Oct 3, 2011

Gap between "I know" and "can command"

Quite a few English grammar books are now sold at big bookstores in Japan and I know some private high schools started to use them as a main textbook instead of officially screened English textbooks. One of the most well known titles might be "grammar in use" and it's highly recommended among tadokers, too. It's a bit heavy^^; and thick, so I'm easily overwhelmed with its feature and have never done  all the way through even I hold three different versions of it...

Once you finish studying English with those kind of grammar books thoroughly, then it's quite understandable for you to expect that you can use the knowledge of English grammar in real life. But I highly doubt by now that the gap between having basic knowledge of English grammar and being able to command it well might be much wider than you imagine. Can your brain retain all the rules till the time you use them in the future? Do you think all the rules you learn from textbooks are indispensable for your need of using English?

Again I have to emphasize here the importance of having a clear objective to study English and also the benefit of using English in real life from the early days of your learning as you study with those textbooks. If you're aware of why you study English and what kind of English you need to acquire to reach your goal, then you can tell which words/phrases and rules you need to learn well and which you don't.

What's for learning complicated past perfect expressions when you want to chitchat casually with your friends. You can go with simply using past tense only. I'm sure your friend can tell that you're talking about something which is supposed to be expressed with past perfect tense from other additional information.        

As for the benefit of using English, I think writing English from the beginning is crucial to enhance the long term memory for remembering the complicated rules of English grammar. You start to write what you really want to tell, then you run into some expression which you're not sure if it's correct or not. Then is the time your memory is strengthened. You look up words in a dictionary or refer to some textbooks, and then use what you learned right away in your writing. You're unlikely to forget words or rules you learned in this way.

I'm not saying you shouldn't use any textbooks and do only tadoku, but maybe it's better to find a better way to use textbooks for your own need, then you'll be able to make the best use of them.
今日もだらだらとwriting 練習でした。
言いたかったのは、受動的にテキストやるより、writing して能動的な活動をするほうがいいんじゃないかなってこと。 ちゃんちゃん

7 comments:

Whiskers said...

There you go, emmie-san!

Now I understand you better...or maybe already I knew it??

You should have objectives-I agree, but as a teacher I must say most of eager English learners love to just learn or 'study' English. Sometimes I wonder why sooooo many people study English with such enthusiasm.
One thing I'm sure is that they dream of speaking English as fluently as a native speaker someday. About what or with whom many of them have no idea.
I don't blame them, because I was also one of the dreamers. Well, if you are only dreaming, it doesn't help you in a long run, that's for sure.

I have some more I want to write. Maybe I'll come back:)

Whiskers said...

I really feel like a stalker:) I had to check your tweet from yesterday.
You said you had an impression that advanced class students who have experienced entrance exams or have STEP 1st grade qualification have potential to make even more progress although intermediate class students might not fully benefit from a textbook written in English.
Does that mean that you need to hit some level to benefit fully from an English-written textbook and it doesn't matter how you reached the level?

Only because I have an impression that using 'Grammar in Use' is an unknown rule among tadokers I wanted to double check what you meant.

I can see you are a very independent person who can explore your own way. You don't want to be prejudiced by anything.
I hope a lot more English learners have a chance to hear what you say!
Now I sound like Mr. S. Hee, hee ;)

Whiskers said...

While I was taking a bath, I was still thinking about this. Am I obsessed with you, or what!?

Anyway, I realized I was totally missing the point. You wrote it so clearly-be active, not passive. Right! Sometimes my students look like a huge bunch of baby birds sitting in the nest with their mouths open waiting to be fed.

Now I can hit the pillow. G'night!

Mrs. Malone said...

There are many issues about English learning environment in Japan that should be put at the stake, I'm afraid, and here I'm going to give you an ironical example of using English textbooks at school.
There is this well known private junior/high school in Tokyo. Their English classes are performed all in English and use grammar in use. They also introduced tadoku several years ago. It was once reported in a Jyuken magazine that students' English scores with Moshi has greatly increased. It's natural for teachers in general to conclude that the combination of grammar in use and tadoku should be the trick, right?
However, some tadoker English teachers living around the school came to know some lamenting facts behind the scene.
Some students are not able to catch up with the class nor use the textbook properly, so they end up going to a Jyuku and attend an English classes that use a Japanese textbook...
Parents pay big tuition to send their children to this school expecting they'd get better English education there, but in the end, they're made to pay double...
This is the true story which would never be opened in public.

Whiskers said...

Hmm..If you are in your right mind, you should easily be able to predict that 1st graders in junior high school would have difficulties understanding grammar class taught in English using an English textbook. Maybe lots of students start to learn English way before their entering a junior high, there should be some who don't. The private junior high schools don't give English entrance exams after all.

タドキストの間ではある程度読んでからGrammar in Useをするのが効果的ですよ、というのが暗黙の了解になってますよね?これまでも何度も繰り返されてきたアドバイスというか・・・。
何語で書かれたテキストであっても、それをやった人がAha!体験できるものならいい、ということですかね?そして、Aha!となるためにはそれまでに結構な英語の蓄積が必要だよ、というのがemmie-sanの意見?

It has been quite a writing practice for me, emmie-san!

Mrs. Malone said...

Hi,
I'm planning to visit a high school today where some outrageous, いやだから半分冗談、tadoker teacher's working, so excuse me to give you a short reply again.

Here is the thing what I always worry about.
"タドキストの間ではある程度読んでからGrammar in Useをするのが効果的ですよ、というのが暗黙の了解になってますよね?これまでも何度も繰り返されてきたアドバイスというか・・・。"
Do you know some tadoders in person who says that the book was really helpful? Someone who's done the textbook after a certain period of tadoku, not the one like you who've done it before tadoku.
I got the same advice from S-sensei when Ribbon-chan was to take Eiken2, but I thought she's not into that kind of tedious practice so I let her take the test without any preparations, but the result was better than I've expected.

I'm afraid there are many people who tend to believe what someone with a big title claims so easily without any doubts.

In this case, I'm thinking that book was known to be this widely because someone, experienced tadoker, said nonchalantly that the textbook was great, and S-sense heard that, and started to tell others that the textbook is good as if he'd ever studied with it. 神話の誕生っていうのかな?

I do think that textbook is one of the bests, but do tadokers need to study with that thick book filled with bothersome practices?

きゃー時間がなくなる、またあとでね!結局、こうやって書いて、あやふやな部分を本で調べる、という繰り返しが、一番大切だと思う。今は調べてないから勉強になってないが...

Whiskers said...

Come to think of it, I've never heard the exact comment from any tadokers directly. But I've only seen several tadokers in person. Duh. And you mean S-sensei hasn't used it himself either? I don't intend to criticize him here. I'm sure he doesn't need to now and when he was a student probably it was very difficult to obtain this kind of textbook.:P

Well, if you're just reading books for fun, probably you don't need a textbook, I agree.