How To Deal With Grammar

lanterns japanGrammar has a bad name. The good news is that you don’t need to get hung up on it.

A staggering 95% of all meaning (by some estimates) in a language is conveyed by the words themselves. That means that grammar falls within the remaining 5%.

This is, of course, an over-simplification, but what I want you to take from this is that grammar is not the most important part of language learning. This often comes as a shock to people, since many of us spent years at high school doing nothing but dull-as-dishwater grammar exercises.

Grammar is important, but not as important as the words themselves for a beginner.

If you know some words, but no grammar, you can say a little. If you know some grammar, but no words, you can say nothing.

Let’s take this as understood for now. So, does this mean that we forget about grammar? Of course not. I happen to love grammar, and actually quite enjoy reading grammar books (I’m that boring!!), but this is in addition to spending time learning vocabulary, not instead of.

So what to do?

Get a good grammar book. Here, here and here are some great series that did the trick for me. You could try searching for advice on YouTube for other language-specific titles.

As with everything else, there are a number of ways you can use your shiny new grammar book, and the correct way is the one that works for you.

Some guidelines are as follows:

  • As a rule, refer to the book for grammar explanations as and when something interesting appears naturally during your studies. Don’t let grammar dictate your learning – look things up when you are interested and ready to do so.
  • In other words, keep it as a reference book and refer to it whenever you are ready. You will invariably feel the need to look up certain things before long.
  • You could look at the chapters on basic verb conjugations straight away – present, past and future tenses. There’s no getting away from the fact that you will need these and the sooner you learn them the better.
  • You might be the type of person who can plough through the book (I confess I have done this!). This is certainly not considered ‘good practice’, but if you can, and you enjoy it, it may serve as a useful primer. The object would not be to try to remember everything – that would be insane. However, when you are trying to make sense of language out in the real world, you will start to form connections with things you’ve read about. That puts you one step ahead.

Here’s my personal approach on learning grammar:

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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