Lately, I have stumbled upon several articles in Taiwan arguing around the subject whether English grammar is important. It is interesting to see so many people in Taiwan having so strong an opinion on this subject. You really have to ask yourself what your purpose of learning English in Taiwan is. You don't need to master English to survive in Taiwan. It is just a foreign language. I am picking up a little Spanish since my son is taking Spanish after school program. My purpose would be to be able to understand some words or to pick up some words that the Mexicans are saying or to make learning Spanish more fun for my son. To me, I do not intend to write in Spanish nor speak to Mexicans in Spanish, so grammar is not important to me nor is mastering Spanish my goal. To me, learning a foreign language is just for fun. So, ask yourself these questions. What is your purpose of learning a foreign language, in this case, English? Who do you want to communicate with? What means would you use to communicate with them? Of course, anyone can speak English but how good do you want your English to be? There is African American English but does Obama speak like that in public or write like that? By the way, please don’t assume that everyone will be able to understand Chinglish. Even though I do understand Chinese, I have hard time understanding Chinglish.
Truly, if you want to write a good article, grammar is very important. If you are speaking in public or making a presentation to your senior leaders, grammar is very important. It really depends on whom you want to communicate with.
It is not a matter of whether grammar is important or not but how to teach and learn English/grammar. There is a fine line between learning basic grammar and drilling it down to the nth degree. I do think that using correct grammar is very important and I disagree with ditching grammar altogether but I also don't agree with memorizing grammar rules the way they are taught in Taiwan. The importance is to know how and where to apply it.
Kids in America and England learn to use correct grammar through listening, reading, speaking and writing. They are taught to speak and write using accurate grammar. They are taught not to say "Me and Johnny are pals" but to say "I and Johnny are pals", or more accurately “Johnny and I are pals”. Kids learn and use basic grammar without even thinking about it, long before they enter elementary school, where formal grammar is taught.
This is an interesting article and some interesting points from the readers in America around this subject.
I like what Paul Brians, English Literature professor of Washington State University said about English usage (http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/ ). " You should use nonstandard English only when you intend to, rather than fall into it because you don’t know any better. The fact is that the world is full of teachers, employers, and other authorities who may penalize you for your nonstandard use of the English language. Feel free to denounce these people if you wish; but if you need their good opinion to get ahead, you'd be wise to learn standard English”.
Indeed, what Paul Brians said is very true at least with my profession in the US as a project manager and before as a financial analyst. It really depends on your purpose of learning English in Taiwan and whom you want to communicate with. Obama does not speak African American English in public nor write an article using African American English.
Instead of arguing whether grammar is important, the Taiwanese educators should focus on how to teach accurate grammar through reading, listening, writing and speaking as the native speakers of English do. Like what Paul Brians said, people do judge you by your use of the English language if you work in Corporate America. At least, this is how I feel living in the foreign lands for about 3/4 of my life. Whether grammar is important or not never comes to my mind. To me, grammar is the foundation of any language.
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