How to learn Grammar without tears!

Most of my students (and I must admit, I shared this view back when I was a student myself) compare learning grammar to climbing up a hill (or a mountain, it depends on the case) backwards and in flippers:  it’s time-consuming, frustrating and difficult.  If we come to think about it, grammar would win the prize for being the language learning point over which the most  ”metaphorical” ( or not) tears have been shed in the classrooms- and not only by the students ( trust me on this one)!

The truth is that sometimes grammar proves extremely challenging, but it is not something you can escape from.  It is all around you- in all the words you hear, speak, read and write.  Just as every game needs rules, a language needs grammar- or else the language game would stop working.  So if you cannot escape it, why not dealing with it with the best weapons you have? Here are a few ideas that might help you deal with the English grammar.

  • The best way to learn the rules of the game is to play it. You might trip a couple of times, you will make mistakes, but you will eventually learn the rules.  Learning grammar is not only about textbooks and exercises, but you can also learn it by doing different language activities. You can learn English grammar the same way you learnt your mother tongue’s grammar- nobody taught you the rule, you just took it in from what you head.
  • It is very useful to read books in English. Why? Because while you are reading English you are taking in structures of correct grammar. Later on you might use them in your own writing and speaking.
  • Listening to English is another great way to become aware of grammar structures.  English songs, films, radio stations, audio books are important resources. So next time you listen to your favourite song, try to listen with a grammatical awareness and think about the grammatical structures you hear.
  • Concentrate on the aspects of the English grammar that you find most difficult (if you don’t know which these are, ask your teacher).  In your writing you can focus a little more on these aspects,  and you can double check them when you edit your text.  It is more difficult in speaking, but you can sometimes take a second to try to get that aspect right.

  • If you like grammar and you enjoy doing grammar exercises, then congratulations and go ahead.  But being an expert in grammar doesn’t mean your English will be flawless. You could be like someone who has learnt how to drive from books, but once he is in the car, he might not be able to drive properly. Grammar is not an abstract thing- it should be learnt in a context.  And I want to stress these words- in context. It is no use knowing the rule, if you don’t know how it behaves in sentences or paragraphs. So when you do some grammar exercises, instead of filling the gaps or doing multiple-choice answers, try to write sentences of your own that follow that grammar aspect.
  • ”A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, a songwriter once said. The medicine in this case is grammar, and you must add the “sugar” to make it pleasant for you. Try to avoid monotony by changing the type of exercises you do.  You can also use materials that have an element of humour and lightness, or more interactive tools, such as songs and videos.
  • Try interactive grammar games!  There are thousands of sites on the internet which contain grammar specific games and which are very interesting! So next time you are in the mood for playing computer games, just try one of these interactive grammar games!

How about you? Do you like learning English grammar? Share with us the tricks that get you through those nasty rules!

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