Saturday, 19 June 2010

Grammar go home

Getting too serious around here so I though it was time for a little Monty Python language learning. As in this video some people seem to focus too much on grammar and miss the message. I am not going to worry about learning Thai grammar, I may read about it little after the event but I didn't study or learn grammar for Chinese and I will not deliberately study it for Thai. It is a waste of my time.

Some people may say that Chinese and Thai have a relatively simple grammar anyway (and yet the grammar books in various series of grammar books seem to be a similar size to other languages), I think that is is just that their grammar is different and we have a tendency to think about grammar in a western way (because we caught it from the Greeks and Romans). I won't know for sure until I study a European language though. This blog will not have any posts detailing how I am learning grammar for sure though, if it doesn't get adsorbed along with everything else I am in trouble... :)

Grammar is not even that important (yes you heard me correctly). if you get the pronouciation correct and the words right then for casual conversation in most language grammar mistakes will not stop you being understood (think about learners of your language you have talked with). Many languages it seems even the natives don't worry to much about their own grammar when talking.

If you think I am wrong then I would be happy to hear your opinion.


  1. I had a quick look at my books on Chinese grammar, and you're right: the standard grammar books aren't any thinner than, say, their counterparts for Hungarian or French. If you're going to learn this stuff as rules, you're in for as much frustration and confusion (or sense of achievement?) as the average Hungarian or French learner is.

    I was thinking that if you study languages the traditional way by translating and learning words rather than acquiring the language 'naturally', you actually need to study grammar rules. How else would you have a chance to construct correct L2 sentences? Only if you outsource the language as a whole to your subconscious (by taking in as much comprehensible input as possible and let your subconscious sort out meanings and rules, resulting eventually in a 'feeling for the language'), you can afford to ignore grammar.

  2. good point Bakunin your approach probably dictates whether you need to study Grammar.
    To say pasa Thai (language Thai, or taiyu) seems backwards compared to what I already knew but I never thought of it that way so pasa thai, patet thai, pasa ang grit, patet ang rit. all seem perfectly natural without think about grammar rules at all.

    If I absorb pasa thai, I won't need the grammar rule, if I keep translating from "Thai language" or "taiyu" then I will need the grammar rule.

  3. I've actually never noticed that pasa Thai (as you spell it) etc. is backwards compared to English (or my own mother tongue German), before you pointed it out here as an example! I guess that's exactly your point. I'm quite amazed about not having noticed that! Gosh, for me there's definitely no going back to any grammar study anymore... :)

  4. I don't want to hear more rules like that, Chris. They're evil knowledge. I hope you won't be doing too much language analysis on this blog going forward...

  5. Bakunin, agreed, evil knowledge, I will probably only include them in one more post or so, if it helps there is a piece of me sitting outside trying to be a passive observer, I really wanted to understand and document what goes no when you start learning a language by mostly input.