Teaching English Grammar to Beginners : A Way to Speak Accurately Some people say that learning foreign language should be an activity in which the learners try to use that language as often as possible, not only try to know about that language which means the learners only try to understand the grammar. They believe that the most important thing in learning foreign language is that the learners can speak , communicate or delivers their ideas to other people, without considering or minding whether in their communication they use grammatically- good utterences or not.
This belief is based on the fact that other people can understand the idea we communicate or deliver although we use grammatically-incorrect utterances. The legendary Tarzan , who lived in the jungle and never encountered with any human beings, for instance, could also deliver his ideas through totally gramatically incorrect utterances because he only used his yells, shouts,gestures and body language. He did not care of any grammatical rules to express his idea.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
What we can say from this illustration is that we can still deliver our idea without minding the grammar rules of the language we use, even if we use very bad grammar. This idea can be right in the case of encouraging the learners to speak and to use English, but in other cases it can be wrong. It is indeed important to make other people understand the ideas we deliver although we deliver it without using correct grammar. But it is much more important to make the people we communicate with grasp and understand our ideas clearly and well.
In asking someone’s name for example, we can only say ” Name ? ” , and the one we are talking to can possibly understand the meaning of our question. The question can mean : What’s your name ? , May I know your name ? or Can you tell me your name,please ? . She or he can spontaneously replies by telling us her or his name. But it will be ambigious if there is other questions such as ” Apple ? ” . It is rather difficult to understand what the meaning of the question is, because this question can have various meanings, such as: Is it an apple? Is it your apple ? , Do you like this apple ? and so on. This questions can make miscommunication, because the one we talk to can get confused in understanding our qusetion. In this case, it will be better if the beginners perceive the patterns and the regularities in English so that they can deliver not only understandable but also good or accurate ideas. As an English teacher in an Elementary School, I often find students with good performance in speaking, but they have a lof of mistakes in grammar.
It is very difficult to overcome if they do not try to improve it by themselves. If they have a partner to improve it, it is good, but if they do not, it will take time to be improved. Every language has its own grammatical rules which is different from one another. Indonesian and English for instance, both of them are different to each other in using the time-pattern. People say that English is a time-based language, in which every changes in time signal changes the form of the tenses. While Indonesian does not pay much attention on the time changes.
It is very important for the beginners to be aware of and to know a such kind of rule. As some experts say that actually language is a habit. , which means that if we use the language as often as possible, like our daily activities, we can make it our habit. It can happens in learning grammar. As early as possible the beginners must know and try to use some grammar patterns so that those patterns become parts of their habit in using the language. Therefore, it is important to encourage the young learners to learn grammar.
The sooner they understand grammar, the better utterances or sentences they can produce, and in turn, the easier they can communicate their ideas clearly and accurately. In this case, they can make the language both as a usage and as a habit. But based on the fact that in learning a foreign language, the beginners should not be introduced with complicated rules, in order to keep their courage to use the language with good and correct grammar, there are some principles which must be remembered. Some of those principles are:
First: Use suitable learning material. English is rich of rules. Those rules range from the simplest to the most complicated ones. But actually there is not an easy grammar rule in English. Even the rule about the articles ( a, an , the), which people think as the simplest rule in English, is actually not as easy as they think. Teaching grammar to the beginners needs the teachers to use suitable learning load. Teachers must remember two things, which are; first, the teachers must try to simplify, and even sometimes over simplify, the grammar for the beginners.
In this case the teachers must try to make the grammar easy to be understood by the beginners. If the grammar rules they are teaching are too difficult for the beginners, the teachers must make them simpler . For example: the use of That ,This,These and Those. The teacher can use these four words in the daily communication while explaining the name of things around the classroom, for example: this is a blackboard, that is a window, this is a door, these are books, those are pencils,etc. In this case the teachers do not need to give deep explaination about This, That, Those and These.
The learners are only expected to imitate to produce the understandable expression using those words. Second, the teachers must help the beginners to be able to see and to observe the patterns in the language. The more often the learners have exercises and activities dealing with a certain rule, the better ability to recognize the garmmar rule they have. It can also gradualy raise the learners’ awareness of the patterns and rules of the language . Therefore, the learning material must also be raised step by step, based on the learners’ development.
