Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 3 March 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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To Teach or Not to Teach Grammar isn't the Question Any Longer -
A Case for Consciousness-Raising Tasks

Anindya Syam Choudhury, M.A.


The paper focuses on one of the major debates in language pedagogy: whether grammar is to be taught or not, and comes to a conclusion that though an over-emphasis on grammatical forms may prove to be a hindrance in the path of the development of a learner's ability to communicate fluently, not teaching grammar at all is not a viable option. In this context, the paper argues for an interesting contemporary option put forward by many methodologists, that of "Consciousness-raising" and tries to show how this can be integrated in the task-based approach to the teaching of grammar.


The word "grammar" often conjures up in my mind the image of Tony Lumpkin, the character in Oliver Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer, singing the following song:

Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain
With grammar, nonsense, and learning…

Here Tony Lumpkin equates grammar with nonsense, and one wonders whether one could be so contemptuous of it. However, there is no gainsaying that linguists, teachers and methodologists and all those concerned with grammar and grammar pedagogy have been puzzling "their brain" trying to ascertain the meaning of grammar, its domain, its role in language learning and the methodologies that should be used in teaching it, or whether it should be taught at all.

Grammar in English Language Teaching: The Pendulum Swing

There has always been a pendulum swing regarding whether grammar should be taught or not. Before the advent of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in the 1970's, for instance, grammar was in a position of domination in language education, with curriculums being organized around it. However, the supremacy of grammar was questioned when developments in the field of Sociolinguistics in the seventies challenged the traditionally established notions about the nature of language and language learning.

One of the primary reasons for the rejection of a narrow focus on grammatical forms and structures in language learning was the blurring of the notion of 'correctness' of language, thanks to the investigation of language varieties. Also, Chomsky's theory of linguistic competence was critiqued by Dell Hymes (1972) who believed that the former paid no attention to the importance of communication and cultural considerations. Hymes went on to put forward a broader concept of 'communicative competence', which drew attention to language use in social context.

No doubt these developments had a tremendous impact on language teaching, and one of the spin-offs was that these led some theorists, methodologists, teachers and syllabus designers to go overboard so much so that many started advocating a 'no grammar' approach in second and foreign language teaching and learning. An extreme position of this kind is exemplified by Newmark (1971) who pointed out that "the teaching of grammar is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning a second language. That it is not necessary is proved by the first language learner's success without it. That it is not sufficient is proved by the second language learner's lack of success".

Failure of Traditional Methods of Teaching Grammar: Reasons

One wonders whether grammar per se can be blamed for the "lack of success" of the second language learners. The failure actually stems from the inadequacy of the methodologies that have traditionally been used to teach grammar, the methodologies which have failed to recognise the crucial distinction between teaching about language and teaching the use of language which in turn has led to a sort of an unbridgeable chasm between the true goal of language teaching and the means employed to achieve the goal.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

The Linguistics of Newspaper Advertising in Nigeria | Women in Advertisements | Case-Assignment Under Government in Modern Literary Arabic | Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Very Young Learners: A Case from Turkey | Association of Self Fashioning and Circumstances in Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin | A Moral Lesson, Amoral Lesion - Sharon Pollock's The Komagata Maru Incident | Pariksha: Test by Prem Chand | Treatment of City in Nayantara Sahgal's Storm in Chandigarh | Phrasal Stress in Telugu | Stress Among ELT Teachers: A Study of Performance Evaluation from a Private Secondary School in Haryana | Willa Cather’s Portrayal of the Pioneer Virtues in Alexandra Bergson with Reference to O Pioneers! | Man-Woman Relationship in Nayantara Sahgal's Mistaken Identity | Classroom Management and Quality Control - An Action Research | Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha - A Dualist Spiritual Journey | Impact of Dramatics on Composition Skills of Secondary School English Language Learners in Pakistan | Narrative Technique, Language and Style in R. K. Narayan's Works | Diasporic Crisis of Dual Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake | To Teach or Not to Teach Grammar isn't the Question Any Longer - A Case for Consciousness-Raising Tasks | Cognitive Flexibility in Children with Learning Disability | Coda Deletion in Yemeni Tihami Dialect (YTD)- Autosegmental Analysis | The Enigmatic Maya in Anita Desai's
Cry, The Peacock
| Developing an English Curriculum for a Premedical Program | The Ties of Kinship in Rohinton Mistry's Novels | Indian English: A Linguistic Reality | The Unpredictability of the Sonority of English Words | Women's Representation in Polity: A Need to Enhance Their Participation | Nandhini Oza's Concern for the Tribal Welfare in "The Dam Shall Not Be Built" | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF MARCH 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT | HOME PAGE of March 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Anindya Syam Choudhury, M.A.
Department Of English
Assam University
Silchar 788011
Assam, India

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