The content of teaching grammar in the EFL context

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

Author: Kamzina Zhannur , Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

New time and new conditions of professional activity required not only a revision of the general methodology, but also the content of the courses in teaching English.

The President of Kazakhstan N.A. Nazarbaev in his address УNew Kazakhstan in the New WorldФ said: УЕ I propose to begin phased implementation of УUnity of Three LanguagesФ cultural project. Kazakhstan must be perceived worldwide as a highly educated country which uses three languages. That is why it is important consistently to develop 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 one of the main priorities of the state language policyФ [1].

The project УUnity of three languagesФ 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, which brings certain changes related to the language instruction and methodology used in educational institutions [1].

According to the State Overall Compulsory Educational Standard of 5B011900 УForeign Language: Two Foreign LanguagesФ 5.04.019-2011, during the first year at the University students of the major take УEnglish languageФ (A1, A2, B1- levels) course, which forms an adequate social and educational level of proficiency in a foreign language. During the first year УEnglish languageФ (A1, A2, B1- levels) course is studied 2 semesters, with the amount of hours in each semester Ц 75 [2].

This course requires students to acquire grammatical material on a functional basis with its further systematization. Linguistic material of the 1st year of study is characterized by normative correctness and includes the most common grammatical phenomena, to ensure the practical mastery of oral and written communication within the limits of the course themes in accordance with the sphere and situations of communication are covered by A1, A2, B1 levels [3].

The course content consists of the following grammatical themes during the first year:

Table 1. The requirements of language means acquisition [3]






I'm /Are you...?

my / your

he's / she's, his / her

it's ... , Write / Don't write


yes, please / No, thanks

a / an, this / these + hours

the, that / those

Present simple : I/you/we/They

a / an + jobs

How much...? Can I have...?

Present simple: he /she / it


What...? / Where...?


It's + time

Would you like...?

(not) very / quite + adjectives

Possessives its / our / their

Have you got...?


Like / love / hate + (verb) - ing

Could I have...?

No article, After that / then

Always/usually etc.

Once / twice / every, in / on / at + time

I'd like...

Me / him, etc Why? Because ...

There is / are, some / any

Past simple: was / were

There was / were ...

What time...?

Past simple: go / have

Past simple: regular / irregular

Was born (in / on / at)

Past simple: pronunciation

Could you tell me the way to...?

Present continuous: I'm listening

Present simple or continuous?

Future plans: (se) going to ...

Could I speak to...?

Comparative adjectives + than

Predictions: (be) going to ...

Adverbs: slowly / quickly, etc.

Countable / uncountable nouns

It's / They' re too (big)

Revision: Past simple

Revision: All tenses

Revision: Preview Present perfect: Have you ever...?

Revision: Tenses, questions

What's the weather like? ItТs...?

Revision present / past, adverbs of frequency

Revision Present simple (routines), expressions of frequency

Revision past simple (regular / irregular)

-Present perfect, past participles

Have you ever...? Present perfect or past simple?

Have to / don't have to (obligation)

Can / can't (permission), you ...

Relative pronouns

Possessive pronouns

Present continuous (future), invitations: Would you like to ...?

How long does it take? It takes ..., prepositions of movement

Past continuous or past simple?

as ... as ...,

comparative adverbs,

revision comparative adjectives
-†††††† first conditional

something / anything / nothing etc

superlative adjectives, article the

Present perfect + for / since, revision How long...?

Verb + to + infinitive, would you like to or like + in a?

So / because, had to / didn't have to

Questions with / without auxiliaries

Verb + ing (= gerund), gerund or infinitive?

Look or look like?

A lot of/ much etc. Revision countability

Too much (many, not) enough

Present perfect + yet/already/just

Why...? To + Verb / For + Noun

Should / shouldn't (advice / opinion)

Phrasal verbs + object

Echo questions. So / Neither do I.

Uses of will / won't, future forns

Present passive

Past passive + by

Revision: All tenses Preview: Second conditional

Question formation

present perfect or past simple

Reflexive pronouns Present perfect continuous or simple yet, just, already

both, neither, either

Present simple, or continuous

Adverbs of frequency: usually etc. How often? Once a week, etc.

Quantifiers: a few, a little etc.

Gerund or to + inf.

Question tags / short answers

Used to + infinitive not ... any more / any longer

Make, let, allow to + inf.

Definite article: the

Can / could / be able to

Future forms: will / going to, present continuous might / may + inf

When / as soon as, etc.

First conditional

Second conditional

Modals of obligation: must, have to, should

Past perfect simple

Defining and non-defining relative clauses

Indirect questions

The passive voice

Comparatives and superlatives as ... as

Narrative tenses:

past simple,

past continuous,

past perfect

Modals verb: might / could, must, can't

Connectors: although, however...

Reported speech: statements and questions

Reported speech: imperative and requests, in case

Third conditional

The requirements, mentioned in the State Overall Compulsory Educational Standard of 5B011900 УForeign language: two foreign languagesФ 5.04.019-2011, suggest that the graduate of the given specialty are the following:

- to be able to perform professional activity properly both psychologically and methodologically aimed at developing studentsТ ability to learn foreign language as means of intercultural communication;

- to be able to design methodological model of foreign language communication mastering closed to the conditions of real communication; to be able to define the category as an object of didactic learning, synthesizing into single unit Уforeign language-foreign culture-identityФ;

- to be able to be able to pick out lingvoculturally and socioculturally oriented authentic teaching materials; to use standard authentic vocabulary in the classroom; to be able to create and encourage interest for foreign language acquisition as means of intercultural communication;

- to be able to use technologies, methods and techniques ensuring the formation of the subject of cross-cultural communication; to be able to use pedagogical and information technologies efficiently in the sphere of educational activities [2].

