What is grammar? – Michael Swan

What would you like to do on a rainy and windy evening? About 70 ELT professionals made their choice: going to Michael Swan’s seminar at the British Council.

MichaelWith much time teaching grammar in the classroom, we thought we knew what grammar was until Michael asked this question. The answers collected were far from perfect. Then Michael invited the audience to imagine their life without grammar. He primed us living in a tribe as intelligent pre-human primates and starting to devise a communication system. We were happily making up clauses or sentences as we liked. However, this grammar-free excitement was soon overtaken by three fundamental problems: it can’t handle complex situations, or determine various relationships, or go beyond requests and statements. These are exactly what grammar can solve by ordering, inflection, and the use of function words in all variants.

 

Michael went on to explain the complexity of grammar in reality despite its simplicity in principle. Michael’s humorous and witty demonstration turned a commonly dry topic into an inspiring and juicy interaction. The discussions continued into the networking time afterwards. The audience left this rewarding seminar with their minds dancing with plans to help their own students.

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