Printer Friendly

Grammar and communication: can we real have one without the other?

Abstract

The following reflections are little more than that: they represent the idiosyncratic experiences of a schoolroom novice in a German class, together with an attempt to view these experiences in light of published research and theoretical considerations.

However, it would be surprising if the remarks below represent no more than an isolated case, without any echo among school language teachers in Australia. These reflections of a beginner in the school classroom are concerned with how, and even if, grammar should be learned explicitly, and if so, to what purpose.

After very many years teaching German language and literature in two Australian universities, I have in recent years been teaching the same two subjects in the International Baccalaureate program at an independent secondary school. German literature in the Baccalaureate course is taught only to native speakers of German at this school, thus there is scarcely any question of difficulties with language. The German language Baccalaureate course however is taught to non-native speaker learners in Years 11 and 12; such learners have typically taken a standard German course in the previous three years.

Key Words

Grammar teaching, German, textbooks, senior secondary languages, vocabulary learning, communication

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The learners

My first encounter with a Year 11 group four years ago proved to be a shock for both the learners and me. It transpired that this was the first time the learners had been exposed to a class in which nothing but German had been used. On my part, it was a shock to discover that in Year 11, the latter part of Year 11 in fact, German was not the language of instruction--but was used only to execute tasks laid out in the set textbook. The language of instruction and of classroom administrative matters, that is, communication, was English.

Experienced teachers will no doubt smile at my naivete. When I asked the learners when they thought it might be time to start using German as the communicative language among ourselves, both inside and outside the classroom, given that there remained only a very limited number of class hours before they faced the final examinations in the following year, they did agree, if with some trepidation, that that time was then and there.

My next shock was to discover how little mastery, let alone understanding, learners possessed of the very basic grammatical structures of German, and how little vocabulary they had. Despite this, they had always received good results in their half-yearly and annual German tests and examinations. They were, one might add, bright, articulate and intelligent people who were doing well in their other subjects. They were, therefore, unpleasantly surprised to find that they could not use German as a communicative medium either written or spoken, since German had up until that time been a matter of completing the carefully scaffolded tasks in their textbook, which they had done both to their teachers' and their own satisfaction. In other words, they were not engaged in using German to communicate, but rather in activities for getting correct answers.

I had cause to reflect on all of this when I was asked to sit in on a Year 11 Latin class, while their teacher was absent. At a loss as to what to do with them, since I am not a Latinist, I took the Latin textbook from one of the class members and proceeded to have an impromptu round robin oral test of about ten verbs and their conjugations. The learners conjugated them all faultlessly. I asked myself why it was possible for the Latin class to do this, but not the German class. Of course I understood that Latin is Latin grammar, so to speak, that the aims of teaching and learning Latin are not the same as those of teaching and learning French or Japanese. Students of Latin do not expect to use Latin to communicate with other Latinists, unless they propose to work within the Vatican.

I began by considering the very basic elements of grammar the learners lacked. These included:

* declination of the cases of the definite and indefinite article

* declination of the cases of article + adjective + noun (der alte Mann 'the old man' = subj., den allen Mann 'that old man' = dir. obj., dem allen Mann 'to that old man' = indir, obj., etc.)

From this it follows that they were unable to understand how or, indeed, why these cases were used in ordinary daily language, hence it often occurred that even a rudimentary piece of language was not comprehensible, leading to blocks in communication.

* prepositions and the cases they govern Again, learners were not able to state these, nor were they clear on why differences existed, or the effect they had on attempts to communicate.

* verb tenses

There was a tendency to use the infinitive for everything (overgeneralisation): ich haben 'I to have', du haben 'you to have', er haben 'he to have', etc. The preterite was hardly on the horizon, nor was the participle.

* the difference between das and dass, as relative pronoun and subordinating conjunction, respectively

* relative/subordinate clauses

* word order, e.g. position of the finite verb, the tendency being, of course, to place it where it would be placed in English (transfer from first language)

* vocabulary: basic items such as parts of the body (e.g. Zeh 'toe', Daumen 'thumb', Rucken 'back', Stirn 'forehead', Wange 'cheek', etc.) together with simple ailments (e.g. Zahnschmerzen 'toothache', Kopfschmerzen 'headache', Schnupfen 'head cold', Grippe 'flu', Husten 'cough', etc.). Also lacking was basic classroom vocabulary (e.g. Unterricht 'class/lesson', Stunde 'lesson', Einzelstunde 'single period', Doppelstunde 'double period', Pause 'break/recess', Pausenhof ' schoolyard', Glocke 'bell', Mathe 'maths' etc.).

