Grammar nazis?


#1

[color=#0000FF]Mod’s note: This was split from [url=http://tw.forumosa.com/t/vindictive-students-normal-part-of-system/55652/282 thread.[/url][/color]

[quote]‘Taiwan’ spends way too much time not only writing (sometimes even cursive, which blows my mind), but memorizing needless english expressions and big words that they’re only going to hear in movies and books, usually. That’s why university-ish students here sound like morons when they use words like therefore without getting their verb tense correct. But I guess if you use ‘therefore’ in regular conversation you sound like a moron already.

How about learning things like pronouns and verbs from the start? They learn “I’m fine and you” all of this crap before they even learn I, you, he, she, it, we, they to start. It’s backwards from the very beginning here, there’s no foundation. I do what I can to reverse it but as we all know, many textbooks we’re forced to teach, teach very little. I’d love to meet some of the losers who write these books.

I usually spend 15-20 mins at the beginning of each class letting my students speak…talking about their weekend, or a movie they saw, or whatever, and just try to pick up on what’s peaking their interest from there. Because if they’re not speaking conversational english everyday, the whole exercise is futile.[/quote]

I agree with most of your post except the part about students spending too much time on writing here. Actually they don’t. Their high school exams are focused around multiple choice questions and not essay writing or any other kind of writing. Writing is a low priority here with the main focus like you say being memorization of vocab & grammar. Unfortunately there are too many teachers here that are also grammar nazis. There is no correct way to speak English. English is for communication of ideas and as long as you can do that it should not matter whether they say “isn’t it” or “init”.
Grammar in unimportant as long as the communication was successful in what it was trying to achieve. Taiwan is unfortunate in having too many Chinese teacher grammar nazis followed by a blitz of foreigner grammar nazis to finish them off. :2cents:


#2

[quote=“fenlander”]I agree with most of your post except that the part about students spending too much time on writing here. Actually they don’t. Their high school exams are focused around multiple choice questions and not essay writing or any other kind of writing. Writing is a low priority here with the main focus like you say being memorization of vocab & grammar. Unfortunately there are too many teachers here that are also grammar nazis. There is no correct way to speak English. English is for communication of ideas and as long as you can do that it should not matter whether they say “isn’t it” or “init”.
Grammar in unimportant as long as the communication was successful in what it was trying to achieve. Taiwan is unfortunate in having too many Chinese teacher grammar nazis followed by a blitz of foreigner grammar nazis to finish them off. :2cents:[/quote]

I don’t quite follow your logic.

Wouldn’t it depend upon what kind of writing students are preparing for? If your students plan to study abroad then they aren’t going to get though their IELTS or TOEFL without a good working knowledge of the grammar expected on those tests. Also, could it not be argued that people tend to write as they speak? The habits they pick up when speaking transfer to their written work.

In an ideal world it would be great to say to your students ‘use what English you want, as long as people understand then it’s all cool’, but they aren’t going to get very far in the real world.


#3

It doesn’t matter how much grammar they know, they won’t get through TOEFL or IELTS if they can’t form a paragraph and can’t organize their thoughts in a coherent manner. “You can’t have a credit card because you’re this is Taipei and my grandmother cleaned her car on Friday and her car is very nice but Hualien has good apples so you can’t have a credit card” might be perfectly acceptable in Taiwan, and indeed very effective at driving foreigners up the wall and out of the bank, but won’t cut much ice at TOEFL time.

Students don’t get good writing skills by multi choice tests and ‘fill in the blanks’; believe it or not one only gets decent writing skills by actually writing.


#4

[quote=“ice raven”]It doesn’t matter how much grammar they know, they won’t get through TOEFL or IELTS if they can’t form a paragraph and can’t organize their thoughts in a coherent manner. “You can’t have a credit card because you’re this is Taipei and my grandmother cleaned her car on Friday and her car is very nice but Hualian has good apples so you can’t have a credit card” might be perfectly acceptable in Taiwan, and indeed very effective at driving foreigners up the wall and out of the bank, but won’t cut much ice at TOEFL time.

Students don’t get good writing skills by multi choice tests and ‘fill in the blanks’; believe it or not one only gets decent writing skills by actually writing.[/quote]

never a truer word spoke sir. :thumbsup:


#5

They don’t know how to construct English paragraphs because they don’t read English books and journals because their grammar and vocabulary is not sufficient to be able to do this …


#6

[quote=“tomthorne”][quote=“fenlander”]I agree with most of your post except that the part about students spending too much time on writing here. Actually they don’t. Their high school exams are focused around multiple choice questions and not essay writing or any other kind of writing. Writing is a low priority here with the main focus like you say being memorization of vocab & grammar. Unfortunately there are too many teachers here that are also grammar nazis. There is no correct way to speak English. English is for communication of ideas and as long as you can do that it should not matter whether they say “isn’t it” or “init”.
Grammar in unimportant as long as the communication was successful in what it was trying to achieve. Taiwan is unfortunate in having too many Chinese teacher grammar nazis followed by a blitz of foreigner grammar nazis to finish them off. :2cents:[/quote]

I don’t quite follow your logic.

Wouldn’t it depend upon what kind of writing students are preparing for? If your students plan to study abroad then they aren’t going to get though their IELTS or TOEFL without a good working knowledge of the grammar expected on those tests. Also, could it not be argued that people tend to write as they speak? The habits they pick up when speaking transfer to their written work.

In an ideal world it would be great to say to your students ‘use what English you want, as long as people understand then it’s all cool’, but they aren’t going to get very far in the real world.[/quote]
Yes they need to speak I have no argument there.

I never learned any grammar as a native speaker but can easily do IELTS. The point is you do not need to teach grammar you need to teach writing and give plenty of comprehensible input. When they receive much comprehensible input they naturally learn grammar and do not need exercises to learn it. In fact most students learn more from communicating to each other what needs to be done in the exercise than actually doing the exercise itself.
When I taught IELTS in Taiwan I had so called teaching managers telling me I was giving too much comprehensible input and not giving enough grammar exercises including multiple choice. The mind really boggles when some of these guys had Delta degrees lol I don’t even have a teaching certificate in fact I graduated in science and still knew that comprehensible input is basic. I read about Krashen and other famous theories and my classes were one of the most popular but I was the least qualified lol. My students got high grades and improved quickly while hardly studying grammar at all. The writing skills I taught were mainly about essay structure etc. I gave them model essays to help improve their overall writing skill.
I got results by using Krashen’s way and not teaching grammar.

p.s.

But I did make sure that the students understood what I was doing and why I was doing it.


#7

Thanks Fenlander, I’ll check them out.

But Buttercup,

[quote]
They don’t know how to construct English paragraphs because they don’t read English books and journals because their grammar and vocabulary is not sufficient to be able to do this …[/quote]

I agree with the first part to some degree, but not really the second, as it’s taught endlessly here. That’s all that’s taught, vocabulary and grammar, from kindy to finishing high school.

Learning a language should involve both passive input, listening and reading, and productive output, being writing and speaking. It should be learned in a balanced way, for many reasons. The problem here is that it’s not, as you’re well aware, resulting in large numbers of students who can pass a multi-choice Taiwan test but not use English to do anything else.


#8

[quote=“ice raven”]Thanks Fenlander, I’ll check them out.

But Buttercup,

[quote]
They don’t know how to construct English paragraphs because they don’t read English books and journals because their grammar and vocabulary is not sufficient to be able to do this …[/quote]

I agree with the first part to some degree, but not really the second, as it’s taught endlessly here. That’s all that’s taught, vocabulary and grammar, from kindy to finishing high school.

Learning a language should involve both passive input, listening and reading, and productive output, being writing and speaking. It should be learned in a balanced way, for many reasons. The problem here is that it’s not, as you’re well aware, resulting in large numbers of students who can pass a multi-choice Taiwan test but not use English to do anything else.[/quote]

It’s taught, but it isn’t learned because their qualified teachers don’t speak English, and their native speaking teachers aren’t qualified, for the large part. The solution is adequate language teaching, not less language teaching.


#9

[quote=“Buttercup”][quote=“ice raven”]Thanks Fenlander, I’ll check them out.

But Buttercup,

[quote]
They don’t know how to construct English paragraphs because they don’t read English books and journals because their grammar and vocabulary is not sufficient to be able to do this …[/quote]

I agree with the first part to some degree, but not really the second, as it’s taught endlessly here. That’s all that’s taught, vocabulary and grammar, from kindy to finishing high school.

Learning a language should involve both passive input, listening and reading, and productive output, being writing and speaking. It should be learned in a balanced way, for many reasons. The problem here is that it’s not, as you’re well aware, resulting in large numbers of students who can pass a multi-choice Taiwan test but not use English to do anything else.[/quote]

It’s taught, but it isn’t learned because their qualified teachers don’t speak English, and their native speaking teachers aren’t qualified, for the large part. The solution is adequate language teaching, not less language teaching.[/quote]
Less teaching is what is required not more. God help Taiwan if they have any more language schools lol

As for qualified teachers no I disagree. I recommend my students to go and study at global village and find the least qualified teachers they can. I do tell them to make sure the material that they are soaking up is not too far above their level. In other words to make sure they get comprehensible input at Krashen + 1 level, which is difficult to judge but can be done. Importantly the teacher must talk talk talk at a level that is mostly comprehensible. As long as they get plenty of that and lots of communicative exercises it is all good. I do tell them to avoid grammar Nazi teachers at all costs; those teachers are usually the qualified ones. Sometimes the best teachers are the ones that don’t teach much but in fact are just good at keeping the level of the class slightly higher than the student. but is still comprehensible.

The last thing these people need is more grammar. People and schools that advocate more grammar are part of the problem not the solution. There is a role for some very minimal grammar teaching that is all. God help these people if after 10 years of grammar lessons they are being subject to even more grammar lessons by foreign grammar Nazis.


#10

Krashen for those interested and have not heard of him.

http://www.ielts-taiwan.com/Dr%20Stephen%20Krashen.pdf


#11

[quote=“fenlander”]

Less teaching is what is required not more. God help Taiwan if they have any more language schools lol

As for qualified teachers no I disagree. I recommend my students to go and study at global village and find the least qualified teachers they can. I do tell them to make sure the material that they are soaking up is not too far above their level. In other words to make sure they get comprehensible input at Krashen + 1 level, which is difficult to judge but can be done. Importantly the teacher must talk talk talk at a level that is mostly comprehensible. As long as they get plenty of that and lots of communicative exercises it is all good. I do tell them to avoid grammar nazi teachers at all costs; those teachers are usually the qualified ones. Sometimes the best teachers are the ones that don’t teach much but in fact are just good at keeping the level of the class slightly higher than the student. but still comprehensible. I tell my students that they don’t really need a teacher to learn the language at all. Although the teacher can be useful for feedback and making classes more interesting and enjoyable! :2cents:

The last thing these people need is more grammar. People and schools that advocate more grammar are part of the problem not the solution. There is a role for some very minimal grammar teaching that is all. God help these people if after 10 years of grammar lessons they are being subject to even more grammar lessons by foreign grammar nazis.[/quote]

You completely misunderstand my very short post. I understand your viewpoint - it’s simply a variant of what all untrained teachers say. Honestly. I’ve worked in teacher training and publishing, and we market to everybody.

Students in Taiwan cannot use English grammar (in that they do not have the ability to construct meaningful sentences and paragraphs) primarily because their L1 is Chinese. They simply have more to learn than learners of other languages do, in the same way that English speakers are going to struggle less with Spanish than Thai. They are also taught decontextualised ‘grammar’ by local teachers, and then taught by clueless foreign teachers that they ‘learn by chatting and watching movies’.

Students lap up anything ‘different’, anything easy, and anything that suggests a ‘new method’. Psychologically, it validates their early failures to engage with their study.

Teachers make themselves irrelevant, to be honest.


#12

In your opinion BC, after they have dealt with Chinese teachers of English are untrained foreign teachers so much worse or better?

I’d like to hear your views on that.


#13

I don’t think we were in disagreement, fenlander.

However, I think my LAD must be faulty because I had loads of input when I lived in Taiwan but my Mandarin is still rubbish. :smiley:

Seriously, Krashen is fantastic, although in my opinion some output is required when learning a language. I suppose my point is there is no single method of teaching that is the be all and end all for every student in every situation. Some people do find it useful to have things explained to them explicitly, and certainly if a student asked me to explain a point of grammar I wouldn’t refuse. Horses for courses, innit?


#14

[quote=“tomthorne”]I don’t think we were in disagreement, fenlander.

However, I think my LAD must be faulty because I had loads of input when I lived in Taiwan but my Mandarin is still rubbish. :smiley:

Seriously, Krashen is fantastic, although in my opinion some output is required when learning a language. I suppose my point is there is no single method of teaching that is the be all and end all for every student in every situation. Some people do find it useful to have things explained to them explicitly, and certainly if a student asked me to explain a point of grammar I wouldn’t refuse. Horses for courses, innit?[/quote]
Yep totally agree. I am a Krashen nut hugger like Froch in our boxing discussions lol

Yeah I agree there is definitely a place for grammar just not as much as they seem to get here. Anyway I will leave it up to the experts as I only follow what is suggested to me by a friend in a high place (no not God) ha

All I know is that by following Krashen I got results and saw far more improvement than before I saw the light.

I was a right grammar nazi a few years back and then realized no matter how much effort I put in results were feeble. Whereas following the Krashen way I got more results for about 25% of the effort. Qualified or not :smiley:


#15

[quote=“fenlander”][quote=“tomthorne”]I don’t think we were in disagreement, fenlander.

However, I think my LAD must be faulty because I had loads of input when I lived in Taiwan but my Mandarin is still rubbish. :smiley:

Seriously, Krashen is fantastic, although in my opinion some output is required when learning a language. I suppose my point is there is no single method of teaching that is the be all and end all for every student in every situation. Some people do find it useful to have things explained to them explicitly, and certainly if a student asked me to explain a point of grammar I wouldn’t refuse. Horses for courses, innit?[/quote]
Yep totally agree. I am a Krashen nut hugger like Froch in our boxing discussions lol

Yeah I agree there is definitely a place for grammar just not as much as they seem to get here. Anyway I will leave it up to the experts as I only follow what is suggested to me by a friend in a high place (no not God) ha

All I know is that by following Krashen I got results and saw far more improvement than before I saw the light.

I was a right grammar nazi a few years back and then realized no matter how much effort I put in results were feeble. Whereas following the Krashen way I got more results for about 25% of the effort. Qualified or not :smiley:[/quote]

I reckon Krashen could give Froch a run for his money, he’s supposed to be hard as nails.

Read page 12 of Skehan’s book for some research into weaknesses in immersion methods and evidence that a focus on input could result in strong receptive but weak productive skills.

books.google.com/books?id=Yzdl3p … q=&f=false


#16

[quote=“tomthorne”][quote=“fenlander”][quote=“tomthorne”]I don’t think we were in disagreement, fenlander.

However, I think my LAD must be faulty because I had loads of input when I lived in Taiwan but my Mandarin is still rubbish. :smiley:

Seriously, Krashen is fantastic, although in my opinion some output is required when learning a language. I suppose my point is there is no single method of teaching that is the be all and end all for every student in every situation. Some people do find it useful to have things explained to them explicitly, and certainly if a student asked me to explain a point of grammar I wouldn’t refuse. Horses for courses, innit?[/quote]
Yep totally agree. I am a Krashen nut hugger like Froch in our boxing discussions lol

Yeah I agree there is definitely a place for grammar just not as much as they seem to get here. Anyway I will leave it up to the experts as I only follow what is suggested to me by a friend in a high place (no not God) ha

All I know is that by following Krashen I got results and saw far more improvement than before I saw the light.

I was a right grammar nazi a few years back and then realized no matter how much effort I put in results were feeble. Whereas following the Krashen way I got more results for about 25% of the effort. Qualified or not :smiley:[/quote]

I reckon Krashen could give Froch a run for his money, he’s supposed to be hard as nails.

Read page 12 of Skehan’s book for some research into weaknesses in immersion methods and evidence that a focus on input could result in strong receptive but weak productive skills.

books.google.com/books?id=Yzdl3p … q=&f=false[/quote]
Thanks for the link. It will take me a while to comprehend that lol :roflmao:

What are your strategies for teaching Tom? For adults at around the IELTS level 4-7 ?
Obviously not too much detail but I am very interested to know and always willing to give new methods a try. :thumbsup:


#17

I’m not teaching at the moment, but I think I taught pretty much the same way as you do Fen.

As a number of much smarter forumosans than me have pointed out on other threads, the problem is teaching well isn’t enough. I’d guess that only the top 10% of students are ever going to get to a high level of English with 3 or 4 hours of tuition a week (and, to be honest, that 10% probably aren’t attending a bushiban), regardless of how English only and communicative language the classroom is or how good the input is. There just simply isn’t enough input.

The trick is to motivate the students to somehow use English outside the classroom, whilst providing strategies in the classroom that can help them to cope outside. Your man Krashen is well into getting students to read independently, which is fantastic in theory but in reality not many Taiwanese students do it (and, again, those who do probably don’t bother attending bushibans).


#18

Grammar-translation methods do not work. Okay, let me clarify: GT methods are not the most efficient for developing communicative skills (listening, speaking). This should be a no-brainer. We’ve known this from the 1960s that if you want to learn how to communicate you must communicate. Years ago, I taught for Hess. The kids learned how to read and write fairly well. But after they said “How are you?” --they were often stuck. They were also stuck if a native speaker strayed off the dialogue they had memorized. Of course their communicative skills were weak! They never learned any.

A silent period from students is natural. Krashen emphasizes input, but it is natural for most classes that want their students to communicate that students produce output. Someone’s output moves the conversation along and produces more input after all. So you may ask in a beginner class: “How many of you like cats??” and count hands raised. What you don’t do, in a beginner class, is to call upon one of the students and ask: “Li, why do you like cats?” and give your best understanding encouraging teacher look while Li stutters and stammers and tries to do something that is above her ability.

Krashen certainly emphasizes input and it is hard to fault him here. Does a teacher improve his/her students by value-adding grammar instruction? Hard to say. Maybe. Maybe not. You’d need more information about the students and the grammar point in question. Pseudo-trained teachers don’t carefully evaluate both of these important points. They too often blindly follow their own training, and consider their own background to be the path, the only path, for all their own students to follow. They loved grammar and want you to love grammar too. If you don’t, or can’t speak the week’s grammar point perfectly (or worse two month’s ago grammar point!)–it is your fault. Blaming the student is sad, sad, sad.

If you are talking about English grammar using English–the students are getting lots of comprehensible input. Since teachers have to talk about something during class, grammar is at least as good a subject as say basket-weaving (as long as the teacher does not heavily test grammar on exams and penalize students for missing exceptions).

A friend of mine who is an English teacher asked me if he should stop correcting his Chinese wife (who has lived in the U.S. for years) when she omits articles. I smiled and said “yes”–(and thought even if it wasnt good pedagogical practice–it’d be a good marital one!). He told me his wife was relieved and said something like “Thank God!”. Sometimes we teachers can be pretty stupid, eh?

Don’t be a grammar nazi. Don’t be an anything nazi.


#19

[quote=“Buttercup”][quote=“fenlander”]

Less teaching is what is required not more. God help Taiwan if they have any more language schools lol

As for qualified teachers no I disagree. I recommend my students to go and study at global village and find the least qualified teachers they can. I do tell them to make sure the material that they are soaking up is not too far above their level. In other words to make sure they get comprehensible input at Krashen + 1 level, which is difficult to judge but can be done. Importantly the teacher must talk talk talk at a level that is mostly comprehensible. As long as they get plenty of that and lots of communicative exercises it is all good. I do tell them to avoid grammar nazi teachers at all costs; those teachers are usually the qualified ones. Sometimes the best teachers are the ones that don’t teach much but in fact are just good at keeping the level of the class slightly higher than the student. but still comprehensible. I tell my students that they don’t really need a teacher to learn the language at all. Although the teacher can be useful for feedback and making classes more interesting and enjoyable! :2cents:

The last thing these people need is more grammar. People and schools that advocate more grammar are part of the problem not the solution. There is a role for some very minimal grammar teaching that is all. God help these people if after 10 years of grammar lessons they are being subject to even more grammar lessons by foreign grammar nazis.[/quote]

You completely misunderstand my very short post. I understand your viewpoint - it’s simply a variant of what all untrained teachers say. Honestly. I’ve worked in teacher training and publishing, and we market to everybody.

Students in Taiwan cannot use English grammar (in that they do not have the ability to construct meaningful sentences and paragraphs) primarily because their L1 is Chinese. They simply have more to learn than learners of other languages do, in the same way that English speakers are going to struggle less with Spanish than Thai. They are also taught decontextualised ‘grammar’ by local teachers, and then taught by clueless foreign teachers that they ‘learn by chatting and watching movies’.

Students lap up anything ‘different’, anything easy, and anything that suggests a ‘new method’. Psychologically, it validates their early failures to engage with their study.

Teachers make themselves irrelevant, to be honest.[/quote]

                 ***

I understand Fenlander and agree with him.

It is irrelevant, Buttercup (and not clearly proven) that Chinese must “work harder” to learn English because their L1 is so different. If you look at the U.S. Department of State language learning time guidelines–the longer times are invariably for languages with different writing scripts --so yes, it will take longer for an American to learn Chinese than Spanish. It will take longer for an American or Chinese to learn Arabic too because of the writing system. I’ve heard this myth: that German is easier for English speakers than Spanish because German is very similar to English. Ha. Ha. I’m sure you don’t think this, Buttercup (or do you??). If you don’t, then you should reassess how the similarity of the L1 and L2 is so important.

There are many variables in language learning. Perhaps L1 and L2 similarity may be a factor, but I’d suspect it would be a small one and it would depend. German is easier to learn in this way, much harder in this other area. Spanish is easier to learn in this area, much harder in this other area. This would be the viewpoint of most linguists. Since native children learn all L1 languages within an equal amount of time there isn’t a language that is harder than another. Similarity? Try to speak Black English. It is very similar to Standard English. I can understand it. But I cannot speak it. Buttercup, if similarity is such a key factor, than Black English should be a snap for me to pickup–and it is not. Stephen Pinker mentions how many gifted mimics and comedians cannot do Black English convincingly. So much for L1 and L2 similarity.

Interestingly, you both blame students “Psychologically, it validates their early failures to engage with their study.” while also blaming teachers who both teach grammar and stress input: “They are also taught decontextualised ‘grammar’ by local teachers, and then taught by clueless foreign teachers that they ‘learn by chatting and watching movies’”

Your criticism here seems too much like a shotgun approach. We suck. Okay, I get it. We all suck (except for you).


#20

Well, I believe the ‘myth’, Bled. Error analysis research shows that over 50% of errors with Chinese speakers are interference errors. This drops to 3% for Spanish speakers.

OK, it’s difficult to determine whether these errors are the result of transfer or intralingual process, and I don’t believe the 3% figure is accurate (other research puts it closer to 30% for Spanish and German speakers). However, pretty much everybody involved in SLA research thinks that L1 interference - either negative or positive transfer - has a significant impact on L2 acquisition and this is particularly noticable with Chinese speakers.