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The Main Problems of Teaching Formal and Informal Language

The Main Problems of Teaching Formal and Informal Language | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The difference between formal and informal grammar is very apparent both in everyday life and during ones time as a teacher of English as a foreign language. These differences, I believe, play an important part in why many language learners find it so difficult to understand and become fluent.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Daniel B.

The Problems that Teachers Encounter

As a native English speaker and an ongoing learner of Spanish I find myself struggling with these differences as well. Much of the English grammar we learn in school in America is grammar that the person knows they are likely to use very sparingly. This is why most students fail to truly pay attention in their literature class. People speak more commonly in short form and with well known slang, especially in the United States. This issue makes it difficult to explain formal grammatical rules to a new learner because, most likely, the explainer has had little day to day use with the formal rules.

Also read: Top 7 Spanish Speaking Countries for Teaching English Abroad

The Problems that Learners Encounter

Also the difference between formal and informal grammar rules makes it hard to learn a language because most speakers that a learner might talk with on a day to day basis will not understand fully their own language’s grammar rules. I myself speak with many of my Colombian friends and I find myself frustrated at times because different friends will correct me in opposite ways and I become lost on which grammar rule or suggestion is correct and which is misunderstood. I feel this is even more apparent in the Spanish language. The rules seem to be much more formal than with English speaking and word usage. English is much more compact and, combining the fact that English speakers love to speak quickly and cut words short, formal rules become seldom followed and slang begins to take over.

Also read: The How-To Guide for Americans to Teach English in Europe

The Dilemma that Teachers Face

As a TEFL teacher, whether working in Colombia teaching English to native Spanish speakers or teaching English in Asia to native speakers of other languages, I always push to teach my students both formal and informal grammar, with an emphasis on informal grammar. The problem with teaching informal grammar more than formal grammar is that formal grammar is what is tested by governmental and institutional bodies in order to test language speaking aptitude. Therefore, if I spend too much time teaching informal grammar, even though it is more useful in everyday language use and more helpful to becoming fluent in the language, the students will become less likely to achieve their desired scores on their standardized tests.

Also read: Top 10 Cities in Asia with the Highest Demand for English Language Teachers

Finding the Right Balance in the Future

I will strive in every class to teach both informal and formal language together while teaching and informing students how words will be tested while also informing the students in how the language or vocabulary for the particular day is used in day to day practice. I believe this greater understanding of how words are used in day to day practice (informally) will give each student more comfortability and confidence to use the language and practice their skills more often. I will use the skills learned from my TEFL course as well as my experiences as both a student and instructor to help teach kids both types of grammar and increase their English learning confidence.

Also read: 10 Tips for Teaching Grammar to EFL Students Abroad

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