To their great credit, once the learners began to be aware of these handicaps, they were eager to set to work and overcome them. At first they looked to me to resolve their difficulties by perhaps setting them more exercises and more reading comprehensions with preprogrammed answers, as they had been accustomed to doing--in other words, the recipe as before, if more intensively. Soon however, they began to take matters into their own hands and decide themselves what they ought to do, using me as a guide or resource. They decided to learn the paradigms and how to use them in genuine communication with one another and myself.

The learners' textbook experience

Attempts to discover something of their previous learning experiences in German were less than successful. It seems they had had a number of teachers who had passed by in fairly quick succession--itself a serious hindrance to learning. The learners' reports were vague, suggesting that those learning experiences had not made a very powerful impression on them.

Searching for more clues as to why, well into their penultimate school year, learners found themselves in this situation, I looked at the set textbooks they were using. The most recent of these, Zeitgeist (Hermann, McCrorie, & Sauer, 2001) is a relatively up-to-date publication of British origin. On the face of it, it appears to be unexceptionable, displaying clear layout, with good-sized, well-spaced fonts and plenty of colour photos. Zeitgeist endeavours to provide a principled approach to content. Lessons are divided into Subject Content, Grammar, and Skills. Aims and objectives precede every unit ('By the end of this unit you will be able to...') followed by a comprehensive list of societal and technical items.

The topics include personal matters, such as separated parents, teenagers living together, sex, etc. Naturally there are topics on the environment, the media, racism, immigrants, and asylum seekers. There is also a considerable number and variety of tasks, ranging from simple gap-filling comprehensions, to role-play and listening exercises, as well as essay-type writing tasks and interviews, with opportunities for learners to emulate them in spoken and written mode. Grammar is treated in each unit, and learners are referred further to the somewhat brief grammar section at the end of the book.

The procedure for using the textbook involved carrying out the scaffolded tasks, dutifully filling the gaps and answering comprehension questions, attempting essay-type exercises as homework, and moving on to the next lesson. Lexis was never semanticised or internalised, grammar was not reinforced or integrated contextually, and the entire process was textbook-focused, thus the language barely existed for the learners beyond the textbook.

If, in their prior learning experience grammar was to have been assimilated via an implicit/inductive means, and the considerable amount and variety of input offered by the textbook was meant to result in form and forms being acquired, then this had not occurred. Lacking both structure and lexis, learners were unable to formulate the simplest communicative utterances in German.

The classroom language

Using English for instructions and information in the classroom, with the justification that this allows learners to go forward with the set tasks without having to spend time decoding instructions in German, reinforces an unhelpful dichotomy between real and non-real language. Real language is the language of real life, both outside and, of course, inside the school. Inside the school, any important information is delivered in English. This includes information in the German classroom, whether administrative or pertaining to the lessons themselves. Many language teachers also seem to use English with their language learners when they speak to them outside the classroom. Learners thus perceive that the target language is an artificial artefact, confined not only to the German classroom, but also only to the actual set language tasks themselves--and at times, not even all of these. Some tasks in Zeitgeist are actually to be completed in English. English is thus the language that exists outside the narrow confines of the set tasks. German, by contrast, is not a real language, rather more of a classroom exercise, perhaps like algebra ([ ceased feeling guilty about having slept through algebra at school, when I discovered that outside in the world there is no such thing as algebra).

Communication in German? With whom? Where? When? Why?

If this scenario is at all realistic, it is small wonder that the learners were seriously delayed, hampered or disadvantaged in their use of German. Moreover, it belies the notion that a communicative approach to teaching German results in learners with communicative competency. Communication with whom? When? Where? For what purposes? Neither inside nor outside the classroom, it seems. What then is the purpose of attempting to encourage communicative production in a language? Is it that learners will be able to survive linguistically in temporary contacts with speakers of that language in everyday situations, whether in the learners' own or in the speakers' environment? And is this sufficient for educational aims, or even realistic?

