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Alternatives to traditional grammar study

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The most common way to learn L2 grammar appears to be to use a textbook with exercises. However, it can be a real motivation killer.

CautionEdit

Sometimes you simply need to persevere. If you're a beginner, consider trying PimsleurDuolingo, Memrise or Michel Thomas before completely giving up on traditional tools. It may also be useful to refresh your understanding of the grammar in your native language, through a book like English Grammar for Students of Italian.  You may also consider Assimil, which isn't grammar-heavy and has short fun lessons.

If you're struggling with a specific grammar topic, look it up online and/or in a different book. You may also need to review the previous chapters or to stop thinking so hard and give the language enough time to grow in your mind.

No matter what you do, you still need to gain an understanding of how languages work. Be open-minded and don't expect them to be like your L1. And remember that English is actually a relatively weird language. Consider learning more about linguistics.

Your decision doesn't have to be permanent. Sometimes it's simply easier to cope with a specific issue by using a grammar book.

Importance of inputEdit

Avoiding grammar study is an extreme version of the multitrack approach. Input, especially comprehensible input, becomes crucial. Be sure to read the following articles:

It's extremely important to do both reading and listening. Heritage speakers who fail to learn the language usually do very little reading and/or listening outside of family interactions.

If you still have gaps in the beginner grammar, the good news is that it's everywhere! You don't have to use boring examples. See Super Challenge recommendations in order to find some suitable content.

Initially you may have to work with short segments (social networks are a good source), but do your best to take advantage of flow, especially for watching/listening.

TechniquesEdit

Arguably the fastest ways to improve your knowledge are  Listening-Reading (for those who love literature) and Subs2srs (for those who love movies). You can also try other kinds of SRS/cloze deletion, including the 10000 sentences method. If you already understand a lot, simply getting into the right mindset while reading (or listening) can make a huge difference.

A lesser-known part of the LR method is playing with the vocabulary, mix-and-matching the sentences:

New word: Tintin.
Tintin, he, a boy. I like Tintin. Where’s Tintin? Zosia likes Tintin. She likes him. He’s nice. If I were Tintin I’d be ashamed of myself. Do you know where Tintin is? How on earth should I know that? Tintin must be lying under the table.
New sentence: I will kiss you if you kiss me.
Tintin will kiss you if you kiss him. Will you kiss Tintin if he kisses me? Tintin won’t kiss Captain Haddock if he doesn’t kiss you. Baba Yaga will get angry unless Tintin kisses her.

This can be done orally or in writing. It's a good idea to do scriptorium first, selecting the individual sentences you're going to work with.

Shadowing is another powerful technique that is often associated with Assimil and overlooked when doing LR. When listening to a long narrative, it's enough to shadow the parts that you know well and are confident about.

Meta-techniquesEdit

When the structure of your textbook is not there to guide you, some useful strategies are the 20-hour technique (for solving specific problems), timeboxing and pomodoro, as well as optimized woman (for female learners).

Avoid grand schemes and consider having a rotation system, or simply keeping a list of various learning activities. It's surprisingly common to forget what options you have. Sites like HabitRPG or Mindbloom Life Tree can help you get motivated by turning your everyday tasks into a game. Consider joining a language learning challenge as well.

For keeping track of native materials (and discovering more of them), you can use sites like GoodReads, LibraryThing (for books), Trakt.tv for films and series, Last.fm for music.

Finally, there's also the option of using sites that make you pay if you don't reach your goals, most notably Beeminder. (See emk's guest post about learning Ancient Egyptian)

ResourcesEdit

If you simply find the sentences in exercises boring ("The grass is green"), consider making your own exercises, for example here. Or write your own sentences and get them corrected at Lang-8.

GLOSS also offers free lessons on a variety of topics, like society, science, sports, economics, politics, medicine. Produced by the US Defence Language Institute, it's not available for some popular languages like Italian or Swedish, limited to Western Europe; however, there are many lessons in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, as well as the less commonly studied languages like Serbian/Croatian, Indonesian, Turkmen, Albanian or Tagalog. In total, there are 40 languages represented and 7000+ lessons, each of them accompanied by a text, recording and translation (click "source" on top), as well as a glossary, in addition to the engaging activities and essay ideas.

Similarly, specialized books are often more fun - like German for doctors or Italian via music/cinema/art. Naturally, you have to choose what is relevant to your interests.

If you are learning Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Catalan, Turkish or Dutch, give LyricsTraining.com a try. It will help you establish the connection between the sound and spelling, as well as pay attention to the "little words". The site is also available for Japanese, but only with romaji. (main article here)

For related languages, consider books like Spanish vocabulary: an etymological approach and You already know Italian to find the transparent vocabulary. Learning Spanish Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics is another worthwhile option.

Language-specificEdit

Feel free to add more language-specific resources, but make sure they're more fun than average.

Classes, tuition and creating custom contentEdit

Most classes are likely to exacerbate the problem. Even the ones that proudly advertise teaching no grammar are likely to ignore your mistakes (the "communicative approach") or have incompetent teachers, often native speakers with no experience.

If you'd like to work with a tutor, you may want to try the techniques Language Hunters use, as well as the many strategies described by Bakunin (see "threads started"). When there's no suitable easy content, some learners are willing to pay native speakers to have it recorded.

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