Learning English: Grammar or Situational Application-
The grammar is the structure of a language by which something is written or spoken correctly. It is a common notion that the rules of grammar have to be followed in writing and speaking a language. The purpose of learning another language is to use it in our daily lives to meet our daily needs. Now the question is, when learning English, will we first learn grammar or use English words?
As seen in most cases in our country, we start learning English with English grammar. We seldom think about how realistic and scientific the matter is. Bengali is also a language like English. When a child starts speaking in Bengali, does he not start speaking in terms of verbs, conjunctions, suffixes, etc. and starts using the language directly? The reality is that the child does not know any of this, he starts using language directly and this is normal. He learns the language by listening to it from all around him. Throughout his life he can use Bengali language well without knowing grammar. What does that mean? We can learn Bengali without learning grammar. Similarly, if an uneducated boy or girl is sent to an English-speaking country, it will be seen after a couple of years that the boy or girl is fluent in English. He does not know grammar and which action point he has learned to speak English to meet his needs.
Here it is seen that besides grammar, English language can also be mastered and used by a person. Now again the question is, will we learn grammar at all to learn English, or will we master the English language directly from stories, essays? I have seen and still see in my teaching life. Many students come to learn English first and say, ‘Sir, I am very weak in grammar, please teach me the first grammar.’ The parents of the students also say, ‘He is a little weak in grammar, explain the grammar first so that he can get good results in the exam.’ To know a language, one has to practice that language. Just knowing a few rules of grammar doesn’t mean he/she has become an expert in English. Students, as well as parents can’t understand this matter.
The real proof that English cannot be used in real life just by learning grammar. Almost all the graduates and masters degree holders in our country have studied English as a compulsory subject till primary school level but what percentage can speak and write English? How many people can understand by listening to English and read and understand something written in English?
We all know the answer to this question. If a Bangladeshi boy or girl competes for a job with an Indian or a Sri Lankan boy or girl, then the Bangladeshi candidate is far behind. And the main reason for this backwardness is the backwardness in English.
Yes, grammar is to be learnt but its application is to be learnt first. Many of us know the different types and exceptions of English grammar but do not know the application of English in real life. The concept of grammar limits the ability to use language. Spontaneity is needed to use language effectively. And this spontaneity can be achieved through a lot of practice, not by knowing grammar. The environment needed to know a language. We don’t have that environment to learn English, not even today. We have to do it in practice class to learn English. The more the teacher can do this practice, the more the students will be benefited.
English grammar has to be learned from ‘situation’. Learning grammar in isolation does not effectively apply it to real needs, but rather limits language. One thing we need to do well. That is, learning to swim, cycling, learning to wear a sari, learning to wear a tie, learning to cook and driving is not just about memorizing rules. Practice is needed, long practice is needed. For learning English, there will be many mistakes while practicing. We have to learn by making mistakes. That is the rule. This is the modern and scientific method.
Another thing to understand is that English is a skills-based subject, not content based. And practice is needed to acquire this skill. But it is still seen that most of the teachers make suggestions to the students before the exams. That is providing encouragement for memorization. These teachers also get a lot of praise from students and parents. But we never think that it is wasting the creativity of the students, that is, the students are not able to create anything on their own.
Without this practice, if we just learn grammar, we will not be able to learn English in real sense. The current English syllabus is largely science based because there is ample opportunity to practice English in this syllabus and text books. But to understand this syllabus, we need trained teachers, and here is our problem.
Abu Ata Hia Milton
Senior Lecturer in English