Littlewood (1984) comments, that we are working in an environment where in most if not all of the languages taught in our school system '... the language has no established functions inside the learners' community' (1984, p. 54). Indeed, '... many of our school learners have no clear conception of themselves ever using the language for fulfilling real communicative needs, partly because they have little contact with the speakers of the [target language] and partly because English itself is a world language' (Littlewood, 1984, p. 56). As Klein (1986, p. 54) puts it,
 [t]he most powerful drives, such
 as 'social integration' are absent in
 ordinary instruction and cannot be
 generated artificially. It is equally
 difficult for a teacher to build anything
 like 'communicative needs' into the
 process of language instruction.
 The unhappy conclusion is that the
 potentially strongest propensity
 factors cannot be put to work in
 guided language acquisition. The
 talk about "motivation' in classroom
 work ... is usually in reference to such
 secondary propensity factors as
 attitude to language and culture or
 specific communicative needs such
 as understanding the lyrics of pop
 songs.


Sadly this frequently degenerates into kitsch emblems such as the Oktoberfest or Lederhosen-wearing Schuplattler (a Bavarian form of Morris dancers). Writing of the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) situation, in contrast to English as a Second Language (ESL), Fotos (2002) remarks that '... EFL learners do not have the same real-world needs for specific communicative functions in the target language as ESU (2002, p. 139).

If, however, we wish to argue that learning a language has an educational purpose in the same way as, say, trigonometry (and Latin), not necessarily for instrumental or even integrative purposes--community languages excepted--but rather as part of our Western educational tradition, then I would heartily agree.

If we cannot, in good conscience, claim genuine and clearly identifiable communicative needs for any given language in our school system, then communicative aims would seem to be something of a red herring in a situation in which there are, at best, limited opportunities to communicate at any level beyond the banal and superficial, if that. Teachers will quite correctly point out that learners--and their parents--expect that the outcome of language learning should be the ability to communicate in the language, usually orally, even though they may not be able to be precise about when, where or why they might communicate.

Some teachers understandably fear that a focus on form/s will be perceived by learners as boring and tedious, devoid of real purpose, leading learners to abandon language learning at the earliest opportunity. They do anyway, but the concern is that this trend would be exacerbated. This fear has led to preferences for communicative and 'natural' approaches to Language learning. The difficulties with the 'natural approach', la Krashen and Terrell (1983), in our language classrooms are manifold. One is the Limited time allocated to language classes. 'Natural' acquisition demands vast amounts of input in natural or simulated natural conditions, if that is not a contradiction in terms. Canale and Swain (1980), remarking on expectations in the language classroom, comment that '[w]ith respect to teaching methodology, it is crucial that classroom activities reflect, in the most optimally direct manner, those communicative activities that the learner is most likely to engage in' (cited in van Els, Bongaerts, Extra, Van Os, & Janssen Van Dieten, 1984, p. 274). But as we have seen above, what, after all, are these 'most likely' activities? A needs analysis could be undertaken, as is done for adult ESL learners, but is this practical for our school language classrooms? School language courses must perforce be one size fits all. Not only is it impractical to discern and meet the needs of a given classroom of learners, it is nigh impossible to meet the specific needs of each individual in the classroom, always supposing learners have any need other than obtaining good marks. In any case, as Van Els et al. (1984, p. 277) point out, learners are well aware that they are in a learning situation and will be prepared to tolerate the level of unnaturalness or unauthenticity required in the interests of efficiency.

The problem observed above with my learners is that, on the one hand, communicative outcomes do not appear to have been achieved, even though focus on grammar has been avoided and vocabulary has not been rigorously taught or learned, and certainly not acquired. By contrast, school groups visiting from overseas (e.g. Germany or France) appear to have an embarrassingly fluent command of English. Various reasons have been advanced as to why German school learners of English appear to have a much more advanced competence and productive capability in English than our learners do of German. On a recent visit to a school in Berlin, I sat in on a Year 5 and a Year 8 English language class and noted that all instruction was in English. Whatever the overall reasons might be, it is instructive to glance at German catalogues of school texts for EFL. These descriptions suggest a much more thorough, detailed and intellectually rigorous approach than many of the language textbooks used in our classrooms.

