Being able to converse proficiently in English is basically what globalization requires of the different nations. The English language has become the most important field of study among the non-English speakers as well as those who are born with it.
Second language learners try their best to become accepted in the universities in both the United States and the United Kingdom in order to become globally competitive in their fields of study. However, they will not be accepted within these universities unless they have passed the English proficiency level that the university requires of them. Therefore, ESL students try their best to become proficient in the English language.
Second language learners are doing their best not only to learn the English language but to become proficient with it at the same time. They enroll themselves into various English proficiency programs that would help enhance their skills in order to become competitive in the global market.
However, there are several issues that are thrown against the ways in which the English language are taught. Perhaps one of the most significant issue that concerns the study of the English language among these students are the ways in which both oral and written communication are taught. Moreover, these two major forms of communication have distinct uses in which they are employed appropriately. By this reason alone, it can be viewed that teachers hold the biggest responsibility in successfully attaining the goal of imparting proficient knowledge in regards to English as the second language. Teachers take the most crucial role not only in developing the minds of the students, but also in keeping the students interested and motivated to learn. Hence, the plan, processes, the very execution of the teacher’s plan and of course the books as the reference materials should always be focused on the subject and how the students can use them.
This paper is aimed at analyzing a reference book entitled “Understanding and Using English Grammar” by Betty Schrampfer Azar (2001). This particular book is used by teachers in teaching English as a second language. Every parts of the book such as the ways in which it explains some concepts and presents new ideas, the very approaches it uses in motivating the students to read and/or study the material are all scrutinized and analyzed one by one. Needless to say, this paper looks into the:
- Topics highlighted.
- Examples used.
- Exercises or quizzes for the learners
The ultimate goal of this paper is to assess whether or not the book is suitable for students who are trying to learn English as second language.
One of the most popular language acquisition theorists recognized and accepted widely of the teachers and learners of second language is Krashen’s hypotheses in the theories of language acquisition. The most fundamental among Krashen’s hypotheses is the acquisition-learning distinction. There are two independent systems of second language performance – the acquired system and the learned system. The ‘acquired system’ or ‘acquisition’ is the product of a subconscious process similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concentrated not in the form of their utterances, but in the communicative act. Lawler and Selinker (qtd in Krashen, 2002) propose that for rule internalization one can:
“postulate two distinct types of cognitive structures: (1) those mechanisms that guide ‘automatic’ language performance… that is, performance… where speed and spontaneity are crucial and the learner has no time to consciously apply linguistic mechanisms… and (2) those mechanisms that guide puzzle- or problem-solving performance…” (Krashen, 2002).
The ‘learned system’ or ‘learning’ is the product of formal instruction and it comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge ‘about’ the language. According to Krashen ‘learning’ is less important than ‘acquisition’. (Krashen, 2002).
The relationship between acquisition and learning and the influence of the latter on the former was defined in the Monitor hypothesis. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time, focuses on form or correctness, and the rule. (Krashen, 2002).
The role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. The role of the monitor is – or should be – minor, being used only to correct deviations from normal speech and to give speech a more polished appearance. (Krashen, 2002).
There are however the over-users, the under-users, and the optimal users with regards to the monitor use. These are the individual variation among language learners that is suggested by Krashen. Over-users are the learners who use the monitor all the time. The under-users are those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge, while optimal users are those learners that use the monitor appropriately. In order to determine into which group a learner belongs, an evaluation of the person’s psychological profile is necessary to find out the result. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the monitor. (Krashen, 2002).
Extroverts become unconscious of their use of language and its form as they continually converse with other people, neglecting the forms of sentences and/or grammar of the language spoken. They are the performers who feel they must “know the rule” for everything and do not entirely trust their feel for grammaticality in the second language. They have a greater tendency to suffer from “lathophobic aphasia”, an “unwillingness to speak for fear of making a mistake”. Introverts, on the other hand, were able to focus or monitor the language use such that they have more time to think than talk and use the language. They appear to be entirely dependent on what they can pick up of the second language. Under-users seem to be immune to error correction, and do not perform well on grammar test. The optimal user is the performer who uses learning as a real supplement to acquisition, monitoring when it is appropriate and when it does not get in the way of communication. Optimal users may, in fact achieve the illusion of native speaker competence in written performance. They “keep grammar in its place” to fill gaps in acquired competence when such monitoring does not get in the way of communication. (Krashen, 2002).
