4 Hacks To Make Learning Grammar Less Stressful
When I went to school and took German classes, I did pretty well in my oral exams, but I completely flunked the written tests because of all the grammar rules. This made me build up a complete intolerance to grammar; I honestly think I am allergic.
The same happened in my French classes and now because I can’t stand grammar, I try to avoid it at all costs. But I have come to a point in my Spanish studies where I feel like perhaps I should at least think about it!
Do you HATE grammar like me, or are you a grammar freak?
The ideal way to think about grammar, according to Steve Kaufmann, is that we should look at it from time to time. Peek at the tables, look at the rules, but by no means should we expect to learn it by heart.
Grammar takes a long time to learn and to me it is not something that is easily done. I like the idea of learning a bunch of words first, and then slowly integrating basic grammar.
Hopefully then it will fall into place bit by bit, and things will become clearer. In my experience from learning other languages – even English – I found that it was impossible to predict what part of the grammar was going to be difficult to learn and what part was going to be easy.
I am easing myself into grammar slowly using the following grammar hacks:
1 – Forget About It
I know this is a bit of a paradox as this is about grammar hacks, nevertheless it may help calm your nerves to realize that grammar isn’t the most important thing when learning a language.
Many of the esteemed polyglots who have made names for themselves online agree that you don’t even need grammar until you are at least at an intermediate level. Until then you can get by learning basic phrases or not speak at all – as is Steve Kaufmann’s advice. But, if you want to start checking basic grammar, keep reading.
Take Away: Forget about grammar in the early stages.
2 – Combine Grammar & Input
My second hack is to deal with grammar in combination with a lot of input (reading and listening). This way the grammar explanations relate to something that I have already seen in my lessons on LingQ. Also I may see certain structures that make me curious and I want to find out why certain things are said in one way and not another.
A good example of this are the words tener and haber. They both mean ‘to have’, but are used very differently. So when do you use what and why? Haber is not used in the sense of “to have as in to possess”. To have as in to possess is the verb “tener”. Haber is often thought of as a supporting or helping verb. It is also found in idiomatic uses like “hay” as in there is (exists) or there are (exists). Tener tends to be the verb used to indicate ownership or possession.
I looked this up because it confused me and wouldn’t have known the answer otherwise. There’s a very good chance I won’t remember this rule, but at least I am now aware of it.
So the next time haber and/or tener comes up in a lesson I will remember that there is something about those words, and I will be more likely to go look at the rule in a grammar book and understand the explanations. The thing with grammar is if I have nothing to relate the explanations to, I won’t understand them. If I see certain things several times though eventually something will click.
Take Away: Combine input activities with learning the grammar.
3 – Cheat
I go to the answer section at the back of my grammar book and read that instead of reading the explanations and trying to understand why things are the way they are. The examples at the back of the grammar books are usually about the same pattern and they reinforce the rule.
Ideally a grammar book is not too heavy on the explanations, but has tables and LOTS of examples. When a table is introduced it comes with lots of examples of how the tenses, pronounce or whatever are used.
Take Away: CHEAT – Go directly to the answer page
4 – Ask For Help
You can submit a piece of writing on the LingQ Exchange and ask a tutor to correct your mistakes, explaining why something is the way it is.
For some people, myself included, it is easier to understand grammar if it is explained by a real person using an example that you have come up with yourself. Also, if you are not worried or shy about speaking to others early, you can sign up for discussions with a tutor.
During the conversation your tutor can tell you when you are making mistakes. Or he/she can give you some of the sentences you struggle with in writing. You can import them into LingQ and practice them to get better, while hopefully not making the same mistakes again.
Take Away: Ask a tutor for help
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Grammar is scary, but it is important, although I don’t think it should be the main focus. To me grammar is stressful by default, so I try to make learning less stressful by using these hacks. Luckily for me and other Spanish learners there are some great online Grammar hacks sources:
Or this lovely site Grammar Check
If you have any other grammar hacks to make everybody’s lives easier – please share them below. I, and anyone else struggling with grammar, would really appreciate it!