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Current Issues in the Teaching of Grammar: An SLA Perspective Author(s): Rod Ellis Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Mar., 2006), pp. 83-107 Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40264512 . Accessed: 28/09/2013 12:25
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Current Issues in theTeaching of An SLA Perspective Grammar:


ROD ELLIS
University ofAuckland New Zealand Auckland,

The study ofhowlearners acquirea secondlanguage(SLA) has helped about how to teach the grammarof a second to shape thinking a numberof controversial issues. language.There remain,however, to Thispaperconsiders key relating grammar pedagogy eight questions fromSLA. As such, thisarticlecomplements in the lightof findings in the25thanniveron grammar Celce-Murcia's (1991) article teaching the roleofgrammar in TESOL which considered issue of Quarterly, sary and drewpredominantly on a linguistic curriculum a communicative These eightquestionsaddresswhether of grammar. grammar theory and ifso whatgrammar, should be taught when,and how.Although to thesequestions, itserves the definitive solutions SLA does notafford thisaspectof languagepedagogy. valuablepurposeof problematising of my own beliefsabout This article concludes with a statement of SLA. groundedin myownunderstanding grammar teaching, articleidentifiesand discusses a number of keyissues relatingto the teaching of grammarin a second language (L2) and, bydrawing on theoryand research in SLA, suggestswaysto address these problems. solutions to each problem, indicating It points to a number of alternative available. thatmore oftenthan not there are no clear solutions currently is not to identify new solutions to existingcontroverThe aim, therefore, sies, nor even to present new controversies.Rather it addresses within the compass of a single articlea whole range of issues related to grammar teaching,problematisesthese issues,and byso doing, providesa counterweight to the advocacy of specific,but also quite limited,proposals for teaching grammarthat have originated in some SLA quarters. However, I conclude witha statementof myown position on these issues. The questions thatwill be addressed are or should we simplycreate the conditions 1. Should we teach grammar, learn which learners by naturally? 2. What grammarshould we teach?
TESOL QUARTERLY Vol. 40, No. 1, March2006 83

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3. Whenshouldwe teachgrammar? when Is it bestto teachgrammar learners first start to learnan L2 or to waituntillaterwhenlearners havealready competence? acquiredsome linguistic 4. Should grammar instruction be massed (i.e., the availableteaching timebe concentrated into a shortperiod) or distributed (i.e., the availableteaching timespreadovera longerperiod)? 5. Should grammar instruction be intensive (e.g., covera singlegramin a singlelesson) or extensive maticalstructure (e.g., covermany in a singlelesson)? structures grammatical 6. Is thereanyvalue in teaching knowledge? explicit grammatical 7. Is therea bestwayto teachgrammar forimplicit knowledge? into 8. Should grammar be taughtin separatelessonsor integrated communicative activities?

TEACHING DEFINING GRAMMAR


and Traditionally, grammar teachingis viewedas the presentation is of structures. This the view discrete practice promulgated grammatical in teacherhandbooks.Ur (1996), for example,in her chaptertitled Grammar" has sections on "presenting and explaining gram"Teaching in her chapter mar"and "grammar activities." (2000) Hedge practice and titled"Grammar" grammar" similarly only considers"presenting of This constitutes an narrow definition overly "practising grammar." can consist It true that is grammar teaching teaching. certainly grammar items.But, as will of the presentation and practiceof grammatical consist itneed not.First, lessons becomeapparent, somegrammar might others of presentation itself without while (i.e., might anypractice), by entailonlypractice(i.e., no presentation). Second, grammar teaching can involvelearnersin discovering rules for themselves grammatical can be and no practice). Third, (i.e., no presentation grammar teaching contrived to learners to conductedsimply provide input by exposing Here, too, there is no multipleexemplarsof the targetstructure. and no practice, at leastin thesenseofeliciting presentation production can be conductedbymeans of thestructure. Finally, grammar teaching on learnererrors whenthesearisein thecontext ofcorrective feedback of grammar of performing some communicative task.The definition is that informs this article a broad one: teaching
Grammar involves any instructionaltechnique that draws learners' teaching attentionto some specificgrammaticalformin such a waythatit helps them eitherto understand it metalinguistically and/or process it in comprehension and/or production so that theycan internalize it. 84 TESOL QUARTERLY

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SHOULD WE TEACH GRAMMAR?


This questionwas motivated L2 by earlyresearchinto naturalistic whichshowed thatlearnersappeared to followa natural acquisition, orderand sequence of acquisition(i.e., theymastered different gramin a relatively fixedand universalorder and they maticalstructures a sequenceofstages ofacquisition on routeto mastering passedthrough This led researchers likeCorder(1967) to each grammatical structure). had theirown built-in forlearning thatlearners syllabus suggest gramKrashen(1981) arguedthatgrammar mar.In line withthis, instruction that played no role in acquisition,a view based on the conviction learners(includingclassroomlearners)would automatically proceed as long as theyhad access to comprehensible syllabus along theirbuilt-in motivated. Grammar and weresufficiently instruction could coninput to learning but thiswas of limited value because communicative tribute wasdependenton acquisition. ability There followeda number of empiricalstudies designed to (a) of instructed and naturalistic learners comparethe orderof acquisition and naturalistic (e.g.,Pica, 1983), (b) comparethesuccessofinstructed to teach learners (Long, 1983) and (c) examine whetherattempts in their structures resulted acquisition (e.g.,White, specific grammatical & Ranta,1991). These studiesshowedthat,by and Spada, Lightbown, wasthesameforinstructed and naturalislarge,theorderofacquisition tic learners(althoughtherewere some interesting that differences1), instructed learnersgenerallyachieved higher levels of grammatical learnersand that instruction was no competence than naturalistic learners that wouldacquirewhatthey had been taught. These guarantee results as showing thatthe acquisitional were interpreted processesof were the same but thatinstructed instructed and naturalistic learning and achievedhigherlevelsof profilearnersprogressed more rapidly ciency.Thus, some researchersconcluded (e.g., Long, 1988) that butthatto be effective wasbeneficial had to teaching grammar grammar be taughtin a waythatwas compatible withthe naturalprocessesof acquisition. Subsequent research,such as Noms and Ortega's (2000) metahas borneout theoverall of49 studies, effectiveness ofgrammar analysis thereis evidencethat,contrary to Krashen's(1993) Further, teaching. contributes to both acquired knowledge continuedclaims,instruction There is also increasing (see Ellis,2002a) as wellas learnedknowledge.
1For example, Pica (1983) notes that some structures(e.g., plural-s) were used more learnersand some (e.g., Verb-ing) by naturalistic learners.In other accurately by instructed structures (e.g., articles)therewas no difference. CURRENT ISSUES IN THE TEACHING OF GRAMMAR 85

