There’s something about grammar that makes a lot of language learners cringe, or panic, or give up all together. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to answer the question “How do I learn grammar?” (without losing my head).
See grammar as an ally
Grammar is your friend. It’s the thing that allows you to take a bucket of words and put them together in a completely new way. Grammar is what allows you to get creative, to speak off script, to stretch what you know into all sorts of new meanings. Don’t believe us? Try this little test we wrote a while back using Zulu.
Don’t be put off by terminology
A lot of people seem to prefer root canal over grammatical terminology, but it’s just words. It’s just jargon that lets linguists and language geeks talk about something in shorthand. And if you learn it, it will help you understand in shorthand as well. We don’t go out of our way to use grammatical terminology in Language Garage lessons, but when we do, it’s always because it makes things easier to know that terminology, and we always explain things in simple layperson’s terms.
Keep it slow, steady, and orderly
Any good language course presents grammar in an order that is practical and sequential:
- You learn the stuff you’re more likely to use first.
- You learn the basic stuff and build on it to learn more complex stuff.
With a Language Garage course, we’ve figured out the optimal order for you, so all you have to do is follow that order. You’ll learn simple but useful things first, and then you’ll build on that and gradually add more complex stuff.
Keep the focus practical and meaningful
If you pick up a grammar reference, you’ll see for example the entire conjugation of a verb in all its forms and all its tenses. This is great as a reference. This is also very awful as a language course. In a language course, you want to focus on just enough grammar to perform a specific useful task. If that task is asking someone what languages they speak or understand or study, all you need is the I and you forms of those verbs. You don’t need to give a hoot about the we or they or she forms. Language Garage keeps the focus on what you need to know then and there.
We give you a lot of opportunity to practice new grammatical topics, and you should take advantage of them all. Do all the exercises in your student book, and listen to the audio workouts. Both are designed to make vocabulary as well as grammar stick.
Write it out
Don’t just read a grammar example or rule. Write it out and make it your own. If you’re learning adjective agreement, write out the different forms an adjective may take – bueno, buena, buenos, buenas (good, Spanish). Write them in sentences: el helado es bueno (ice cream is good), la tarta es buena (pie is good)…
Drill in the patterns
Mastering grammar has two parts. First, learning a pattern, and second, applying it. To master a new grammatical pattern, repetition is key. Write out verb conjugations again and again. Say them aloud: parlo, parli, parla, parliamo, parlate, parlano (speak, Italian). Your book and audio are designed to give you plenty of opportunity to do this, so don’t skip any of the exercises.
Involve your eyes, ears, and mouth
Read, hear, and speak to make grammar stick. Read an example aloud, listen to your audio while you read along in your book, speak out as you write down practice items or conjugations or whatever else. Do this over and over again and you won’t be able to forget a grammar rule even if you try.
Go back and remind yourself of old grammar points that you covered in earlier lessons. Even if you think you’ve completely mastered them, a little extra review never hurt anyone.
Don’t translate directly!
English has a tense that uses a form of be + an –ing verb. I am speaking. French conveys the meaning of I am speaking without a special tense: je parle. That’s just je (I) and parle (speak). There isn’t even a hint (or a soupçon for that matter) of am in the French. Let English be English, and let French be French. Don’t think that because English goes about something in one way, other languages will do the same thing. They won’t, and the sooner you make this your language learning mantra, the sooner you’ll make things easier on yourself.