This is not the first article ever written about grammar.
And it certainly won't be the last.
But I was shocked to discover recently that, despite talking about it quite often, I've never actually written a post dedicated to that big question that kicks up so much controversy and divides opinion like Marmite: “Should I learn grammar?”
Therefore, if you're an average person whose goal is to learn to speak your target language, it is not smart to worry too much about grammar education, because you will spend a disproportionate amount of time on something that is relatively unimportant.
This is a very important insight for you as a language learner. It's a clear reason why grammar is not important to focus on when you start to learn a language.
Grammar Is A Bitch
Let's put it in plain terms: Grammar is hard!
You'll study it for years and still not get it right.
What's more, the more you worry about it, the more likely you are to avoid speaking to people, because you'll be nervous about making mistakes.
(Don't underestimate this point – it happens to a lot of people! It's because of the fear villain that this happens so don't blame yourself.)
And all this fuss for…the 20%?
It's like learning to drive by studying the owners manual of your car. Or learning to play the piano by reading books on music theory.
It makes no sense!
Yes, grammar is important. But it's not what's going to get you results in your language learning.
You've Got Other Things To Worry About
To learn to speak a language fluently you need to worry about staying motivated more than anything else. If you lose your motivation, you'll stop learning. And then nothing else matters. In order to…
…stay motivated you need to feel like you're progressing.
To feel like you're progressing, you need to be constantly improving your ability to communicate.
To improve your ability to communicate, you need to focus on those things that make up 80% of communication.
…not the 20%!
Does that make you look at grammar and language learning in a different way?
You should be thinking to yourself: “I need to be spending my time on the 80% stuff!”
And you'd be right!
You should also be thinking: “If 80% of what I say will be understood through the words alone, it doesn't really matter if I make any grammar mistakes!“
And you'd be right again!
If this comes as a bit of a shock to you, don't worry. It's not your fault. After all, pretty much every language textbook and course out there wants to teach you grammar.
Why? Two reasons.
It's what people expect
It's something tangible that can be taught
(Think about it – it's much harder to teach someone how to memorise vocabulary or how to find a language partner!)
You might be wondering how to learn grammar in a foreign language. Textbooks, like the excellent Assimil or Teach Yourselfseries, can be extremely useful for experienced language learners who know how they learn best and can be selective with what they try to learn.
But if you're out there learning a new language for the first time, all that information can get overwhelming, because you simply can't learn it all and don't know what to prioritise.