EFL learning focus in German-speaking countries

The following description is from a recent catalogue of a German school text publisher, Manz Publishers, for a primary level (nota bene) textbook.
 Practising English for Years 3 and 4.
 These volumes provide
 comprehensive training using a variety
 of exercises in pronunciation, words,
 sentences and short texts. The sound
 system is foremost, however, even
 at this early stage (My translation of
 catalogue notes).


The long list of textbooks at later levels, namely Years 5 to 13, focuses on grammatical structures, orthography and vocabulary as well as text production and translation. In the majority of these descriptions, the word 'training' appears, which suggests an emphasis on skill development, which, in turn, suggests repetition and practice.

There are, of course, numerous publications of analogous materials for learners of German, for example the publisher Langenscheidt, which has half a dozen items on vocabulary, at least a dozen on grammar and others on listening and reading. One can only speculate as to whether any such materials are used in our schools in any regular and consistent way, or indeed, whether our teachers would accept them as basic classroom materials.

Littlewood (1984, pp. 69-73)distinguishes between creative construction on the one hand and skill learning on the other. These do not have to be polar opposites, but rather lie on a continuum, or even operate together. The creative construction concept proposes that learners, exposed to communication situations, construct for themselves an internal second language system which gradually approaches the target language system. Skill learning involves conscious practice of selected language items, whether lexis, pronunciation or grammar paradigms, question-and-answer work or modelled writing. These may be embedded in textual material, but above all, the target language system, that is, lexis has to be semanticised, and grammar needs to be internalised by deliberate and conscious practice.

Grammar or communication? Grammar and communication?

What is being considered here is not a simple return to a linear model of grammar learning, in which one grammatical brick is placed on another until the house of grammar is complete. Rather, that there are some chunks of grammar, without which communication is difficult, if not nearly impossible. Without these chunks, attempts to communicate are severely hampered and in danger of being incomprehensible, leading to the phenomenon of fossilisation and classroom pidgins. Lack of vocabulary merely compounds this problem.

Such a grammar chunk is the declination of article + adjective + noun in German (der alte Mann 'the old man', den a/ten Mann 'that old man' ...) as well as prepositions and the cases they govern. The aim of our language courses is surely to enable learners to achieve a respectable degree of ease and facility in using the target language. The question being begged here is whether an explicit or an implicit focus on form/s (i.e. grammar) will better achieve this aim.

Clearly, many language teachers are deeply concerned that, certainly in the early secondary years, the dropout phenomenon is debilitating. Perhaps they feel that something as tedious as grammar learning will exacerbate the rate of attrition, thus the emphasis is not surprisingly on activities, which emphasise the fun aspects of the target language. Garrett (1986) comments that '[g]rammar is still seen as nothing but form--sterile, abstract, and meaningless--all the things that 'truly communicative language' is not supposed to be' (1986, p. 135).

But, early-stage language learners are just as handicapped as algebra learners, if they are allowed or encouraged to ignore rules. To argue that most early-stage language learners are quickly going to drop languages anyway, therefore, any serious attempt to master grammar is not only monotonous but wasted, seems to amount to resignation, not to say capitulation. It also handicaps those who do continue. Introducing learners to a basic chart, such as the definite and indefinite article and its declensions at the very least starts learners on a path of future accuracy. It may well be objected that younger learners would find this to be dreary rote learning which has little to do with using the target language. But younger learners do engage in rote learning of formulae (algebra, geometry, chemistry formulae, Latin), formulae which are the very basis of these subjects. Relying on input without reflection or on focus on meaning is not only a scattergun approach, but, certainly, with my learners, it does not seem to have worked. I observed, for example, that after a year of addressing them in the second person familiar plural mode (ihr/euch 'you'), they had not noticed this, nor did they use it among themselves, and were quite surprised when it was drawn to their attention. With these learners, only when they were vigorously, repeatedly and insistently confronted with the basic grammatical structures during written and spoken production work, did they begin to gain real communicative confidence. A positive outcome of this approach is that our classroom is now largely, if not entirely, and not always accurately, monolingual in the target language. The learners now use German with me as well as with one another, even in correcting one another's slips, both inside and outside the classroom.

