||In classroom language learning situations, the
teaching of grammar may provide a short cut to learning the forms and structures which the
limited language input itself may not cover. Drawing the learners' attention to the
linguistic patterns and providing them with the underlying rules and principles can
enhance the learning process since learners usually try to discover rules from the
language data by themselves. In other words, the teaching of grammar can support the
learner's natural rule-discovery procedure. The superordinate strategy of learning is
often referred to as hypothesis formation and testing. This entails observation of
language data and arriving at tentative rules that need to be confirmed or modified.
Grammar instruction, then, can add to, confirm, or modify the hypothetical rules which the
learners formulate by themselves.
||An important difference between many currently
used pedagogical grammars and the learner's rule discovery procedure is that the former
contain relatively elaborate analysis together with grammar terminology. The learner's
hypothesis formation process does not operate on the basis of metalanguage carried over
from reference grammars. It involves observation of language data, and formation and
verification of hypotheses without metalinguistic contamination. One main objection to
using metalinguistic terms is that it has nothing to do with the way in which people
actually process language. Another drawback is that the learner has to learn those terms
in addition to the language. Still another problem in using metalanguage is that the
learners may focus on those terms and learn them by heart either because they believe
those terms are what the teacher or textbook writer wants them to know or because they
believe that language learning is a matter of learning the metalinguistic terms.
||The most important implication that can be drawn
from this is that grammar rules and explanations can be presented in such a way as to
approximate the learner's hypothesis-formation process as far as possible. Teaching that
is based on the learning process seems to be more effective than that based on
grammarians' descriptions of language. Pedagogical grammars can be made less formal by
avoiding the grammarian's jargon or, at least, keeping it to the minimum and by avoiding
elaborate and complicated analyses. The more metalinguistic terms and concepts are
avoided, the smaller the gap may be between teaching and learning strategies. The problem
with most pedagogical grammars is that metalinguistic terms increase in number, length,
and complexity as the learners move from one stage of learning to another, and from one
lesson to another within one stage. The learners' progress from one stage or lesson to
another does not presuppose that they can understand or make use of metalinguistic
grammatical explanations. The case appears to be that learners learn language as one thing
and metalanguage as another. They acquire the language from the data they are exposed to
and learn metalinguistic explanations as facts. Thus, grammar becomes a
"fact-based" rather than "skill-based" subject. These two types of
knowledge are reflected by the fact that a learner may have analytical knowledge about a
language without being able to communicate in it.
||A technique that I found useful in teaching
grammar is to use This word, This part , rather than a technical term while
pointing at or underlining a word, a part of a word, or a part of a sentence in question.
The basic source of information for such an informal pedagogical grammar was the
learners' own reflections on their hypothesis formation process, their explanations of how
they arrive at a given form or structure. I also benefited from introspection studies and
from explanations of errors. I used this technique in a remedial lesson to minimize the
redundant object pronoun in relative clauses written by Arabic speaking learners of
English, (e.g. *Most of the places which we visited them.*The Person I told you about
||A pilot experiment was carried out in nine
Sudanese secondary schools with 714 third year student participants. The students in each
school were pre-tested, matched, paired, and randomly divided into two equal groups. One
group was taught the relative clause in its traditional form. The other group was
presented with terminology-free contrastive comparisons between Arabic and English; only
the terms pronoun, subject, and object were used. The two groups in each school were
taught by the same teacher. The same pre-test (translation of a paragraph containing 14
active object relative clauses) was given as a post-test. The number of correct active
object relative clauses (AORCs) were counted for each student in both groups. The number
of AORCs correctly produced by the experimental group was higher than that of the normal
group in all schools, and the difference between the means of the two groups was
statistically significant. The tentative results of this study indicate that a grammar
teaching technique that attempts to approximate the learners' strategies can be more
effective than the traditional technique based on metalanguage and elaborate analysis.
Currently used pedagogical grammars can be made less formal since learners seem to engage
in terminology-free contrastive comparisons when they formulate rules about the language.
- Cohen, A. and M. Robbins. 1976. Toward assessing inter-language performance. Language
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- Corbluth, J. 1982. The Nile course for the Sudan. Book 6. Harlow: Longman.
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- Faerch, C. and G. Kasper. 1987. From product to process. In Introspection in second
language research. eds. C. Faerch and G. Kasper. Clevedon, UK: Multi-lingual Matters.
- Garret, N. 1986. The problem with grammar: What kind can the language learner use?
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- Seliger, H. 1988. Psycholinguistic issues in second language acquisition. In Issues in
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