Milestone #2: Are you Knowing how good (or bad) is you Grammar? Basically!

The caption of this post may sound ‘okay’ (or passable at the least) to a novice in English, but there surely are some basic mistakes or Indianisms as some people often call them.

So, “What are the grammar mistakes YOU make?” or ‘Do you Know how good is your BASIC Grammar?”

You know them already, they are pretty basic and the same mistakes don’t come-up when you write. Great! To know the slippages you make with your Spoken English is your Milestone #2. You could start correcting them on your own or under the guidance of a Trainer, depends on your Learning Style.

On the other hand, if you really don’t know your mistakes but are ‘often misunderstood’ by others, have to repeat your sentences when speaking to native speakers of English -you may need to be told by a fluent speaker who knows his/her English.

The open letter from grammar may  sound sexy... but its true. A good trainer will tell you how much to use. Will point out the mistakes and help you with the essential corrections
The open letter from grammar may sound sexy… but its true. A good trainer will tell you how much to use. Will point out the mistakes and help you with the essential corrections

Who would listen to your speech and pick-out the major mistakes that are connected with Grammar (or for IT people the syntax of the language). A any good trainer would almost always suggest measures to bring you back to the ‘basic rule book of spoken English’, whenever it is required. For a person, who is already speaking in English, it must start  with identification of what are the problem areas and correcting the errors that can’t go with speaking the language with confidence & Ease.

Typical composition and usage problems I get in my conversation in English classes in INDIA:

I will call them limitations or lack of exposure to ‘right usage’ as they can be learned by speakers given the right environment to practice.  The brain needs time to migrate from Hindi Grammar platform to composition and usage in Spoken English. How much time is enough depends on the intensity of your practice and knowing what’s going wrong. Read on for 7 most common grammar limitation faced by us as Indians.

  1. Inability to form a sentence’ with a ‘new’ word when the meaning is also known. You may have picked this new word from a Movie or while reading the newspaper; you noted it and went on to look for the exact meaning … but can’t compose a sentence.
  2. Not knowing usage of certain Phases that are part of everyday English for example: Is it ‘Suppose to’ or ‘Supposed to’?… click to read this interesting post with some most common mistakes when you Speak-up. 17 PHRASES YOU’RE PROBABLY SAYING WRONG.
  3. I am stuck with my Indian-isms  as CNN Travel’s post points it out, read 10 classic Indian-isms: ‘Doing the needful’ and more in CNN Travel. It also gives some pointer on ‘How to fix grammatically in sane phrases found in common Indian English’.
  4. Improper or excessive usage of ‘some’ words where they don’t fit: – we cover them as filler words to avoid. At the same time, my students learn to use linking words in our Intermediate course ‘GET SELECTED’ – this makes them fluent and reasonably correct & confident speakers to clear communication rounds in an interview.
  5. Not knowing enough structures to form your sentences: the problem statement is all my sentences sound the same and its so boring for the lsitener that he/she switchs off like
    We correct what is a absolute must and give you the solution to the problem if that is persistent.
    We correct what is a absolute must and give you the solution to the problem if that is persistent.

    An essay on ‘My Cow’ when I am actually talking about ‘My Company’. Does this Sound familiar?  Do you know how to form a question when you are making a request? Learn to make sentences in many different ways.

  6.  Improper Application of tenses: I see ‘sentences made in present continuous or progressing tense when the speaker wants to convey  a habit, routine or like/dislike or ‘I’m going’ when he/she is actually seeking a permission. This is biggest mistake people make; I also did the same as in ‘Are you knowing…’ the caption for this Post . And yes I deliberately did it! Did you notice it?
  7. Wrong usage of articles, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections- I am sorry to sound like a grammar teacher or a Nerd. I not a Grammar Nazi or a Nerd (terms quite popular in the blogger’s world) but as a communication skills trainer, I can say that the basics of these have to be quite right (if not perfect) until you want to sound like a Newbie.

As long as you can understand Comics and relate with the humor its fine with me 🙂

In the end, I would like to thank Daniel D-Mello from CNN- Travel and Ms Sarah Brooks from ‘SHE KNOWS’ for helping me with this Post. Thanks! also to Peanuts one of my favorites.

 

Both for English and Hindi -the grammar (or rules of the game) sound similar but there are some marked differences. (Just like Cricket and Baseball). A person who plays good cricket can sure “hit the ball with a round bat” but first he must know that ‘there are No wickets” in baseball game. I will talk about the key differences between English and Hindi Grammar as well as the similarities we can ride-on in my next post… so that you don’t get out in any of the bat & ball games.

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I know enough grammar,.. Do I need your class to Speak English?