As a result of studying subjects of core disciplines the graduate of the given specialty should acquire:

- knowledge and skills to implement all kinds of professional activities in the field of foreign language education (to know the main stages of development and current state of linguistic sciences);

- laws and regularities of linguistic science, its conceptual and categorical apparatus; modern scientific and theoretical views of linguistic theories;

- basic techniques of linguistic analysis and description; system of language and speech realization of linguistic categories;

- spelling, orthoepic, grammatical and stylistic rules of the studied languages [2].

Students of the given specialty should be able:

- to interpret critically and creatively various areas of linguistic theories;

- to analyze the specific language material; interpret independently linguistic phenomena; compare and identify similarities and differences corresponding to subsystems of comparing languages to predict possible interference or transfer; -to apply their knowledge in speech situations to solve problems of teaching;

- to carry out investigation linguistic phenomena of foreign and native languages independently [2].

All of these above-mentioned requirements to students cannot be achieved without grounded knowledge of English grammar, because only grammar gives strict rules of writing and speaking correctly.

УThe Longman Dictionary of Contemporary EnglishФ defines grammar as the rules by which words change their forms and are combined into sentences [4].

According to H.D. Brown, grammar is the system of rules governing the conventional arrangement and relationship of words in a sentence [5].

Whitney considered English grammar to be a description of the usages of the English language by good speakers and writers of the present day [6].

Patterson defined that grammar teaches the laws of language, and the right method of using it in speaking and writing [7].

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 self-sufficiency [8].

First of all, considering grammar as an enabling skill K. Lynn Savage states that, though a skill in its own right, grammar can also be regarded as a necessary УmasterФ skill that enables competence to develop in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. When grammar is incorrect or misunderstood in any of these areas, communication may be disrupted [8].

Secondly, considering grammar as a motivator, K. Savage states that the great amounts of students firmly believe that knowledge of grammar is essential to their being able to acquire a new language. Students who have studied English in their own countries often equate language learning with learning grammar. 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. It means that if 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 classes. As a result, as many students are motivated to learn grammar, many teachers are strongly motivated to teach it [8].

Thirdly, considering grammar as a means to self-sufficiency, he states that that most 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 [8].

According to Woods, different types of grammar illustrate different approaches towards analysis and description of language. That is why it is essential to explain students which type of grammar they are taught.

He enumerates five different types of grammar:

- prescriptive and descriptive grammar,

- traditional grammar,

- phrase structure grammar,

- transformational- generative grammar

- functional - systemic grammar [9].

In prescriptive grammar the correct use of language is prescribed by a set of fixed rules. In descriptive grammar language is constantly changing which means that certain utterances that were considered incorrect grammatically at one time are now accepted as correct.

Traditional grammar based on the parts of speech: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections, and they are accepted as a central component of a language and these parts of speech make up a sentence.

Phrase structure grammar based on the relationship of words and phrases in a sentence, which helps to support the meanings, attempting to convey through language. It is usually presented graphically using substitution tables.

Transformation-generative grammar based on syntax, which can be generated by means of a system of formal transformational rules.

Functional-systemic grammar based on the interaction between syntax, semantics and pragmatics, it deals with how people use language and looks at how language is structured for use, which is constrained by the social context [9].

The practical mastery of the elements of English Grammar is supposed to have been gained by the students at the earlier stages of tuition in order to bring forth in the students a steady habit of trying to see into the deeper implications underlying the outward appearances of lingual correlations bearing on grammar; to teach them to independently improve their linguistic qualifications through reading and critically appraising the available works on grammatical language study; to foster their competence in facing academic controversies concerning problems of grammar.

So, analyzing requirements of the State Overall Compulsory Educational Standard of 5B011900 УForeign Language: Two Foreign LanguagesФ 5.04.019-2011 and Basic Work Program in УBasic English LanguageФ we have come to the conclusion that grammar plays an increasingly important role at the earlier stages of learning. First of all, grammar is regarded as a necessary УmasterФ skill that enables competence to develop in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, secondly, including a strong grammar component in ESL courses curriculum is more motivated students of these groups, thirdly by understanding grammar and the meaning of grammatical structures students will be able to communicate accurately which ensure their self-sufficiency.

All above mentioned describes grammarТs three important roles: grammar as an enabling skill, a motivator and a means of self efficiency, which underlie the importance of grammar in ESL education. Also, it is essential to explain students which from five types of grammar (prescriptive and descriptive, traditional, phrase structure, transformational- generative and functional Ц systemic) they are taught, which purpose is to illustrate different approaches of teaching grammar.


1. Konsepsiya razvitiya obrazovaniya Respubliki Kazakhstan do 2015, Astana 2004

2. GOSO RK 06.08.075 - 2010 po special'nosti 5B011900 - УInostrannyj jazyk: dva inostrannyh jazykaФ.

3. Tipovaja uchebnaja programma po special'nosti bakalavriata 050119-УInostrannyj jazyk: dva inostrannyh jazykaФ. Ц Almaty: MON RK, 2007.

4. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 4th Edition (2CD), Pearson ESL 2005.

5. Brown, H. Douglas. Teaching by Principles: an Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy/ H. Douglas Brown Ц 2nd ed, 2001 by Eddison Wesley Longman, Inc.-480p.

6. W.D. Whitney Sanskrit grammar, Oxford University Press, 1950

7. K. Patterson, M. Harrison Oxford Practice Grammar-Basic, Oxford University Press, USA, 2006

8. K. Lynn Savage. Grammar matters: Teaching Grammar in Adult ESL programs. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

9. G. Woods English Grammar for Dummies, Wiley Publishing Inc., 2006

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

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