Better German Podcast with Susi

Susanne Schilk-Blümel

Episode 8 - How Much Grammar Do We Need?

Grammar vs. Communication: Striking the Right Balance in Language Learning

2023-10-12 11 min

Description & Show Notes

We're diving deep into a topic that many of us grapple with when learning a new language: grammar. How much grammar is really necessary? Should we sweat over every rule and tense, or is there a better way? In this episode, we'll explore the importance of striking a balance between grammar and practical application. I'll share some insights on how overemphasis on grammar can hinder our progress and confidence. We'll also discuss the power of learning sentence patterns, the significance of vocabulary, and the gradual improvement we can achieve, just like a child learning their first words. So, let's unlock the secrets of mastering German without getting lost in the sea of grammar rules.

Episode: How Much Grammar

- Introduction: Importance of speaking freely and not being overly corrected
- Comparison of language learning experiences in German-speaking and English-speaking areas
- Importance of learning words and suggested number of words for day-to-day language
- Focus on sentence patterns for quick generation of correct sentences
- Seeking help from native speakers to improve language skills
- Emphasizing communication over perfect grammar
- Learning German without being a genius
- Importance of correct approach, course, and method
- Encouragement for those finding it difficult
- Negative impact of too much grammar emphasis in the beginning
- Importance of practical application and practice in early stages
- Introduction to learning sentence patterns instead of grammar rules
- Impetus for practicing sentence patterns until automatic
- Acknowledgment of gradual improvement and mistakes in language proficiency
- Comparison to child's language learning process
- Utilizing translation tools for comparison and identification of sentence patterns
- Suggestions for learning activities without a course or help
- Importance of parallel texts in language learning
- Illustration of child's progression from words to sentences
- Emphasis on sentence structure's secondary importance in initial stages
- Encouragement to become proficient in German without genius abilities
- Focus on learning grammar properly after achieving a certain level
- Affirmation that sentence patterns lead to correct sentences
- Reassurance about learning German with the podcast
- Reflection on learning about nouns and questioning their definition
- Assertion that grammar rules are not necessary for language learning
- Focus on learning words instead of grammar rules
- Mention of article and video on proper word learning techniques
- Discussion on the amount of grammar needed in language learning
- Comparison of native language acquisition to learning a foreign language with grammar
- Mention of parent teaching a child their native language as an example of different learning processes

