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How should we learn grammar? Do we even need to formally learn it?

There are many opinions within the language learning community on the part of teachers and learners regarding grammar. Some people believe that a grammar-based approach is key to efficiently learning a language. They claim that a thorough grammar study is necessary for understanding the structure of the language. They insist that without understanding grammar, a language would be a jumble of words difficult to decipher. Some go as far as to say that they first need to have a good grasp of grammar even before starting learning the language. I call this a purely analytical approach. On the other hand, others believe exactly the opposite: that grammar books are an unnecessary obstacle that slow down the learning process. Grammar rules should be exclusively inferred by the language and not vice-versa. According to this vision, a student should start attacking the language as soon as possible. Massive exposure and deduction are key factors here. I call this a purely inductive approach.

A definition of Grammar
I found a rather interesting definition of grammar. Grammar is the structural foundation of our ability to express ourselves. The more we are aware of how it works, the more we can monitor the meaning and effectiveness of the way we and others use the language. It can foster precision, detect ambiguity and exploit the richness of expression. This can help anyone, not only language teachers, but all teachers of everything. What struck me was the phrase: The more we are aware of how it works. I dont think we need to be aware of how it works. We just have to make it work. Once a language flows and is accurately expressed, we have learned its grammar. Five year old kids are not even conscious of the word grammar, and yet they are able to string together full, correct sentences in their native tongue They have internalized it unconsciously.

Breaking the code


Our goal is to communicate. We are not seeking to do well at grammar exercises and related matters . Grammar will be internalized if the learner works in a truly efficient manner. I view languages as codes. Each language has a different code. Languages are ways which human beings encode sounds and words to convey a message. If we communicate efficiently, we have broken the code. In order to break a code, we need to figure out its patterns. Thats the key. Once you have broken the code, the language unfolds and everything gets easy and enjoyable.

How to break the code?


The main question is, how to break the code? How to find a method to put all this into practice?

Let me give you an example of analyzing and inferring. Let us consider the following sequence of integer numbers, called the Fibonacci numbers : 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 Instead of giving you the explanation, I can give you a hint: there is a precise and simple pattern between adjacent numbers, considered in pairs. Did you figure it out? If you didnt, try again, it is well worth the effort. Ok, have you found the solution the solution? Dont you feel a sense of satisfaction? Now, imagine that I had simply given you the following definition: The first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. In mathematical terms, the sequence Fn of Fibonacci is defined by the recurrence relation: Fn= Fn-1 + Fn-2 With seed values F0 = 0, F1 = 1. With this, you will only have to insert the numbers the initial seed values and obtain the sequence. You have learned the notion of the Fibonacci series, you have been told how it works. In the first case,, instead, you have figured it out by yourself. If you did, the brain will have made the effort to find a pattern. That effort is important in that it causes neural networks to form. Inferring things with a little help from the outside is important.

My Techniques
I am very goal oriented person, and I make 100% sure that I can comfortably communicate in the target language. In order to do that, I cut out all the fat and only concentrate on what is necessary to use the language. I simply choose texts which suit my interests and intuitively try to understand the grammar by observing the actual language of native speakers. I am calm and relaxed because I am aware of the fact that very single sentence contains all the grammar I need to know to express a particular thought, just as the Fibonacci sequence contains the key to its encoding in just a few numbers. Less is more in my method. For anyone of you who is interested in using it, I can show you exactly how to achieve what I have achieved over many years of successfully learning languages by coaching you throughout the whole process. The details will be in a book I am currently working on, which is tentatively scheduled for release by June, 2013. Written by Luca Lampariello

42 comments 1.

Simon Keels says:

Hi Luca! Im also a keen language lover! Id like to learn Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. I speak English and French. Which one of those Feb 15, three languages (Es, It, Pr) should I pick first so that it would be the most helpful when studying the other 2? Ive heard that Spanish and 2012 Portuguese are quite alike but what do u think?
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Luca says: Pick the one which interests you the most. Motivation and Feb 16, interest are two powerful allies in your learning process. The 2012 order doesnt really matter. Once you have learned one, you can learn the others easily. Luca
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Keith Bowes says: Jul 30, 2012


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They say that once you know one Romance languages, the rest are easy peasy. The language code for Portuguese, BTW, is PT: ISO 639-2 Language Code List

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igo Ali says: Feb 15, 2012


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None of the three at the moment. You will mix them up. Try another one totally different like Russian, Turkish, Arabic or Japanese.

