Foreign languages - conversation skills or perfect grammar knowledge? Watch

KsenyaP1310
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Nowadays foreign languages are so popular, but, actually, what is more important while we learn them - perfect knowledge of grammar, phonetics and language structure or just fantastic communication skills?

As for me, I prefer combining these two things since if I don’t know grammar or some simple rules, nobody will understand me. I believe that if you learn a foreign language, you should try to know almost everything about it, otherwise, in some difficult situations, your fabulous conversation skills will never save you.

So, what do you think? Communication or grammar? What is the most important thing here? Maybe you have your own methods?

I'm very interested in your opinions! Thank you for your answers!
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Toriar
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I guess it depends on what you want to do with the language. If you're just learning it because you want to live in that country or you just want to be able to converse in that language, then conversation skills are most important, but if you want to be a translator then perfect grammar is vital. Communication becomes so much easier when you have good grammar knowledge anyway so I think the two go hand in hand.
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Juichiro
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(Original post by KsenyaP1310)
Nowadays foreign languages are so popular, but, actually, what is more important while we learn them - perfect knowledge of grammar, phonetics and language structure or just fantastic communication skills?

As for me, I prefer combining these two things since if I don’t know grammar or some simple rules, nobody will understand me. I believe that if you learn a foreign language, you should try to know almost everything about it, otherwise, in some difficult situations, your fabulous conversation skills will never save you.

So, what do you think? Communication or grammar? What is the most important thing here? Maybe you have your own methods?

I'm very interested in your opinions! Thank you for your answers!
Depends.

Academia, translator -> Perfect grammar knowledge

Interpreter, non-academia -> Convo skills
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by KsenyaP1310)
Nowadays foreign languages are so popular, but, actually, what is more important while we learn them - perfect knowledge of grammar, phonetics and language structure or just fantastic communication skills?

As for me, I prefer combining these two things since if I don’t know grammar or some simple rules, nobody will understand me. I believe that if you learn a foreign language, you should try to know almost everything about it, otherwise, in some difficult situations, your fabulous conversation skills will never save you.

So, what do you think? Communication or grammar? What is the most important thing here? Maybe you have your own methods?

I'm very interested in your opinions! Thank you for your answers!
A concentration on grammar is one of the reasons the foreign language skills of the British are so poor.

Effectively our school system is designed around the tiny percentage of pupils who will one day become modern languages graduates.

Tens of thousands of pupils leave school having done modern languages for five years with no usable skills in the field. This has been the case for decades. Most pupils are incapable of having an unplanned, unscripted conversation on any subject.

English schools teach too much grammar and not enough vocabulary.

If you have the vocabulary, most native speakers will be able to to establish that you mean "the cat sat on the mat" rather than "the sat will mat on the cat". However if you do not know the word for "cat", it is impossible to have the conversation at all.
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KsenyaP1310
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(Original post by Toriar)
Communication becomes so much easier when you have good grammar knowledge anyway so I think the two go hand in hand.
I totally agree with this phrase!
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KsenyaP1310
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(Original post by nulli tertius)

English schools teach too much grammar and not enough vocabulary.
Yes, and too much grammar may even destroy your desire to learn the language, as for some people it's too difficult to understand this huge pile of rules
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WishIHadRevised
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I think conversation because you don't end up using most of the grammar you learn in normal convos anyway.
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GoldGhost
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I am learning a foreign language and I focus on looking at complete sentences and words rather than focusing too much grammar. I read very simple texts with grammar notes and occasionally look at the notes. I find it much easier to understand how grammar works when I figure it out by myself and check my grammar book to make sure I'm correct. Rather than forcing myself to learn 100's of rules, I prefer to assimilate grammar naturally.
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llys
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I think that FIRST you need to build up conversation skills (2000 words) with intuitive grammar (basic building block assimilation). IMO Assimil does a very good job on this (at least the original assimil courses used to). I guess Michel Thomas is similar in end product. At this stage conversation is much more important than grammar, although it's not an "either/or" - you will naturally assimilate basic grammar by listening and speaking - it's just a trial and error approach rather than the traditional "rule memorisation" approach.

THEN you need to learn at least another 3000 words so you can have and listen to fairly sophisticated conversations and read more complex material. At this point I would also start to teach grammar in its pure form, so that you can also produce sophisticated written texts if you want to.
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L'Evil Fish
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I disagree with people saying British schools teach too much grammar. We don't learn any.

We just learn how to say silly phrases to pass the exam and it's ****.

So I decided to form a grammar Base and now I can speak a lot better than what I ever would have with just phrases.
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Kallisto
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I would say that both communication skills and grammar are important. Grammar to have a base and communication skills to get a good rhetoric. But no one should underestimate the vocabularies. Without vocabularies, no one is able to express words, without words, no one is able to speak. :yep:
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KsenyaP1310
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(Original post by GoldGhost)
I am learning a foreign language and I focus on looking at complete sentences and words rather than focusing too much grammar. I read very simple texts with grammar notes and occasionally look at the notes. I find it much easier to understand how grammar works when I figure it out by myself and check my grammar book to make sure I'm correct. Rather than forcing myself to learn 100's of rules, I prefer to assimilate grammar naturally.

I really love your method! it's not like a boring grammar cramming




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PianoKeys4
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I struggle to imagine someone having fantastic conversational skills with a poor or basic knowledge of grammar. It's not really an either-or situation. Words are very important, but without a good amount of grammar to stick them together, you end up limited in what you can express. Likewise, knowing lots of grammar but only a small vocabularly limits what you can say. Some mistakes a native speaker will be easily able to understand (the context will often be very useful in aiding this) and sometimes you'll be able to rephrase things, but not every mistake will be understood and not everything can be easily rephrased. Charisma only gets you so far in a conversation.

My personal experience of language learning has been positive, but I'm one of those people who actually enjoy learning grammar. Learning generally starts off simple with very basic sentences, whilst the person adjusts to the new language. Gradually more complicated things are learnt but eventually there will be grammatical constructions that need special attention unless you want to sound like a 3-year-old for the rest of your life.

As for perfect grammar, what exactly constitutes "perfect grammar"? Language is dynamic and always changing. What may be grammatical in one dialect or at one time may be considered an error elsewhere. I wouldn't call a native-like control of grammar perfect simply because it is impossible to line up with something that isn't a straight unchanging line.

This is an interesting question methinks, OP.
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by PianoKeys4)
I struggle to imagine someone having fantastic conversational skills with a poor or basic knowledge of grammar.
I think this is part of the problem. You do need a good grasp of grammar to have fantastic conversational skills but that is setting the bar too high. For the majority of pupils, after five years of leaning a language, they can do nothing usable with it and that is because they don't have enough words to hold a conversation. For example they will be taught to buy a stamp at the post-office but they won't be given enough words that are commonly used in conversations in a post office to enable them to have a real conversation with a post office clerk. "What does it weigh?" "Can I send this registered post?" "Do I need a customs declaration?". Then repeat that for every other social scenario, either in a conversation or a written communication.
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