Do you really have to learn Grammar for Fluency in a Language?
So what exactly is grammar?
The Wikipedia entry for the term ‘grammar’ reads:
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics.
These rules constitute grammar, and the vast majority of the information in the grammar is—at least in the case of one’s native language—acquired not by conscious study or instruction, but by observing other speakers.
Kommunikation Über Alles
As my language learning philosophy has evolved over the last decade, I’ve being placing more and more emphasis on communication over rote memorization (of grammar rules and vocabulary).
- I always start a new language by researching its general structures and looking for shortcuts (or ‘hacks’) that will bring me the biggest benefits in the beginning, like for example, how is the new language related to languages that I already speak so that I can understand the grammatical similarities.
- Next I focus on communicating or ‘getting the ball over the net’ as Michel Thomas used to say in his courses and pay attention for the implicit or explicit feedback from native speakers.
- Then I read and absorb plenty of (interesting) media and entertainment in the target language so that I become familiar with the patterns in the new language.
- Importantly, whenever I realize that there is a trend emerging that I don’t understand or am unsure of then I google what I think is going on to look for a simple and immediately understandable explanation.
While I don’t believe that you can really reach ‘mastery’ of a language by completely ignoring the grammar (even native speakers have some schooling in the most complicated elements), I do think that you can reach functional ‘fluency’ in a new language without emphasizing grammar too strongly.