Grammar instruction is one of the most important aspects of language learning. To speak a target language fluently, a strong grasp of its structure is essential. Fluent speakers who can talk rapidly effectively combine grammar and vocabulary. Those who learn a language as their native tongue naturally do this well because they’ve been exposed to the language’s structure from an early age.
Hearing a language in its natural context is advantageous for learning its correct structure. For instance, native speakers understand that “grow up” is used instead of “grow” for growing older and “tall” is more suitable than “long” for describing a person’s height. Early exposure to word and sentence patterns helps build a solid foundation for language structure.
Teaching Vocabulary and Grammar Together
Vocabulary and grammar are stored together in memory, so they should be taught together. For instance, when teaching the word “clean,” it’s important to also introduce related grammar forms:
- Clean (verb) – to clean
- Cleaner (noun) – a person who cleans
- Cleaning (noun) – the act of cleaning
- Cleaned (verb) – past tense of “clean”
Young language learners are interested in these structures, but children learning their native language don’t focus on the grammar equivalents of the words and structures they hear. For them, meaning is more important than grammar.
For example, a child may hear the word “drive” around them, in a song, or in a story, and later use it in their own speech. However, their pronunciation may not be accurate. Over time, as they hear the word more often, they start making sense of it and their usage improves. This process continues as adults, but at higher levels, it’s enhanced with the addition of grammar knowledge. Then, understanding the differences between “drive” and “ride,” “tall” and “long,” “few” and “little,” and the nuances of modal verbs like “must” and “could” becomes more clear and meaningful.
It’s important to remember that mistakes are natural while learning a language. In fact, the correct sentences we construct are often the result of correcting our previous mistakes. So, don’t be afraid of making errors. Through practice and exposure to the language, we’ll gradually grasp its various aspects more easily.