What a grammar book does for me is give me the tools in the same way that I had the tools when I learned the alphabet. If you give me the tools, the syntax, and the grammar, it still doesn’t tell me how to write Ulysses – a novel.

-David Baker

Grammar is to help you organize words into sentences, and there are many ways to do that. As I can also say, ‘words can be organized into sentences in many ways’ and grammar helps you do just that. How can you put together a sentence without using ‘Grammar’ be it any language – you need some rules, DOs and DON’Ts etc.. ‘Grammar’ also helps you to clearly understand the meaning of words spoken by others – including your trainer. There are 3-essential things to Learn 1)Types of words or Parts of Speech; 2)Sequence of words or Sentence Structures; and 3)Tense or indication of time.  Every SENTENCE should make some SENSE and should be formed in the right TENSE! 

“Besides good Grammar one needs: – clear pronunciation to be a ‘public speaker’; very fine vocabulary to be a ‘book writer’; and both of them need a Great Story to Tell”   

Do I need to do ‘all the grammar’ before I begin to Speak?

Can you drive a car in a city like Delhi without knowing the directions or traffic rules?

Not possible … without getting lost or caught. So, knowing and following basic directions and rules are needed if you don’t want to get caught or get lost!

Whereas, if you don’t need to be a traffic cop in Delhi, you don’t need to know or even read the complete ‘Motor Vehicle Act.’ Similarly,  for Spoken English you only need functional or Basic Grammar which is taught to you in the form of activities in the class and simple DOs and DON’Ts. The good news is that you don’t need to learn all the rules, learn all the tenses or read through the complete grammar book before you begin to speak right sentences. Another good news is English Grammar is very easy even as compared to Hindi grammar. There are also lot of similarities to understand quickly and some differences that you may need to know.

In doing conversations in English, there is no possibility that you can cram all the sentences that you may need to speak even as you do simple chit-chat or gossip with a friend – forget answering interview questions without basic knowledge of Grammar. By this time, you may have realized that applying Hindi grammar OR any translation based method from any book does not work. In my view it cannot work, it won’t work. So my humble request to you “stay clear from English teachers or trainers who tell you that you don’t need any grammar.”

On the other side, you need to learn ‘Wren & Martin’ level of grammar and composition if you want to be an excellent speaker – a TV anchor Or ‘write a book’. And yes, I agree with you that learning grammar by the book, from the CD, without any speaking practice, opportunities or real-life situations and on your own is a rather tedious task ‘akin to’ knowing the complete Motor Vehicle Act.!

Where to start leaning grammar and how to improve as I speak.

So, you have understood that, you don’t need ‘all the Grammar’ but you need to know the Basic rules of the game before you start playing it or to play it better. As you begin to play the game, you lose more than you win but you are learning ‘as long as’ you stay ‘in the game’. Later as you absorb more and more of this rule-book called grammar, you definitely also play better.

The start point is self-assessment and if you are able to speak your sentences than you know the basic grammar behind even if you don’t know the terms used by a grammar teacher….you only need to speak more, use new words and expressions and keep correcting your mistakes under the guidance of qualified coach.

I am a trainer of communication skills, my task in the language class is to get my students to speak as much as possible while I do grammatical corrections on the go…pointing out mistakes as politely as possible. I sometimes need to explain to you the grammatical error and its implications on your image as an English speaker.

Since some of you may not  understand the ‘Terms of Grammar’ (or English Jargon), what I do in my first few classes is avoid using any grammatical term before we discuss it and all the students in the class understand it properly. To make you Learn functional Grammar usage and composition of sentences for your ‘Spoken English’; We do a lot of activities and I give you a lot of examples (we need to avoid Hindi but grammatical similarities can be drawn). The result is that you understand the BASIC rules of English grammar as deeply as possible almost as much as you understand them for your first language. You also See, listen, Read and Speak (or do it yourself activities in the L@b) so that you really learn the grammar by interesting and ‘fun-to-do’ methods. you do not really need to cram the rules or learn them ‘by the rote’.

I also keep correcting your small grammatical mistakes as you speak in the class; so you follow  ‘the rules of the game’ and learn them. Next time, you try to play it right and when sometimes you do it wrong your still learn from the mistake…  Later, as you grow with the usage of  simple DOs and DON’Ts of English conversations, you win more & more games and lose some…You learn best by ‘staying in the game’ and playing it again and again.

Keep playing the game of ‘English Conversations’ and have fun as you go for the Long Drive!

