Experts are keen on helping children learn the connection between grammar rules and the real language.

Do the terms conjunctions, apodosis and protasis ring a bell? Have you ever wished if you could do away with grammar lessons? And have you ever wondered why you should be bothered with grammar rules when you can handle the language fairly well? Grammar is the backbone of every language. Does knowing all grammar rules mean that you can handle that language with confidence? As far as English goes, the answer is unfortunately no for many students.

Language challenge

Bridging the gap between abstract grammar rules and the real language is rather a challenge for most teachers. It is to help them achieve this that the British Council and A. S. Hornby Educational Trust recently conducted a seminar here titled ‘Bringing Grammar to life in the Secondary Classroom'.

More than 40 government secondary school English teachers from South India participated in the seminar which was led by British Council Teaching Centre senior teacher Rachel Bowden.

“It is important to study grammar in the abstract sense but it is also very important that people are using it and they are exposed to it in a more real sense as well. Very often students come out of school having studied English for many years and they have a book full of grammar notes but they are unable to use it,” said Ms. Bowden.

The objective of the seminar was to enable teachers to take a more communicative approach to teaching grammar so as to impart students the skill, ability and confidence to use English.

“Grammar is complex and dynamic. The reality of grammar is that it is not something isolated but is imbedded in every different communication context. For example, the grammar that you use when you are with your friends would be very different from the grammar that you use when you are with your boss. So we are asking teachers to look at grammar as something much more dynamic,” shared Ms. Bowden who has over ten years of experience in teaching English as a foreign language.

Relationships

Having led teachers training programmes in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India and Nepal, Ms. Bowden is well versed with the teaching systems in these countries.

She says that while education is valued very highly in Asia, the extremely formal relationship between teachers and students is often an impediment to effective teaching.

“When the relationship between teacher and students becomes too respectful a teacher imparting knowledge is not helpful. It becomes a sort of one way communication. Students feel that to criticise or to discuss with the teacher is somehow disrespectful,” she said.

Ms. Rachel Bowden emphasised that it is not at the primary school level but at the secondary level that children should be taught about grammar in abstract terms. “At the primary level children are not ready to talk about grammar. Children at that age can absorb a lot of languages by using it through songs, games and activities. I don't think that it is the role of the primary teacher to be discussing grammar terms to students. From the age of 12 or 13, students are ready to think about grammar in more abstract terms,” she added.