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evidencethatnaturalistic in the classroom(as, e.g., in immerlearning sionprogrammes) in highlevelsofgrammatical does nottypically result is nowconvincing indirect In there competence(Genesee,1987). short, and directevidenceto supportthe teaching of grammar. Nevertheless, doubtsremainabout the natureof the research evidence.Manystudies most of and Ortega) measure those reviewed Norris by (including in theblanks, in of constructed terms constrained (e.g.,fill learning responses sentence which can be or sentence transformation), expectedto joining, favour evidence that instruction There is mixed only grammar teaching. resultsin learningwhen it is measured by means of freeconstructed tasks). Also, it remainsthe case that (e.g., communicative responses and thatfor learners do not always what have been taught they acquire of how it to take account instruction to be effective needs grammar there is learners As we will their see, controversy interlanguages. develop occursand howinstrucbothhowinterlanguage development regarding tioncan facilitate this.

WHAT GRAMMAR SHOULD

WE TEACH?

can contribute tointerlanguage that then, Assuming, grammar teaching we the next logical question concernswhat grammar development, should teach. This question can be broken down into two separate questions: 1. Whatkindof grammar on? shouldwe base teaching features shouldwe teach? 2. Whichgrammatical models to choose affords a broad selectionof grammatical Linguistics structural from, (based on a grammars including grammars, generative of universal and functional , Traditionally grammars. theory grammar) or descriptive grammars. syllabuseshave been based on structural over the teaching ofform Structural traditionally syllabuses emphasised of influence structural the grammeaning(e.g., Lado, 1970). Though marsis stillapparenttoday, modernsyllabuses rightly givemore attenforms.Thus, for tion to the functions performedby grammatical as sentence of less is on such example, emphasis placed aspects grammar the and more on or tense by meaningsconveyed patterns paradigms wasonce in communication. Some attempt different forms grammatical of theories made to exploitthe insights to be gleaned from generative in and but 1965), (see, e.g.,Bright, designers general, syllabus grammar to rely teachers have not foundsuch modelsusefuland have preferred Larsenand as Celce-Murcia on modern descriptive such grammars,
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Book.This resourceis especially valuable Freeman's (1999) Grammar a comprehensive, because it not onlyprovides clear,and pedagogically ofEnglish butalso identifies thekinds grammar exploitable description are known to makewith different thatL2 learners oferrors grammatical is important because it helps to identify Such information structures. and which aspects of a structure which structures require special Book is also ideal in thatit presents information attention. The Grammar form butalso aboutthesemantic and discoursal notonlyaboutlinguistic forms. As VanPatten, realisedbyparticular and Rott Williams, meanings form connections between and (2004) emphasise, establishing meaning is a fundamental Thus, any reference aspect of language acquisition. connections of the thatfailsto describethe form-meaning grammar In must be necessarily inadequate. general,then,the language target to use as a basisforteaching is not a choice ofwhichtypeof grammar that detail formof the source controversy; grammars descriptive major of the are ascendant. language meaningrelationships to teach is In contrast, the choice of whichgrammatical structures can be identified and various Twopolarpositions controversial. positions in between.At one end of this continuumis Krashen'sminimalist position.Krashen (1982) argues that grammarteachingshould be rulessuchas 3rdperson-jand past limited to a fewsimpleand portable the acquiredsystem. tense-d thatcan be used to monitor outputfrom on theclaimthatmostlearners are onlycapable He bases hisargument - thatmore complexrulesare generally of learningsuch simplerules students' to applythrough notlearnable are,are beyond or,ifthey ability is There is now Krashen's not warranted. claim,however, monitoring. learners are of a wide that evidence many mastering capable ample rules. Green and Hecht for of (1992), example, grammar range explicit of Englishin Germany students wereable to foundthatuniversity-level for85% ofthegrammatical errors were they produceclearexplanations thelearners in their whileoverall included askedto explain, (who study for46% school students) managedsatisfactory explanations secondary and Stone that British of the errors. (2000) reported Macrory comprehad a fairly of the school students hensive good explicit understanding its in French understood tense function, (e.g., they theyknew perfect were familiar withthe thatsome verbsused avoirand some tre, they different and were aware of need the forms pronouns, they requiredby fora finalaccent on the past participle).Hu (2002) foundthatadult correct knowlof Englishdemonstrated Chineselearners metalinguistic of six the rules structures for definite of (e.g., English edge prototypical constituted the prototypical articlespecific rule) but were less reference rulesforthesestructures . clearabouttheperipheral (e.g.,generic reference) Teach the whole of At the otherpole is the comprehensive position:
CURRENT ISSUES IN THE TEACHING OF GRAMMAR 87

