Imagine the moment a teacher of English is about to explain the Present Continuous in the classroom.
A student raises their hand and asks politely, “What is a verb, miss?”
Such kind of awkward moments are far from rare. In fact, they can be very common and they can cause bewilderment to the teacher and to the students as well.
Text by: Emmanuel Bouhalakis
Such questions basically shouldn't exist. The students who study the Present Continuous are approximately 8-10 years old and go to Primary School, therefore they must know the meanings of verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
Yet, they look genuinely flabbergasted when we tell them that this word is a noun and that word is a verb.
Frantically calling the parents and asking why their child hasn't learned any grammar in Primary School is not a good idea.
Yet, the Grammar books are right in front of us, on our desks, waiting to be used together with the coursebooks, companions, writing booklets, workbooks and other paraphernalia that modern book packs have.
What is more, some publishing houses tend to have grammar theory in English, making things even more difficult for students who haven't learned Greek grammar first.
Some EFL experts have even expressed the view that grammar needs to be marginalized in favor of more writing, speaking, or listening activities.
However, without grammar it is impossible to fully understand how English works. All examinations contain grammar and phrasal verbs and extensive vocabulary, especially those at levels C1 and C2.
The claim that because there are some “lighter” certificates there won't be much need to focus on the heavy use of grammar, is ill-founded. Moreover, the argument that since native speakers aren't taught grammar in their primary education system the way we are, is also not a valid reason to side-line English grammar for EFL learners.
So, the question is, how can we address this problem? How can we make grammar appealing to young learners and adults alike?
One possible solution would be to completely redesign existing grammar books. The new books could explain – in Greek – what a verb, a noun, a subject, an object, etc. is and use simple examples with graphs, charts, and colors that would stress and highlight the importance of each part of the speech.
If a coursebook and a grammar book are components of a pack, then the coursebook could perhaps feature longer modules or units that would allow the teacher to adequately explain grammatical phenomena and provide extra exercises without the fear of the next coursebook module that will, inevitably, contain new grammar theory.
In this way, there will be breathing space for both the teacher and the students, and more opportunities will be given to those who struggle to cope with the theory and exercises.
In any case, a custom approach is essential when there are mixed-ability classes and the teacher or frontistirio owner should never be bound by deadlines or by anxious parents who are unable to fully grasp the level of stress their child may experience.
Ultimately, grammar can become more appealing when the student has the time to study it carefully and without the fear of getting low marks in exercises and tests.
But first, grammar ought to be seen as an integral part of the English language and not something that is obsolete, unnecessary, or bothersome.