Friday, May 2, 2008

Studying grammar CAN help

At first, I was all for the 'input before output', 'output will come automatically', etc., etc. And I must say it has worked for me, it has worked wonderfully. BUT! As soon as I had to study the verb endings for class and the irregular verb forms, my study progress went even faster. At first I thought this was only because I was getting more input, but in Spain I noticed that my grammar studies were actually VERY fruitful.

Although at times I didn't know what tense to use, I eventually became more familiar with 'when to use what' and because of my grammar studies earlier I knew the correct verb form. Later on, it became part of my intuition and I knew exactly what to use when, something very exciting. Also, everytime I read a book, and I see a certain verb, I know exactly in what tense it is and therefore knowing the endings helps me understanding more and adding more and more to my natural intuition.

A while ago I was reading some articles regarding language acquisition. One article was about the theories of Stephen Krashen (the man who 'came up' with the input = out method) and it stated that students who had a massive amount of input with some grammar study were eventually on a higher level than students who only got input without grammar study. Unfortunately the article is in Dutch, otherwise I'd posted it here. But the main thought is that studying grammar is not a waste of time, as long as you don't spend too much time on it. Studying grammar won't learn you Spanish, input does. That doesn't take away that studying grammar can boost your progress.

So what to do? I suggest buying a good grammar book, especially one which explains the verbs. Don't rush the use of a grammar book, I suggest plain beginners to stick to easy input, even courses (FSI, SpanishPod), to get familiar with the Spanish language. Read children's books, even better; use bilingual texts (if audio is available: USE IT!). It will help you getting a good foundation, after which you can start studying grammar (concentrate on the verbs first). Believe me, it will boost your progress.


Jeffrey said...

Studying grammar has definitely helped me with my Spanish. I feel more confident when I know that I am using the correct sentence structure, as well as using the correct words. Personally, I find it quite useful to get my hands on a teacher's Spanish textbook (a couple of my friends teach Spanish, and their textbooks have great grammar lessons in them).

In addition, when I am studying grammar, I simultaneously am building my vocabulary because there are always new words to learn!

San said...

Vaya coincidencia, justo estaba leyendo lo mismo hace un par de semanas. Yo estoy en el otro lado, aprendiendo inglés a partir del español. Encontré tu blog hace unos días googleando sobre el acento andaluz, me alegra saber que hay por ahí gente aplicando estas ideas para el caso del español, además con cierto éxito según parece. Más de una vez me he preguntado si esto era posible, porque bueno, el español es más difícil gramaticalmente. En mi caso al poco de empezar a estudiar, hará unos dos años y medio, me encontré con la página de Antimoon y creo que me ha influido bastante (para bien, espero).

Respecto a la gramática, estudiar no he estudiado ni pizca, pero hay algo que no dice este profesor, y es que como estudiante adulto sabes un montón de gramática de tu propia lengua y del colegio. Y si como en mi caso usas a menudo un diccionario te encuentras con términos gramaticales todo el rato. Bueno, en realidad creo que si habla de ello, es lo que llama "conscious language learning", algo que como estudiante adulto siempre está ahí, no se puede evitar.

Estos son los artículos que estoy leyendo:

Terminaciones verbales, bueno, si te sirve de consuelo yo pasé todo un curso aprendiendo y recitando conjugaciones, y no creo que tuviera más de ocho años, o sea que uno no se muere de eso :) De hecho hago lo mismo en inglés, cada vez que me encuentro un verbo irregular nuevo, añado la conjugación a Supermemo.

Pues nada, lo dicho, me encanta tu blog así que sigue escribiendo :)

Ramses said...

Hola y bienvenido :).

Sí, no creo que la gramática española sea difícil pero hay muchas cosas para aprender. Creo que el inglés es mismo, la gramática inglesa es díficil tampoco.

Los artículos de Stephen Krashen están bien pero la página web Antimoon está mejor. Está más clara y más divertida.

Una vez más: ¡bienvenido y mucha suerte aprender inglés!

Michael said...

I don't believe I could have learned even 50% of the Spanish I currently know without a good, solid introduction to grammar FIRST. I absolutely do not believe that just immersing without background knowledge is best. That works for children simply because they have no basis for understanding grammar. Since we do have a basis it's best to utilize that.

Grammar doesn't have to be boring, but it does have to be studied before you can really begin to build knowledge.

Ramses said...

Hi Michael,

First of all: welcome.

Second of all: I doubt if all people can understand grammar without knowledge of the language. I never had to study grammar before, I knew absolutely nothing of grammar. So how would studying grammar FIRST helped me?

About the immersion: loads of people achieved fluency with it (my favorite example is khatzumoto ( He doesn't say he didn't study grammar, but the majority of his current knowledge is because of input. Studies prove that input (or immersion) is the best way to achieve fluency, although grammar studying along with immersion is even better. Input has helped me achieve what I have achieved so far, studying grammar just boosted my progress.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

My opinion is that it just doesn't work that way in Spanish, at least not for me! If you don't understand how "ar, er and ir" verbs work (for instance), then you cannot even identify what verb it is that someone said to you... or that it *is* a verb.... etc. Once you understand the basic conjugations, jibberish sentences suddenly become decipherable, even when you don't know their meaning quiet yet...

I'm have a blog started about my own journey to learn Spanish, here (in case anyone wants yet another to read, haha):

I find the differences in perceptions quite interesting!

Ramses said...

Well, maybe you think it doesn't work for you that way, but have you ever tried SRS? That way you simply don't have to worry about grammar, at least not in the beginning.

Furthermore, I think that you shouldn't worry too much about speaking in the beginning, or understanding as much as possible. I worried too much in the past, and only when I decided not to worry about FAST progress anymore the progress went... indeed, faster. Just concentrate on understanding SOMETHING, the SRS will take care of the rest of your progress in the beginning.

I like the blog, although it's a bit short at the moment. I'll certainly return to it in the near future :).