Self-Study Guide: How To (Actually) Study Grammar


Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language. –
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Note: Hello, language learners! Just want to first apologize for a very late post! A lot has been going on since my move from China and it has been a doozy. Excuses aside, here is a fresh of the press post for your language learning needs.

Grammar Is a Nightmare

Grammar is always a nightmare for language learners. It doesn’t matter what language you’re learning, grammar is simply not always a basket of roses. It’s actually never a bucket of roses and the sooner you accept that,the better whole language learning process will go. Why is grammar such a nightmare for those of you who are bright eyed bushy tailed and new to language learning? Here’s a list:

  1. Because there are ‘rules’ to grammar, but there are ALWAYS exceptions.
  2. Sometimes the grammar itself makes no sense at all when explained in your native language
  3. You often forget them right after
  4. They may have specific usages that you must know of in order to avoid sounding like a plebe
  5. There are a million and get more and more complex as you progress

What Is Grammar

Stop your scrolling! This is important!! I’m not going to explain the complex intricacies of the concept of grammar or even try to simplify it because if you speak a language, any language, you know what grammar is. HOWEVER, it is important to remember as you study grammar is that it is the written expression of how a group of people understand and synthesize the world around them. It is also how you learn more about the culture of the language you are learning. So take care to learn grammar thoroughly.

So how do you get through this total nightmare with your sanity intact? Fortunately for you, I’ve been studying languages for ten years and can tell you EXACTLY what to do. So before you resume or begin studying, here is my recommended step by step guide to studying grammar.

Learn Grammar Through Immersion

The BEST way to learn grammar is to learn it through hearing it exactly as it is used in conversations or in natural settings. Then study what it means, how and when to use it and then re-listen to the natural uses. Basically, listen to conversations and then learn the grammar. I highly recommend that you use Fluent U for this because it provides multiple real-world examples found in movies, songs, Youtube videos and tv shows to help you learn thousands of grammar points, words, and expressions. It’s so awesome, you guys.Seriously. And it’s affordable.

If you don’t want to pay for a program, you can do it allll by yourself by watching movies, Youtube videos, or tv shows with YOUR TARGET LANGUAGE SUBTITLES AND ENGLISH (IF YOU NEED IT). Use the English subtitles to help you discern what each word means and to determine what the grammar points are. I made a post about how to use movies to learn a language that you should checkout for a step by step guide to using movies to actively learn a language. Try to resist the urge to slow down the audio or listen to slower videos because you think they’re speaking too fast. You must get used to hearing naturally paced language sooner rather than later.

 The reason I do not advocate for grammar books is because you are not a robot. You cannot simply read things and remember them, that isn’t necessarily how your brain works. You must engage it on multiple levels and indifferent ways to effectively remember something. I also hate grammar books because it attempts to order everything by difficulty with the most simple concepts first and the more complicated last. This is counter intuitive because you should be learning based on what is most commonly and naturally used. By all means, use the grammar book as a dictionary for reference, but do not use it as your primary source of learning.

SUMMARY:

  • Use movies, shows, or videos to pick up new grammar
  • Find content that is naturally paced
  • Do not slow down the content
  • Do not use a grammar book alone, only for reference
  • Learn grammar through hearing it used multiple ways

Read Carefully For The Specific Meaning and Usages

There’s always fine print when it comes to grammar. It’s not usually an open and shut grammar point. It usually carries specific meaning and particular uses. You can find this information through grammar wikis or grammar websites.

SUMMARY:

  • Read grammar definitions carefully for specific usages and meanings

Use Equations To Write Down Grammar

Put away your laptops for now language learners, studies show that if you write down your notes you’ll be more likely to remember them later. So whip out the old and faithful pencil and notebook and write down everything the old fashioned way.

I like to write down all my grammar using a mathematical format because it is easy to read, short and to the point.

For example, A + 是+ B+的+C

A = noun | B = noun or adj | C = noun or adj

If you are learning grammar that is particularly challenging, break down the grammar point word by word to simplify it and try to understand the meaning carefully. Write down your personal explanations of the grammar and your breakdown of it thoroughly so that you can recall it for later.

Don’t forget to keep track of how many grammar points you learn per day, so that you keep up that number every day. Try not to go over or under it to avoid procrastination or burn out.

SUMMARY:

  • Write down your grammar points on paper
  • Use equations to simplify grammar points
  • If a grammar point is particularly difficult,break it down word by word

Make Funny Examples

When making examples for your grammar points, use funny or relatable examples. For example, I love kpop so I make silly kpop references to help me study Korean, Japanese and even Chinese. Whatever your interest is, use that to help you solidify your knowledge of grammar. If you’re unsure if your usage of the grammar is correct, then submit your sentences to iTalki and ask a native speaker if your sentence is correct. Note the correction if available.

SUMMARY:

  • Use funny or personally relatable examples to help you remember grammar
  • Check if your examples are correct

Practice

If you are comfortable making a penpal or have a friend that’s a native speaker, I recommend that you do so that you can practice what you’ve learned on them. Tell them what you’re learning and they can suggest new words or ways to use the grammar points you’ve learned.

If you’re too introverted for that, you can also practice by talking to yourself or using the grammar point in a journal. It may sound crazy, but it works very well. I also like to take videos of my favorite celebrities and stop them randomly after sentences and try to create my own responses to them using my fancy shmancy new grammar points.

SUMMARY:

  • Find a penpal or native speaker to practice newgrammar
  • Talk to yourself if you’re too introverted
  • Use videos of your favorite celebrities,athletes, etc and pause video to formulate your own responses using new grammar

Review

You MUST go back and review the grammar. Period. I suggest waiting about two or three days and coming back to what you learned two or three days back. It’s imperative that you review what you’ve learned so that you don’t forget. If you forget, you are literally just wasting your time. So learn the grammar point well the first time, review it and don’t forget it.

SUMMARY:

  • Review grammar every 2 – 3 days
  • Review by re-reading and re-practice speaking and writing with them

And there you have it! My personally tried and true method to learn and remember even the most complex grammar. Is it easy? Nope! But language learning isn’t easy and I don’t advocate anyone try to take the easy way out of language learning. A, because you’ll learn it half-ass and B, you probably won’t learn it at all. Here’s my challenge to my readers. Try to do the method above using all the steps and let me know how it goes!

Happy language learning!

Other posts:

Why Your Language Learning Method Isn’t Working

How To Make a Customized Study Schedule

Feeling Stuck?

How to study language grammar the right way


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2 thoughts on “Self-Study Guide: How To (Actually) Study Grammar

  1. Thank you for all these tips! I like using grammar books, but it is true that I truly understand a grammar point only when I see it in context. Learning grammar through immersion is certainly the most effective method! 🙂

    Like

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