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the grammar of the target This is the positionadopted by language.2 course book writers Walter & Swan, 1990) or authorsof many (e.g., would materials 1994). Such a position grammar practice (e.g.,Murphy, also seemunwarranted of a becauselearners are clearly capable learning substantial amountof the L2 grammar without instruction and because forteaching mostteaching contexts havelimited timeavailable grammar so some selection is needed. What then should selectionbe based on? The answerwould seem - theinherent obvious strucofdifferent learning grammatical difficulty tures. The problemarisesin how to determine it is this.To beginwith, to This two different senses of necessary distinguish difficulty. can learning refer to (a) thedifficulty havein understanding a grammatical learners feature and (b) to thedifficulty have in a grammatical they internalising in These feature so that able to use it communication. are they accurately twosensesrelateto thedistinction between as learning grammar explicit and as implicit whichis discussedlater.Clearly, knowledge knowledge, whatis difficult to learnas explicit and as implicit knowledge knowledge in grasping is notthesame.Forexample, mostlearners haveno difficulty in theruleforEnglishthird haveenormous difficulty person-sbutthey These two senses this structure so can use it accurately. internalising they in of learningdifficulty have not alwaysbeen clearlydistinguished the with result that even when the stated is the languagepedagogy, goal developmentof implicitknowledge,it is the anticipateddifficulty students willhave in understanding a feature thatguidesthe selection forexample,is and grading of grammatical structures. Thirdperson-5, in a course. typically taught very early How then has learning difficulty been established? Traditionally, in theinputand their structures factors suchas thefrequency ofspecific to learners have been invoked(Mackey, 1976), but thesefactors utility wouldseem to have more to do withuse3thanwithinherent cognitive in attempts Here I considertwoapproachesthathavefigured difficulty. to delineatecognitive difficulty. first 1. Teach thoseforms from thelearners' thatdiffer language(LI). forms. thanunmarked 2. Teach markedrather
2 Of course, it is not possible to specifythe whole grammarof a language. Though the not. The Longman of a language maybe determinate, of it are certainly grammar descriptions A Grammar 1972) ran to 1081 ofContemporary English(Quirk, Greenbaum,Leech, 8c Svartvik, does not account forall the known but doubtlessly pages (excluding index and bibliography) factsof Englishgrammar. thereis a recognizedcanon of Englishstructures that, Nevertheless, of English. the grammar in the eyesof syllabus constitutes designersand textbookwriters, 3Structures in the inputcan imposeconsiderable like Englisharticlesthatare very frequent usefulto learnersbutare Structures such as Englishconditionals maybe very learningdifficulty. to learn. also difficult 88 TESOL QUARTERLY

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The first approach was, of course,the one adopted in manyearly ofthelearner's LI and structural coursesbased on a contrastive analysis as the targetlanguage. Althoughthe contrastive analysishypothesis SLA is not tenable formulated Ellis, 1985, 2), (see clearly chapter initially transfer learners at leastsomeofthe still researchers generally agreethat of theirLI into the L2. For example,thereis ample evidence features ofEnglish Frenchlearners & 1993) to showthat produce (Trahey White, an kissed because Frenchpermits ofthekindMary errors John passionately adverb to be positioned between the verb and the direct object. a sound basis for does not constitute contrastive Nevertheless, analysis In the learnstructures. contexts, manyteaching grammatical selecting whereit wouldbe imposmixedlanguagebackgrounds ers come from to tailor to theentire sibleto use contrastive grammar teaching analysis Lis. we do notyet have different learners the because Also, simply group into does and does not translate knowenough about whendifference in arises even some and cases, learningdifficulty learningdifficulty, wherethereis no difference. Markedness has is also problematic. The second approach,however, is in some a grammatical structure been definedin termsof whether and deviant and basicor infrequent, sensefrequent, unnatural, natural, & from a regular Platt, Weber, 1985). Thus,theuse of (Richards, pattern in He made me him can be tofollowing as without an infinitive make, follow is one the fewverbsin Englishthat consideredmarkedbecause make and because thispatternoccurs only takes this kind of complement is that we should teach the marked The idea infrequently. general forms to learntheunmarked features and leavethelearners naturally by markedness as thedefinition The problemis that, themselves. suggests, to apply difficult so thatitis often remains a somewhat opaque concept, to teach. needed to determine whichstructures the precision with The selectionof grammatical content, then,remains veryproblemI havementioned is to base atic.One solutionto thekindsof problems In lists learners. this errors on theknown selection respect, producedby inTurton and Heaton's suchas thoseavailable errors ofcommonlearner helpful. The problemsof selectionprobably syllaexplain whygrammatical overtheyears; itis safer to and havechangedso little busesare so similar follow whathas been done before.Of course the selectionof whatto The teach will also depend on the learner'sstage of development. in involve discussed of are the learner's that stage development problems sections. subsequent
Errors and Swan and Smith's (2001) (1996) Longman Dictionary ofCommon are and OtherProblems LearnerEnglish: A TeachersGuide to Interference

CURRENT ISSUES IN THE TEACHING OF GRAMMAR

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WHEN SHOULD WE TEACH GRAMMAR? to the Thereare two answers to this According competing question. itisbest intheearly of toemphasise theteaching ofgrammar first, stages tothesecond, itisbest toemphasise L2 acquisition. meaningAccording focused instruction tobegin with andintroduce later, teaching grammar I will whenlearners havealready their interlanguages. begunto form for consider thearguments bothpositions. briefly A keypremise is that of behaviourist theories oflanguage learning "error likesin needsto be avoided at all costs"(Brooks, 1960).This will holds that haveformed incorrect oncelearners habits, they premise havedifficulty them andreplacing them with correct habits. eradicating inthe itisnecessary correct habits toensure that learners Thus, develop first method oftheaudiolingual place.Thiswasone ofthekey premises infavour ofbeginning canbe advanced (Lado,1964).Other arguments to teachgrammar The alternative to a form-focused early. approach and message as in task-based creation, language emphasises meaning butmany teachers believe that (Skehan, 1998), beginning-level teaching lack learners in meaning-centred activities becausethey cannot engage the necessary of the L2 to perform tasks. Thus,a formknowledge focused is neededinitially a basisofknowledge to construct approach that learners can then in a meaning-focused use and extend approach. current theories of L2 learning, which connectionist givepriFinally, to the to implicit basedon massive exposure macy learning processes a basis tobeginners. alsoprovide for target teaching grammar language, with N. Ellis(2005) hassuggested commences that necessarily learning arethen an explicit oflinguistic which forms, developed representation is He suggests that early through teaching grammar implicit learning. that follows. This a basis thereallearning valuable because itprovides for towhich seems toechoLightbown's (1991)metaphor, according gram"hooks" learners with marinstruction facilitates learning byproviding is thata which can grabon to. The idea behindthismetaphor they facilitates of howgrammatical features work conscious understanding for thekindofprocessing to linguistic form) required (e.g.,attention true developing competence. from The argument grammar earlyon derives againstteaching shows which research on immersion Genesee, 1987), (e.g., programmes in suchprogrammes theproficiency that learners are able to develop in the neededfor formal instruction fluent communication without any that do notneedto be taught learners ofL2 Spanish L2. Forexample, seemto be able to learn follow nounsin this adjectives language; they thisnaturalistically to communicative from input(Hughes, exposure relative clauses learners ofL2 English canmaster 1979).Similarly, simple
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as subjectand the pronounfunctions (e.g., clauseswherethe relative . There is ample theverb) clause is attachedto a noun phrasefollowing can and do learna good deal ofgrammar learners evidenceto showthat botherto teachwhatcan be it.This beingso, why without beingtaught A second reasonfordelaying learned naturally? grammar teachingto is typically later stages of developmentis that early interlanguage That learners & Perdue Klein, is, 1984; 1993). (Ellis, rely agrammatical oflexicalsequences,constructing utterances on a memory-based system chunks or by simplyconcatenating either by accessing ready-made Ellis (1984) givesexamplesof such lexical itemsinto simplestrings. learners: three classroom in the early of utterances speech
Me no (= I don'thaveanycrayons) Me milkman (= I wantto be themilkman) time Dinner youout(= It is dinnertimeso youhaveto go out)

