Grammar Teaching in Schools and Colleges

Dr. Rajnish Mishra Email: rajnishmishravns@yahoo.in

Keywords: ELT, second language, grammar, syntax, language acquisition, translation

(I) India is a multicultural and multilingual country. The advantage of living in the country lies in the fact that nearly every state has a language spoken commonly by the majority – and that language isn’t English. English seldom happens to be the mother tongue of an average Indian. The first language , acquired as one grows up in the environment characterized by the use of that language, happens to be Hindi-Urdu, Tamil, Bangla, Telugu, Maithili, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Sema, Ao, Angami, Rajasthani, French, Punjabi etc. There’s a definite pattern in the life cycle of an individual in the societal machinery that’s followed for the acquisition of the second or third language. These languages are acquired either in schools in a planned manner, or in the world, in an unplanned and uncontrolled and uncontrollable manner. The standard variety of English is taught through educational institutions in general. Although, there are instances of a complete English immersion through the creation of an overall cocoon of English in the school-home conglomerate, these cases are very few. The majority of English language users acquire it through various institutions and use it only in well defined situations, outside the circle of their close family and friends in most of the cases.

English language has a very special status in India: it’s the language most hated and loved at the same time. It’s hated because of the difficulties that the acquisition of language skills poses. It’s loved because of the various doors it opens for those who acquire it with various degrees of success. Listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking (LSRW+T) in the language are the five essential skills one needs to acquire in order to use the language in its totality. Grammar makes an essential element of language acquisition because what’s semantically possible must first be syntactically correct. This paper is about practical problems faced in teaching grammar and various ways to teach it conveniently and effectively.

A student’s first exposure to grammar, i.e. a set of rules on using language with example sentences and exceptions, if any, is at primary school level. The beginning of grammar teaching is from parts of speech. “Noun is the name of a person, place or thing” is a child’s initiation to grammar. She’s taught the rule, along with several examples to learn by heart. Later on, the same topic is expanded in various degrees with an introduction to the types of nouns, some more examples and some more complications. This goes on for around eight years, with each year bringing in some more complexity and complication. There are two streams or ways of grammar teaching in those eight or nine years in various boards. Some boards like the very well established U. P. Boards uses the grammar-translation method, whereas, CBSE uses the direct method.

i. Even in schools. not much attention is paid to English grammar in schools. Nagamese is a kind of dialectal variant of Assamese that they use as a lingua franca. Hindi or its dialectal variants (Bhojpuri. I have been teaching the language the language at the University level for four years now. In fact.g. I have an experience of teaching English language and its grammar at all levels of the educational system in India in Nagaland. the whole structure of language is erected and finished in schools for many. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. and upon its being the official link language of India. The students of U. The students of CBSE Board. shortcomings and use. grammar. without any kind of maintenance or repair provision in future. are acquired as the first language in many parts of Rajasthan. Using any one method generates a unique set of problems. As the foundation of a person’s English is laid at the primary and middle school levels. Its importance is because of its geographical reach. Ao. the condition is same for the other states too. that is) played a big role in English language acquisition. Various state and central boards give it a lot of importance. Twinkle Little Star” to teach commonly used expressions to children of classes three to five.Both the methods have their supporters. P. Angami.e. it’d definitely be beneficial if the process of acquisition is facilitated and made more productive in a planned manner. I used to teach English from classes three to twelve for nearly a decade. They learn English in various educational institutions like schools. Mnemonic devices viz. English/ Communicative English paper is just some kind of inconvenience. As the majority of Indians acquire English while in schools or colleges. So. polishing the skills already acquired can be done. To take examples from my own experience. Therefore. it’s not even the second language. and at home too. the most popular one) are acquired as the first language in Uttar Pradesh. Board. who learn English through the grammar-translation method with emphasis on translation and on learning grammar in the form of rules and examples. to be given a negligible portion of their study and preparation time. Marwari etc. English is a language taught in schools and is seldom used at average homes. The language skills acquired at primary and middle school levels actually work as the foundation for levels upward secondary school. The instances of use of English at home in Rajasthan is significantly less than that in Nagaland (as far as I could observe in the years I spent there). may be used beneficially from the very beginning. They sang it happily and learnt the expressions . English is not the first or primary language used in day to day life in the states mentioned above. Sema etc. As far as I know. English is learnt in schools. It is mainly in schools where English grammar is actually and seriously learnt in the present scenario. The grammar of English is best taught between classes three to nine. Mewari. the first language of the Naga children is their tribal language. I observed that there are some similarities in the effective language acquisition patterns in the states I worked in. after class ten. Variants of Rajasthani e. Hindi comes a close second (or vice-versa). At senior levels. In many of the cases. I remember having used the rhythm of the famous nursery rhyme “Twinkle. and coaching centres. in addition to coaching adults in strengthening or honing their language skills. mind maps. grammar ought to be taught in an interesting and adequate manner to these classes. face problems with the soundness of their language’s base. who learn English by the direct method. English becomes a minor subject for the students taking their Commerce or Science stream preparation for their future professional life seriously. full attention must be paid at that level. viz. their importance. Thus. Therefore. Teaching the language is a well emphasized For technology or management students. the central or crucial factor of bilingualism (minimum. codes and formulas etc. using rhymes and songs. find it out later that knowing rules and using a language confidently and correctly are not same.

