Current issues of teaching grammar for the linguistic group with the state language of learning

Nowadays the development of the state language is one of the basic state language policies in Kazakhstan. Today there are 1178 kindergartens where instruction is provided in the Kazakh language. The number of schools with Kazakh as the official language of learning has grown to 3821 and the number of Kazakh students in higher education reached 65 percent.

The President of Kazakhstan N.A. Nazarbaev in his address “New Kazakhstan in the New World” said: “… I propose to begin phased implementation of the cultural project “Unity of Three Languages.” Kazakhstan must be perceived worldwide as a highly educated country, which uses three languages. That is why it is important to develop consistently Kazakh as the state language, Russian as the language of international communication and English as the language of successful integration into global economy and consider it as one of the main priorities of the state language policy.”

The project “Unity of three languages” implies the creation of conditions for learning English by all citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan: improving the quality of English language teaching in all schools, special and higher educational institutions. As a result, it is necessary to improve the quality of English language textbooks and teaching materials of English language and create new resources aimed at teaching English to native speakers of the Kazakh language.

The problem with a lack of resources in the Kazakh language lies in the fact that English has been taught in Russian in Kazakhstan

for many years. For this reason all books aimed at Russian native speakers. It is important to know that English is easier to learn for those whose native language is Kazakh, because there are around 4500 words Turkisms in the English language.

All languages are different and students have to deal with numerous errors in speech and writing in the process of learning any foreign language because it is difficult to change the stereotypes of the native language. The main problem of teaching English in Kazakhspeaking groups is that Russian books do not take into account peculiarities of Kazakh language and in many cases explain English grammar through comparison of grammars and structures of the Russian language. Thus, each teacher should take into account about these facts developing an English grammar course, especially grammar rules.

Grammar refers to the sentence level rules and discourse rules govern the relationship among sentences. Without a structure that organizes our communicative attempts, our language would simply be chaotic, so grammar is a component of communicative and organizational competence.

Traditionally, grammar teaching is viewed as the presentation and practice of discrete grammatical structures. R. Ellis maintains that first, some grammar lessons might consist of presentation by itself (i.e., without any practice), while others might entail only practice (i.e., no presentation). Second, grammar teaching can involve learners in discovering grammatical rules for themselves (i.e., no presentation and no practice). Third, grammar

teaching can be conducted simply by exposing learners to input contrived to provide multiple exemplars of the target structure. Here, too, there is no presentation and no practice, at least in the sense of eliciting production of the structure. Finally, grammar teaching can be conducted by means of corrective feedback on learner errors when these arise in the context of performing some communicative task. R. Ellis defines that grammar teaching involves any instructional technique that draws learners ‘attention to some specific grammatical form in such a way that it helps them either to understand it met linguistically and/or process it in comprehension and/or production so that they can internalize it.[4; 84].

There are a number of techniques for presenting and practicing grammar. According to R. Ellis there are two major grammar teaching methods intensive and extensive grammar teaching.

Intensive grammar teaching refers to instruction over a sustained period of time (which could be a lesson or a series of lessons covering days or weeks) concerning a single grammatical structure or, perhaps, a pair of contrasted structures (e.g.English past continuous vs. past simple).

However, extensive grammar teaching refers to instruction concerning a whole range of structures within a short period of time (e.g.a lesson) so that each structure receives only minimal attention in any one lesson. It is the difference between shooting a pistol repeatedly at the same target and firing a shotgun to spray pellets at a variety of targets. Instruction can be intensive or extensive irrespective of whether it is massed or distributed. The massed-distributed distinction refers to how a whole grammar course is staged, while the intensive-extensive distinction refers to whether each single lesson addresses a single or multiple grammatical feature. It is perhaps less easy to see how grammar teaching can comprise extensive instruction. A teacher would probably not elect to present and practice a whole range of grammatical structures within a single lesson.

Extensive grammar instruction of a kind, however, has always had a place in grammar teaching. Similarly, in the context of task-based teaching, some teachers have been observed to note the errors that learners make and then to address them when the task is over However, extensive grammar teaching can occur within a learning activity, not just as some kind of postscript. Teachers provide corrective feedback in the context of both formfocused and meaning-focused lessons, and although feedback in form-focused lessons may be directed primarily at the structure targeted by the lesson, in the meaning-focused lessons it is likely to be directed at whatever errors learners happen to make.

As for intensive grammar teaching, it can help them progress through the sequence of stages involved in the acquisition of that structure. In other words, teaching a marked structure intensively can help learners learn associated, less marked structures even if it does not result in acquisition of the marked structure. Intensive instruction also helps learners to use structures they have already partially acquired more accurately.