Such pidginisedutterancesrelyheavilyon contextand the use of in simple,contextcommunication They are veryeffective strategies. that itis this lexicalised embeddedcommunication. knowledge Arguably, of the grammatical the basisforthe subsequent development provides communication. This, then,is a competenceneeded for context-free untillearners the teachingof grammar fordelaying strong argument havedevelopeda basic communicative ability. the second of thesepositions(see Ellis, In general,I have favoured the learners willnotprogress classroom 2002b). Giventhat beyond many initialstagesof language learning,it seems to me that a task-based lexical of a proceduralised approach thatcatersto the development structures ensure will and grammatical naturally acquired system simple, is tobe preferred to an communicative a threshold and,therefore, ability as from the start and on that insists that, accuracy grammatical approach of thiscommunicative a consequence,mayimpede the development is possible with Task-based beginners complete languageteaching ability. and allowfor ifthefirst tasks (and reading) listening perhaps emphasise such an can it is that nonverbal However, approach possible responses. attention to withone thatdrawsbeginners' be usefully complemented features some usefulgrammatical (e.g., past tense-^din English) that instruction miss.This is the aim of input-processing otherwise theymight later. 1996,2003), whichis discussed (VanPatten,

CURRENT ISSUES IN THE TEACHING OF GRAMMAR

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SHOULD GRAMMARTEACHING BE MASSED OR DISTRIBUTED? Thisquestion That islogically ofthepreceding independent question. of whengrammar we need to is, irrespective commences, teaching of time consider whether itshould be concentrated intoa short period hasaddressed orspread over a longer little research period. Remarkably this question. on therelative effects The research that hasbeenundertaken reports of massed on and distributed instruction language language general rather than theeffects on grammar Collins, Halter, proficiency learning. as follows: & the available research summarise Lightbown,Spada(1999)
has foundan advantage None of thelanguageprogram evaluation research the findings thusfarlead to fordistributed Although languageinstruction. lead tobetter thehypothesis that moreconcentrated to may exposure English student theevidenceis not conclusive, outcomes, 659) (p.

intensive ESL Collins andcolleagues then their own ofthree study report over in one distributed (the taught programmes Canada, programme) thefull10 months of one schoolyear, one (themassed programme) concentrated to aboveaverage into5 months buttaught students, only andthethird into 5 months, massed concentrated (the plusprogramme) and taught touseEnglish with outofclassopportunities supplemented the massed was that tostudents ofmixed levels. The main finding ability distributed the and especially themassed-plus students outperformed of learning, students on mostof themeasures including programme in thisfinding somemeasures of grammatical might ability, although provided partbe explained bythefactthatthemassed programmes more overall instructional time. further Collins etal.'s study totheneedfor research, especially points instruction distudies massedand distributed thatcompare through would at specific structures. sucha study rected Ideally grammatical in a particular structure short of instruction spread periods compare into ofinstruction over several with thesameamount compressed days to one or twolessons.4 Received wisdom is thata cyclical approach it allows for because 1974)istobe preferred (Howatt, grammar teaching with what that thekind ofgradual ofgrammar is compatible acquisition the of is known aboutinterlanguage However, results development.
4Given ofentire in evaluations extraneous variables theproblems that arisein controlling anddistributed studies ofmassed itmight easier toconduct much rigorous programmes, prove on specific structures. whenthese arefocused learning grammatical 92 TESOL QUARTERLY

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at thevery needs Collinset al.'s study least,thatsucha position suggest, is an issue about which to be investigated Here, then, empirically. can be said at the moment. definitive nothing

SHOULD GRAMMARTEACHING BE INTENSIVE OR EXTENSIVE?