without any kind of maintenance or repair provision in future. I asked my students to marks those verbs with a dot whose three forms they got right in their first reading. (II) The grammar of English is best taught between classes three to nine. Exposure to a large set of sentences that use these prepositions followed by highlighting the difference between the generally confused one . but what actually works is practice. The sentence construction rules for various tenses may be set in a mnemonically coded format in order to facilitate mastery over the tenses. very broad in nature. quite effortlessly. neither does finding equivalents in one’s first language. English/ Communicative English paper is just some kind of inconvenience. It is mainly in schools where English grammar is actually and seriously learnt in the present scenario. There are only a couple of pages that the forms of commonly used irregular verbs can fill. the whole structure of language is erected and finished in schools for many. A person who would use English language competently must have good command over the use of prepositions.with interest. grammar ought to be taught in an interesting and adequate manner to these classes. There are so many of them that it is nearly impossible to formulate rules for their use. A methodical cyclic revision must be done in order to remember verb forms. The three forms of various irregular verbs (and remembering exactly which verbs conjugate in such a manner) is definitely difficult. The resultant of the exercise was satisfactory command over the use of verb forms. to be given a negligible portion of their study and preparation time. different kinds of marks or colours were used to indicate the verbs that needed more revision. quite effortlessly. may be used beneficially from the very beginning. using rhymes and songs. Many users of English language For technology or management students. on how to use certain prepositions. The sentence construction rules for various tenses may be set in a mnemonically coded format in order to facilitate mastery over the tenses. polishing the skills already acquired can be done. English becomes a minor subject for the students taking their Commerce or Science stream preparation for their future professional life seriously. Verbs. at times. after class ten. Translation does not help here. Verbs. codes and formulas etc. Twinkle Little Star” to teach commonly used expressions to children of classes three to five.forms and tenses – present difficulty to many. They sang it happily and learnt the expressions with interest. At senior levels.forms and tenses – present difficulty to many. They could safely leave these verbs out in their subsequent revisions. Mnemonic devices viz. Prepositions present a very challenging task before the learner and the teacher. Even in schools. Many users of English language persist in their erroneous language usage late into their life – embarrassingly. The three forms of various irregular verbs (and remembering exactly which verbs conjugate in such a manner) is definitely difficult. There are some useful guidelines. mind maps. So. In fact. not much attention is paid to English grammar in schools. I remember having used the rhythm of the famous nursery rhyme “Twinkle. As the foundation of a person’s English is laid at the primary and middle school levels. Now.

he said. but on one condition. the subject-verb accord with will/shall was solved by using one simple and less used short-cut: ‘ll. Hence they commit mistakes. Some problems. Another common mistake of using the past form of any verb after “did” took repeated reminders and corrections. I have found a method used by one of my colleagues. . I instructed them to group the verbs ending at s/es together (including has and does) and then asked them to use these verbs only with he. He kept the class spell bound till the very end. With all the other types of subjects they had to use verbs that do not end at s/es. and my colleague corrected the corpus of their mistakes once the story had reached its end. I had observed him teaching the same in one of his own classes. Similarly. The condition was that he’d stop suddenly at some important part of the narrative and would resume telling the story only when they asked him relevant questions in the form of valid and complete interrogative sentences. They did ask questions. Many of my students find the subject-verb accord quite tricky and difficult to master. On that day they wanted a horror story. Professor Brij Mohan. just perfect for teaching formation of interrogative sentences. many of them found it easier to reduce the number of mistakes that they used to make previously. To my surprise. like not remembering or knowing the three forms of a verb. Taught in that way. He was doing it with a class full of B Tech students and I was positive that it’d fall flat. it succeeded in actually raising the students from their slumberous state. or getting confused while actually using it. took a methodical attack at the verb list.For a confident language use the teacher must create new and convenient ways for his students to understand and use the rules of grammar effectively. she. Instances from my own experience may shed some light on the point. it and singular nouns. they got their story. He began by telling the students that he was not going to teach any grammar that day and then asked them what kind of story they wanted. I discussed it with them and found out that the third person singular subject is the key to solve the problem. So.

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