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LEARNING GRAMMAR: ANALYTICAL OR DEDUCTIVE APPROACH? First thank you for providing me with the correct scientific terms how to call theses approaches. I knew before that there are differences but I didnt know before how to categorize these approaches. And I like your mathematical example very much! :) I had so much maths at grammar school that I understand the formula well. I favourize the analitical grammar approach because for myself I have to understand the the grammatical structure of a foreign language from Fasulye the very beginning. Its wouldnt help me to learn some phrases by heart. That doesnt mean that I read grammar books. I normally dont says: but I learn almost all my grammar from textbooks and workbooks and I Feb 15, use grammar books very seldom only for reference. I find my own approach (which is of course different from yours!) very helpful when I 2012 now have to read native level Danish texts from a novel a and i succeed in understanding the structures of these sentences even If I even with Reply the help of my dictionary dont understand every word. There may be idiomatic expressions in these texts, which I cant understand, if they are not quoted in my Gyldendal Dictionary Danish Dutch. Otherwise I would feel lost with this high language level and my only two years of studying Danish. As a contrast of this, thank you for presenting your approach of dealing with grammar in your language learning process! Best wishes, Fasulye
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Thank you very much for swinging by Fasulye :-) As I said before, I dont diss grammar at all. I think it is a foundamental part of a language. The video just deals with my personal vision on how we acquire things in general. After 20 Luca years of learning languages, I figured out a method that works says: very well for me. It does encompass/include grammar books, but I tend to use them a little bit later, and I do it according to a precise Feb schedule. For the details, a bit of patience :-) 16, 2012 That said, I think that everybody should do what they like doing. If you like starting learning a language by using grammar books, Reply then, do it. Once again, we learn more effectively when we enjoy what we are doing :-) Hou je taai! :-) L

PS: Volgende keer kan je wel in nederlands schrijven, ik zal echt blij om je in deze geweldige taal te antwoorden :-)
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Catherine says: Feb 15, 2012


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Thanks for sharing! I cant wait for the book to come out!

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Catherine says: oh btw, what do you think of using phonics to learn a language, as Feb 15, 2012 in English or pinyin in Chinese?
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Hi; I seen your question to Luca and thought Id give some advice too hope you dont mind? Robbie Im British myself and have recently started learning/teaching says: myself Chinese (Mandarin) and pinyin is useful for learning how Feb 16, to pronounce things in the correct tone; but I would honestly say learn the scripture too if you have an iPhone theres an 2012 application called pleco which is a Eng/Chi dictionary and it Reply tells you what the character means, what words it is in and has really helped me so far otherwise invest in the Collins dictionary or other books; but I honestly think the best way is with scripture also :)

Catherine says: Feb 16, 2012


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Thanks, Robbie! Ill check it out.

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Luca, ik denk dat jouw taalleermethode wel goed werkt. Ik weet bijvoorbeeld ook van Loki op You Tube dat hij een deductieve aanpak gebruikt. Bij hem kan ik in zijn Turkse videos heel goed vaststellen dat hij de grammatica beheerst, maar hij heeft mij persoonlijk geantwoord Ik leer nooit grammaticaregels. Dus kennelijk laat zich grammatica ook assimileren, maar ik zelf kan dat niet. Ik moet gewoon logisch Fasulye nadenken over taalstructuren, anders gaat het bij mij niet. Maar ik says: gebruik geen grammaticaboeken, want dat is mij een te droge koek. Het leuke is dat verschillende polyglots verschillende methodes hebben Feb 16, ontwikkeld en ik lees graag hoe anderen met de talen bezig zijn en 2012 welke ideen ze daarover hebben. Ik volg dat mee bij Steve Kaufmann, bij Loki, bij Richard (via zijn blog en Skype) en bij jou dus ook.
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Leuk dat ik hier ook in het Nederlands mag schrijven in Parijs krijg je waarschijnlijk niet zo veel Nederlands te lezen. Nog veel plezier met het maken van videos en met jouw log! Fasulye
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Hoi Fasulye, bedankt voor je reactie. Ik vind dat iedereen op zn eigen manier en met zn eigen leermethodes iets moet leren. Vooral als je van grammatica houdt, heb je het recht om gebruik te maken van een grammaticaboekje aan het begin, ik doe dat gewoon later. Eigenlijk houd ik erg van grammaticaboekjes, ik vind het gewoon erg handig wanneer ik een goede basis van de desbetreffende taal Luca heb en ik even een kijkje terug wil nemen om te versterken wat ik says: geleerd heb. Ik ben het er mee eens dat het leuk is om in het Nederlands te schrijven. Feb 23, Daarnaast is het waar dat ik hier in Parijs de kans niet echt krijg 2012 om Nederlands te spreken. In meer dan een jaar heb ik amper 3-4
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Nederlanders ontmoet, maar ik spreek de taal af en toe op het internet (ik heb een geweldig Nederlands meisje on-line ontmoet) en ik lees de Volkskrant. Natuurlijk zijn er momenteel overweldigende dingen gaande, maar ik vergeet nooit om op zn minst n keer in de week wat tijd aan mijn Nederlands te besteden. Hou je taai! :-) Luca

