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Grammar Lessons: Does Teaching Standard Grammar Mean Delivering it Like a Native Speaker?

Grammar Lessons: Does Teaching Standard Grammar Mean Delivering it Like a Native Speaker? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Studying and learning standard English grammar is an experience that most native speakers must also do. Furthermore, even after learning grammar in an English education system, many native speakers still make grammatical errors in their everyday conversations, and especially so when writing formal documents.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Natalie F. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Is clarity is over norms and rules?

However, grammatical errors such as saying, “I and my friend went to that movie,” instead of “my friend and I,” are still socially acceptable to say and the meaning is still understood. Thus, when teaching grammar, while accuracy is still important unless you are specifically teaching grammar heavy or focused classes, teachers are generally not expected to have a perfect or near-perfect knowledge of English grammar, especially older learners.

opened book

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Is focusing on mistakes effective?

On the same note, students should not be expected to learn to have a perfect grasp on it either. Furthermore, in larger classes it is impossible to focus on every mistake that students make, but rather repeating and critical mistakes that will have an impact on the understanding of the language. Younger learners or learners who have been learning and had regular contact with English from a young age are similar to young native English speakers in their mental development and capacity to learn new grammar concepts and rules while they are still learning their own native language’s grammar.

With this advantage, their minds are more flexible, or like a “blank slate” in learning concepts that don’t exist in their languages such as a romanized alphabet or verb tenses. Adult learners who are also beginner learners already have a more solidified understanding of their language and learning process. Therefore, it will be more difficult to change their grammar patterns in their native language to English grammar patterns, especially if the structures are different. However, because adult learners have more developed cognitive skills, learning the logic and reason behind more complex grammar will be an easier process for them than children learners.

woman and man sitting in front of each other with books

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Variations

Furthermore, variations of English exist alongside standard English such as Ebonics that are used by some native English speakers that may seem grammatical incorrect but are, in fact, simply variations of standard English. Despite this, depending on the context used, using non-standard grammar or making many grammatical errors often has societal and cultural derogatory meaning. People may appear less intelligent or uncultured. On the other hand, speaking non-standard forms of English may make the native who speaks non-standard English feel more comfortable and/or impressed that an effort was made to learn that variation of English. Ultimately, learning “correct grammar” is just as important as learning the correct social and cultural situations in which to use it. One probably shouldn’t ask their boss, “Do ya wanna grab a bite to eat tonight?”, but it would sound perfectly normal and “native-like” asking a close friend this. People communicate majorly for reasons of listening and gathering information or saying something they want to be understood.

Just as countries have official languages and local dialects, standard English grammar is generally understood in English speaking countries even if there are variations within more local or specific regions. Thus, it is the accepted standard and building blocks for learning English. Furthermore, grammar conveys certain meanings, and sometimes, they are subtle ones, so it is important to learn standard grammar to be most clearly understood and lessen the chances of miscommunications. However, there are different ways of saying the same thing that is still grammatically correct, so it’s important that in addition to learning scripted grammar structures, students are exposed to different variations of grammar structures.

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