At different times during the long history of second-language instruction, grammar has been regarded as a set of rules (“third person singular present-tense verbs take an -s for subject-verb agreement”; “adjectives go before nouns”) to be memorized [4; 93].

Today grammar is still taught and tested this way in many parts of the world. The problem with this knowledge-transmission approach to grammar is that for most students it leads to limited language acquisition. Most of us are familiar with the phenomenon of students who know the rules of grammar but who are nonetheless unable to ask for simple directions. As a result of this observed gap between knowledge of grammar and its successful application, there has been a shift in our view of grammar instruction over the last 20 or 30 years. Nowadays, many ESL practitioners view grammar less as a body of knowledge to be studied than as a skill to be practiced and developed. Grammar knowledge is important, but only insofar as it enables students to communicate “accurately, meaningfully, and appropriately”

K. Lynn Savage supports the view of grammar as a skill to be taught and examines three roles that underlie the importance of grammar in ESL education:

  1. Grammar as an enabling skill
  2. Grammar as a motivator
  3. Grammar as a means to selfsufficiency
  1. He defines that grammar as an enabling skill can also be regarded as a necessary “master” skill that enables competence to develop in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
    • Listening. Imagine a teacher who says, “Please bring me the books,” only to have a student bring her just one book because the student did not hear the plural -s or understand what it means. In this case, a better understanding of the underlying grammar would have improved the student’s listening ability.
    • Speaking. In a job interview, an applicant is asked, “How long have you been working at your current job?” The applicant replies, “I worked there for two years.” The interviewer wonders: Is the applicant still working there or not? In this situation, knowledge of the present perfect would have enabled the student to reply more accurately.
    • Reading. Trying to follow the directions for assembling a bookcase, a student reads Slide the bookcase close to the wall after tightening all of the pieces. Not knowing that after signals the first of the two actions in the sentence, the student performs the actions in reverse order.
    • Writing. Filling out a form at his job in an automotive repair shop, an automotive tech student writes I check the brakes. Reading the report, the supervisor is confused: Did the student already check the brakes? Is he going to check the brakes? If the student had written checked on the report, there would have been no ambiguity [3; 2].
  2. Many ESL students firmly believe that knowledge of grammar is essential to their being able to acquire a new language. Students who have acquired English imperfectly in this country through interactions with native speakers also recognize the importance of grammar, as they may have encountered misunderstandings because of their grammar errors. When ESL courses include a strong grammar component in the curriculum, both of these groups of students may be more motivated to attend or return to school. Just as many students are motivated to learn grammar; many teachers are strongly motivated to teach it. When our students express a desire to learn grammar, most teachers naturally respond by trying to provide what students want.

A third motivating factor is our background as teachers: Many of us, having learned foreign languages via grammar-based methodologies or as a consequence of our teacher training and education, are more comfortable teaching grammar than other language skills [3; 3].

Most ESL students expect teachers to correct their grammar errors, but a more practical goal is for students to learn to correct their own mistakes. Grammar instruction assists English learners in becoming aware of a structure and then continuing to notice it in subsequent encounters. Once students have internalized the structure through repeated exposure, they can use this knowledge to monitor their own language use.

The ability to self-correct is particularly desirable for students with job-related or educational goals. At work, students are often required to write notes, e-mail messages, and reports, so they need to be able to communicate accurately in writing. If students haven’t learned how to monitor themselves, they could have problems with such tasks. An understanding of grammar is also important for ESL learners who plan to transition to vocational programs or college. These students need to understand the meaning of grammatical structures as they listen to lectures and read manuals and textbooks, as well as to use the forms correctly when they make oral presentations and write papers. The ability to self-correct leads to self-sufficiency. Regardless of their proficiency level or goals, almost all students can benefit from learning English grammar [3; 4].

According to J. Harmer the grammatical information can be given to students in two major ways. The first one could be extremely covert and the second will be extremely overt. Covert grammar teaching means that grammatical facts are hidden from the studentseven though they are learning the language. Students may be asked to do any activity where a new grammar is presented or introduced, but their attention will be drawn to this activity not to the grammar.

Overt grammar teaching means that the teacher actually provides the students grammar rules and explanations-the information is openly presented. With overt teaching grammatical rules are explicitly given to students, but with covert teaching students are simply asked to work with new language to absorb grammatical information which will help them to acquire the language as a whole. It is expected to do a lot of structures in teaching and practicing, and less really free communicative activity at the beginner level. The teaching of grammar is likely to be fairly covert since the main aim is to get students to use language as much as possible.