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Maxim says:

Hello Luca!Id like to ask you one question.How do you learn the new Feb 16, words?Are you trying to memorise them or you just pick up them through the listening and reading?What do you find more efficient2012 memorising or just picking them up trough reding and listening?
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Luca says: Feb 19, 2012


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Excellent question. A post and the corresponding video on this topic will be up here and on YouTube soon :-) L

Gary Dale Cearley says: Let us know when this one has been done. I have Feb 23, 2012 my own methods but I want to compare them to yours. I will post after!
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S.P Hello Luca, i knew youd make a book and i patiently wait for it. Kristofferson Your philosphy of learning languages is very inspiring. I one day says: decided to apply it to my learning of mathematics and the results have been amazing , things staying in my mind , recognition of Feb 20, 2012 when to use formulae improved and most importantly patience.I thank you for such wisdom. ( e porque que escreves o Reply portugus incorrectamente? isto a ortografia). Your fan Sam
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Catherine says: Feb 21, 2012


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Interesting. If I may, Id be curious how you would apply it in mathematics where the process and the results must be rigidly guarded to achieve the right answer.

Daniele says: Mar 7, 2012


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Hello S.P., I also would like to know how you have applied this to mathematics! It would be very interesting!

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Mario Goffredo says: Feb 26, 2012


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Caro Luca, ti seguo da tempo ed a proposito di imparare le lingue, mi piace molto come vedi le cose; lesempio di Fibonacci e veramente illuminante. A proposito potresti darmi qualche ulteriore esempio pratico su come assimilare regole grammaticali con tale intuitiva maniera? Io studio inglese per piacere e da solo. Ho letto che pubblicherai un libro . Sara in italiano o quale altra lingua? Si pu avere qualche anticipazione? Ringraziandoti per tutto il lavoro che fai ti saluto cordialmente Mario Goffredo, Trieste

Ciao Mario, grazie per i complimenti Luca says: S, il libro sar in inglese ed in italiano, e, se dovesse avere successo, ance in altre lingue. Mi dispiace non poterti fornire Feb troppi dettagli pratici ma li sto inserendo nel libro, il cui 26, contenuto verte appunto sul mio metodo, come e quando 2012 applicarlo, nonch sulla mia filosofia di apprendimento, nelle lingue come nella vita in generale
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Un abbraccio, Luca
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dario belluomini says: Feb 27, 2012


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Hi Luca. I am Italian but Im going to be writing in English so that other readers can understand. First, thank you for all the help and advices you give to us all that want to learn foreign languages. With regard to the topic of the article, I totally agree with you. I believe that grammar is an important part of the study of another language, but to me thats not the most important. When I learn a

language, I do it because Id like to be able to communicate properly with people from different countries; and I prefer studying languages by reading or listening to something interesting written or registered in that language than using lots of grammar rules (than in many cases end up being useless). Of course youll have to learn them too, but I prefer putting in a first place the pleasure and the fun of just being able to express your ideas and feelings in a new language. And thats what I am currently doing with my Portuguese: I started learning that idiom because I liked its sounds and also for its similarity to Italian. The first thing I did was looking for podcast and articles in Portuguese, not buying a grammar book. Ive got to say that now I reached a point in which a grammar book can be useful, but I honestly believe that, even without knowing the most of the rules of that idiom, I can have a conversation or chatting with Portuguese speakers. Thats my point of view. Thank you for reading. Bye
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Luca says: Feb 27, 2012


