the heart of language teaching, while others, according to Nassaji, has argued that grammar is not merely unsupportive, but may be detrimental.
Arguments Against Grammar Teaching
Many researchers, according to Nassajiand Fotos, agree with Krashen, who depends on studies of the acquisition of English morphology to claim that language learning is not conscious, but unconscious. He took his evidence from cases where speakers of different mother tongues learnt English morphemes in a similar sequence. According to this result, it can be said that the same process lies behind both Language 1 and Language 2 learning. Consequently, if learners do not need formal instruction to obtain Language 1 but can acquire it through nature exposure, they also do not require grammar lessons to learn Language 2.
In the light of UG, other researchers, as Nassajiand Fotos say, point out that Language 2, like Language 1, can be acquired by supporting UG principles with input and, as a result, formal instruction does not affect language learning.
Moreover, the assumption that learners can use their knowledge of grammar in real-time communication is not always true. Batstone claims that learners may be unable to apply grammatical knowledge effectively in their own use of language, because grammar is deployed from one moment to another in communication. In addition, Lewis gives some reasons for the claim that the significant role given to grammar is disappointing, although some grammatical information is useful. These reasons are:
- Much of the grammar that is taught is inaccurate or plain wrong.
- The rules which are taught are frequently incomprehensible to the students who are taught them.
- Failure to understand abstract meta-language and rules produces unnecessary failure.
- There is no research evidence that explicit knowledge of grammar aids acquisition of the grammatical system.
- Most tellingly, grammar is not the basis of language acquisition, and the balance of linguistic research clearly invalidates any view to the contrary.
Arguments Supporting Grammar Teaching
It is a fact that the communicative approach constituted a revolution in both theoretical and applied linguistics, and teaching grammar was not part of it. This revolution, as Figuson 2005 mentions, gave rise to a phenomenon known as ‘grammar phobia’. Nevertheless, grammar teaching has enjoyed renewed interest in recent years; indeed, according to Fotos, it has never left the classroom.
Many researchers support grammar teaching, particularly in Language 2 teaching. Ur, for instance, argues that there is a difference between Language 1 and Language 2 learning, in terms of time offered and motivation. Learners of Language 1, regardless of ‘natural learning’, usually have more time and obtain more motivation, so they do not need to consciously plan the learning process. In contrast, Language 2 learning occurs in situations where time is limited and the motivation might be less. This assumption leads to two arguments: first, that a syllabus should consist of systematic gradual steps, which students should not tackle all at once; and second, that classroom plans should be arranged to strike a balance between aspects of Language 2, grammar being one of the significant components of any language. Such an arrangement is necessary to prepare for effective acquisition, considering the limitations of time and weak motivation.
In addition to such evidence supporting grammar teaching, Batstone indicates that learners’ knowledge of the grammatical system might be improved by focusing on particular forms of grammar and their meaning, which is what grammar teaching usually does.
Four other reasons for the reconsideration of grammar are cited and presented by:
- There are problems in the hypothesis that language can be learned without consciousness. Moreover, they cite Schmidt’s view (1990, 1993, 2001) that a conscious attention to form, or what he calls ‘noticing’, is required in order to understand well all components of Language 2. This point of view is supported by most SLA researchers.
- Depending on evidence from German learners of English, claims, there are some structures which gain an advantage from being taught. This suggestion, known as the teachability hypothesis, leads to another claim, in which Lightbownhas pointed out that if grammar teaching corresponds with learners’ readiness, it might be possible to influence sequences of development and to move to the next developmental step of linguistic proficiency. Such considerations are taken into account in recent studies regarding the place of grammar in second language acquisition.
- Communicative language teaching alone might be defective in some situations. For instance, some linguists have conducted research into teaching outcomes in French immersion programmes, and found that in spite of substantial long-term exposure to meaningful input, learners could not attain accuracy in the use of some grammatical forms. Therefore, certain grammatical forms need a particular kind of focus, in order to achieve a high level of accuracy in Language 2.
- During a period of more than 20 years, a large body of evidence has appeared to demonstrate the fact that grammar teaching has a positive impact. Such evidence is taken from the laboratory, extensive reviews of studies and classroom-based research
It seems that these different arguments will continue as long as linguists disagree as to whether language learning is a conscious or unconscious process, and while cognitive psychologist argue over the role of explicit versus implicit language learning.However, there is a growing conviction that the significant question is not whether the teaching and learning of grammar is needed or not, but whether it helps or not, and if so, how? suggests that a combination of these opinions may be suitable to promote effective learning.
The P-P-P Model.
Among the various approaches to grammar teaching, the P-P-P model, according to Hedge, is very popular with many teachers. It first appeared in the 1970s and is considered to be easy to understand and apply.
P-P-P, otherwise known as ‘the 3Ps’, stands forPresentation, Practice and Production. Each of these three elements is explained below.
Presentation is the first stage, where the teacher is supposed to present new items in clear contexts. Considering what the learners already know, the teacher attempts to introduce forms and their meanings in a variety of suitable ways (e.g. pictures, dialogs or situations), taking into account whether an inductive or a deductive model is more likely to be used. Thus, due to the nature of this stage, correction plays an important role.
Practice. Learners are gradually led, individually or as a group, to use grammatical items correctly. By the use of grammar games, gap exercises or some other appropriate means, the teacher guides the students towards greater familiarity with the new concept, in which the controlled practice activities are applied.
Production. At this stage, learners are supposed to be more fluent. They are moved from a focus on form to paying more attention to meaning, by providing suitable practice. The teacher’s role is limited, unless the situation requires his/her facilitation.
- Mohammad Al Towaim. Grammar Teaching. 1–7. Pp.
- Batstone, R. 1994 Grammar. Oxford: OUP.
- Byrd, P. 2005 'Instructed Grammar', in Hinkel, E (ed.) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 545.
- Ferguson, G. 2005 ‘Lecture on Teaching of Grammar’ (Handout). University of Sheffield.
- Fotos, J 2005 ‘Communication Language Teaching: Strategies and Goals’, in Hinkel, E (ed.) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 653.
- Fotos, S. 1998 Shifting the focus from forms to form in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal, 52, 301–30.
- Nassaji, H. and Fotos, S. 2004 Current Developments in Research on the Teaching of Grammar. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24: 126–145.