Is / was your native language grammar taught at school?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Nanon, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Hi All,

    I was reading this tread and I was wondering if grammar was taught in all school systems.

    How is grammar taught where you live? Are there any specific grammar classes? Do learners like grammar, or do they hate it? Is grammar knowledge important in your culture?

    Also, do you remember any "grammar nightmare" - a very tricky point or grammar rule that was very difficult to apply?...
  2. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    Grammar was certainly taught at the school in Spain. Rules, punctuation, accents, syntax, everything. It was understood that if you could not express yourself correctly in your own language, you would hardly be able to learn another language.
    Some learners love it, and some hate it.
    The grammar nightmare for me was not a Spanish one but, alas! the French verbs.
  3. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    This thread discusses "the decline of English grammar" and may be useful to you.
  4. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    During my regular schooling period (very short time ago - (winking) )grammar was the basis of Portuguese learning at school, but then from the end of the sixties on it began giving place to communication focus. (You can read about it here from page 3 on)
    Theorically there are specific grammar classes and good schools do teach grammar. The rest of the schools try to slide through it, mainly because the teacher themselves, fruit of the communication period, didn't learn and don't know how to teach it.
    Do I have to say after that how learners feel about learning grammar?:(
    Anyway, I'll give a glimpse of the situation: I teach Portuguese for elementary teachers at college; it is the subject they have the most difficulty and consequently hate it.
    As for students themselves, the majority have goose bumps concerning learning grammar - and Math (to be honest).
    So this is the situation. Although people acknowledge the importance of learning grammar, they think it is too difficult to be worth, unhappily!
  5. koabr3gn

    koabr3gn New Member

    United States
    I never thought about it before!
    But, come to think of it...I was taught minimal grammar.
    Spelling was always emphasized but I don't remember any lessons on syntax or parts of speech etc.
    I guess I missed out!
  6. jlc246 Member

    San Antonio
    English - US
    Vanda's comments sound familiar! I think something similar may have happened in the US, but I will wait for teachers or others to confirm that.

    I'm old enough that I was taught English native grammar in school (in the sixties and early seventies.) It was never my favorite subject, but I did learn a fair amount. However, what truly taught me to speak and write grammatically was that my parents corrected me, at the dinner table if necessary!:eek: I appreciate them now, although it was embarassing at the time. They also improved my punctuation and my vocabulary (although I have to look definitions up in a dictionary to be completely sure, because I learned most of my words from context.) However, never trust my spelling :warning: (no fault of my parents:eek: or my school.) Thank goodness for word processors with spell checkers. My dictionary has grown lonely.

    As someone said earlier, I learned more about English grammar (such as why/when I use the subjunctive) when I learned Spanish in school. Also, Spanish pronounciation is so much more regular that I still tend to pronounce any word I don't recognize as a Spanish word (with a very American r/rr), unless it obviously comes from another language. (I only wish that I remembered more Spanish, but I found WR now that I am trying to learn it again.)

    As I think someone also said, I learn more about my native language every year, and I hope I always will. For example, I learned several important things (including the difference between "that" and "which") from an editor at a previous job, whose native language was Russian.

    For my generation, a favorite grammar nightmare was using "to lie" (down) and "to lay" (an object down) correctly, because they are both irregular and they overlap in an odd way. Now everyone uses them incorrectly and no one seems to care much anymore (except when we talk about the decline of English grammar.) I would join the cool generation, except that I would still hear my parents correcting me.;)
  7. koabr3gn

    koabr3gn New Member

    United States
    Not only "lie" vs "lay"...I hear incorrect grammar everywhere!

    My favorite phrases (with incorrect grammar of course) are:

    I'm being for serious.
    I likes it.
    I've already aten (instead of "eaten").
    He be flipping out.
  8. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    In Latvia we study two separate subjects – Latvian language and Latvian literature – aproximately in equal proportions up to the 12th grade. The Latvian language is all about grammar, syntax, punctuation etc. There are a lot of criticism that the current punctuation rules and grammar are too complicated and they need to be simplified for easier practical use. But no one has given any real solutions and it is hard to imagine how it can be changed as the current system is very logical, albeit extensive and people make many mistakes when writing.

