Monday, October 17

Do I (Really) Need Grammar?

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More and more people the world over are realizing the practicality of English, and they are making efforts to learn the language.

All of them are asking the same question: Do I need grammar?

Grammar: The Bad Guy of English

In the whole history of English learning, grammar has always been a bad guy. Nobody likes it and everybody tries to avoid it. Even teachers.

Personally, you might say that you don’t hate grammar. But you don’t particularly like it either. Am I right?

And this is a sad thing because grammar is a really basic part of English. If you ask me how important it is, it ranks No. 1 with Vocabulary.

In other words, it’s one of the foundations of your English skill. Or like the legs of the chair you are sitting on. If somebody suddenly removed the legs of your chair, you’d fall on your ass, right?

But grammar has a bad image in our minds only because of a traditional way of thinking.

Let me explain…

When a teacher teaches grammar following the old style, it’s always dry and boring. It always makes you feel sleepy.

Sounds familiar? (It’s the same story everywhere in the world. Both in your country and mine.)

This is because when a teacher teaches using the traditional way (full of explanations and with very little participation from students), the teacher is in fact teaching how to teach grammar but they are not teaching real grammar.

Think about it. Try to remember all the grammar lessons that you took in the past. Now, try to answer these questions:

    1.  Can you remember only rules and explanations?

    2.  Is it hard for you to make your own example sentences?

    3.  Does grammar make you afraid to make a mistake?

If you answer “Yes” to any one of my questions, then it’s true: You, my friend, have learned how to become a teacher, but you have not learned how to speak English.

Learning how to explain grammar like a teacher isn’t really a bad skill to learn, but then again you just wanna be a fluent speaker of English, right? That’s what your original goal is.

This is the real reason why, during your grammar lessons in the past, you felt really bored. You couldn’t explain it exactly but you could feel that your classes were useless to you and you didn’t need them. So you felt bad about grammar.

Because of this wrong way of teaching, you’ve got the wrong picture of grammar inside your head. You thought that what you were studying was grammar but, as a matter of fact, no, it wasn't.

At this point, you must learn to make grammar your friend. If you do the opposite and make grammar your enemy, then, you’re dead.

To put it simply, you can run and hide from grammar but you can never escape it. Sooner or later, grammar will find you.

Dynamic Grammar: Grammar in Speaking/ Grammar for Real Situations

What both students and teachers should do is to try and break away from the traditional method of teaching and learning - which is full of lengthy, empty explanations.

Rather than explanations, there should be more direct examples and drills. This is the only way you – the student – can be sure that you are really learning something. When you are able to make your own examples and practice your own English. When you are able to make your own sentences and not just listen to your teacher giving a lifeless lecture.

Less explanation, more practice.

Grammar shouldn’t be only theory. It should be both theory and practice.

Right now, your idea of grammar is like a dead theory not connected to real life – something that you might or might not need. This is bad. Grammar shouldn't be dead but should be a very active part of your life.

Grammar is inside every sentence you make, in every place you go. It’s there every time you open your mouth and every time you pick up your pen or listen to a voice on TV.

Grammar is not only knowledge inside a dusty textbook.

What You Need to Do

Before anything else, as a student you have to learn to think of grammar as your friend and not your enemy. It’s definitely not a monster that you should be afraid of. You should stop avoiding grammar because of a bad impression.

If you can make grammar your friend, then it will be the best friend you’ll ever find. Grammar will never leave you. And it’ll always be there when you need it. It’ll help improve your English - every step of the way.

Grammar is not a jail or a strict military general that always shouts at you and limits you. It doesn’t limit your ability to make sentences. Instead, think of grammar as a very practical tool. It simply guides you and it doesn’t hold you back.

Because speaking English is matter of making and keeping habits, grammar will be there to make sure you don’t make a bad habit deep. Bad habits will be almost impossible to break in the future.

Grammar will help you avoid making the same mistake over and over. It can make the strong points of your sentence stronger, while it tries to make the weak and bad points go away.

If you see the real face of grammar and you are able to utilize grammar the right way, eventually, you’ll be able to speak in the proper way, the way that most people can understand – everywhere in the world. 

Keep on learning !


  1. Super like! I think that for English learner who have been taught in traditional way like me getting used to grammar rules in practical way such real conversations is the best way to learn it deeply. I just want get the hang of it as a part of my body. Actually there's no time to think of grammar rules when speaking with English speakers.
    But I wonder the day will come when proper English come out with my mouth automatically with confidence.

  2. Hi Takayuki! Thanks for the comment ;-)

    I agree with everything you said. Grammar was meant and designed for us to practice in real situations, not to hide within ourselves but to speak in front of actual people.

    I'm glad that you're trying your best to make it a natural extension of your mind. Second nature, so to speak.

    Like what you said, there's a very small window of opportunity for us to speak our minds in front of a native speaker. Time will not wait for us just because English isn't our first language.

    And don't worry about the results. As long as you keep your positive attitude, I'm sure the time will come when you can express everything that you want in fluent, flawless English.

    I look forward to hearing your ideas on that day.

    Remember: Even the best speaker started out as a Beginner ;-)


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