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.



  1. yes, I agree with you.

  2. Hello Randall and everyone,

    I fully agree with you when you say that depending on your reasons for studying a second language, you don't need to worry too much about how accurate your command of the language is.
    If your goal is to study a language for communication only ( as a personal asset) , to use it when traveling around the world,for example, grammar accuracy or perfect (native-like) pronunciation may not be as important as being able to successfuly communicate with both native and non-native speakers of it in a variety of social events.
    Fluency is more important in this case, though - I believe.

    Does that make sense to you? :-)Looking forward to hearing your comments,

  3. Well, I'm now staying in NZ until April 2010. I've ever thought of a question in my mind "Does foreigners understand me if I use incorrect grammar?" When I'm talking to native-speakers, I'd push myself to use the correct grammar. Sometimes, I know I had been against the rules of grammar. Then, I remind me of using the correct grammar. I insist on doing it, otherwise I'd feel guilty. Undoubtedly, it's faster for us to speak English without thinking of grammar. Nevertheless, we are not supposed to do so.
    Josephine from Hong Kong

  4. Yes, yes. I tell my students to listen carefully to native speakers and to notice how they say things. Of course this must be done over a long period of time, but listening and noticing will help even more than learning grammar, when it comes to everyday usage.

  5. I completely agree with you, but in other hand how should we (students) practice our correct grammar without a native English speaker? I don't really enjoy talk with people from the same age as me (21) because they say a lot of slang words and that is terrible for me as a learner.
    I like to listen and try to talk with children and old people, they usually use the correct grammar and more appropriate words. Isn't it?


Thanks for posting a comment. I appreciate your interesting in sharing your ideas.



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