    On the other hand I find it very difficult to follow discussions about grammar on this forum apart from the most basic categories (noun, verb, tense, person etc.) because in Latvian we mainly use our own terms. For example, I have no idea how pluperfect or subjunctive from Spanish grammar can be translated into Latvian. Maybe it is the same as saliktā pagātne or vēlējuma izteiksme in Latvian but really the application of these things are quite different that I wouldn't dare to equate them. Even the noun cases in Latvian and Russian that are similar and can be compared are often used completely differently. Maybe these things are very interesting to comparative linguists but for foreign language learners they mean little.
  9. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    We had two separate classes - Russian language and Russian literature; in our Russian language classes, we studied all aspects of the language - lexicology, morphology, grammar, and what not... Pupils start learning Russian when they're still in their 1st year (but they are mostly taught to write properly then) and finish when they leave school.
    We had a very good teacher, but still most of us disliked these classes strongly, including myself. There was too much of Russian for me.
    As for the importance of grammar knowledge, well, it is certainly viewed as very bad taste to make a lot of mistakes in letters. And I can't understand people who think that it's not necessary to write properly when you're composing an e-mail to a close friend or are chatting with someone via icq.

    Every one rule I had to explain!:) I've never needed any rules, so I was really bad in remembering them.
  10. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    When I was much younger [Belgium / Flanders, 1980s], we had to spend a great deal on the grammar of our native language, which basically involved syntax (esp. 'sentence analysis', zinsontleding) and morphology (esp 'word analysis', woordontleding, and verbs, see below). I kind of liked it, though a lot of the grammar exercises involved sentences which were rather absurd and off the wall. Funnily enough, it often was the kind of sentences which we were advised during the writing classes not to write ourselves since they were obsolete, too elaborate etc. I recently was asked to correct the homework of our neighbour’s daughter, and apparently, that aspect has hardly changed.

    I have the impression that we were taught our native language the same way we were taught Latin (and later Greek): language learning = a list grammar rules + endless vocabulary lists. I think it doesn't take a PhD in linguistics or language education to realise that this is not the most appropriate way to learn any language. I’ll quickly add that, imho, a purely 'communicative method' is not the ideal way either, and that I find a certain level of ‘grammatical awareness’ necessary, but apparently it is quite difficult to find a proper mix of both. A few months ago, there was a discussion in Flanders about teaching more knowledge in schools (and ‘pure’ grammar in the language classes), and all of a sudden there were two opposite camps: the pro-grammar teachers and the anti-grammar (pro-communicative method) teachers. I found it weird that hardly anybody was arguing for a compromise between the two methods.

    The problem with what I described above in a nutshell, is that it can result (and often does, cf. these message boards, daily :) in a kind tunnel vision on grammar and on language. So, I don't think that's a typically Belgian problem :). One of the result is that still a lot of people regard upon 'grammar' as an opportunity to endlessly discuss things as “it is I/me” and other – I am sorry – rather nifty topics. My apologies for the split infinitive, btw :).
    This way of teaching often results in a kind of 'grammar book literalism', analogous to 'Bible literalism' (or any other holy book. I wonder if there is a connection, btw). Anything which is not in the Grammar Book is Wrong, any deviation whatsoever is a sign of being uneducated, stupid, moronic etc. In short, I often have the impression that people loose their common sense when talking about grammar, and discuss it as if a grammar mistake or a mistake against their personal grammar rules is a capital crime. Language teaching should also do something about those narrow minded attitudes…

    For once I full agree with the Wikipedia article on grammar, at least with the phrase "Grammar is a way of thinking about language". This (viz. thinking about, reflecting on language) is often completely disregarded.
    Mind you, I am really the last one to say that anything goes and that we can write whatever we want the way we want it: in order to facilitate (esp. written communication) we have to use a set of rules that are commonly accepted. But that set should not involve a narrow line between ‘good grammar’ and ‘bad grammar’, but two lines between which we can work and write. I doubt that a thorough reflection upon language has to be included in the lower levels of the school curriculum, but there might be an onset nevertheless. If they can make kids discuss about life, mortality and god(s), then it shouldn’t be that difficult to have them think on their level about their native language and language in general. I mean, teaching (one’s native) language should involve more than a set of sacrosanct rules, which often are “merely someone's opinions about what constitutes good usage in language X”, to quote slash paraphrase linguist Trask.

    Some people which are worth checking out, at least imho:
    - Larry Trask: Language, the basics (2nd edition)
    - Peter Trudgill: Bad language / Language myths
    - Almost anything by Marcos Bagno, e.g. Preconceito lingüístico / A luta desigual, Mito vs. realidade nos livros didácticos de lingual portuguesa.