DeKeyser (2003), referring to his earlier work (DeKeyser, 1995) found that
 ... categorical rules were/earned
 much better in an explicit condition ...
 furthermore, that L2 studies that
 have dealt with broader variables
 such as focus on form have provided
 evidence for the advantage of such
 focus compared to mere exposure
 or focus on meaning.., focus on
 form is necessary to make/earners
 consciously notice the abstract
 patterns that are not easily/earned
 implicitly (2003, pp. 332 & 336).


Over the years nothing seems to have changed DeKeyser's views. His experiments show that '[f]or easy and hard rules ... the explicit-deductive group performed best and the explicit-inductive group worst or nearly so on a grammaticality judgement test ... all laboratory studies that involved a direct comparison of explicit and implicit learning conditions show an advantage for explicit learning ..." (DeKeyser, 2003, p. 324)

Ellis (2002, p. 21) makes the point, largely ignored, that focus on meaning is not generative. Since focus on meaning alone does not show learners how to create language beyond the models they read or hear, it is difficult to generate new utterances. An underlying grammatical competence gives learners this opportunity. Of course, an adequate vocabulary is essential as well.

Beale (2002), citing Canale's (1983) concept of communicative competence, refers to the underlying (my emphasis) systems of knowledge and skill required for communication. Among other points, he lists grammatical competence as ".. producing a structured, comprehensible utterance (including grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling)' (2002, p. 12).

Liddicoat (2000-2001) comments that '[l]earning to segment language into component parts requires a focus on the structures of language ...' (2000-2001, p. 14).This does not mean that models, spoken or written, are unnecessary, on the contrary. 'Are you a match's owner?' may be grammatical but conforms to no model of acceptable English.

Grammar, how soon?

To be sure, younger learners are inclined to question learning grammar: 'But Miss, what's the use of this?' For those learners who do not proceed with language learning, the answer is, not much, but then, neither are the fun activities, nor the few phrases they may learn, which are quickly forgotten. At least, well presented paradigms might give learners an insight into how some languages, including their own, are structured. If teachers are prepared to show learners how language works, younger learners will have had the opportunity to learn something of educational value. More travel brochures, more coloured pictures, more Google downloads, do not add up to principled language learning. For those learners who do continue, structure learned early will enable any fluency they do gain to be underpinned by accuracy. Garret (1986) remarks 'until they understand that grammar itself can be meaningful, they cannot use it appropriately to convey their meaning' (1986, p. 144).

It may be that certain grammatical structures are beyond the learners' particular stage of cognitive development (see Doughty & Williams, 1998, p. 213), but even if learners are not ready to grasp the full implications of some paradigms, rote learning them will make them available to be integrated gradually into fluency activities. Canale and Swain (1980) argue that 'it is not clear that second language learners will develop grammatical accuracy if emphasis is not put on this aspect from the start' (1980, p. 11).

Pienemann's research, cited in Dyson (1996, pp. 63-4) suggests that learners will not be able to use a particular (grammatical) structure they have been taught, until they are at the developmental stage of language acquisition where they are ready to use it. Teachers may, and no doubt do, have to decide at which time learners may be asked to learn any given structure or paradigm. However, if delayed too long, learners can become fossilised in their own interlanguage, which will then be difficult if not impossible to change (Doughty & Williams, 1988, p. 247 and p. 255). In that case, better early than late, so that, if sufficiently reinforced and internalised, it will be available when it is needed.

Boss and Jansen (2003) after Pienemann, report that '... explicit teaching of a grammatical structure before the learners were ready proved ineffective' (2003, p. 30). However, they also point out that certain structures take a long time to be acquired. Surely then, it is all the more important to start that learning process as soon as possible, precisely what did not occur with my learners.

