Should grammar be taught in the communicative classroom? Starting in the 80s and mainly following Krashen’s distinction between acquisition and learning, many researchers have argued that knowing grammar rules does not necessarily result in good speaking or writing. A student who has memorized the rules of the language may be able to succeed on a standardized test of English language but may not be able to speak or write correctly. Children acquire language through a subconscious process during which they are unaware of grammatical rules. This is similar to the way they acquire their first language. They get a feel for what is and what isn’t correct. However, a lot of recent research has supported the benefits of an approach in which there is a place for the explicit teaching of grammar as a way to attain higher levels of language proficiency.
The question, then, should not be whether to teach grammar, but how to teach it. If meaning is paramount in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) but attention to form is essential for developing accuracy and proficiency, the ideal teaching model would be one that requires attention to form while maintaining meaningful communication. CLT places a special emphasis on the importance of input and on giving the learner the ability to establish a connection between form and meaning before they are asked to produce the target structure in the output.
It is far beyond the scope of this post to give an exhaustive list of the proposals that could facilitate the establishment of form-meaning relationships but we could briefly remark how discourse-based approaches and task-based approaches provide learners with contextualized discourse and communicative activities that promote learners’ awareness of grammar forms. Consciousness-raising tasks in which learners face a grammar problem that they have to solve through meaningful interaction are also successful at integrating formal grammar instruction within the framework of CLT.
We firmly believe there are endless possibilities to help teachers overcome the gap between learning grammar and acquiring grammar or, in other words, between learning a set of grammar rules and attaining high levels of language proficiency through teaching grammar in a communicative way.
Our speakers are bound to give us many clues on how to pave the way to successful grammar instruction so we are looking forward to listening to them on May 15th and 16th.