Who outlawed teaching grammar in schools?
THOSE who outlawed the teaching of English grammar must rethink. I have been a teacher of English Language as a second language, let alone English Literature and Literature in English, for all my life, both in mainstream and private sector education.
Not only the pass rate has slowly and continually plummeted but the standard or command of language both in speech and writing today generally continues to leave a lot to be desired.
But a question arises, ‘‘why is the level of English Language for second language learners in the schools as low as it is today?’’
‘‘Why has the command of English language gone to the dogs in speech and writing generally?’’
Something must be terribly wrong along the way.
Obviously many things have gone wrong. But is the abandonment of teaching our learners acknowledged rules of grammar, syntactically and semantically not one of them?
We should not be worried when our children don’t know the individual character of every single word they use?
We should not be worried when they poorly manage their tenses in their sentences and easily lose control of the subject-verb agreement?
If you ask them to bring a cooker, we should not be worried if they bring a human being or a gadget? Any of the two would be fine? They can interchangeably use the word deceased, killed, passed away or on because all of them mean ‘the dead’?
The man who said, ‘‘all the chicks passed away’’ is correct, is he, because it means they died? So long as we know and understand what he means?
Our children can use all these words willy-nilly, can they? We must not penalise them? Really?
You hear trained and seasoned markers agreeing on what they call sense, not accuracy or correctness of language!
That never used to happen in our schools as far back as colonial times?
Learners then knew what a verb was, a subject, predicate, a noun, adjectives, adverbs and were taught how to correctly thread these together to make sense in writing or speaking.
Today markers agree that if a child writes, “She murdered a hen’’ that is fine because we understand what the learner means.
They can use slaughtered, murdered, butchered, and massacred interchangeably and it does not matter? Because all refer to killing! Is that the way we must teach English Language?
One experienced and honourable marker once said, “If a child writes ‘tailor’ instead of ‘teller’ and vice versa, don’t be mean and penalise him or her.
Do you not understand what he or she wanted to say? That is the reasoning. Has he or she not communicated well?” Interesting or ridiculous? I think both.
So we cannot teach that ‘‘burst’’ does not change into ‘‘bursted’’ in the past tense, the way ‘‘cost’’ does not change into ‘‘costed’’ and that these are called neutral verbs which do not structurally change with the tense context, because that would be teaching grammar?
We cannot tell learners that there are regular verbs that end in ‘‘. . . ed’’ when turned into past tense (and that these are 80 to 90 percent of the verbs in English language) but there are some that are irregular . . . like ‘‘dig’’ which becomes ‘‘dug’’ and not ‘‘digged’’, ‘‘fly’’ which becomes ‘‘flew’’ instead of ‘‘flied’’, eat-ate, and not ‘‘eated’’, sit-sat, not ‘‘sitted’’, see-saw, and not ‘‘seed’’? We cannot teach this because this is grammar?
When a subject or agent is singular (only one) the verb takes an ‘‘s’’ form eg. A dog barks or a cat jumps or a cow eats.
But when the agents are more than one you omit the ‘‘s’’ form eg. Dogs bark; cats jump and cows eat.
We cannot teach this because that would be teaching grammar?
Teach them the way they speak and write, they say. What does this mean?
We know our children, our learners, talk about ‘‘eating money’’, ‘‘buying their dresses and shirts’’, ‘‘a trousers’’ instead of simply ‘‘trousers’’ (many) because indeed they are a pair.
Do we not tell them for fear of being accused of teaching grammar?
So we wait until they make the error so that we can be thanked for teaching English as it is used?
Do we not teach them that we cannot say “It was last year in June when we went to visit . . .” (a very popular opening sentence in learners’ compositions) but “It was last year in June that we went to visit . . .”? How do we teach that without teaching grammar? How do we teach that ‘‘when’’ here is out of place but ‘‘that’’?
Let us go back to the drawing board, a new dispensation of pedagogy.
Do we need these ‘‘religious donts’’, particularly this English teaching eleventh commandment that criminalises teaching grammar?
How do you teach or learn the language effectively, efficiently and efficaciously without mastering the laws that govern the particular language, namely grammar?
Food for thought for well-meaning and serious teachers of English Language! Enjoy the week!