Grammar Man

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4 thoughts on “Grammar Man”

  1. Ben
    I can just see this cartoon of CI just busting down on Grammer Man. Pobre Grammer Man–oh no he’s in the garbage can with a 75% er sitting on the top.

  2. If we talk about structures rather than grammar, I have a question. Over the years I’ve completely given up trying to “teach” the lists in our manuals, etc., but I’ve realized that there are a few structures that I call stumbling blocks. Since I speak English to French speakers, they wouldn’t be the same for those that teach French or Spanish or whatever. One example is the “I want him to do sth”. Reading students’ papers, I found that it was an expression that they needed. Since the subjunctive is innate to them, they were trying to recreate it in English with weird things that were often completely incomprehensible, even to a teacher used to second-guessing her students. I also found that when they read the structure … He told him to go…. they would sit and stare at it, often saying, “I understand the words, but I don’t know what it means.” So it is something that I now manage to work in. When we discuss a scene, it’s easy to get in, what did he tell him to do? Where did he tell him to go? What did she ask him to do? And, little by little, I see the students using the form correctly in their writing. I like the Net theory, but shouldn’t we be on the lookout for things that tend to hamper our students in their progression, what I call stumbling blocks, and be sure that they get included in the Net?

  3. (Pls. allow me to say that I don’t like that capital N. It makes me think of some kind of mysterious archetypal language place in the Aristotelian Realm of Ideas. I’m going with the little n. The net of natural language.)

    I don’t see the net as something we can manipulate. Like, in South Carolina you sometimes see people with huge nets along the beach. They will put them into the surf in the morning and haul them in in the afternoon, filled with all kinds of fish. Those (seine fisherman) don’t know what they are going to catch. They just catch fish.

    Can they go out and reach down during the day and, using their hands (an analogy for the conscious mind), manipulate what is going on down below the water? I don’t think so. And if they pull the net up out of the water to inspect their catch so far die for lack of oxygen (kill the CI). Rather, what fish (language structures) actually get caught depends on what is swimming out there that day.

    We can compare some of the structures like the one you describe, Judy, as odd fish, like those odd looking blow fish with spikes all over them. Another example of that for the French is “Madame Brodé has been teaching for 15 years”. Low frequency and, I would assume, late acquired because of that. Those types of structures don’t come into the beach very often and won’t therefore be caught too often.

    Now, since we are teachers, we think that we have to catch all the fish, including the ones too far out. We think that if we don’t catch those odd ones that swim far from the nets, in deeper water (more complex language), that we will be letting down our students. So odd. They don’t care. They just want to eat. If we prepare the fish we catch well for them, they are happy. They keep learning, taking our classes.

    Then, well fed and strong for the fishing themselves, some of them cast their own nets way out there into the water and catch those hard-to-acquire structures. It is all a natural process and yet we try to manipulate it. We don’t trust that it is natural. We want to catch the fish we want to catch. Nobody trusts Krashen’s work. It’s too simple for them. But we can’t manipulate this unconscious process that we call language learning.

    I say again, we may get what Krashen says but we don’t trust it enough to do it for real in our classrooms. We always have to intervene. We just keep pulling the net out of the water. And then we see all the dead fish and wonder why they died. We pulled the net out of the water!

    We don’t just do the pure CI in the form of listening and reading (reading to create a movie – as per Susan Gross – in the minds of the kids instead of DREDGING the content into the unconscious mind, killing all the words (fish). When are we fricking going to get this?

    I describe it here but don’t do it. Just yesterday I couldn’t Grammar Man to shut up, as he fights for his life with wonderful explanations in the reading of a novel that the kids just don’t care about. Another question is, “Are the very school buildings built to bring the learning keeping us via all the other crap that we have to do on a daily basis from doing CI properly?”

    Don’t answer that. If the answer is yes we might have to consider changing where we teach languages (private businesses where we are not drowned in work and the students want to learn?) or even just leave the field because we’ve given it our best but there is just too much bullshit around us to make it work.

    Our biggest failure in our clsases is the keep pulling the net up out of the water, pulling the comprehensible input out of the unconscious minds of our students and thus making it incomprehensible.

    Our students are perfectly happy to just listen or read for meaning and not hear all of our interruptions to “explain” but which don’t explain at all, but rather pull the net out of the water and kill the CI that we have going. We might be reading Pauvre Anne Ch. 2 and, wehn we come across the Madame Brodé has been teaching for 15 years line we launch into a grammar explanation in English. It’s time for us to stop that.

    So the question comes up for all of us, do we try to force/cram that structure into the net? Do we try to control what fish we catch? Because doing that doesn’t work. And, most certainly, explaining it all in English amounts to pulling the net out of the water, killing all the fish that have already been caught.

    Do we try to direct our CI to these odd fish swimming in deeper waters, out of the range of our nets? No.
    Hence my impassioned plea in this blog post from last week:

    which I got no support on. Group members started talking about targeting structures. I felt bad that no one supported me on that blog post. I got an owie.

    I say just speak the language. The fish will be caught in God’s time according to what kind of fish he had on the eternal chopping block that day. We just fish.

    Sorry for the odd images. I’ll turn this into a blog post to support discussion/searches on the Net Hypothesis.


  4. Please don’t apologize for the “odd images!” I personally LOVE the fishing analogy. I have been away and unplugged, so this is the first post I have read. Easing my way back in after several days casting my own net in the waters of life outside of school. I love the image of the net in the water. I want to leave my net in there awhile so I might not “catch up,” but that is the point…I will pull up my net when I am ready and whatever is in there is what I’ll get! Thank you Ben 🙂

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