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Thanks for the nice comment Dario, much appreciated :-) Luca

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Will says: Feb 28, 2012


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Hi Luca Are you familiar with the Duolingo project? Any thoughts? Seems like a pretty interesting concept and in a way its pretty close to your methods. The guy behind it was earlier responsible for the now widely used and probably hated by many but very useful and clever Recaptcha.

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jose or velsquez says: Apr 10, 2012


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Luca, piensas que es buena idea estudiar mas de un idioma al mismo tiempo? o debera estudiar uno a la vez?

Luca says: Hola Jos. Hice un video sobre este tema en YouTube y tambin escrib un articulo aqui en el blog. Aqui lo tienes: Apr 11, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdZnkatthxg&feature=relmfu 2012
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Luca

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I studied French in high school, only to graduate without being able to speak it. I was humiliated and determined to learn it anew from a different point of view. I got a condensed grammar, a book of vocabulary, a book on idiomatic usage, a good dictionary and a 501 French verbs book. And then I studied ENGLISH grammar until I got the code! When I learn a new language, I listen to it as I would music. If I listen to Jewel the radio, I dont try to pick out meaning, I listen for lilt, pronunciation, says: for emphasis, for voice placement and sounds that occur between sentences. May Almost all languages have vocal indicators of questions, exclamations,of sarcasm, etc. If I am in a room with the language speakers I look at body 15, 2012 language, too. You cant believe how helpful this is. Reply Finally, I read newspapers and magazines. When I engage in conversation, I make sure I have the vocabulary to explain that I am selftaught. That I am a mother, a baker, that I have four children, their ages, their children, how long Ive been married, my hobbies, where I was born, what my parents did for a living, whether or not they are dead or alive. In other words, all the information you would share with a complete stranger in English. And most importantly, I ask what this or that thing is called. Its an excellent way to get extra vocabulary.
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Hi Jewel! Luca says: May 25, 2012


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- When I learn a new language, I listen to it as I would music. If I listen to the radio, I dont try to pick out meaning, I listen for lilt, pronunciation, for emphasis, for voice placement and sounds that occur between sentences Exactly :-) These are all things that I teach my students. Learning how to listen is one of the most powerful tools one can teach an eager language learner :-)

- Finally, I read newspapers and magazines This is extraordinary for picking up new words, idiomatic expressions and..all the rest Thanks for the excellent contribution :-) Luca
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Keith Bowes says: Jul 30, 2012


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Id surmise that no one learns a language in a classroom. I mean an hour, a few times a week? Youre hardly learning anything. I think self-study is superior.

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Kevin (@Undo1) says: May 30, 2012


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I know a mid-age w/ kids family friend who speaks terrible Spanish, but I think it could be her lack of effort (I just want to communicate in adequately) style and age related. I too examine grammar when spoken and written, Ive been busy with college and havent (had opportunity to try to [grasp]/) grasped fully the subjunctive, but subjunctive words do often pop out in music, spoken and written Spanish because I know thats my focus. I find my grammar book acts as a map to know where my problems are and what to improve. So I choose the middle-ground between your path to infer and the other idea to obsess over it.

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Diogo Matias says: Jun 19, 2012


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Hi Luca, Im from Brazil. I was learning French by myself, through a very good book, that contemplates several areas of language learning, like listening, writting, grammar etc. I was very satisfied with the results I was getting, but then I couldnt study for a week, and know I feel I have forgotten a lot of things! Im inclined by your method, though I have some doubts in my mind and I didnt grasp fully the way it works. Could you please send me the Doc. file you mentioned in your video An easy way to learn languages?. Abrao!