At the beginning the teachers can give them the simplest and the most commonly used grammar rule, for example about the use of be And from this stage, after the learners can understand and use that grammar rule well, the load of the material can be raised step by step. But teachers must always remember to give the beginners the suitable materials based on their grammar awareness growth, unless they kill the beginners’ eagerness to learn. Second: Do replanting The word replanting reminds us on an activity to plant something which is done again and over again.
This method needs the teachers to explain or review some grammar rules for several times in order to make the learners be used to using those grammar rules. At the beginning of the learning activities, of course, the beginners do not know or realize a grammar item they have or learn. Based on this fact, in order to help the beginners see and understand the grammar rules, the teachers must reintroduce some grammar points regularly or at any regular intervals. It can be called replanting. This method can encourage the leaners to use the grammar points they observe and learn in their daily communication.
For example in the use of What, for the first time the teacher can use it for asking someone’s name : What is your name ? , What is your full name ? , What is your last name? , etc. After that they can use it for asking someone’s address, nationality, job,and so on. If the learners can observe that there is a pattern in using the questions word What , they can try to use it in their daily communication. Third: Examples first, The patterns later Examples have an important role in teaching grammar to the beginners, especially young learners, because the beginners have good ability in imitating what we say and do.
Teachers must give the learners examples which can lead the learners to draw a conclusion about certain grammar rules by themselves. Suppossed that the teacher asks the students to tell about daily activities using Simple Present Tense,without giving any explaination about this Tense, the teacher can give example such as : I wake up at 5 a. m every day. He wakes up at 5 a. m every day. You wake up at 5 a. m every day. She wakes up at 5 a. m every day. We wakes up a 5 a. m every day. My father wakes up at 5 a. m every day. From these examples the learners are pushed to see the pattern in each entence and to make a conclusion about the pattern used in the sentences. It is hoped that the learners themselves can see the pattern and draw the rule about the verb form used in Simple Present Tense, which is about what verb form must go with I, you, we or they and he, she, it. And the most important thing to remember is by giving examples the teachers can introduce grammar rules without making the learners feel forced to learn complicated rules which can make them get bored and give up learning grammar, or what is worse, give up learning English.
Some experts say that it will be better if the learners themselves find and draw the grammar rules they are learning, without the teachers’ explaination about those rules, because it can make them have better awareness and understanding. In finding and drawing the rules, the beginners can have learning experience which enables them to remember the rules for a long time, or even forever, because this kind of process really gives them an everlasting memory.
Therefore, in learning and teaching activities in grammar class for beginners, it is better if the teachers use inductive method, because this method gives the learners opportunity to find and to draw certain grammar rules by themselves. This opportunity, in turn, also gives them good abilities, not only in understanding but also in using the grammar rules. Fourth: Stop Judging , Keep Encouraging. Like children who learn how to ride a bike, the beginners in English class also have eagerness to reach the goal, which is to use the skill they learn every day.
In the learning process, of course, they often fall and get failed, but they still keep their efforts to reach the goal steadily. Despite of the falls and the failures, both the parents of children who learn to ride a bike and the teachers of beginners who learn English must always give the learners courage to try to reach their goal. If they make mistakes, it will be better if the parents or the teachers give them explaination or example which can keep their eagerness to try, not a judgement which can kill their courage and confidence to keep trying.
For example If they make a mistake in asking someone name using an expression such as: What you name ? . It will be better if the teacher does not tell them that the expression they use is incorrect. It will be very helpful and encouraging if the teacher just says ‘ What is your name ? ” ,the correct expression should be used, for several times without judging that they have made a mistake. The result will be diffferent if the teacher says that they have made a mistake because for most of beginners it will kill their courage to try again.
It is terrible, isn’t it ? So in order to make a correction on the learners’ mistakes , never say that it is right or wrong, it is correct or incorrect. Just say or give the correct expression they should say as the example. Hopefully this simple article can give us, English teachers, idea and courage to teach English grammar to the beginners or young learners in interesting and enjoyable ways so that the learners can have a balance growth in their vocabulary building, speaking performance and grammar skill. Eko Jatmiko Guru Bhs. Inggris SD Kristen Petra 12