    Grammar in the narrow sense of the word, as described above, is still considered to be very important. Socially important, since people who make a dt-error in Dutch (see below) are still considered to be stupid and “uneducated”, to give only one example.
    I remember a handout by the director of our school which had such a dt-error, and all the colleagues of Dutch were calling that guy (PhD, director, etc.) a silly and stupid uneducated s*d. I once had to correct a text by a doctor in spe: it was full of dt-errors, but I wouldn’t like to call him “uneducated”.
    Grammar in the sense of ‘thinking about language’ is completely ignored. And even though it is a major part of the linguistic courses at university, quite a lot of colleague-students then (and colleague-teachers now) still stick to the ‘secondary school attitude’ of ‘correct’ ‘not correct’. I find this very sad.

    In Dutch, the so-called dt-rules annex mistakes are the most reputed ones among native speakers and they still cause a lot of problems. This set of rules is the result of a morphological principle in Dutch spelling, which says that a -t is always added to the verbal stem in the 2nd and 3r person singular present (I'll skip the details).
    Although a simple rule, it still causes people to write things as ik word / *hij word (should be hij wordt) and zij gelooft / * zij heeft gelooft (should be geloofd). A lot of research has been done in this area, e.g. why people still write those mistakes, and a lot of interesting things emerged from those studies ('word images' (sorry, my translation of Dutch woordbeelden), the working of the brain, the working of the memory etc.), and yet, people who make those mistakes are still called stupid...
    Another hot item is comparative + dan or als.


  11. palomnik Senior Member

    When I was in grammar school - the fifties and sixties - we were taught a considerable amount of grammar.

    However, it wasn't until I started teaching English as a second language that I realized that the grammar that was emphasized when I was in school was almost completely different from what adult learners need to concentrate on, such as for example, phrasal verbs. I never heard the term when I was in grammar school. Nobody ever talked to us about progressive tenses of the verb either.

    In retrospect, I realize that most of what we were taught as children was designed to teach us to avoid the kind of grammar mistakes that would be considered ignorant; the actual mechanism of the language was not considered to be very important and it was assumed that we would learn that by osmosis. It is true that phrasal verbs are sort of acquired intuitively, which is one reason why English speakers have such a hard time explaining them adequately to foreign learners.
  12. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I don't remember there being much teaching of grammar in English lessons at school; I think the accent was more on expression. I believe I got my stock of grammatical terms from learning foreign languages.
  13. Xewells

    Xewells Senior Member

    Indiana, USA
    American English
    Grammar was taught in my school. In fact, I had grammar lessons until the 8th grade. The sad part about that is, I can remember every year they would teach the same things. I remember I was taught about verbs, nouns, adjectives, articles, and adverbs in the second. I also remember being taught about them up until the 6th grade! All of this because most of the kids in my school couldn't tell you what a verb was by grades six. I remember 7th and 8th grade I was in advance English. There's where we learned about independent and dependent clauses. The thing that makes me saddest, is that if they had just kept building up from the beginning we could have learned really challenging stuff. We didn't. I would say most Americans can't tell you what a present participle is.

    I will say, however, that my parents taught me a lot in the way of grammar. I vividly remember my mother telling me "It's I've got, not I gots." And I recall my dad telling me never to end a sentence with a preposition.
  14. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Within what was considered "mother tongue" we had two separate subjects, grammar on the one hand, and something along the lines of "creative writing" on the other, which was actually quite a broad topic, including essay writing, debates and discussion, oral presentations etc. The grammar bit we had only during (primary) high school, if I remember right. Syntax, morphology and that stuff. Frankly, I believe it's been of limited use for learning other languages, although I am certain it's not been entirely useless. It should be said, though, that we started learning second and third languages before we had this kind of grammar teaching; before high school I think Swedish classes were mainly focussed on (reading and) spelling (though I'm not entirely sure).

    I think every language (culture) has a certain amount of obsession with grammar correction. Up to a point, it's understandable (in my opinion); there's perhaps an inherent "conservativism" in any language, as the core of understanding others/each other consists of a certain established use of words. (Of course, there is also an inherent creativity in language, which plays out in these language games). I'm not saying it's good or bad, I simply believe this is how things work. That said, I believe some languages (or perhaps, language users!) get this all wrong and believe languages to be fixed entities, to whose "rules" one simply must abide. Swedish has perhaps a tendency of being overly conservative in some senses. (I just found out about a very interesting debate, carried out over the course of many decades, about whether or not to - finally! - give up the rather archaic verb conjugations, which in the spoken language had not been in use for, quite literally, eons. Only in writing people were still supposed to use those verb forms. After some fifty or so years, they were finally abandoned...!)

