Monday, 8 February 2010

Learning Method: Grammar First or Vocabulary First?

I really like to read comments from you guys as I will get to know your thinking and feelings towards learning. Your comments offer me the chance to give you more guidance and suggestions, and at the same time, allow me to understand more, so please let me know your troubles in learning, don't keep them to yourselves.

This entry is a response to Phy's comment on the entry Learning Method & Psychology: Why Can't I Speak Fluent English?

A recap of what she said,
"Agree Locky's suggestions
I do think that grammar is more important than other elements. At least I can express my basic meaning of a sentence even though I use a limited vocabularies. Once you build up confidence, you hope to varify your vocabularies.
Sometimes I have chance in speaking English in daily counter duty. I'll memorize some frequently used keywords and sentences. It may be a helpful method to handle daily requests. After the transaction, I usually think the whole conversation again what should I say/ how to express better next time."

In my opinions, sometimes, you do need to memorise expressions related to your work so that you get immediate improvement in your English, like in Phy's case. This is an area of study in English called ESP, English for Specific Purposes. In the long run, however, it is important to build a firm foundation. For me, grammar and vocabulary are both equally important, and I believe they can both be trained at the same time, which is why I started this blog.

But then again, some learners will put more emphasis in grammar, others might opt for vocabulary, everybody's different. The key here is to understand what type of learner you are -- which one you need to more or which you will be more interested to begin your learning with. Eventually, everyone will arrive at the same point of achievement no matter which route you decide to take.

Say for example, if your work requires you to speak perfect English, almost to a native level because your company is filled with westerners, then I suggest you first spend a little time on finding your errors in your spoken English, then correct them through repeated drillings --the "Hear Yourself" method. Once your grammar is fixed, you can pay more emphasis in vocabulary that is related to your work.

On the other hand, if you are bored to death by grammar, then start with vocabulary first. Get to know more about the world through reading fashion magazines, listening to songs, watching movies, etc., find interests in life and in English first before you go deeper into the grammatical aspects of English.

I believe that there is really no such thing as "the only approach" in learning something, only "the most interesting approach" and "the most relevant approach". My choice is always the former one because if you are keen on something, you will work on it!