What do you make of grammar rules?

Hi, how important are grammar rules to you? How do you define the term “grammar rule”? How many grammar rules of your native language do you know and how many of them can you explain in such a way that another person would understand them?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: What did the young man do during his last holiday?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Why native language, Torsten? Why not English?


Hi Torsten!

Thanks Alan I?m able to call your initial post a poser (my dictionary suggests it to be a hard nut (Germlish, okay)). But to return to your question, I rarely think about German grammar-rules although I everyday speak. Since I?m neither a teacher of the German language nor need to explain it in any way I mostly use the rules, I had learned some ten years ago, unconscious. There is one additional point I?d like to refer to: like the English language, the German language has learned some changings. Of course, we always get informed of every changing in grammar but who do really change their habit in speaking if they aren?t needed to do that?

Nevertheless, I expect my German-grammar.skills that good.

Hi Tom!

Torsten didn?t ask for awareness of the English skills as his intention possibly was to refer to the point of using the rules of native language unconscious some times after having learned them, didn?t he? And for me that fits to his mentioning of unconscious learning!


Hi Tom and Michael,

What I’m trying to do is find out how exactly we learn grammar and what role grammar rules play in the language acquisition process. I mean when we learned our mother tongue we didn’t learn any grammar rule consciously. If somebody makes a grammar mistake when speaking our mother tongue we simply say “This is not correct because it doesn’t sound right”. We usually don’t give any grammar explanations.

However, when it comes to learning a second language most people think they can learn grammar rules separately from vocabulary. I strongly believe that there is only one single way of learning grammar: absorbing as much of the language as possible without separting the grammar from the vocabulary. In other words, never try to learn a grammar rule but rather read and listen to English on a regular basis until you develop a feeling for what sounds right and what doesn’t. You don’t want to learn grammar rules, you want to learn English. How did native speakers learn English? Why do we think we can learn it in a different way?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: What will the secretary do next?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten!

I think you?re right speaking about unconcsious learning the native language, at least, when you speak about getting a feeling for it. Beside of getting a feeling for a language you learn rules and grammar but that ones only your environment uses and that is not neccessarily a correct one. So when you go to school you learn the supposed rules of language, consciuosly (sometimes more or less). I mean do you remember the rule concerning the use of “wie” and “als”? Nowadays there isn?t any supposed one, but when I went to public school there was and I can remember it. Or how often do you experience the wrong use of personal pronouns? Well, in that sense I think you?re right.

But when it comes to learn a foreign language (particularly when you?re an adult learner) you don?t have many years of time like when we are speaking about learning the native you start doing as a baby. Right is also that just learning rules can?t help you improving your skills and reading only don?t offer you the opportunity of listening skills but gives you some imaginations of the language.

In that sense, I think, both (unconscious and conscious) in addition is the right way of learning a foreign language and everyone does have his own style of learning.


Tom, it’s about being aware of grammar and it starts with your native language. For example, most Germans would probably have a hard time explaining the difference between an adverb and an adjective. At the same time they use both parts of speech correctly because they know what sounds right.

Now, when you start learning English and you read something about adjectives and adverbs this information won’t help you much if you can’t distinguish between both in your mother tongue.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Most of us learned their native language by being exposed to it. Why not use the same approach when it comes to learning English?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: What is the design of the sweatshirt?[YSaerTTEW443543]

The point is, we need the grammar rules just when we teach or learn a foreign language. Grammar is a kind of system made by us for deciphering the verbal code innate in native speakers. That code is not inborn in us, it’s inherent to others, so it needs to be solved by us. That’s why we create a science able to decode others’ tongue finding links between the our and their speech. This science represents a system of rules and if you (or your pupil, simply language-learner) don’t know these rules you can never, never teach or explain a foreign language to another person. The person that finds himself in foreign language ambience, can learn the language without any rule of explanation and master it surprisingly well. But the people who is constrained to study a foreign language without being in proper and right environment has absolute need of these rules.
So, there are two ways to achieve the goal: One is to go in that country where your target language is spoken and just hear and speak all the time, or otherway you have to distinguish an adverb from an adjective, and a noun from a verb.

Hi! This is indeed a nice thread.
I dont really like grammar. It makes the process of learning a language uglier. To me, grammar rules arent a must to study. As Torsten said, people should tend to distinguish what is right and what isnt just by listening (reading) the language. I, for example, have never studied any English grammar rules, besides the very basic material. Another thing is that native speakers dont really know any grammar (at least I dont :blush:. I cant even say what an adverb is in my native tongue). It just sounds natural to them, which supports the above proposed studying method.

Hi Moniker, I beg to differ. You don’t need to know grammar rules in order to learn a second language. As a matter of fact, if you start learning grammar rules, it probably will get more difficult for you to learn the language itself. I’m quite sure that nobody can ‘teach’ you a language. You can only learn it. There is only one way of learning any language: You have to apply the ‘input/output principle’.

Who are you referring to when you say “That’s we create a science able to decode others’ tongue…”? What science are you talking about? If you have access to the internet, you can apply the ‘input/output principle’. For example, your sentences contain a lot of expressions that might be grammatically correct but they are not used by native speakers. If you google your phrase “in foreign language ambience” you will see that you are the only person who uses it. So, knowing grammar rules is great but in most cases it doesn’t help you create sentences that ‘sound correct’.

Also, why would you say you have to go to the country where your target language is spoken? If you can afford living in a foreign country long enough to learn a new language, then you certainly have the means to apply the ‘input/output principle’ in your own country.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A river view in Saint-Petersburg[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten, that’s exactly what I was trying to say. I said that everyone can learn a foreign language by living and speaking with native speakers without getting aknowledged with the grammar rules. The language skill acquired in this way is much more higher than if you learn it at home and with grammar. That’s why my English sounds so unnatural and “constructed”, it’s not the speaking language, it always remains artificial if I don’t polish it by listening and speaking with native speakers. We, foreigners, can’t dare create our English, we have to adapt to real and functioning language. About my input in English learning process I can say that it was not the studying of English grammar at all. I’m aware of basic grammatical principles of other languages, that’s my profession. I began to study English just with vocabulary. Words, words, words… But I can’t feel myself freely speaking, I stumble, I can’t think of words quickly and so on… This problem must be common for all who studies the language just through the dictionaries (O’k, films, books, but anyway, my daily life and routine doesn’t consist of only that). So the results are output in the form of artificial sentences as mine, and the output as such is very scarce.