At T.r.i.c.k.s , we give unlimited practice time in an English Language L@b and have the most innovative tools to help you understand the functional parts of grammar and give you ample opportunities to use it for construction of new types of sentences/questions or expressions and speak them out in the class…

Active Vocabulary for Speaking with Ease

Vocabulary for Speaking English
The above image of words related to Vocabulary-Building is created using : www.wordle.net – Thanks for allowing free usage of a wonderful tool!

Here are some statements, we often hear from ESL students as we counsel them to Learn Conversations in English (‘Spoken English’ as it’s popularly called):

“I have crammed many word-lists given to me by my test-prep teachers”

“I did my B.Tech and/or MBA and medium of study was English”

“I know all the words that you show me on this slide in this Wordle or whatever”

“I understand the word when I read it but it doesn’t come to my mind when I speak”

“I watch Hollywood movies but they speak too fast so I do not get the words; reading the sub-titles helps but only very little”

“Living in India and Exposed to English; I have listened to thousands of words spoken to me in real-life situations”

In my view, ‘Exposure to English’ as expressed in the last statement is most helpful towards building adequate and active vocabulary. First and foremost the English Learner has to be ready to receive the words from all the available sources and a vocabulary class is no different…We use all the available media and examples that help you Learn.

A statement that I often make in the class (sometimes I repeat it for emphasis)  “thousands of English words are now part of our everyday speaking as we do in cities like Delhi or NOIDA” . This fact also gives us a positive start for building Active Vocabulary for English Conversations.

Do you know the Hindi word for a Pencil or a Glass?. I am sure, you don’t use it even if you know it. As an adult person exposed to life in a city in India, people are using mobile-phones, internet, e-mail and with that they use hundreds (even thousands) of English words that they confidently speak as a part of every-day conversations in Hinglish (a mix of Hind-English as spoken in Indian Cities). So, you don’t speak 100% correct or pure Hindi but speak it easily and fluently and usage of new ‘Hindi’ word comes naturally to you. You don’t need to do any extra effort or attend my class for it the Environment teaches.

Pay attention: sometimes, the pronunciation of the English word when spoken in a local language is changed!

You may also come to think that “I know thousands of words in English but am not able to Speak even a complete sentence”.  So how would adding more words help me. Other questions, some of them are excuses coming from our natural lethargy to learn are:

  • How is adding words to my vocabulary (active or passive) different for English as a second language?
  • Do I need to learn more words and spend time building English vocabulary?
  • I have a lot of hesitation; OR How would i develop confidence to speak?
  • I don’t have the environment at home or office; How will English environment help me?
  • I also need to Learn Grammar; How much emphasis will you give to grammar?

Some of them may be true while others are myths…let’s discover what is Active Vocab and how you build it.

Active Vocabulary is the 1st thing that is needed to Speak in English. We all Learn ‘new’ words when we get in contact with them, understand the meaning by looking it up in the Dictionary…LEARN to refer to the dictionary on-line or off-line, doesn’t matter.

For Some of you who can Read well and have good working Vocabulary, you just need to ‘Learn 5 New Words’ everyday or Activate the words that you know. It is important to add some ‘Adjectives or describing words as we may call them’. Adjectives are the jewelry of any Language and make it beautiful! The effect is that you enhance the impact of what you say and write.

The instructors will help you discover the meaning of the new words from a Flashcard (picture) or PowerPoint Slide or a Wordle, As an instructor I give a  lot of examples so you understand the context in which this new word can be used (or not used) and learn its proper usage when you speak or write. You will be encouraged to make 2-3 sentences (affirmative, negative and interrogative) with the new word and speak the sentences out to the class. Finally, you will be given the opportunity to speak on a topic ‘depending on you ability’ where you can use the ‘new’ words.

The result is, that you ‘develop your active word-base and are effectively able to use the new words at appropriate places even outside the classroom in real-life situations. With adequate Vocabulary, you express yourself, more benefits of superior word-power are:

  • Speak more clearly….without repeating and using filler words/ jargon or slang
  • Express yourself freely….on personality of an individual, explaining your project etc.
  • Converse confidently…even with people from other professions
  • Make extempore speech/presentation ….. on a wide variety of topics
  • Gain Confidence….as you don’t fumble as you speak.

You are able to ‘strike the right word at the right time’ and be more Fluent as you practice usage of your words more and more… It is my firm belief that you learn best in real-life’ situation so doing role-plays will help you not just with you vocabulary but also with understanding of the grammar.

Isn’t it true that ‘Words Shape your Future!’

At T.r.i.c.k.s – Noida, you will attend a number of Active Vocabulary sessions so that you add words to your ‘word-bank’ and start speaking simple sentences within 10-15 days…. Fluency development can take its time put the right path and progress is assured. Number of Active Vocabulary sessions you attend depends on your Level and the Module you choose.