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Grammar is essential for learning fast

 

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  #1  
Old July 13, 2014, 10:49 AM
Manuel Manuel is offline
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Grammar is essential for learning fast

I never understood why people say that learning a foreign language the way a baby learns it is the most effective way. They come up with arguments like a baby doesn't know any grammar and still learns rapidly through imitation etc.

But "rapidly" is a relative term! What do you consider rapid? A baby takes YEARS to learn to speak properly. But an adult who studies grammar meticulously can learn as much in 1 year as a baby learns in five!

I am not saying that being immersed in the language is not a good thing. It obviously is and will be very helpful. But learning grammar greatly speeds up one's comprehension and learning.

It makes no sense for an adult to try to learn a language like a baby learned it, because he's not a baby! The only reason a baby learned the language without grammar is that he had no other choice.

Trying to learn something by simply "being around it" takes infinitely longer than learning the underlying concepts, theories and rules. The only problem is when people think that studying grammer is ALL they need to do.

Obviously you also need to APPLY what you learn. I think that is where the majority of people fail in learning a foreign language. But that doesn't mean you should ignore grammar in favor of other things. I think studying grammar is one of the most effective ways to quickly improve, as long as you immediately apply whatever grammatical thing you have just learned.

Now, how to apply it is a whole different subject in itself, but grammar is absolutely essential in my opinion if you want to learn a foreign language quickly as an adult.
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Old July 13, 2014, 11:04 AM
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I agree that babies learn a language slowly, but they aren't without logic. They logically connect how a word can be used (and sometimes their logic fails them and a correction to their "grammar rule" is made by a native speaker).

Adults can learn a language much more quickly, as you said. This is because we already have a good idea about how words work together.

I believe everybody who studies a foreign language learns more about the grammar of their mother tongue. I'm pretty certain that most don't care to learn all the grammar terms, like adjunct, adverb, aspect, mood, subjunctive, accusative, dative, etc., but all of us have a good idea about how the words of our language can be used. That is a knowledge of the grammar, after all is said and done.

I don't believe for a second that you can learn another language without applying grammar rules to it. It is, as you said, absolutely essential. Without applying the rules of grammar, you'd speak in nonsensical language.
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Old July 13, 2014, 12:01 PM
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I agree with Rusty, who replied much before I finished writing this, by the way.


@Manuel: I mostly agree with you about the fact that one cannot neglect the formal side of learning. Personally, I find that learning grammar is essential for proper expression.
However, the idea behind "learning like a baby" has been widely misunderstood.
What is usually meant as learning "like a baby", is simply to relax your mind and accept things the way they are ("as is", like software), without questioning everything or trying to translate and understand each word, or your fluency will be hindered.
When you're asked to learn "like a baby" in total immersion programs, your learning as an adult will obviously be much faster because you have a huge background, so you can make connections and get structures right quicker than a child, who needs to gather experience in order to apply rules correctly.

Learning the formal rules of a foreign language certainly will give you more confidence and even more elegance when you speak it and write it. Still, if you have studied in a classroom, you might agree that one cannot neglect the fact that you don't really depend on grammar rules for reacting to basic situations by greeting someone, asking for food in a restaurant or finding your way to the nearest newspaper stand.

Different aspects of learning a language always go together for an adult student and that's what makes the process richer and more enjoyable.
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Last edited by AngelicaDeAlquezar; July 13, 2014 at 01:13 PM.
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Old July 13, 2014, 12:43 PM
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chileno chileno is offline
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Let's put under another perspective, with just a question, which might lead to another question. We'll see.

You mean to tell you that a person who does not know how to read or write in their own language, like many Mexicans I have met in 35 years of being in this country, cannot learn how to talk in English?

Mind you, I said talk, and not read and write.
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Old July 15, 2014, 07:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chileno View Post
Let's put under another perspective, with just a question, which might lead to another question. We'll see.

You mean to tell you that a person who does not know how to read or write in their own language, like many Mexicans I have met in 35 years of being in this country, cannot learn how to talk in English?

Mind you, I said talk, and not read and write.
Many I've met seem afraid to try, from fear of being laughed at for making a grammatical mistake. I tell them to go ahead and try, that even basic communication beats none at all.

Someone once said that grammar is like the main course of a meal, where the nourishment is found, while just plain speaking is like the dessert, or the fun part of the meal. So I advise beginning learners to go against conventional wisdom by eating the dessert first and thus be energized [motivated] to tackle the main course.

It's worked for me: I used to hesitate speaking up for that very reason, until it dawned on me that I'm not the only one capable of making mistakes - native Spanish-speakers themselves do at times.
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Old July 18, 2014, 05:02 PM
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Hiperbólico Hiperbólico is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
Now, how to apply it is a whole different subject in itself, but grammar is absolutely essential in my opinion if you want to learn a foreign language quickly as an adult.
Agreed. This may go slightly on a tangent, but this issue in my experience is the main criticism against "learn like-a-baby immersion" programs. *cough cough* Rosetta Stone *cough*
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Old July 18, 2014, 08:01 PM
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All of those *cough cough* systems are the same thing to me. Money makers. That's all.

What I did, was to translate a novel from English, the foreign language, to Spanish, my native language.

It took me, I always say, one year to realize that I had no real problems with English, just continue "practicing". In reality I was ready like in 8 or 10 months without realizing that was doing far better than what I was giving credit to myself for it.

I came to this conclusion because one day I realized, I was retaining without problem the meaning of a new word I would encounter and not forgetting the word the day after or so, and being "reminded" of its meaning several times after that.
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