Moreover, Birgit Harley (see Doughty & Williams, 1988, pp. 156-176) argues that focus on form can have a lasting impact on the second language proficiency of children as young as seven or eight. Spada and Lightbown (1999) further suggest that learners were not constrained by the kind of linguistic constraints proposed by Pienemann and suggest that the effectiveness of instruction may depend less on the learners' stage of development than on the type of instruction. Language learners, especially monolingual English speakers, need to be able to see quite early that other languages use quite different structural approaches to forming utterances. Garrett (1986) makes the point that '[s]ince English uses word order so much more (and inflectional morphology so much less) than our commonly taught [foreign languages], many students believe not only that English has very little grammar but also, that languages don't really need grammar because meaning resides almost entirely in words' (1986, p. 140). My own anecdotal confirmation of this occurred when introducing--to Year 11 (my emphasis)--the use of the perfect tense in German. Learners found it somewhat alien, and upon being asked whether English had a similar structure, they all insisted that it did not.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

How can our learners decode meaning if they cannot recognise non-English elements such as word order and inflectional morphemes, e.g. Dem Mann gab er das Geld 'He gave the man that/the money'? My experience is that learners interpret this sentence using English word order: 'The man gave him the money'.

The notion of introducing certain forms such as the conditional only in the later years, when learners might be ready, is surely counterproductive. The conditional form, is clearly part of even younger learners' lexico-grammar, as in 'I'd fly to New York, if I had the money' or 'I'd come, if I could finish my homework in time'--also, in polite forms such as 'Could you give me a hand?' or 'Would you help me with my maths?' Given this first language knowledge, it cannot be beyond even early learners' understanding to grasp the conditional as a concept, and see how it works in German. In my view, the lack of constant, repeated practice of forms and lexis in previous years resulted in the unhappy situation my year 11 learners experienced.

Vocabulary

As to vocabulary, if old-fashioned vocabulary lists are to be eschewed, then resources such as 2000 Worter und was man damit machen kann (Schuch, 1971) or Langenscheidt's Grundwortschatz Deutsch (Bock, 1999) may be considered. For the junior learners there are numerous colour picture vocabulary books, some with CDs with hunt and identify games. But if these are also seen as far too decontextualised, then the vocabulary found in whatever textbooks or materials used in the classroom desperately needs to be semanticised and internalised, so that it does become part of the learners' stock and can be used when required.

In an article on repetition of vocabulary knowledge, Webb (2007) claims that '[i]f learners encounter unknown words ten times in context, sizeable learning gains may occur. However, to develop full knowledge of a word, more than ten times may be needed' (2007, pp. 46-65). One wonders if any language teacher would be prepared to undertake such a teaching task. Certainly, this does not seem to have occurred among my learners. A textbook Lesson, once done, was consigned to the past.

Why languages in the school?

Ultimately decisions have to be made on the aims and purposes of language learning in schools. If language learning is to be treated as an important element in the overall education of school learners alongside e.g. mathematics, chemistry and physics, it needs to have a serious educational purpose, even at the earliest levels. Songs, games and cultural stereotypes do not equate to serious educational purpose.

Whether learners continue with any school subject or not, should not be the criterion for the nature of the activities in the classroom, rather it is the educational purpose of any subject that should influence what is taught and learnt, and how. To do otherwise for fear of frightening learners off is to trivialise any field of learning. Applied to language learning, this surely means that the experience of learners at the early levels should have given insights into the how of language learning, not just the what. Liddicoat's paper (2000-2001) describes literacy development and the educational value of second language learning, and he concludes that
 [l]earning a new language teaches
 the learner something about the
 nature of language and languages,
 and this is knowledge which needs to
 be developed by a literate person....
 it forms part of a whole package
 for/earning about language as
 a part of schooling and provides
 additional insights into the nature
 of language that are not available to
 the monolingual learner (2000-2001,
 p. 15).


Language is both rule-governed and creative. However, efforts to be creative without an underlying competence of the how and the why of rules, are akin to playing tennis with neither net or lines, that is to say, mere aimless chaos. Language is a coherent and meaningful system, no less than mathematics, chemistry or physics, and to suggest that learners are not capable of a cognitive approach to language learning is to have a poor opinion of them and to do them a disservice.