refers to instruction overa sustained Intensive teaching period grammar of time(whichcould be a lessonor a seriesof lessonscovering daysor structure a pairof a singlegrammatical or,perhaps, weeks)concerning vs. continuous structures contrasted past simple). (e.g., Englishpast refers to instruction a wholerange Extensive concerning teaching grammar a shortperiod of time(e.g., a lesson) so thateach within of structures in any one lesson. It is the structure receivesonlyminimalattention at the same target and a difference between shooting pistolrepeatedly be at a of Instruction can a to firing shotgun spray pellets variety targets. is it massed or distributed. of whether or extensive intensive irrespective distinction refersto how a whole grammar The massed-distributed distinction refersto course is staged, while the intensive-extensive each singlelesson addressesa singleor multiple whether grammatical feature (s). instrucviewedas entailing intensive Grammar teachingis typically model of tion.The present-practise-produce (PPP) grammar teaching, which underlies most discussionsof grammarteaching in teacher an intensive focus handbooks(see, e.g.,Hedge,2000;Ur,1996),assumes discussions such acknowlstructures. on specific Although grammatical structure limits the edge thatlearners'readinessto acquire a specific intensive it also assume matter how ofteaching effectiveness is), they (no learnerswill eventually forpractice, thatwithsufficient opportunities As Ur says, "the are taught. the structures succeed in automatising they so is to learn the structures to students aim of grammar get practice on them their will be able to that correctly produce thoroughly they is the primary makesperfect own" (p. 83). Thus, the idea thatpractise mustinvolve intensive for the however, approach.Practise, justification in the structure to and tasks bothdrills (i.e.,opportunities practice target . a communicative context) It is perhapsless easy to see how grammar teachingcan comprise notelectto present and A teacher wouldprobably instruction. extensive within a of structures lesson. a whole single range grammatical practise has always had a place instruction ofa kind, Extensive however, grammar in 30 while a in grammar Some years ago, teaching secondary teaching. and school in Zambia, I regularly gave lessons where I illustrated
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thatI had observed explainedsome of the commonerrors mystudents in their in of taskwritten the context making compositions. Similarly, based teaching, some teachershave been observedto note the errors thatlearnersmake and then to address themwhen the taskis over Loewen, & Ellis, 2004). However,extensivegrammar (Basturkmen, can occur within a learningactivity, notjust as some kind of teaching in the context of both Teachers corrective feedback postscript. provide form-focused and meaning-focused lessons,and althoughfeedbackin at thestructure form-focused lessonsmaybe directed targeted primarily in to be directed at the the lessons it is lesson, by likely meaning-focused of feedback whatever errors learners to make. Studies corrective happen & Ranta,1997;Ellis,Batsurkmen, & Loewen,2001) demon(e.g.,Lyster forms strate thatin communicative lessonsa widevariety ofgrammatical are addressedincidentally corrective feedback. through There is littledoubt now that intensive grammarlessons can be effective. earlier research showed that learnersdo not always Though in terms learnwhatthey when is measured are taught, learning especially of spontaneousproduction(e.g., Kadia, 1987), more recentresearch are not thateven iflearners 1999) indicates (e.g., Spada & Lightbown, learn to the intensive structure, teachingcan grammar ready targeted in the involved them the of stages help progressthrough sequence structure In a marked of that structure. other words, acquisition teaching can help learnerslearn associated,less markedstructures intensively Intensive in acquisition ofthemarked structure. evenifitdoes notresult have instruction also helps learnersto use structures already they & partially acquired more accurately (e.g., White,Spada, Lightbown, Ranta,1991). evidencein and some empirical Thereare also theoretical arguments has favourof an extensive Cook (1989) argued fromthe approach. minimal evidence of universal that learners grammar require perspective Other for the are to set a particular they learning. parameter grammar evidence ofnegative researchers theimportance haveemphasised through feedback forgrammar corrective byadults.Loewen (2002) has learning are relatedto feedback shownthatevenvery brief episodesofcorrective the Loewen identified correctness on subsequenttests.In thatstudy, communicaof in the context errors thatteachers addressed incidentally whichhe tivelanguageteaching and thendevelopedtailor-made tests, either one day errors administered to thelearners whomade thespecific or two weekslater.These testsshowed that the learnerswere subsetheir ownerrors. often able to identify and correct quently and extensive There are pros and cons forboth intensive grammar the opportuwithout not be mastered instruction. Some structures may nityfor repeated practice.Harley (1989), for example, found that anglophone learnersof L2 French failed to acquire the distinction
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and imparfait hoursof exposure the preterite between pasttensesafter in an immersion somecorrective feedback) (and presumably programme in usingthesetwotensesafter theiraccuracy butwereable to improve intensive instruction is timeconsuming intensive instruction. However, structures were the (in Harley'sstudy taughtover a 6-month targeted can be will constrain how time and thus, manystructures period), on the other affords addressed.Extensive instruction, hand, grammar of grammatical structures. to attendto large numbers the opportunity will be addressed Also, more likelythan not, manyof the structures because this kindof instruca of time. over Further, period repeatedly each learnermakes, it is individua responseto theerrors tioninvolves theskilled teacher real-time forthekind alizedand affords opportunities recommends as basisfor that Celce-Murcia ofcontextual (2002) analysis is not to to those it attend possible grammarteaching.However, do notattempt to use (i.e., extensive instruction thatlearners structures withavoidance). Also, of course, it does not cannot deal effectively the mayrequirebefore in-depth practisethatsome structures provide can be fully acquired. they ofin terms ofboth needsto be conceived teaching grammar Arguably, needs to be Therefore, teaching reconceptualised grammar approaches. of treatment in teacherhandbooksto include the kind of extensive corrective feedback. arises that naturally through grammar

IS THERE ANY VALUE IN TEACHING EXPLICIT GRAMMATICALKNOWLEDGE?


