Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning verses Mastering a Language

For many years, I have taught grammar classes, and I often teach advanced-level students. However, in many cases, although students have passed their previous classes to reach the advanced level, they still make many mistakes with basic grammar they should have "learned" in other classes. In other words, while they had a passing score to get to the next class (let's say, 75% or so), they were still missing about 25% of the content.

The result is that students have so many gaps in their learning that they haven't mastered the language at all. The common causes are (1) that teachers often don't recycle or test concepts that the students learn in previous levels and (2) students assume that a passing grade is sufficient for them and then they fail to review and learn the parts they didn't know in the first place.

Students just assume that since they are in the advanced class that they are advanced learners when they really lack a full, comprehensive, and solid grasp of the language.

What teachers can do to help students is to constantly recycle and test all of the gramamr points from all of the classes instead of just teaching new concepts. The more a teacher builds upon earlier grammar points, the more students can apply them better.

So, what has been your experience in studying grammar? What has helped you the most in learning or mastering the language? What can teachers do to help you? Please share your ideas.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning English From Native Speakers

For the most part, I teach grammar classes to ESL students in an intensive language program in the United States. One of the challenges my students face is that although some of them have native speakers as roommates (or at least associate with native speakers often), my students often feel confused because their friends don't always use the grammar we study in class. In fact, native speakers break the rules quite often or don't even know how to use English correctly, either by choice or ignorace.

However, my ESL students often can't tell the difference between accurate and incorrect usage of the language. Take a look at these examples:
  • I'm tired, so I want to lay down.
  • If I was in your situation, I'd go to the party.
  • Not getting enough sleep can effect your school work.
  • The student sleeps in class everyday.
I tell my students that if their goal is just to learn English casually for daily conversation, then knowing how to use the grammar precisely isn't as important as if you are studying the language for academic or professional purposes. Keep in mind that this is probably the same case in every language. People tend to use language that their peers and family use, whether it is correct or not.

Any comments on this? I'd be interested in hearing your opinions on this.