    Grammar nightmares... Personally, I didn't have that much of them, I always was an avid reader, so I had a relatively good feel for how to write somehow decent Swedish. One common spelling difficulty for many are the rules for "e" and "ä" (in spelling) - often they are mixed up a lot. (It is interesting, that in the study of the history of languages, the mistakes in writing for many phonemes are taken as indications of changing pronounciation. We should perhaps be glad language policing and the dictatorship over spelling hasn't always been so successful! :p) As for the syntax and morphology bit, I felt they were more like crosswords or maths - just an exercise of moving around little terms and words, without getting to anything really interesting. ;)
  15. Poetic Device

    Poetic Device Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English, USA
    Things are much different now since I was in chool, but when I went we were taught grammar, spelling, phonics and reading as all different classes an then in later years they mashed together, with the exception of grammar. That was always seperate. I remember that I hated the whole tense thing for the word drink. THat would always mess mo over.
  16. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    The Finnish grammar is not very easy, I have to admit. When I was in school everybody hated it. Except me.

    I was lucky enough to have a good linguistic education at home. On the other hand, in the school I was fascinated how a sentence could be handled "mathematically"; I could split it into pieces and I could understand the purpose of every piece (word) of it.

    Very soon I found how to use this knowledge when learning foreign languages. Later I have found that it helps me understanding also languages that I have a very vague idea of, for example Portuguese: I usually can tell the nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. without really knowing the translation. The grammar helps me.
  17. CrazyArcher

    CrazyArcher Senior Member

    Etcetera explained it pretty well about Russian education. I studied in Russia up to 6th grade, and really hated that subject. I write in Russian correctly with probably minor puctuation mistakes here and there (such as weird dash and comma combinations), but no one would really notice them anyway :D

    I think Russian grammar makes a lot of sense for native speaker, so it's easy to learn how to write properly, so I thought that only 20% of the time spent at the classes really taught me something. Also, assuming that books are written correctly, reading a lot will engrave correct spelling and punctuation in the memory, probably contributing not less than studying formal grammar.
  18. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    In Japan, grammar is basically taught like in the United States except it's not as hard because most people know it already. There are no specific classes JUST for grammar; it is incorporated into the general reading class. For people I know, we don't love it or hate it one way or the other. I think grammar knowledge is important...just because you sound funny if you don't know it? I don't think Japanese people have nearly as difficult of a time learning their grammar than American people have learning English grammar. I think the more complicated part for students is actually learning all the Chinese characters, but even that's not TOO hard as the characters are not limited to just the unit/book, they are seen all over the place.

    Also, grammar isn't as extensive as in the US.

    In the US: in some grades, there was a grammar class (or time just for grammar) but not anymore in HS. I don't think people love/hate it either, except more people have problems with it and may say things like, "well it sounds right, why is it wrong?" I feel like in the US, correct grammar is seen as a mark of the educated. Also, you may get marked down on papers for not using correct grammar.

    Edit: How do they handle grammar in France?
  19. Lillita

    Lillita Senior Member

    Oh, sure it is. One of my least favourite subjects is Hungarian grammar... :eek:
  20. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Sure!:) Reading books have done more to me than all the grammar classes.
  21. Pirlo

    Pirlo Senior Member

    Grammar is taught here, however, the general notions like tenses, grammar, etc. were all taught at a rather early stage of schooling. As school progressed it has become assumed as already known knowledge, which in a way is bad, because I can tell you that there are students in my classes which still don't know these things.
  22. Nander Member

    Sweden, Swedish
    At an early age, yes, but I think I had my last grammar lesson in Swedish in 7th grade, and then we only had more advanced grammar for a few lessons. After that we've only read poems, read about famous authors, written essays etc. And, really, I think it's a shame. I know the ins and outs of English grammar, and I wouldn't have much trouble having a lesson teaching others the grammar. If I, on the other hand, would try to teach Swedish I would most likely have to answer "that's just the way it is" on most questions.
  23. SaritaSarang

    SaritaSarang Senior Member

    English - United States
    At the high schools where I live, you are required to have 4 years of English,
    ( one each year) in order to graduate. Sometimes they will spend one half of the year teaching grammer/sentence structure, etc.. and the other half focusing on Literature. At least, that's been my experience.
  24. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Since I started this thread, I think I should also contribute.