was menThe distinction betweenexplicitand implicit knowledge consists of thefacts thatspeakers earlier. tionedbriefly knowledge Explicit notclearly are often understood ofa languagehavelearned.These facts of with each other. and may be in conflict Theyconcerndifferent aspects is held consciously, is knowledge grammar. Explicit languageincluding and is typically accessedthrough controlled learnableand verbalisable, in somekindoflinguistic whenlearners difficulty experience processing knowlneeds to be drawnbetweenexplicit usingthe L2. A distinction and as metalinguistic Analysed knowledge explanation. edge as analysed ofhowa structural feature a conscious awareness entails works, knowledge consistsof knowledgeof grammatical while metalinguistic explanation to understand of rules.In and the ability explanations metalanguage is held unconsciously, and can is procedural, contrast, knowledge implicit ifit is made explicit. It is accessedrapidly and easily onlybe verbalized MostSLA communication. and thusis availableforuse in rapid,fluent a matter of researchers agree thatcompetencein an L2 is primarily knowledge. implicit
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Whether there is anyvaluein teaching ofgrammar knowledge explicit has been and remainstodayone of the most controversial issues in to To make sense of the different teaching grammar. positions relating the teachingof explicitknowledge, to considerthree it is necessary separatequestions: 1. Is explicit of anyvalue in and of itself? knowledge of the development 2. Is explicitknowledgeof value in facilitating implicit knowledge? 3. Is explicit or inductively? besttaught deductively knowledge I partly addressedthefirst whatgrammar whenI considered question to teach.I notedthatresearchers learners' to learn over ability disagree some this as very with 1982) seeing explicit knowledge, (e.g., Krashen, limited and others(e.g., Green& Hecht, 1992) producing evidenceto a separate issuerelated thatitis considerable. Thereis,however, suggest to thefirst which learners are This issue concerns the extent to question. in able to use their consists actual that of) (whatever explicit knowledge Krashen is limited. performance. Again,one positionis thatthisability that can use when learners theymonitor, argues explicit knowledge only whichrequiresthatthey are focusedon form(as opposed to meaning) and have sufficient There is also some timeto access the knowledge. evidence that teachingexplicitknowledge itself (i.e., without any by for the is not effective. Studies feature) by opportunities practising target VanPatten and Oikennon(1996) and Wong(2004) indicatethatexperino mentalgroupsthatreceivedexplicitinformation alone performed on and than a control tests differently interpretation production group did. But otherpositionsare also possible.I have argued thatexplicit is used in the processof formulating knowledge messagesas wellas in in and that learners are adroit their accessing monitoring many explicit memories for these purposes,especially if the rules are, to a degree, automatised. this does require time.Yuan and Ellis (2003) However, if showed that learners'grammatical accuracyimprovedsignificantly a narrative had on-line while time for task,a they performing planning result most readilyexplained in terms of their accessing explicit knowledge. has anyvalue in and of of whether Irrespective explicitknowledge it thedevelopment assist itself, may byfacilitating languagedevelopment the of the two of implicit This is second issue addressed by knowledge. It as the concerns what has become known interface hypothesis, questions. whichaddressesthe role explicitknowledgeplaysin L2 acquisition. to the noninterface Three positions can be identified. position According are entirely distinct and (Krashen,1981), explicit implicit knowledge intoimplicit with theresult thatexplicit cannotbe converted knowledge that is research This suggesting knowledge. position supportedby
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separate (Paradis, explicitand implicitmemoriesare neurologically the exact on skillThe 1994). argues opposite.Drawing interface position that be(1998) explicitknowledge DeKeyser argues learningtheory, if the for learners have comesimplicit knowledge opportunity plentiful The weakinterface communicative (Ellis, 1993) claims position practice. that explicitknowledgecan convertinto implicitknowledgeif the and thatthisconversion feature learneris readyto acquirethe targeted in particular a number ofkeyacquisitional occursbypriming processes, the That and is, 1990). explicit knowledge noticing noticing gap (Schmidt, thatlearners makesit morelikely willattend structure of a grammatical out the cognitive in the inputand carry to the structure comparison betweenwhattheyobservein the inputand theirown output.These level.Although thereis continueto be arguedat a theoretical positions is in instruction effective that evidence L2 promoting explicit plentiful & no has Noms Ortega,2000) publishedstudy directly learning(e.g., converts intoimplicit knowlwhether tested knowledge directly explicit One reason for the of its lack facilitates or development. edge simply that is, the difficulty of researchis the problem of measurement, learners when of which theypertype knowledge employ ascertaining form a languagetaskor test. The threepositionssupportverydifferent approachesto language to a zero leads The noninterface position grammar approach, teaching. suchas immersion and that it is, prioritizes meaning-centred approaches PPP the idea that The interface task-based position supports teaching. and then should be first structure a grammatical presentedexplicitly also The weak interface it is until fully position proceduralised. practised to attendto grammatithatinducelearners to techniques lendssupport a basisforconsciousness-raising It has been used to provide cal features. rules tasksthatrequirelearnersto derivetheirown explicitgrammar that with(Ellis,1993;Fotos,1994). It is likely are provided from datathey all threeapproacheswill continueto attract drawingon supporters, theoriesof L2 acquisitionand citing research that lends different indirectsupportto the preferred approach. It is unlikelythat this in the nearfuture. research be resolved will through controversy in and assumes there is value The third explicit knowledge question a grammatical addresseshow best to teach it. In deductiveteaching, in one wayor another; and thenpractised is presented structure initially P in the present-practise-produce thisis thefirst sequence. In inductive first to learners are exposed exemplarsof the grammatical teaching, at a metalinguistic on and are asked to arrive structure generalisation statement of rule. or not be a final the their there own; may may explicit haveexaminedthe A number ofstudies(see Erlam,2003,fora review) ofthesetwoapproachesto teaching knowlrelative effectiveness explicit been For and The results have mixed. Herron Tomosello example, edge.
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forinductive Robinson instruction, (1992) founda clear advantage that a deductive while Rosa was more effective, (1996)found approach and O'Neill (1999) foundno significant in effectiveness. difference Erlam's for thegroup revealed a significant (2003)ownstudy advantage deductive instruction. to be the main lesson learned receiving Perhaps from theresearch to to dateis theneedfora differentiated approach both It and is that researching teaching knowledge. likely many explicit variables affect most which learners benefit from, including approach the specific and the structure thatis the target of the instruction learners' for rules maybestbe aptitude grammatical analysis. Simple be taught while more rules best taught may deductively, complex in to fare Learners are skilled inductively. grammatical analysis likely better with an inductive than those less skilled. approach IS THERE A BEST WAYTO TEACH GRAMMARFOR IMPLICIT KNOWLEDGE? To answer it is necessary thisquestion to identify theinstructional I haveattempted of forteaching thisin a number options grammar. the 1will consider 2002b).5 publications justtwo: (e.g.,Ellis1997,1998, difference instruction and between and production-based input-based between different ofcorrective feedback. types The case forthe input-based optionis based on a computational model ofL2 acquisition, towhich takes acquisition placeas a according of learners and processing product input.Such apcomprehending learners' attention to when directed atgrammar, seektodraw proaches, for thetargeted structure (s) in one or more bycontriving ways: simply in the input numerous of the structure (s) to be present exemplars thetarget structure materials, (s) in someway(e.g.,by byhighlighting tasks inwritten ofinterpretation boldoritalics , orbymeans texts) using attention to form-meaning at drawing learners' (Ellis,1995) directed oftheinputa version VanPatten 2003)hasdeveloped (1996, mappings. at Thisis directed basedoption instruction. that he callsinput processing thatare a learners to overcome the default strategies helping processing noun in a feature of interlanguages thatthe first (e.g., assuming canbe sentence . A casefor is always theagent) theoutput-based option or in a foundin bothskill-building discussion) (see previous theory arises towhich sociocultural ofL2 learning, learning according theory
51 and methodological options (cf. Ellis, 1998). distinguishbetween psycholinguistic are are related to some model of L2 acquisition.Methodological options Psycholinguistic options evidentin instructional forteachinggrammar. Here I consideronlypsycholinguistic materials options. 98 TESOL QUARTERLY