The Natural Order hypothesis is based on research findings which suggested that the acquisition of grammatical structures follows a natural order which is predictable. (qtd in Krashen, 2002) Some grammatical structures tend to be acquired early while others late. This order seemed to be independent of the learners’ age, L1 background, conditions of exposure, and although the agreement between individual acquirers was not always 100% in the studies, there were statistically significant similarities that reinforced the existence of a Natural Order of language acquisition. The implication of the natural order hypothesis is not that a language program syllabus should be based on the order found in the studies. In fact, grammatical sequencing should be rejected if the goal is language acquisition. (Krashen, 2002).
The Input hypothesis attempts to explain how the learner acquires a second language. In other words, this hypothesis is an explanation of how second language acquisition takes place. The Input hypothesis is only concerned, however with ‘acquisition’. According to this hypothesis, the learner improves and progresses along the natural order when he/she receives second language input that is one step beyond the current stage of linguistic competence. The natural communicative input is the key to designing a syllabus since not all of the learners can be at the same level of linguistic competence at the same time. (Krashen, 2002).
Finally, the Affective Filter hypothesis, embodies that a number of affective variables play a facilitative, but non-causal, role in second language acquisition. These variables include: motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to raise the affective filter and form a mental block that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, when the filter is up it obstructs language acquisition. On the other hand, positive affect is necessary, but not sufficient on its own, for acquisition to take place. The hypothesis focuses on the question of simplified input, both inside and outside the classroom. The conclusion is that such input is not only highly useful, but it is possibly essential. Simple codes may provide for the second language acquirer what “caretaker speech” provides for the first language acquirer, comprehensible input with a low “affective filter”. (Krashen, 2002).
The implications are as follows: the best language lessons may be those in which real communication takes place, in which an acquirer understands what the speaker is trying to say. Similarly, a reading passage is appropriate for a student if he or she understands the message. Finally, the teacher-talk (inside the classroom) that surrounds the exercises may be far more valuable then the exercise itself. We teach language best when we use it for what it was designed for: communication. (Krashen, 2002).
Analysis and Discussion of the Material
This book highlights topics about the overview of usage of verb tenses. Specifically it presents ideas and concepts on how to effectively use present and past, simple and progressive tenses, the perfect and perfect progressive tenses, and the use of future tense.
Also, there are clear presentations about the adverbs. Adverb of time, place and manner and how it can be differentiated with the verbs are clearly shown.
Like other common grammar or English books, this “Understanding and Using English Grammar” never forgets to focus on subject-verb agreement. Hence it also highlights topics on nouns, pronouns and some modals.
Based on the information presented above, it cannot be denied that this book contains the much needed ideas which the average English as Second Language learners need to know. These may look like the most basic information but these are, no doubt, the most detrimental. Once the teachers mastered how to teach this through the book, or once the learners has mastered how to effectively and efficiently use the right grammars (as presented in the book), then the students can proudly show off what they have learned.
Because of this, it can be concluded that the author has chosen the right topics to be included in the book. The contents are useful and beneficial to both the students and the teachers.
Each topic has lots of examples so for both the teachers and the students. These examples are not only updated but are also very clear and easy to be understood. Because of this, both the teachers and the students will surely be having fun as they read and/or practice saying the examples.
Exercises or Quizzes
After each topic, there are series of suggested quizzes and/exercises (either individual or group) for the students to work on to. These exercises are not so far-fetched from the examples given. Because of this, the exercises not only served as the basis for the teachers to assess whether or not the students have really learned the topic, but also as another refresher from them to somehow deepen their understanding of the English grammar.
Indeed, the exercises and/or quizzes that are included in this book have completed the whole package for teaching and studying English as the second language.
There are lots of effective learning styles that teachers could ‘impose’ on his/her class, particularly if the students are trying to learn English as their second language. These learning styles are always geared up to teaching the students and making them learn all the possible thing that the teacher would want to incorporate on them. But the success of each of the learning styles will always be dependent on how the students would accept and react on to them.
The use of a reference material (a grammar book at that) during a class discussion is one of the learning styles that have always been perceived positively by the students. This paper just proved that the reference book entitled “Understanding and Using English Grammar” by Betty Schrampfer Azar (2001) can be a really effective reference tool for both the teachers and the students.
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