Conclusion

If learners have not effectively grasped the what, how and why of the structure and morphology of the target language, and indeed, that of their own language, for which Cleary (2003-4, pp. 30-34) makes a case, but rather have spent the years in not altogether convincing communicative activities, then schools need to ask cui bono? Some schools, it seems, are asking just that.

In educational terms, it is not enough for learners to parrot Ich heisse Laura. Und wie heisst du? 'My name's Laura. And what's your name?', or Ich haben ein klein Bruder [sic] 'I have a little brother'. Learners ought to know not only the rules, but how they work and why they are there. Learners almost immediately forget mimicked phrases, which are devoid of educational content, and everyone's time has been wasted.

It should be stressed again, that the above is not a plea for the learning of grammar for its own sake. Rather, the question which always needs to be asked is grammar for what purpose/s? Thus, the argument offered here is not for learning grammar as a mental exercise--much favoured in times past for the learning of Latin--but grammar as a key to understanding not only a language, but also how a language actually works. Schools are not only there to teach, but also to educate.

Postscript

My 2008 Year 12 cohort gained excellent results in their final German examinations.

Photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski courtesy of stock.xchng

References

Beale, J. 2002. Is communicative language teaching a thing of the past? Babel, 37, 1, 12-16 & 37-38.

Bock, H. 1999. Grundwortschatz Deutsch. Munich: Langenscheidt

Boss, B. & Jansen, L. 2003. Do Our Students Learn What We Teach Them? Babel, 38, 2, 26-30 & 38.

Canale, M. & Swain, M. 1980. Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1, 1-47

Cleary, C. 2003-4. Knowing English Grammar. An Important Aid in Second Language Learning? Babel, 38, 3, 30-34 &38.

DeKeyser, R. M. 1995. Learning second language grammar rules: an experiment with a miniature linguistic system. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 17, 3,379-410.

DeKeyser, R. M. 2003. Implicit and Explicit Learning. In C. Doughty & M. Long (Eds), The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition, 313-348. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Doughty, C. &Williams, J. 1998. Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dyson, B. 1996. The Debate On Form-Focused Instruction: A Teacher's Perspective. ARAL, 19, 2, 59-78.

Ellis, R. 2002. The Place of Grammar Instruction in the Second language Curriculum. In E. Hinkel & S. Fotos (Eds), New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second language Classrooms, 17-33. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fotos, S. 2002. Structure-Based Interactive Tasks for the EFL Grammar Learner. In E. Hinkel & S. Fotos (Eds), 2002. New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second language Classrooms, 135-154. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Garrett, N. 1986. The Problem With Grammar: What Kind Can the Language Learner Use? The Modern Language Journal, 70, 2, 133-148.

Harley, B. 1998. The role of focus-on-form tasks in promoting child L2 acquisition. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds), Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition, 156-176. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hermann, C., McCrorie, M., & Sauer, D. 2001. Zeitgeist. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Klein, W. 1986. Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krashen, S. &TerrelI, T 1983. The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom. Oxford: Pergamon.

Liddicoat, A. J. 2000-2001. Learning a Language. Learning About a Language. Learning to be Literate. Babel, 35, 3, 12-15 & 38.

Littlewood, W. 1984. Foreign and Second Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schuh, H. 1971. 2000 Worter und was man damit machen kann: ein Arbeitsheft fur den Deutschunterricht. Munich: M. Hueber.

Spada, N. & Lightbown, P 1999. Instruction, first language influence and readiness in second language acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 18, 1-22.

Van Els, T, Bongaerts, E, Extra, G., Van Os, C., & Jansen Van Dieten, A-M. 1984. Applied Linguistics and the Learning and Teaching of Foreign Languages. London: Edward Arnold.

Webb, S. A. 2007 The Effects of Repetition on Vocabulary Knowledge. Applied Linguistics, 28, 1, 46-65.

Yaier (Gerry) Cohen, formerly senior lecturer in the School of Modern Languages at Macquarie University, is presently tutor in German literature and language in the International Baccalaureate program at an independent school in Sydney. He can be contacted at yaier@iinet.net.au
COPYRIGHT 2009 Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Cohen, Yaier "Gerry"
Publication:Babel
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:5802
Previous Article:Editorial.
Next Article:Le est de Mars, la est de Venus: understanding and learning French noun genders.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters