"Laowai budong wenfa" - Foreigners cannot understand grammar

How many times have you guys heard somebody say this? I seem to hear this a lot recently as a sorry excuse for not being able to properly construct a sentence. It is straight /facepalm for me every time I hear it.

I think people who abuse the virgule or slash (/) may have trouble with grammar. What is a "straight /facepalm "? Is this slash read as an and, or an or, an and/or, divided by, or per? Is that a straightpalm or facepalm? If so, how do these differ? Or is it a facepalm or straight, in which case, what’s a straight? :ponder:

Thanks for pointing that out. I also loved how you neglected to question what “facepalm” meant.

This absurd belief has its origins in the way many Taiwanese study English-- translation and detailed analysis of grammatical rules. Foreign teachers more often take a communicative approach to teaching the language. This can lead to the mistaken (and absurd) notion that native English speakers don’t understand the grammar of their own language. When I encounter this strange point of view, I usually suggest that Taiwan export their English geniuses to English-speaking countries to teach us as we obviously need the help. That usually shuts them up.

Actually, in general, native speakers naturally don’t quite understand the grammar of their native language, they don’t necessary know the underlying rules, so much their grammar appears natural to them. So obvious we don’t know it.

It takes experience in teaching foreigners to know your own language’s grammar.

This is a facepalm.

[quote=“JFP”]
It takes experience in teaching foreigners to know your own language’s grammar.[/quote]

but I’ll still know it better than you on so many levels, just like you know French grammar better than I do.

I have known a French grandma. that was cool.

I became much more aware of English grammar rules when I studied my first foreign language, French.

Agreed, because it’s much more effective in learning a language than teaching grammar rules like they were mathematical formulas. Only speaking from my own language learning experiences, I made much better progress immersing myself in the target language than studying it’s rules. Living in Miami, I was fairly conversational in Spanish without ever studying a single rule.

I’ve never heard this. Indeed, the Chinese like to claim that the Chinese language has no grammar.

Actually, in general, native speakers naturally don’t quite understand the grammar of their native language, they don’t necessary know the underlying rules, so much their grammar appears natural to them. So obvious we don’t know it.

It takes experience in teaching foreigners to know your own language’s grammar.[/quote]

I agree that if you have never taught her own language you probably do not know the rules very well. Despite that a non-native teacher unless having lived abroad cannot explain many rules either.

Not to mention that despite some people’s belief that English is based on rules, the English language often deviates from those rules. In many cases one cannot know the correct English usage without actually having used that construct before.

I became much more aware of English grammar rules when I studied my first foreign language, French.

Agreed, because it’s much more effective in learning a language than teaching grammar rules like they were mathematical formulas. Only speaking from my own language learning experiences, I made much better progress immersing myself in the target language than studying it’s rules. Living in Miami, I was fairly conversational in Spanish without ever studying a single rule.[/quote]

And don’t forget how much of the English language does not follow the rules anyways!

Actually, in general, native speakers naturally don’t quite understand the grammar of their native language, they don’t necessary know the underlying rules, so much their grammar appears natural to them. So obvious we don’t know it.

It takes experience in teaching foreigners to know your own language’s grammar.[/quote]

I agree that if you have never taught her own language you probably do not know the rules very well. Despite that a non-native teacher unless having lived abroad cannot explain many rules either.

Not to mention that despite some people’s belief that English is based on rules, the English language often deviates from those rules. In many cases one cannot know the correct English usage without actually having used that construct before.[/quote]

Yes, yesterday I was trying to explain seasoning to my wife. As in ‘add the salt and pepper’. Add seasoning. I then had to tell her it wasn’t a verb but I couldn’t explain what is was clearly although I believe it’s a noun in this case.

Actually, in general, native speakers naturally don’t quite understand the grammar of their native language, they don’t necessary know the underlying rules, so much their grammar appears natural to them. So obvious we don’t know it.

It takes experience in teaching foreigners to know your own language’s grammar.[/quote]

I think I know what you mean, but the way you express it isn’t correct. “Don’t quite understand?” What is understanding if it isn’t the correct, fluent application of those rules? I think what you mean is that native speakers often don’t know-- or can’t always recall-- the names of grammar terms. However, if given an example of a structure, a native speaker should be able to rattle off numerous correct examples of it.

The “foreigners don’t understand grammar” concept is a product of the Taiwanese teaching methods. Language classes led by Taiwanese teachers usually consist of reciting of, and detailed explanation of, rules and terms-- in Chinese-- as well as choral chanting and drills. This way may help with local exams, but much less with actual communicative ability. Foreign teacher led classes seldom take this form and we may be somewhat puzzled by questions that more closely resemble math formulae than attempts to communicate in the real language. Hence, locals conclude we don’t “understand” the grammar of our mother tongue.

Should this be in the “Teaching Engrish” forum?

[color=#008000]mod: very astute of you, Mr Cowboy. and Voila![/color]

I thought this was about locals not understanding things you are saying to them and vice-versa.

My usual response…“Wo bujidau”…works like a charm…like garlic on a vampire.

Sounds like the usual toss-up over Brits and their problem with “Fixing a drink” and “Making a bed”…they never get over those idioms.

I’ve never heard this. Indeed, the Chinese like to claim that the Chinese language has no grammar.[/quote]

This. I’m always having people tell me Chinese has no grammar. What it really means is that they weren’t taught Chinese grammar formally, as they are taught English grammar.

I figured you meant one of these.

Like Chris, I’ve NEVER heard this, and I’ve been here quite a long time. As he and Fortigurn note, they instead usually say Chinese doesn’t have grammar.

When locals point out weaknesses in the acquisition of Mandarin by foreigners, it usually relates to pronunciation, especially poor or missing tones.

A native speaker of a language has perfect tacit knowledge of that language’s grammar (of the dialect he/she speaks, not necessarily of what is considered the standard). This just means the person does in fact know the grammar, but will not be able to explain it, unless he has taken grammar classes in English or another language. For example, if you’ve taken Spanish classes at university, and they were taught the way they usually are, you will know what a past participle is, or a definite article (in both Spanish and English), whereas a native speaker of English might not know. Nevertheless the native speaker of English will use past participles and definite articles correctly.

It’s the same with me and French. I studied French grammar in university, and I know it very well on a conscious level. I can list and explain the 9 situations in which you use ‘c’est’ as opposed to ‘il est’, for example. On a test, I would never make a mistake with that. A native speaker of French can’t consciously explain those rules, but when speaking he will never make a mistake with that structure, whereas when speaking I certainly will. A native speaker of French tacitly knows those rules, but probably can’t explain them; I, a non-native speaker of French, can explain the rules, but do not ‘know’ them 100% tacitly, and so will make mistakes.

It’s the same with any language: if you haven’t studied grammar, you won’t be able to explain the grammar of that language. You may still know the grammar, however. If you can use the structure in question correctly, you know the grammar; whether you can explain it is a different matter.

I figured you meant one of these.
[/quote]

And the / <- slash was net-speak for ‘This is an action I am doing’.

e.g.

/sleeping.

/hits you.

/jumps up and down.

It’s from IRC chatrooms. The code used to be ’ /me action ’ for an action, but it got improved so just the ‘/’ works now.

…and I just proved I had no life as a teenager.

I know my language’s grammar. What they tend to mean is that most waiguoren can’t explain it to them in Chinese, which is what they want.

Well, why don’t they say that instead of ‘You lot can’t speak grammar’ ?

Oh right, their English ain’t too good… Damn those Lost in Translation moments :unamused:

Something I always think about Chinese speakers: For a culture which avoids direct confrontation, they sure are bloody direct about a LOT of things other people might find offensive…