As the holiday season approaches, learners often struggle to stay motivated and focused on their studies amidst the festive cheer and distractions. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays, but maintaining consistency in language learning is crucial for making progress. To help you stay on track during this joyful yet potentially distracting time, here are some effective strategies and tips to keep things going.
Grammar: how to tame the unruly beast
“Grammar, which knows how to control even kings” - Molière
When you think of grammar, “rule” is probably the first word that pops into your mind. Certainly the traditional view of grammar is that it’s about the “rules of language”. Indeed, not so long ago, teaching a language meant just teaching grammatical rules, plus perhaps a few vocabulary lists. However, I’m going to suggest that there’s actually no such thing as a grammatical rule.
To show you what I mean, let’s take the comparative of adjectives: “bigger”, “smaller”, “more useful”, “more interesting”, etc. We might start with a simple rule: for adjectives with one syllable, add -er, and for adjectives with two or more syllables, use more + adjective.
But this doesn’t quite work: yes, we say “more useful”, but we also say “cleverer”, and “prettier”. OK then, suppose we modify the rule. Let’s also say that for two-syllable adjectives ending in -y or -er you add -er.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite work either: we do say “cleverer”, but we also say “more sober” and “more proper”. And there are problems with some of the one-syllable adjectives too: we say “more real” and “more whole” rather than “realer” or “wholer”. If we modify the rule to fit these exceptions, it will be half a page long, and anyway, if we keep looking we’ll find yet more exceptions. This happens repeatedly in English grammar. Very often, rules seem so full of exceptions that they’re just not all that helpful.
And there’s another big problem with the “rule approach”: it doesn’t tell you what the structure is actually used for, even with something as obvious as the comparative of adjectives. You might assume that it’s used for comparing things: “My house is smaller than Mary’s”; “John is more attractive than Stephen”. But look at this: “The harder you work, the more money you make.” Or this: “London is getting more and more crowded.” Both sentences use comparative adjectives, but they’re not directly comparing two things.
What we’re actually looking at here is not a rule but several overlapping patterns, or paradigms to use the correct technical term:
- adjective + -er + than
- more + adjective + than
- parallel comparative adjectives: the + comparative adjective 1 … the + comparative adjective 2
- repeated comparative adjective: adjective + -er + and + adjective + -er/more and more + adjective
This picture is more accurate, but it looks abstract and technical. It’s a long way from what we actually teach these days and the way we teach it, which tends to be organized around learning objectives and measurable outcomes, such as: “By the end of this lesson (or module) my students should be able to compare their own possessions with someone else’s possessions”. So we’re not teaching our students to memorize a rule or even to manipulate a pattern; we’re teaching them to actually do something in the real world. And, of course, we’re teaching it at a level appropriate for the student’s level.
So, to come back to grammar, once we’ve established our overall lesson or module objective, here are some of the things we’re going to need to know.
- What grammatical forms (patterns) can be used to express this objective?
- Which ones are appropriate for the level of my students? Are there some that they should already know, or should I teach them in this lesson?
- What do the forms look like in practice? What would be some good examples?
Existing grammar textbooks generally don’t provide all this information; in particular, they’re very vague about level. Often they don’t even put grammar structures into specific CEFR levels but into a range, e.g. A1/A2 or A2/B1, and none fully integrates grammar with overall learning objectives.
At Pearson, we’ve set ourselves the goal of addressing these issues by developing a new type of grammar resource for English teachers and learners that:
- Is based on the Global Scale of English with its precise gradation of developing learner proficiency
- Is built on the Council of Europe language syllabuses, linking grammar to CEFR level and to language functions
- Uses international teams of language experts to review the structures and assess their levels
We include grammar in the GSE Teacher Toolkit, and you can use it to:
- Search for grammar structures either by GSE or CEFR level
- Search for grammar structures by keyword or grammatical category/part of speech
- Find out at which level a given grammar structure should be taught
- Find out which grammar structures support a given learning objective
- Find out which learning objectives are related to a given grammar structure
- Get examples for any given grammar structure
- Get free teaching materials for many of the grammar structures
Think of it as an open-access resource for anyone teaching English and designing a curriculum.
More blogs from Pearson
As December approaches, people around the world prepare for the festive season as the chilly winds of winter set in. Amidst the various traditions and celebrations, one particular festivity is Nikolaustag. This day is dedicated to Saint Nicholas and is predominantly celebrated in German-speaking regions.
Nikolaustag, celebrated on 6 December, in ode to Saint Nicholas, a Bishop in Myra in the 4th century. He was known for his kindness and generosity.
In Germany and neighboring countries this day is celebrated with various customs. Children clean and polish their shoes or place them outside their doors, hoping to receive gifts and treats from Saint Nicholas. Adults, on the other hand, enjoy festive markets filled with seasonal delights.
This day is a reminder of the importance of kindness, compassion and generosity towards others, especially those who are less fortunate. It is a time to come together with family and friends, exchange gifts and enjoy the warmth and joy of the holiday season.
German on the global stage
The German language, celebrated for its precision and rich literary heritage, holds a significant place in the global linguistic landscape beyond the festivities of Nikolaustag.
German is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and certain communities worldwide due to historical migrations and cultural exchanges.
In recent years there has been a noticeable surge in the popularity of learning German worldwide. In 2020 it was reported that 15.4 million people were learning German.
The importance of the language in various sectors, including technology, science and commerce, has contributed to its popularity. Germany provides abundant opportunities for German language exchanges through institutions such as the Goethe-Institut and various study programs.
German has significantly impacted intellectual debates and discussions worldwide, spanning various fields such as literature, philosophy, music and science. The works of great writers like Schiller and Goethe, influential artists like Dürer and Holbein, and the philosophies of Nietzsche and Kant are some examples of the profound influence of German culture.
German language and culture have played a significant role in shaping scientific research and development. Many renowned scientists, such as Albert Einstein and Max Planck, have made notable contributions in their respective fields. German has also been a prominent language in academia, with numerous universities worldwide offering German language courses and conducting research in various fields.
The undeniable impact of German culture on the world continues to inspire and influence various aspects of modern life.
Global Scale of Languages announcement
Learning languages such as German not only provides personal and professional growth opportunities but also promotes cross-cultural understanding and respect.
And if you needed another reason to pick up German, the Global Scale of Languages (GSL) has added German to its list of languages. This gives German-language educators and learners a highly detailed level of support to fast-track their progress on their journey to fluency in German.
The GSL uses the same proven learning design principles for German as it does for its other languages (English, French, Italian and Spanish), giving you world-class support.
With the holiday season approaching, it’s good to add some fun into teaching to keep your students engaged and motivated. We’ve created 12 simple classroom activities and tips that you can carry out with your primary class to encourage them to be good.