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Okay, so how much grammar do we need when we learn German? Most of what I will say by the way, is true for any language. Actually we need way less grammar in the beginning of learning a language or German particularly than we may think, and I can prove it. a native speaker has learned their own native language pretty well before they go to school. So they start school at five or six, and after that they learn grammar. Because I'm very sure that you did not learn your language with your mom picking you up when you were like two years old and saying, "okay, little Johnny" or "Little Mary," or whatever your name is. "Yesterday we learned nouns. So by the way, what is the definition of a noun?" And the child would probably run away at this point I'm sure that that's not the way how you learn your own language. we can learn a language without actually learning so many grammar rules. What do we do instead of learning big grammar rules? The first thing is we need to learn words. We need to learn the words. There's actually a whole article and video I have about how to learn words properly. I'm not saying we don't learn anything before we learn the the words, but just focus on learning words. You need about 5,000 words to get along in any language and cover about 75- 80% of the day-to-day language. Um, And then in my courses we use sentence patterns. A sentence pattern is basically a sentence with a blank. So for example, this is a. ________. And then I tell you, okay, which words you can put in this blank. Then, you know, you can say, "this is a lamp", "this is a table", "this is a floor", "this is a chair", "this is a picture". And by using that, you can immediately say at least, I don't know, 20 sentences. Correctly. So if you have someone who speaks the language and your language, they can help you work that out. Or you can even use a translation tool and translate very simple sentences and see what's the same in your own language and in German. And work with that. And other than that, if you do not have a course or a person that can help you with that, I suggest you to more focus on things like watching movies with subtitles, or reading for example, you can use a parallel text A parallel text is a book or a text that gives the same text in German and your native language. You probably can even use a translation tool for a text that you have and work out patterns, sentence patterns - start with easy ones yourself and practice those. Of course, again, if you'd learn it with me, we have these sentence patterns and we have put the whole, grammar into these sentence patterns. So you don't have to to learn grammar rules, but you learn a sentence pattern and then you practice the sentence pattern until you can really use it and don't have to think about it. And then the next one. And then the next one. You will not learn German silently, and then after two years, suddenly speak in perfect sentences. So how you learn is you say it, you start saying simple sentences with probably bad pronunciation and making some mistakes, and then you will become better and better and better. But I can give you an example. When you have a son or a daughter and they try to say a sentence for the first time because they start out by using singular words. A kid, when they start speaking in language, they will probably say something like, "tree" and maybe they will say Tree to anything: to a lamp, to a pole. "Tree. Tree. Tree." And then they will figure out what is really a tree. And then they will say, tree to trees. And you will be very happy about the progress they make. And then maybe they learn "dog", and then they say "dog" to the cat and then to the dog. And then finally they say "dog" to the dogs. So they've learned what a dog is. And then maybe they will for the first time, attempt the sentence and they will say, "dog barking". And you will be, "yes, which dog? Which dog?" You will not go and say, "no, you have to say, that dog is barking". Or, "you have to say, 'a dog is barking' because that is a difference". No, you will be: "ha dog barking. My kid is a genius!" He said a sentence or something like that. Anyway, you don't, that doesn't matter if you think he's a genius, but that's, that is the sentence. It's the first sentence and it's not perfect, and it will become better and better and better. But if you expect that you are being corrected on every mistake you ever make, or maybe you don't expect it, but it just happens to you. What will happen is you will start saying, you will, like, it's already difficult because first of all, you have to think of what you're saying and then you have to do it in another language, and then you will put things together and maybe you will say something like, " Tag schön" and then somebody will tell you no, you have to say " Der tag is schön" and so on. And what it will cause, or what it will do is it will make you look inside, it will introvert you and it can make you not speak freely. And that is not a good thing. And it's not a good thing for anything. I mean, if you become more introverted, when you learn something. Too much over-correction is not a good thing. And I don't know, this seems to be happening even more in German speaking areas than it is happening, for example, in English speaking areas. Maybe it's just what I've seen, but I know that it can hurt. It can make people not want to speak and that's what they should actually learn. And another thing I've seen that Using too much grammar in the beginning in a course can actually cause the opposite of what it should be because if you use too many grammar rules right in the beginning of a course, the person, um, first of all, it can happen. many, many people are not super, 100% perfect about grammar, even in their own language. So if I tell you in a complicated sentence with three foreign words, how to make a German correct sentence, even if you maybe sort of understand what is meant, it will not get you to the point where you can actually apply this. So in the beginning, you need much less grammar, much less theory. And much more practice. And then after and only after you've learned enough German or any other language that you can say sentences, you can understand the basic language. Then you start worrying (about grammar) - "Worrying", you should never worry. But then you start dealing with grammar and learning more grammar and making your sentences better and more correct. I'm not saying that grammar is unnecessary. I'm not saying we don't need grammar. I think some people in my environment, some students will testify that - I have not, I've "tortured" them with grammar. No, I don't think so. It is very important. You will only get to a certain level of German and I want and encourage all of my students to become very good at what they learn and to get to a very good level of German if they want to. It is entirely possible. And then after a certain level, they need to learn grammar and they need to learn it properly. But they may have to find that they have to also learn the grammar of their own language, of their native language at that point in time, it's possible that that happens. So maybe you have become desperate about learning German or understanding the German grammar. So I'm telling you, it's entirely possible to both learn German and to understand German grammar. You don't need to be a genius to do that. It's not so hard. If you have the correct approach, if you have the correct course, if you have a method for you that works however, if you are maybe at the situation that you think it's super difficult, first of all, let me tell you, do not give up. You will be able to succeed. You can do it. But maybe you have to consider finding a course that works better for you or finding a method that works better for you because it's very possible that you are at the stage where you need less grammar and more practice and more vocabulary and more working it out and working on conversation, then actually learning theoretical rules. Yes, so don't give up and know and understand that if you get confused and desperate about grammar, it's probably not your fault. It's probably that you haven't been taught right and you need to fix that.


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