What’s the best way to learn grammar?
Should I read or do grammar exercises?
It’s an interesting and common question.
It’s also one which makes me smile – “what’s the best way to….?”
“What’s the best way to make a movie?”
“What’s the best way to start a business?”
“What’s the best way to lift 500lbs?”
Let’s talk about the ‘best way’ to learn grammar today.
(If you just want to hear my advice for learning grammar, click here. If not, keep reading)
It sounds obvious, right? But the truth is people often lose sight of their end goal and waste time doing things that don’t help them to get where they want to go.
He’s what I mean:
When I first started English For Study, I waited six months before I told anyone about it.
I believed that I needed to have a beautiful website with a huge amount of learning material before I could share it with the world.
In reality, that just stopped me from progressing. It stopped me dead in my tracks. It took me six months to get over this barrier before I decided to share it with the world.
I should have shared my website from day one and moved on from there.
So, as you can see, not having a clear goal or a focus on your goal can really stop you from making progress, so having a clear goal and focus is important.
Here’s an example.
A student that I worked with last year had the goal of presenting at a conference.
However, her English was non-existent. She couldn’t speak a sentence in English.
She was a total beginner.
We had three months to work together before her presentation, so I knew we had to specialise.
For three months we practised language that she would specifically need for her conference. We prepared a script, we practised the script, we learnt the pronunciation of her keywords, we worked on coping strategies in case she forgot something, and we created an “answering-questions” strategy.
I focused everything we did on her goal, and as a result, she successfully presented her research paper in English at a conference in Canada.
She also made some contacts, and she was invited to present at another conference in Thailand later that year.
And that’s the power of specialising and focusing on your goals.
So, let’s go back to our original question:
By now, it should be obvious… It all depends on your final goal…
Are you taking a grammar test?
Grammar drills and exercises will help you.
Are you doing a book analysis?
Reading will help you.
Are you learning English so that you can communicate effectively or for another purpose?
You might need to find another strategy that helps you.
In this video, I recommend an approach that I think is one of the best if you want to be able to USE grammar naturally in conversations (without thinking all about which tense to use all the time)
The situational approach that I describe in that video helps you to see how English is used in real life without making English a ‘school subject’.
It helps you to see English as a living thing – something that changes and adapts to different situations and this is important if you want to use English as a communication tool.
So here’s what I want you to do.
Write down five situations where you want to use English (Where will you be? Who will you talk to? What will you talk about?)
Do that, and leave a comment below.
Sam is the founder and creator of English For Study. He's also a lecturer in EAP/Academic English. Apart from making Academic English easy, he likes learning languages, lifting weights and eating good food.