    In my school years (I am talking about the '70s, it is about time I edit my profile and confess my age :eek:), there was a dissociation between grammar and literature, more or less the way you describe in your posts. There was a subject called « French », but we had separate hours and used different manuals for grammar and literature. I am under the impression that grammar teaching was cut off from its concrete application in speech, literature, newspapers... everything.

    By that time, grammar was mostly considered as a tool for correct writing and spelling (see CHERVEL, A., il fallut apprendre à écrire à tous les petits Français. Histoire de la grammaire scolaire, Paris, Payot, 1977). Remember, no personal computers, no spellcheck, only paper and pen and your writing skills... so one needed to know grammar rules to write correctly when applying for a job, for example. Proper writing (and proper speech) were factors of social integration.

    I have a rather literal example of the grammar book used as a holy book...

    As a child, I didn't like French grammar classes very much, but I enjoyed creating examples on my own to apply grammar rules. I was extremely frustrated in « 4e » (I was 13 years old) when I had an old-fashioned teacher. We had to learn entire chapters of the grammar book by heart, including examples, and we had to recite the whole chapter in writing every week. I got punished for using my own examples instead of quotes by XVIII century writers, and my parents were summoned to school for this reason...

    That teacher I had was right in one thing: learning grammar helps develop a logical reasoning about the way you use language. She used to say that was also true for Latin, which is generally considered « more difficult » (thus more stimulating for the brain :confused:) than French because of nominal declensions. But I would say it is true for any language learning. In France, many people believe that nominal declensions are difficult. However... talk about the complexity of verbal tenses in Romance languages! :D

    That lady could have made me turn away from French grammar and literature. Luckily I had other teachers and I read a lot, too. I concur with Etcetera that reading helps much if you have a « photographic » memory of the texts that enables you to reproduce the structures you have learnt. But having an overall knowledge of grammar to analyse linguistic phenomena also helps.

    This is also true here. French grammar is taught in primary and part of secondary.

    « Creative writing » also disappears from the French secondary system as school progresses, unless teachers wish to adopt this approach (« ateliers d'écriture »), but not all do. The standard writing test or exam is an essay, a dissertation or a text analysis that follows well-defined guidelines. Correctness in grammar and spelling is of course evaluated, but the aim of this exercise is to develop the ability to follow a plan.

    A typical French spelling and grammar nightmare is the agreement of past participles. French spelling is quite difficult by itself, and if you add the fact that agreements in gender and number are not always reflected in phonetics... woaw. Spelling is a national sport of sorts, and we have TV shows with dictation contests... The rules about past participles + avoir or pronominal verbs are so confusing that even the most traditional grammar authors (Grevisse...) admit that some speakers or even writers do not apply them all.
    Another classical "headache" is tense concordance, because some verb tenses are becoming obsolete and there are many exceptions to the rules. Who said the French had a Cartesian, logical mind? :D

    Oh -- and thanks to all for your great contributions so far!
  25. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I suppose teaching grammar is more important in countries where the written language is different from the spoken language, eg in English people tend to deviate from the rules by not saying "whom" where appropriate, in French the same thing can be written different ways (you just add 'e' to feminine words even though they're said the same). In Japan, the way you speak is the way things are written (and it seems like in Russia too).
  26. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    The Japanese kanji isn't what I would call "written the same as spoken". :) And if Russian spelling follows the pronunciation then why Russians have to study grammar so extensively comparing with English or Japanese students? It looks that the opposite is true; the more complicated spelling the less grammar. Maybe people with simple writing system invent more sophisticated grammar to compensate the easy part and children wouldn't go easy ;)

    To the defence of Russian (and Latvian) I think that complicated punctuation rules have to do something with the free word order in the sentence, therefore more precise punctuation is needed to show correct relationships between words. For example, the legendary decree from the tsar, "kaznit nelzya pomilovat" (punish not allowed pardon) where the tsar had forgotten to put the comma, and his servants were thinking if he had meant kaznit, nelzya pomilovat or kaznit nelzya, pomilovat which has totally opposite meanings.
  27. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I don't actually know anything about Russian, but I just read a post or two from this thread and that was the impression I got.

    I don't consider kanji grammar. We do have an entire booklet just for kanji, and the way it taught is completely independent of grammar. I'd say that it's more like vocabulary in a way. Grammar and vocabulary are different things.
  28. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    That's what I am saying. Hard to write means easier grammar and the contrary, simpler spelling comes with more complicated grammar.

