The Computer as a Tool for Teaching Grammar: The Program Grampol-Gramatyka Polska*
Tambor, Jolanta, Canadian Slavonic Papers
Knowledge of grammatical rules is absolutely necessary for mastering foreign languages and, above all, inflected languages. More so than in the case of positional languages, ignorance of grammatical rules seriously hinders effective communication. Computer programs can be very beneficial when teaching grammar rules, because they have the potential of motivating students by making the material more accessible. This is especially true when there are many grammatical forms, which must be simply memorized. In such cases, the availability of grammatical rules in a computer program can facilitate learning to speak a foreign language fluently and naturally. In the case of highly computerized communities the aid of computers can attract young people who otherwise might not be interested in learning a foreign language.
The most recent achievement of the School of Polish Language and Culture at the University of Silesia is the computer program Grampol ver. 3.0 for Windows. This program seeks to enhance the study of Polish by helping learners to master some peculiarities of its grammar. For example, it helps learners understand the various forms of the same lexeme, which are pronounced and spelled so differently from the base (i.e., citation) form that it is impossible to detect a relationship between one and the other. Examples may be: ciqc - tne, trzec - tart, dzien - dnia, tydzien - tygodnia, as well as suppletory topics: festem - sq - bcdzie - byt.
The Grampol program contains exercise sets comprised of lessons, comprehension tests, as well as review of the material. The language of instruction is Polish because the program was prepared as an aid for learning the language in a classroom setting. Students wishing to use the program on their own should already be familiar with the basics of the Polish language. Enclosed within the package is a guide for teachers and students, which includes technical information concerning the set-up and running of the program, information regarding its practical uses as well as a description of the content (index of exercise sets). In the brochure there is also a short section on grammar, which seeks to explain particular aspects of the Polish language. Apart from information that concerns descriptive grammar and provides a synchronie overview of Polish, there is also concise information regarding its historical grammar that offers a diachronic perspective which allows students to understand how and why Polish grammar developed the way it did.
Grampol contains 569 exercise sets, each consisting often lessons and tests. The following areas are represented: phonetics and spelling; word formation; inflection; and syntax. Within each area attention is focused on the most problematic aspects about learning Polish. Elements of language instruction often overlap and mix within the exercises. This is inevitable within a natural language in which each element is a complete unit that takes into account an external form (phonetics in speech and spelling in writing) and the function it fulfils in generating the text (inflection, syntax). Inasmuch as Polish is an inflectional language, all phonetics, word formations and lexical matters are presented in relation to inflection. It becomes necessary, then, to show the reasons for choosing particular aspects from the language areas.
The spelling/phonetic section of the program contains exercises derived mainly from the scope of language variances that pose obstacles both in speaking and writing (examples may be found in the introduction). Foreigners, adults in particular, who study Polish in the classroom and from textbooks, may master the structure of the language mainly by learning a set of grammatical rules. In this way they acquire what in Polish is designated as "bright knowledge," i.e. the mastery of rules through the use of logic and reason, a strategy used by adults, especially well-educated linguists. In the case of language variances one can learn a general set of rules that have many exceptions and deviations which, usually, are historically conditioned. …