There has been much prejudice and bias about the requirements of good grammar. In a free associations game, some would say ‘stringent’, ‘rigid’, and altogether ‘not pleasant’ if asked to give three adjectives about grammar.
Well, there’s no requirement for displeasure in grammar, really.
We can make grammar guidance more relaxed. Without going informal, we may yet abandon some of the strictly official etiquette to render language so unapproachable sometimes.
Students usually anticipate the learning process. The grammar guidance can offer some ‘breath’ with the work.
Languages do not come from the outer space. It might be good to think about the context of a language form, for example, ‘can not’.
Like probably to really many, many people, anyone’s trying to tell me what to say comes too difficult to tolerate. This is what happens with the stative verbs. Time and again, there would be a ‘sage’ to state, matter-of-fact and authoritatively, what is right and what is wrong when a human being speaks about his or her feelings and thoughts.
My resolve is cognitive mapping. It allows independent choice of the language form. The speaker can decide whether to stay ON his or her cognitive map (‘I love it’, for example), or emphasize a quality IN a moment (‘I’m loving it’). I do not mean requiring emotional openness in the language classroom.
I do not profess the belief that the student left on his or her own wouldn’t do any work. Exercises to involve speaking about emotions and thoughts may be open-ended or left without any answers in the key. There is no key to the language reality, anyway — feel welcome to see.
Feel welcome to
There has been much talk on American English in kind of ancestral terms – researchers would analyze individual speech sounds and derive them with particularity suggestive of the ‘Pygmalion’ (‘ … and your father was a watchmaker’).
My ‘daring’ hypothesis yet would be that it’s gotta be them the United States that American English comes from.
Grammar guidance may tell what we can do. For example, we can refer to the PAST with surface forms that may have the label of the third Conditional. However, no guidance may ever completely prescribe language, that is, tell that we always have to do what we can do. We can have this fact for our cognitive variable. Our variables may include another observation: there is always more than one way to put words together.
The project is primarily ESL and concerned with American English as a second language. However, the grammar approach could be localized for any other English – I am interested in opinions of learners, teachers, as well as speakers of the various Englishes of the world.
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Guiding students in independent language form building can work much better than trying to have them reproduce form prêt-á-porter.
What is form? One might think about a figure or shape, sometimes human. Well, the Middle Ages are well over in human thinking. Anthropomorphization won’t work in language learning. This is why we might think about using virtual lexical items in our language work.
Some might strongly oppose. ‘Form can’t be empty!’ Right. No doubt about it. Invented words are not totally empty, however. They can have their function for their content.
Psycholinguistic research has showed (Akmajian et al, 1986) that kids can do excellent with invented words. Time and again, they coin words and play with their grammar forms. Invented words help focus on how words work.
All languages spatialize, that is, use space expressions with reference to time. More, orientation in space precedes that in time, as for developing humans – children first learn where objects are, knowing when things happen comes later.
‘Whoa’, you might say. ‘OK, I can see that I say BEFORE here or there and I say BEFORE this or that hour. I can use the same word, BEFORE , to refer to time and space. And OK, I may believe that kids first learn where objects are, only then they gather what comes after what. Yet, just four prepositions, ON, IN, TO, and AT – that’s not enough to make the picture of American English. Ya ever see a grammar book?’
How about a few pages here:
‘No, no, no, no!’ another might shout. ‘Not the language of Chaucer and Shakespeare! Four prepositions? Ridiculous! Language is an art, metaphor, and abstract ideation!’
Well, all grammar books tell about the Aspects and that there are four of them: Simple, Progressive, Perfect, and Perfect Progressive – nothing goes missing from the picture if we spatialize the aspects into the prepositions ON, IN, TO, and AT. Unfortunately, many grammar books focus on particular tenses, not the Aspects.
Abstract thinking does not become impeded with prepositional reference. The prepositions may become cognitive coordinates to allow thinking economy. Not having to think about elaborate rules, we can use the prepositions and be not literal: they would work more like in phrasal verbs. They would be abstract ideation.
Finally, one could bet real cash that given choice, a native speaker of English would be able to attribute prepositions to utterances intuitively:
‘I have thought’
‘I have been thinking’
(Please put a preposition, TO, ON, AT, or IN next to the utterance imagining placing things on a map). If you get the answers ON, IN, TO, and AT, one might say this came natural.
Spatialization does not impede integrity:
Reckoning on naturalness, let us compare,
‘The past progressive is not an equivalent for the imperfect…’
‘The pluperfect tells…’
The above are very important labels, yet they may become a completely unnecessary burden on a beginning mind. On the other hand, the immersion approaches to merely keep students with loads of language trivia have not been successful as not providing enough principled guidance.
Interestingly enough, I gave completely free choice to a few groups of students in a high school and a teacher training college. The students could follow with the coursebooks they had, get new course books, or try my spatialization approach. After a month, all groups decided to go on with the spatialization approach until the end of the school year. All students learned English as a second language in the mainstream.