Learning a language is not an easy task, more so if it is a language so different from one’s mother tongue. Perhaps the most challenging part about language acquisition is learning grammar. However, there are two approaches to grammar which are highly recommended and commonly employed by educators: one is the formal approach, and the other is the functional approach.
In teaching English orthography, or the alphabetical spelling system used in the English language (Wikipedia), using the formal approach seems to be the best choice, in particular, the application of connectionism theory. Phonology and phonetics in grammar have very specific rules, and learning them is not easy. However, according to connectionism, repeated exposure to the same material can facilitate learning. Man’s neural networks is composed of three kinds of nets: the input, the output, and the hidden (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). The method of backpropagation, wherein a “training set” or material is used repeatedly and have it constantly adjusted in order to get the desired output until such time that the net is able to produce the desired output for every input in the training set (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). It was also suggested that memebers of the training set may also learn to generalize and apply the same rules on inputs and outputs which are not in the training set. These results pose a positive encouragement to English grammar learners, that this formal approcah to grammar will help improve their speaking skills.
As opposed to the rather technical and scientific formal approach, functional approach focuses on combining the logical approach and the method of simply using the language as it is (busyteacher.org). Students can be asked to write biographies about celebrities they admire and have them contrast simple past and present perfect tenses. Using celebrities’ photos is also effective in using the comparative and superlative degrees of adjectives. Singing songs that uses several tenses can make the students more familiar with the different tenses of the verb and embed them in their minds In teaching the past perfect tense, in particular, students can use a timeline and have them discuss the events using the past perfect tense. Similarly, a “story stick” will have every student contribute a line to the story and discuss the grammatical errors committed (busyteacher.org). If the students are showing signs of boredom, passing a ball around and having every student give the simple past of regular and irregular verbs may prove effective in waking them up (busyteacher.org). In general, using real life situations is the best way to teach grammar as students are able to apply the rules and appreciate how it is useful for them (busyteacher.org).
Busy Teacher. Busy Teacher. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.
“Connectionism.” Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.
“English Orthography.” Wikipedia. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.
Pesce, Claude. “5 New Fun Ways to Teach Grammar to ESL Students.” Busy Teacher. 2014.
Web. 20 Nov. 2014.