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whichscaffolds learners'attempts out of social interaction to produce structures new grammatical (Ohta, 2001). A numberof studieshave effectiveness ofinput-based and production-based comparedtherelative in withmixed results, instruction, resulting ongoingdebate about the merits ofthesetwo relative 2002;DeKeyser, options(VanPatten, Salaberry, this Robinson,& Harrington, 2002). It may be that,in classrooms, in is both because, meaningless practise, comparison ultimately options to involve and production. For example,it is are likely input-processing students approach,individual quite conceivablethatin an input-based in the while a structure, target silently produce production-based approach, an utteranceproduced by one studentservesas input for not surprising thatboth options have been another.It is, therefore, in acquisition.6 shownto result There is a rich descriptive literature on corrective feedback (i.e., fewstudieshave teacherresponsesto learnererrors)but remarkably therelative effects ofdifferent offeedback on acquisiinvestigated types are (a) whether thefeedback is implicit or explicit and tion.Keyoptions feedback is or based. whether the occurs (b) input output Implicit feedback forceoftheresponse to learner error is masked, for whenthecorrective reformulates a a which deviant utterance it example, recast, correcting whilekeepingthesame meaning:
NS:

NNS: Why he isvery unhappy?


? is he very Why unhappy

NNS: Yeah why is very unhappy? (Philp,2003) Or, as in this contrivedexample, a request for clarification: NNS: Whyhe is very unhappy?
NS: Sorry?

is he very NNS: Why unhappy? such as directcorrection takesa numberof forms, or Explicit feedback There is some evidence that feedmetalinguistic explanation. explicit in both eliciting the learner's immediate back is moreeffective correct correct and in eliciting for use ofthestructure use, example, subsequent & Swain1993;Lyster in a post-test and (Carroll 2004). Butsomeevidence
6There is also of these two (and controversy regardinghow to measure the effectiveness of other) instructional options. Norrisand Ortega (2000) have shown that the effectiveness instruction varies depending on whetherit is measured using metalinguistic judgements, selected response,constrainedconstructed response,or freeconstructed response.Most SLA researchers(and teachers,too, perhaps) would consider the last of these the most valid a numberofstudiesthatexaminedtheeffects measure.Ellis (2002a) reviewed ofdifferent kinds on learners'freeconstructed thatinstruction of instruction can have an responses,reporting on thistypeof language use. effect CURRENT ISSUES IN THE TEACHING OF GRAMMAR 99

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feedback(see some strong theoretical reasonsexistto support implicit in is more this of feedback 1996, Indeed, compatible Long type press). that becauseitensures with thefocus-on-form earlier approachdiscussed learnersare more likelyto stayfocused on meaning. However,as is probably moreeffective when Muranoi(2000) notes, feedback implicit at a preselectedformthan when it occurs it is targetedintensively to in incidental In thelatter, attention focuson form. explicit extensively form be more effective. may forthe learner(e.g., by modelsthe correct form Input-based feedback of thecorrect elicits meansofa recast).Output-based feedback production formfromthe learner (e.g., by means of a requestforclarification). ofthesetwo abouttherelative effectiveness Again,thereis disagreement feedbackoptionsand no clear evidencefor choosingbetweenthem. is more feedback thatoutput-based Some descriptive studies haveshown uttererroneous their own initial to lead to learners likely correcting as is not the same to as uptake. ances in whatis referred However, uptake acquisition. In short,although considerableprogresshas been made toward those instructionaloptions that are likely to be of identifying about can be drawn as yet, fewconclusions significance, psycholinguistic It is possibleto pointto foracquisition. which ones are themosteffective thatsuggest thateach of the major studiesand theoretical arguments to discussed can contribute acquisition. options

SHOULD GRAMMARBE TAUGHT IN SEPARATE LESSONS OR INTEGRATED INTO COMMUNICATIVE ACTIVITIES?


In Ellis (2001) I considered three broad typesof form-focused refers to instruction as shownin Table 1. "Focuson forms" instruction, students' where the a primary approach, involving structure-of-the-day are directed focusis on form(i.e., accuracy)and wherethe activities This approach, then, at a single grammatical structure. intensively in series of a involves teaching grammar separatelessons.Focusonform to formarisingout of the entailsa focuson meaningwithattention is a focused task be where This focus can communicative activity. planned, a for to elicit occasions grammatical using predetermined required attention in Samuda (2001). In thisapproach, structure, as,forexample, intensive. be will also structures to the predetermined grammatical in to form whereattention can be incidental focuson form Alternatively, but rather is not ofa communicative thecontext predetermined activity needsas theactivity with theparticipants' occursin accordance linguistic
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TABLE 1 Instruction Types of Form-Focused