    But I misunderstood your original post about the written and spoken language being the same. Now I agree that in Russian the written and spoken language is not much different unless one speaks really deep slang that intelligent people avoid at all costs.
  29. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Well Karuna it depends on what you consider "hard to write" :)

    While Greek speak as they write (with the obvious simplifications and levels and all but without for example "mistakes" such as who-whom been made) we are taught grammar. In fact in modern Greek we differentiate (just for practical reasons) between grammar (conjugation of verbs, declination of nouns adjectives, rules of contraction etc) and syntax (word order, proper case usage etc).
    Spelling, which in modern Greek is rather complicated (same as ancient Greek but with a simplification of pronunciation that left as with 6 letters pronounced /i/ for example) is taught only in elementary while the rules that govern spelling in some cases (such as endings) are part of grammar and are taught even in high-school.
  30. ayaram7700 Senior Member

    Manassas, Virginia USA
    Hello everybody,

    Creo que estudiamos bastante gramática en Chile, de otro modo, ¿de dónde saqué yo "pretérito pluscuamperfecto"? A mi me encanta la gramática, en español, inglés y francés; a mis poquísimos estudiantes de inglés les encanta SABER por qué usan cada tiempo de verbo, la "s" en la tercera persona, etc. Cuando les explico que si usan sólo algunos principios de la gramática, casi mecánicamente, pueden tener un 70 a 80% de sus oraciones correcto, con TODA seguridad, se sorprenden y preguntan un montón de otras reglas que les interesan. Creo que la gramática debiera enseñarse mucho más, en cualquier idioma, a mí me parece super útil y me alegro de que me la hayan enseñado en mis tiempos de estudiante.


  31. Словеса Senior Member

    In Russia, Draconian severity of regulations and importance attached to them results in deep disrespect for such regulations and their failure... This is true about grammar. Question-wise:
    Some grammar notions are taught (word class, sentence type, etc), and some practical grammar is taught. Practical grammar amounts to orthography (spelling of words; this has to do with knowing vocabulary, but also with being able to handle some grammatical regularities, as Russian is a morphemic language) and punctuation, nearly nothing else. Basic theoretical grammar is taught with no imagination, as a set of weirdly connected notions. The funniest thing is that "phonetics" seem to be taught the same to all citizens of the Union... Sorry, of the country. There is no mention (or at least no stress, I don't remember) of regional variations of pronunciation – no wonder that pupils in regions would feel it's a scholastic science that has nothing to do with the reality. Well, in Moscow as well, because of other details (myself, I am not a Muscovite).
    Etcetera already summed it, I also add that the essence of national literature classes is that you write a lot. At least, that was so with my teacher. A lot of essays, on many oeuvres, on some oeuvres many essays. We did not have any text-books, only lecture records. Well, also a set number of little poems to tell by heart (with some preset guides on the choice of the poems). What I wrote in those essays, I have by now completely forgotten; mostly nothing intelligent, obviously. ;-) We received separate marks for correct grammar (i.e. orthography and punctuation) and for something that had to do with the meaning of the written essay; also, we received marks for style, though I never was able to guess (or ask) what they were based on.
    As a theoretical subject, no importance at all. As a practical issue, it has a certain tendency to arise as a topic for judgemental discussion of people, but in practice it has very little respect. The common opinion is that if you're not an editor in a newspaper (say, you're a math guy or a programmer), then you don't have to know how to write properly. No wonder that our programmers are not good. More exactly: they are not good whenever systematic and methodical approaches are required (language is a means to organise thought). Some people of those who care for their language do put their effort on making punctuation quite comprehensible, but they don't care for punctuation rules, unless the situation makes them to. Surprisingly, people overall are much better with orthography (especially spelling) than with punctuation; probably it indeed has importance in our culture.

    As for punctuation, its misuse seldom results in irrevocable loss of meaning, of which karuna gave a well-known example, but it often makes the sentence barely comprehensible, especially for those who are used to pay attention to it; the latter people first scan for punctuation that sets the sentence structure and then read words that fill this structure. Same goes for some quirks of orthography (like не versus ни). Compared with punctuation in some Western languages, Russian one is fairly regular, it is a question of grammar rather than style.
    I don't. I remember that completing tests on rule knowledge was always a kind of nightmare for me, but solving dictations (writing dictated text correctly) never was.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  32. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    Yes, but only a stripped-down, woefully inadequate version of it.

