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You still hate grammar?

Updated on April 1, 2016
flamenco fashion parade in my hometown
flamenco fashion parade in my hometown | Source

More Demystification of Grammar

As a language teacher, I have heard many students tell me in trepidation before they begin a language course: "I just want to learn how to speak and understand the language. But NO grammar, you understand?" Well, I don't really. The closest analogy I can find would be like learning to drive without learning the Highway Code, or at least SOME of the Highway Code. We can all imagine how inefficient that may turn out to be. Thankfully, language learning may not be as dangerous or life-threatening as driving a vehicle but there have been many language faux-pas (mistakes or misunderstandings) which have led to embarrassing or perhaps even compromising situations.

Read here an account of my most embarrasing 'faux pas' when learning to speak Spanish a few years ago and what can happen when you get it wrong!!!

There are many people who believe that they can learn to speak another language by simply conversing, and that would certainly be the case for younger children, or for someone that is lucky enough to be able to live in the country of the language which is being studied. In my experience I have known some people who have been able to pick up a language like this, but even they have acquired a basic understanding of the grammar structure to some extent, even though in a more informal context.

However, for those who are unable to actually immerse themselves in the language of study, I feel that a basic understanding of grammar is fundamental to any study.

Grammar rules! OK?

Languages have rules, consistencies, irregularities, conjugations, exceptions, idioms and these all make up what is generically termed 'Grammar'. It can't be avoided but it doesn't have to be painful!

In my introductory article Spanish Grammar: Verbs for beginners: Present Tense I introduced students to the basics of the Spanish verb and the fundamental importance of mastering an understanding of how the verb works.

It is always worth remembering that the verb (the DOING or ACTION word of any sentence) is what gives a sentence its basic meaning. It gives us the basic WHO does what and WHEN they do it. How important is that? How could you survive in a foreign language for any length of time without either giving or understanding those basics concepts?

Lists of vocabulary can be useful in their way, but isolated from a verb these lexical items, (words) are floating in a virtual world, lost, with no direction and only useful on a very primitive level.

Of course if all you need your foreign language for is to order a couple of beers in a bar on a stag/hen night then read no further. You have all your linguistic requirements covered with " cerveza, por favor". No superglue necessary. No verb necessary. Just a good, strong liver!

Conjugations

To be able to use a verb (doing or action word) correctly, we have conjugate the verb. When we conjugate, all we are doing is deciding the WHO (person) and the WHEN (tense) of the sentence, so let's move on from the ME and NOW (First person- Present tense) I described in my previous article and concentrate on the YOU and NOW.(second person-Present tense)

See here for my previous article including basic vocabulary to practise using verbs with.

Patterns in Spanish

Note:Pronunciation appears in brackets after the Spanish and the underlines show where the stress or the emphasis of the word lies: Examples in English would read "unfortunately", "understanding" and "telephone".

(Tip: As you read, notice the patterns and try to memorize them.)

Hablas inglés ( Ablas inglays) -- you speak English!

Comes mucho ( Comes moocho)--you eat a lot!

Bebes cerveza ( Bebes therbetha)-- you drink beer!

Vives en Londres ( Bibes en Londres)--you live in London!

Eres español ( Eres espanyol)--you are Spanish!

Tienes un coche (Teeaynes un coche) you have got a car!

Vas a la estación (Bas a la estathion)--you are going to the station!

Quieres agua (Kieres agua)--you want water!

CAN YOU SEE ANY PATTERNS EMERGING? Well, THAT'S GRAMMAR!

Learn to say NO!

Then of course, just remember how cool Spanish is and how easy it is to express the negative of the verb! In English we have to master 'isn't', 'hasn't', 'wasn't', 'doesn't,' 'didn't', 'won't', etc. just to express the most simplest of concepts. Think how lucky you are if you have chosen Spanish as a second language to learn! The negation of the verb is so simple. Merely place 'NO' in front of any verb, any tense and hey presto!

No hablas español--you don't speak Spanish

no comes mucho--you don't eat much

no bebes guisqui (Pron: whiskey)--you don't drink whiskey

No vives en Madrid--you don't live in Madrid

No eres inglés--you aren't English

No tienes un Rolls Royce!--you haven't got a Rolls Royce

No vas al aeropuerto--you aren't going to the airport

No quieres cerveza--you don't want beer

At first sight, Spanish grammar may appear daunting, but the understanding of the grammar system and recognizing the patterns of which Spanish consists will greatly speed up your language acquisition and lead you faster along the road of becoming more fluent in this beautiful language.

Please let me know if you found this article useful. Use the comment box provided at the end of the article.

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