On the other hand students at intermediate levels should be involved in more communicative activities and should have less grammar teaching. The teaching grammar would probably be more overt. Then advanced students can actively study grammar in more overt ways. Presentation means that students are introduced to the form; meaning and use of a new piece of language (e.g. did for past simple in questions). Students can learn how to put the new syntax, words and sounds together. They learn grammar that they will need for their most important experience, applying it to themselves. It is useful to mention the personalization, which means using a piece of grammar to say things which really mean something to learner. (e.g. using present simple to say what he does). Presentation can take place using personalization immediately, teacher uses the students and their lives to introduce a new language (e.g. personal questions). Personalization can be the final part of a presentation which is done through the use of texts or pictures (e.g. using a situation in daily life, menu in a restaurant) [1; 12].

J. Harmer speaks about some characteristics of a good presentation that should be mentioned here:

    • a good presentation should be clear ( no difficulties in understanding for learner)
    • a good presentation should be efficient (students can manipulate the new language)
    • a good presentation should be lively and interesting (to get interest for students, their involving during a presentation)
    • a good presentation should be appropriate (not put so much information)
    • a good presentation should be productive (the introduced situation should allow students to make many sentences or questions with a new language) [1; 13].

There are various ways of doing practice techniques, which means that pupils do exercise through the techniques which get them to practice grammatical item. There will be mentioned four different types of oral practice and written practice too, which are described by J. Harmer.

  1. Drills are often done with the whole class, students are given sentence with a new grammatical item and they are asked for right repetition. It is practiced as long as it is necessary for students to be able to say this structure in a proper way. The aim of drill is to give students rapid practice in using a structural item. Advantage is that the teacher can correct any mistakes, can encourage pupils to concentrate on difficulties. However, this way is not very creative.
  2. Interaction activities are the ways of language practicing which are more meaningful and more enjoyable. Pupils often work together in pairs or in groups. They exchange information in the purposeful and interesting way. They are given some materials (text, picture, map) and asked for some tasks when they use the grammatical item that is introduced. Disadvantage should be that the teacher has no control over all students. He, she can’t be sure that all students understood the grammar.
  3. Involving the personality is the way when pupils do the exercise and at the same time talk about themselves. They are asked to discuss things that involve their personality and to use this subject matter as a focus for grammar practice. Chain drill is one way of making a practice drill. It is closely drill but in more funny and enjoyable way. It is more interesting than usual, because students are asked for speaking about themselves.
  4. Games are surely the most interesting and the most favorite way how to practice grammar. Games are very useful for grammar work. Students are given a new grammatical item through the game, which is exactly the most natural way especially for children. There are several types of grammar games that will be mentioned later in this work [1; 14].

These were oral activities for practicing grammar. But there are some written activities too. Since grammar practice is often done through writing, it is very useful too. Some types of written practices will be mentioned here. These are fill-ins, written drills, word order, parallel writing. Generally speaking, students need to practice their grammar a lot, but it is only up to the teacher how they will do it. A good teacher should remember that students would do the tasks with pleasure not only as a necessity.

Typological studies of languages have been an important part in the classic and modern linguistics. Through comparison of grammars and structures of different languages, there have been numerous generalizations about language rules. In fact, it is the comparison of the structures of two different languages which enables us to know how those languages work.

Therefore, the idea behind the "comparative grammar method" in teaching a second language is that: to make a second language leaner aware of the structure of the target language, we should compare the structure of it to the native language, and the learner should beware of the similarities and differences between the structures of these two languages. In this method, we choose a specific part of the grammar which is relevant to the text being taught and then we compare that structure in the two languages, explaining the differences and similarities to the students. In this way, students become conscious of the structure of the target language and thus they learn it with enthusiasm [2; 6].

By knowing the difference between these structures, they can create new sentences and phrases in the target language and this makes the learning task more enjoyable and gives them the confidence necessary to pursuit the learning. That is why in teaching the language we just introduce those parts which are different from the first language ones. When, the students know these differences, it is easier for them to learn a structure which is different from their native language.

Considering grammar as a main component in teaching foreign languages was underemphasized in those decades, it has always been regarded as an important part of teaching English as a second language all around the world. Generally speaking all methods and techniques are important in EFL teaching, especially the method of teaching a foreign language based on comparative grammar is very effective and useful. This method can be applied to many other second language teaching situations.



  1. 2006. J. Sabatova. Grammar according to the Framework Educational Program, Pedagogical Faculty of Masaryk University, Brno.
  2. 2001. Y. Dehghani. Application of Comparative grammar in Second Language teaching.
  3. Cambridge University Press, 2010. K. Lynn Savage. Grammar matters: Teaching Grammar in Adult ESL programs.
  4. R. Ellis, 2002. Current Issues in the Teaching of Grammar: An SLA Perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Year: 2012
City: Oskemen
Category: Philology