    The teacher spends 15 minutes talking about the rules, another 15 minutes doing exercises, and it doesn't even get a mention for the rest of the year. In primary schools, it's somewhat better, but in secondary schools, it's not considered important at all. There's really no liking or hating it. I really think grammar knowledge is essential for us to preserve the Chineseness of Chinese. Only be learning Chinese grammar can we purge our language of westernisations. Unfortunately, a lot of Chinese believe that grammar is a Western thing and that it is useless to apply Western linguistics to Chinese. Ironically, that's the exact reason why a lot of writing are polluted with anglicisms these days.

    I'm still guilty of overusing certain grammatical structures, particularly 使/令 + obj. + adj.

    The ironic thing is that in Hong Kong, our written language is completely different from our spoken language - they're pretty much different languages - and still, there are no grammar classes.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  33. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    @I suppose teaching grammar is more important in countries where the written language is different from the spoken language

    Hun? How on earth should written language be completely different from spoken language and why should it be unimportant if somebody can speak clearly in his language?
  34. Radioh

    Radioh Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Agreed. In Vietnamese, teaching standard grammar used in written language is not that important. Actually, I don't remember being taught many grammar or punctuation rules. When I was in first grade, we focused on pronunciation and combining words.
  35. luitzen Senior Member

    Frisian, Dutch and Low Saxon
    I never got serious education in my native language anyhow. From fifth grade in primary school until second grade in secondary school (i.e. from the age of 9 to 14) we got one hour of Frisian a week, but never any grammar or other language rules. All we did was read books with the entire class and then you were graded on your pronounciation. Reading Frisian was not to hard, because everyone spoke or heard the language regularly and when you see it you recognize it and you know what you mean. When you need to write (or speak) a language, knowing the rules is more important. Since the grammar is not too distinct from Dutch we were assumed to infer the rules. The result of this atrocious language policy is the development of "interference Frisian" (Frisian interspersed with a lot of Dutch words and grammar) and an abysmal literacy rate of only 17% (17% of the population is able to read and write the language). My writing skills in West Frisian are entirely auto-didactic.

    After I left highschool, trilingual schools became more and more commonplace, greatly increasing the literacy rate in Frisian, Dutch and English in Frisian children.
  36. DarkChild Senior Member

    Yes, in Bulgaria grammar is very extensively taught throughout the 12 grades. We had to do all sorts of grammatical and syntax analyses of sentences. We even had to draw diagrams of main clause and the different types of subordinate clauses in a sentence. This was in 5th and 6th grade. It was complicated and kids didn't really understand anything. I'm not sure what the purpose of all of that was. I think it was a waste of time. Then of course there were all the different tenses and moods, etc.

    More attention should have been given to spelling which although sort of phonetic doesn't reflect the different vowel reductions and consonant quality changes (voiced-unvoiced) and many people simply write the way they hear the word.
  37. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    That's a big problum hear to.
  38. luitzen Senior Member

    Frisian, Dutch and Low Saxon
    My girlfriend told me that most Bulgarians don't really know how to write their language. Is that true or is it her point of view?
  39. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Of course it is true, by Aphrodite's sake! She is your girlfriend. She is right by definition.

    This silly message will self destroy.
  40. DarkChild Senior Member

    That's quite a stretch and sounds like a Daily Mail headline :D

    Many people have difficulties with unstressed vowels and unvoiced consonants.
  41. luitzen Senior Member

    Frisian, Dutch and Low Saxon
    She mentioned it when I explained her about stress in Dutch.
  42. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    We had four different subjects at school: spelling, grammar, reading and writing. I'm not sure how many hours were given to each one per week, but they were graded differently.

    Spelling we had to learn pronunciation rules, speak with a good accent, and had about 20 words we had to memorize every week. On Friday the teacher said the words out loud. We had to write them down with the correct spelling and make up an original sentence with them.

    Grammar. Well, we had grammar explanations and exercises. Subject/predicate, verb tenses, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs. We had tedious exercises in which we diagrammed sentences to explain the function of each word. Sometimes we had to explain why a sentence was incorrect.

    Reading. We did a number of exercises. Reading out loud in class. Also reading alone and making book reports. Analyzing texts. We often had excerpts of longer texts with questions we had to answer for homework.

    Writing. We had subjects we had to write on, either essays, paragraphs. I had one teacher who actually quite often told us to take out a sheet, gave us no subject and just told us to write on whatever we wanted for an hour.
  43. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Don't you think it is vice versa - when people aren't taught proper grammar they mess up their native language and the first part that suffers is the spoken language. And after that they can't write properly either. Isn't that what is happening right now. I mean, all over the Internet I see people writing senttences that are absolutely incomprehensible unless you takt your time to figure out what they did wrong - line "there" in stead of "their" and a lot of other strange things ... ?