Type 1. Focuson forms focus on form 2. Planned 3. Incidental on form focus

Focus Primary Form Meaning Meaning

Distribution Intensive Intensive Extensive

Ellis(2001,p. 17). from Note. Thistableisadapted

thatattention willbe givento a proceeds.In thisapproach,it is likely structures one widevariety ofgrammatical taskand thuswill during any Focus on formimpliesno separategrammar be extensive. lessonsbut into a rathergrammar curriculum of teachingintegrated consisting tasks. communicative There is considerabletheoretical whichof disagreement regarding is mosteffective in developing of instruction thesetypes knowlimplicit and have that 1991) (2001) arguedstrongly edge. Long (1988, Doughty is bestequipped to promoteinterlanguage focuson form development because the acquisitionof implicitknowledgeoccurs as a resultof form to linguistic at thesame timethey learners are engaged attending and producingmeaningful withunderstanding messages.Other rehave argued that a focus-on-forms searchers,however, approach is for has effective. that DeKeyser(1998), example, argued grammatical structures are learnedgradually the automatisation of explicit through this can be of and that achieved means a focus-on-forms by knowledge the value of teachingexplicit approach.This approach acknowledges it by means of activities and subsequently proceduralising knowledge behaviours involve and that tasks) (i.e., (drills practise meaning)rather one It is worth in than structures. however, noting, pointof agreement Instruction needs to ensure that thesedifferent learners are positions: formsto the meaningstheyrealise in able to connect grammatical thedebatehas addressed thedifference So far, communication. between and focuson forms. Therehas been little focuson form discussion ofthe of planned and incidental In effect, relative merits focuson form. this a consideration wouldinvolve ofwhether discussion instruction should a questionwe havealready be intensive or extensive, considered.

CONCLUSION
has held and continues Grammar to hold a central place in language The zero was flirted with but neverreally teaching. grammar approach
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in boththecurrent tookhold,as is evident textbook materials emanating frompublishing & White,2001) and in current houses (e.g., Whitney that theories ofL2 acquisition. There is ample evidenceto demonstrate works. teaching grammar a traditional there is nowa clearconviction that approachto Although and drill-like based on practice teaching grammar explicit explanations needed is unlikely to result in theacquisition of theimplicit knowledge to be disagreeforfluent and accuratecommunication, therecontinues mentregarding whatshouldreplacethis.It seemsappropriate, then,to finish witha statement of my own beliefsabout grammar teaching, thatmanyof themremaincontroversial: acknowledging notjust form 1. The grammar should be one thatemphasises taught structures. but also the meanings and uses of different grammatical structures to focuson thosegrammatical shouldendeavour 2. Teachers thantry to teach that to be problematic to learners rather are known thewholeof grammar. 3. Grammar is besttaught to learners who havealready acquiredsome thanto to use the intermediate level) rather ability language (i.e., can be taughtthrough complete beginners.However,grammar corrective feedbackas soon as learnersbegin to use the language productively. 4. A focus-on-forms approachis validas long as itincludesan opportuin communicative tasks. for learners behaviour to nity practise witha massed 5. Consideration should be given to experimenting to rather thandistributed grammar. approach teaching instrucand output-based 6. Use shouldbe made of bothinput-based tionaloptions. as a means 7. A case exists forteaching knowledge grammatical explicit of of assisting Teaching knowledge. acquisition implicit subsequent intoboth a focus-on-forms can be incorporated explicit knowledge and a focus-on-form approach. In the case of a focus-on-forms deductive sometimes approach,a differentiated approachinvolving work best. and sometimes inductive instruction may 8. An incidental focus-on-form approachis of specialvalue because it of grammatical for extensivetreatment affordsan opportunity treatment afforded to the intensive contrast (in bya focusproblems on-forms approach). It is best 9. Corrective for learninggrammar. feedbackis important of implicit and explicitfeedbacktypes conductedusinga mixture thatare bothinputbased and outputbased.

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instruction should take 10. In accordancewiththesebeliefs, grammar of separategrammar lessons(a focus-on-forms the form approach) intocommunicative activities and shouldalso be integrated (a focuson-form approach). are open to challenge.They not all) of these statements (if Many of whatthe researchto date has a personalinterpretation constitute a shown.It mayalso seem thatI am hedgingmybetsbyencompassing thatanything of optionsand thatI am suggesting widenumber goes. It truethatI do not believe (and do not thinkthe research is certainly that thereis just one preferred demonstrates) approach to teaching of the of an L2 is a The system grammatical acquisition grammar. assisted and almost can be best of certainly bya variety complexprocess is is to what are But what important recognize options approaches. rationales fortheseoptionsare,and what whatthetheoretical available, This is the starting the problemsare withthese rationales. point for of a teaching. developing personaltheory grammar exists The factthatso muchcontroversy pointsto the need formore that towhat needsis forresearch addresses research. One ofthegreatest results in instruction knowlextent and in whatways implicit grammar of methods that this would measuring acquisition require edge. Ideally, to use the structures have into learners' grammatical they ability tap oralcommunication). in communication Studies been taught (especially are still and farbetween. few Another need is suchmethods thatemploy the effects of instruction studiesthatinvestigate over forlongitudinal studies include time.Althoughmostrecently delayedpostpublished treatments of a relatively instructional tests, incorporate theytypically studiesthatemployqualitative as well as shortduration. Longitudinal if to not there will show is a methods help just delayedeffect quantitative effect. The effects but also itsaccumulative of corrective forinstruction are mostlikely to becomeevident when forexample, feedback, gradually the to feedback on same learners are repeatedly grammatical exposed even if it does not succeed in providing Further structures. research, to the questionsraisedin thisarticle, willdeepen our clear-cut answers issues and afford better definedproviof the involved understanding which teachers can sionalspecifications (Stenhouse,1975), experiment in their ownclassrooms. with
THE AUTHOR in the Department of AppliedLanguageStudiesand Rod Ellis is a professor ofAuckland, in NewZealand.He has published at theUniversity widely Linguistics
and Planning and the fieldof SLA. His latestbooks are Analyzing LanguageLearning in a Second TaskPerformance Language.

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