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  • Rico Wong

Sometimes, I don't need to understand the grammar


In the words of the immortal Avril Lavigne...

"Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?"

I want to sound 'natural'

I question why we do so much repetition without context or feeling. I find it's harder to learn without any emotion attached to the sentences and that's why I think discussions are so important in order to remember something and learn.

So, I want to sound natural and the most important part is to not speak like a textbook.

I'll give an example in English:


A: Excuse me, how do I get from Causeway Bay to Ocean Park?

B: First, get on the Hong Kong Island Line to Admiralty.

After that, get off at Admirality and change to the South Island Line.

Take the train and get off at Ocean Park.

It takes 15 minutes.

It costs about $8.


The grammar is fine and the instructions are clear. But it sounds...robotic. It sounds like a textbook.

In real life, I might say something like this:


A: Excuse me, how do I get from Causeway Bay to Ocean Park?

B: Just take the train to Admiralty and change line to Ocean Park. You'll see it on the map.


Even though it is not as clear, it is more realistic. A stranger is not going to spend much time giving you instructions.

Practical ways of communicating

And this is the thought in the back of my mind. In some situations/roleplays like giving directions, I would often prefer to learn the practical way of speaking. I feel more engaged as a student and I think it would feel more useful.


A: Can you tell me where the nearest bank is?

B: Sure, it's around the corner by the 7/11 over there.


is much more useful than:


B: Go straight down this road.

At the end of the road, turn left.

You can see a 7/11 convenience shop.

The bank is next to the 7/11 convenience shop.


I like books! I like shopping!

"I like books" a nice simple sentence you learn. There's a SUBJECT, VERB and OBJECT (noun).

Then you see:

"I like shopping"

... However, the grammar can be confusing for a beginner.

"Why is there '-ing'?", "

'-ing' is for verbs right?"

"Is it a different tense?"

"Why are there 2 verbs?!"

" a noun. Why is there -ing?!"

Good teacher answer: "Don't think about it."

Better teacher answer: "...but you can use this for activities. I like reading, I like running, I like swimming."

Bad teacher answer: "Well, 'shopping' is a gerund. What is a gerund? Well a gerund is a VERB.........blah blah blah..."

Just give me the sentence. I don't care about the grammar

As a teacher, there is a time and a place for introducing new grammar. Sometimes, new grammar is useful to know. Sometimes, it's not important (at that time).

But students (and me) sometimes just want an answer without understanding the grammar. And that's fine.


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