    I mean, how on Earth shuld the written language be different from the spoken language - of course providing that the official language that you normally see in writing, is really the same language that people speak - and not like having Toscana Italian in law books and official documents and people speaking Napolitana in the streets.
  44. Darth Nihilus

    Darth Nihilus Senior Member

    Santa Catarina
    Brazilian Portuguese
    But do they become incomprehensible because of "bad grammar" or because of alternate spellings?

    I think what you mean is the lack of the ability to write cohesively and coherently: this may or may not be related to ignorance of prescriptive grammar. I've met certain individuals who had indeed a good grip on grammar and could effectively build flawless isolated sentences. Yet these individuals failed miserably when penning any non-technical text; at times even when writing technical texts. Although being knowledgeable of prescriptive grammar surely helps, writing a text demands more. Please, note when I refer to text, I don't mean "literature", but rather any sort of text, like an internet post. Why this happens is debatable:
    maybe there are some people who simply aren't meant to write or maybe it lies in how one's native language is taught.

    Non-standard spellings (like there, instead of their) are not really a problem, provided that: a-) you are aware of the standard spelling b-) context allows it.
    When I have the opportunity, for example when skyping with friends, I myself love to butcher the standard spelling. :)
  45. More od Solzi

    More od Solzi Senior Member

    There are many examples of this,
    in Finnish, Estonian, Czech and Brazilian Portuguese the spoken language and the written language are two worlds apart.

    Written Czech is based on the literary language of the 17th century, not on contemporary spoken language.
    Written Brazilian Portuguese is based on literary Continental Portuguese of the 19th century (albeit with a modernized spelling and with a handful of Brazilian vocabulary), and not on the grammar of spoken Brazilian Portuguese of the 21th century.

    This is different than the situation in Macedonian, when the grammar of the written standard Macedonian was being codified (in the 1950ies), grammarians opted for contemporary spoken usage and not for the language of ''fine authors of long ago'',
    that's why spoken Macedonian and written Macedonian are pretty close, just like spoken and written American English are, and are not in a diglossic situation like in the case of Czech.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  46. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Come on, you don't honestly want to tell me that everyone who writes automatically switches to a version of the langauge dating centuries back which this person does not speak? Artisans, journalists people who write postcards and love letters, crime story writers?
  47. ger4 Senior Member


    kaksikymmentäviisi ("textbook-Finnish")
    kakskymviis (colloquial language)

    The first version might be old-fashioned but it's certainly not 19th-century Finnish. You can hear the first version on the radio, for instance, but not necessarily in everyday speech. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

    This isn't a perfect example, of course - you don't usually write numbers in LETTERS anyway...
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  48. ger4 Senior Member

    I know this is off-topic, just a few more examples for formal (f) vs colloquial (c) Finnish:

    f minä / c mä (I)
    f sinä / c sä (you)
    f hän / c se (he=she)
    f onko...? / c onks...? (is...?) (adding -ko/-ks marks questions expecting a yes or no answer)

    In colloquial Finnish people tend to use minä and sinä when emphasized.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  49. ger4 Senior Member

    We had grammar lessons at school, unfortunately combined with literature. In my opinion, those two subjects should be taught individually, as in many eastern European countries. It was mentioned earlier in this thread that literature tends to be something creative, thought-provoking (ideally ;)) while grammar describes the mechanisms and the logic of the language; two completely different attitudes to language, from my point of view.

    At our school, everyone who was a dialect speaker had a hard time understanding the grammar of Standard German, while Standard German speakers didn't even have to learn the basics of the local 'low-prestige' dialect - which, I think, has its own mechanisms, its own logic and its own possibilities...

    Bilingualism amongst schoolchildren with an immigrant background was not valued either (obviously, I am generalizing now). Turkish, the language of the largest number of immigrants in Germany - with its completely different grammar and vocabulary - could be seen as something interesting, fascinating even. It was not - definitely not when I went to school. German with a Turkish accent was considered 'bad German' - again, of course, I am generalizing.

    Attitudes towards immigrant languages seem to be changing now, with the introduction of 'Muttersprachenunterricht' ('mothertongue lessons/classes') for non-native speakers, valuing their mother tongue instead of looking at it as some kind of a hurdle, as was the case earlier.

    I know I moved away from the main topic, but somehow it all seems to be related...
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2014
  50. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    So badically we are talking about formal and colloquial ... formal can very well be spoken.

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