Luca says:

Hi there. You can write Luca easy way on Google and you will Jun 19, find part 1 and 2 of the method. You will find the main 2012 guidelines there. For the details you will have to wait for my book. A bit of patience! :-) L
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Diogo Matias says: Jun 20, 2012


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The service is unavailable :( Is there some other way you could send me this content ? And when are we going to be able to buy your book? Cheers

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marie maille says:

I believe that as language is about communication, learning grammar is secondary to learning the language. A foreigner being able to communicate, albeit making many grammatical and lexical errors, is this not the most important factor? When a child learns a language ,any Jul 11, language, it learns by listening and repeating and mechanics of the 2012 language are learnt much later..the majority of English children who ,of course, speak English fluently have far less knowledge of Reply grammar than any foreign ESL student.
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Luca says: Jul 12, 2012 I agree 100% :-) Luca


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10 Great Blogs for Language Learners | The Everyday Language [...] speaks 9+ languages and has been writing about the process Learner says: to share his experience with others. How Should We Learn Grammar and Forget It: The Secret Of Remembering Words are Jul 12, 2012 two of my favorite articles to [...]
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Rosangela I loved your videos and your blog they are really useful and says: interesting! But do you think that we have to learn a new language without translate it into our mother tongue or its better just to be Jul 23, envolved with the new language and try to understand by the 2012 context?
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Thanks and congratulations!

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Rhina Franco says: Aug 9, 2012


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I parcially agree with you. I think the learning of grammar rules of a language has to do with the purpose you have for learning a language. If you learn a language to communicate with others, probably learning rules is not really important. But if youre thinking of becoming a teacher (and teach the language youve learned, thats another story); then you need knowing rules in case your students ask you to explain to them. Besides, remember: Not everyone learns the same way. There are learners who understand more easily when they are taught the rules. Thats my humble opinion. Rhina

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Nill says: Aug 30, 2012


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Hi, Lucas My first language is Portuguese and English is my second since live in USA for almost 10 years. Now, I am not sure if I would translate the German language to English which comes first on my brain or Portuguese my mother tongue. What would be your advice on that? Both maybe?

Luca says: Aug 31, 2012 I would use Portuguese if I were you. L
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I agree that vocabulary matters much more than grammar to use a language. The more vocabulary a learner knows how to use correctly the easier it is to convey a thought in a language. I think grammar learning ought to be combined with conversational practice and vocabulary learning (first fixed thematic conversational phrases, and then free conversational practice on each topic with sentences based on known grammar (to reduce grammar mistakes) while still learning grammar). Learners can learn grammar and practice it in communicative grammar exercises with real life content (with sentences that most likely can be used in real life situations). Its very helpful for learners to have key to exercises for self-check. Grammar exercises that contain dialogues, interrogative and statement (or narrative) sentences on everyday topics, thematic texts and narrative stories are especially effective for Michael mastering grammatical structures. Grammar practice should include exercises in listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing. says: Grammar exercises must help learners not only form correct sentences, Sep 20, but also use them correctly in context in real life situations. Contrastive and contextualized exercises give practice in form, meaning and use. 2012 In my view communicative integrated skills courses that practice listening, speaking, reading and writing alongside pronunciation, Reply grammar and vocabulary are the most effective and the most comprehensive courses. Conventional communicative teaching and learning supported with adequate regular long-term practice in listening comprehension and speaking in a language yield effective results. Lack of such practice by learners produces speculations that conventional learning and teaching methods dont work. Knowledge of grammar rules reduces making grammatical mistakes by learners. Without adequate knowledge of grammar rules learners often cannot create their own grammatically correct sentences and often cannot understand what they read or hear in a language exactly. In my view it ought to be effective to combine input (listening, reading) with output (speaking and writing). The question is in what order and amount (proportion) when learning and practicing grammar with accompanying vocabulary in communicative exercises with real life content.
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The best way to learn any foreign language is to immerse Amit completely. A language cannot be acquired in isolation; it is in fact Schandillia only a part of a much larger system that includes culture and says: lifestyle. As a professional Spanish trainer (I blog at http://alwaysspanish.blogspot.com), I always recommend my Oct 2, 2012 students to surround themselves with Spanish music, Spanish videos, Spanish texts, and Spanish TV instead of Spanish grammar Reply and phrasebooks. The key is to focus on absorbing the language instead of just memorizing or learning it.
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ESL online JOBS says: Oct 10, 2012


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I loved your videos and your blog they are really useful and interesting! But do you think that we have to learn a new language without translate it into our mother tongue or its better just to be involved with the new language and try to understand by the context? Thanks and congratulations!