Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Reconsidering English Grammar Teaching for Improving Non-English Majors' English Writing Ability

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Reconsidering English Grammar Teaching for Improving Non-English Majors' English Writing Ability

Article excerpt

Abstract

With the globalization of world economy, English learners' writing ability has been attached less and less importance to. As a result, many college students in China, especially the non-English majors, cannot express themselves effectively in written English. They make various kinds of mistakes, mostly grammar mistakes, such as writing sentence fragments, using dangling modifiers, and using punctuation marks inappropriately or incorrectly. Many factors are responsible for their weak writing ability, but teachers' neglecting grammar teaching and only teaching grammar knowledge are two critical factors. So, this paper is intended to call on teachers of English to reconsider grammar teaching for improving non-English majors' English writing ability. It first explores the role grammar plays in English learning and in English writing, then proposes a few practical and effective methods of instructing grammar, and finally concludes that to improve non-English majors' writing ability, we had better teach them the right grammatical concepts in the right way on the right occasion

Keywords: grammar, grammar teaching, English learning, English writing, non-English majors

1. Introduction

What is grammar? In the dictionary Macmillan English-Chinese Dictionary for Advanced Learners (Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2005), grammar is defined as "the set of rules that describe the structure of a language and control the way that sentences are formed." Every language has its own grammar. People who speak the same language are able to communicate just because they intuitively know its grammar system. It is self-evident that grammar plays a very important role in language learning, including English learning. However, with the globalization of world economy, English learners' writing ability has been attached less and less importance to. And with the development of functional linguistics and communicative method, grammar teaching has been one of the most controversial and least understood aspects of language teaching in China. Students argue that they should not and need not think about any grammar rules when they are communicating, especially when making oral communication, with others. So they have no interest in the study of English grammar. And many teachers of English, especially those who teach non-English majors in college, hold that it is just because students spend too much time memorizing grammar rules that they do not have adequate time to practice speaking English and as a result, many students' comprehensive ability to use English is rather weak. So they usually don't teach grammar in class. Even if some teachers teach grammar, they are the center of the class management and teach grammar rules rigidly, while students are not involved in the least and just memorize the rules mechanically. It inevitably follows that many non-English majors cannot express themselves freely and effectively in written English. They make various kinds of mistakes, mostly grammar mistakes, such as writing sentence fragments, using dangling modifiers, making collocation errors, using punctuation marks inappropriately or incorrectly, and making word-for-word translation from Chinese to English.

Without doubt, many factors are responsible for non-English majors' weak writing ability, but teachers' neglecting grammar teaching and only teaching grammar knowledge, which cannot be converted into grammatical competence automatically, are two critical factors. To improve the non-English majors' writing ability, what we need to do at once is reconsider the role grammar plays in English learning and in English writing and come up with some practical and effective methods of instructing grammar so as to cultivate their grammatical competence as well as teaching grammar knowledge.

2. Grammar and English learning

As is known to us all, phonetics, vocabulary and grammar are three components of any language. …

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