So we are up to part 3 of “How To Improve Spoken English”. Today I’m going to tell you how important it is to work hard on your grammar, even if you don’t think it’s easy. If you think of a language as a house, the bricks are your vocabulary. You have to have the bricks, so learning vocabulary is important. But so many students make the mistake of only focusing on vocabulary. Learning vocabulary is pretty simple, after all. You just have to look at a list of words and get them into your brain. You don’t have to do much actual thinking or understanding. But the trouble is, if you just focus on vocab, you are building a house with no mortar. How can the bricks stick together? You have to learn grammar, as well.
But I hate grammar! How can I improve my English without having to learn grammar? The thing is, grammar doesn’t need to be hard. The mistake people make is trying to learn grammar rules. You know what? When I was at school in England, we never studied grammar. I was never ever taught English grammar. Really. So how come I can speak English? Because I was able to hear English grammar in use, and then rebuild sentences to my liking.
How to Improve Spoken English Without Studying Grammar
Let me give you an example. When I was a child, I heard this sentence: “You can eat your lunch in the classroom.” Now, I heard this sentence lots of times, so I knew this was correct English. But what I also had was a blueprint, a plan, for a great English sentence. I could take the different bits of this sentence and change them, so long as I kept the same framework. Look again at the sentence: “You can eat your lunch in the classroom.” What you have there is perfect English. Don’t worry about which part is a verb, or what type of verb it is, or what each part of the sentence is called. Who cares? When I talk to my friends, do we discuss which type of verb we are using? No, of course not. You don’t need to know. All you need to know is a framework for a sentence. Because I know it’s a perfect English sentence, I can change bits but still be speaking perfect English.
Let’s change it little by little:
“You can eat your lunch in the classroom.”
“You cannot eat your lunch in the classroom.”
“You cannot eat my lunch in the classroom.”
“You cannot use my iPod in the classroom.”
“You cannot use my iPod in the bathroom.”
“She cannot use my iPod in the bathroom.”
“She cannot use my iPod outside the bathroom.”
“She cannot use my iPod outside this bathroom.”
Ok, so the sentences are kind of funny. But they are all perfect spoken English sentences. Just by having one sentence as a framework for a proper sentence, I can make thousands of sentences. When I taught in Korea, my students would say things like, “Teacher, book, house.” What they were trying to tell me was of course, “Teacher, I left my book at home.” But because of the way they had been taught English, that is, learning vocabulary without ever using it in sentences, they were unable to construct even the simplest of English sentences. Don’t make the same mistake. Don’t be afraid of grammar, it is actually easier than you think, and can in fact be a lot of fun. Just get the framework you need by memorising some perfect sentences, and then change the different bits of the sentence to fit your needs.
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