Grammar is always important in a certain language. Even though there are still different opinions about the importance and effect of the grammar teaching, most teachers in Chinese language school attach much importance to the grammar teaching in the foreign language teaching. Therefore, for a long time, the grammar teaching has been playing the important role in the second language teaching.
Students who study in China may be told that the grammar teaching is the key part in traditional language teaching. It seems that the grammar teaching is almost the same as the foreign language teaching. The Grammar-Translation Method is the earliest teaching method which regards grammar as the basis of the foreign language teaching. It also indicates that the language teaching is the combination of vocabulary teaching and grammar teaching.
In Grammar-Translation Method, it proposes to teach grammar by the way of deduction. After explaining the grammar rules in detail, teachers in Mandarin learning courses demand learners to remember the rules and consolidate them by translation practice. The following Direct Method is the opposite of the Grammar-Translation Method. It emphasizes to base on the oral language teaching and regard sentence as the unit, thus forming language habit naturally by imitating and practicing and memorizing.
The Audio-lingual Method is also an important grammar teaching method which emphasizes to center on the sentence patterns and train learners’ ability if listening and speaking by vast and repeatedly practice. If students learn Mandarin in China by using this method, they may know that the puts language structure teaching into the sentence patterns and finds the teaching points by language comparison. It is a development of the grammar teaching.
However, the Cognitive Approach stresses to practice foreign language on the basis of understanding the language knowledge and rules. The point of it is the meaningful learning and practice. When using this method to study Chinese, we can see that it inherits the characteristic of grammar teaching emphasized in the Grammar-Translation Method. But it avoids the disadvantages of overemphasizing syntactic rules explanation and overly relying on translation.
The Communicative Approach is totally in contradiction with the traditional teaching concept of centering on grammatical structure and sentence patterns. It clearly states to base on functional meaning. But at the same time, it still emphasizes grammar and gives consideration to both structure and function. All methods above are emphasizes the importance of grammar. However, Chinese language learners may learn to speak Chinese regardless of grammar by using methods like Natural Approach and the so-called “strong version” of the Communicative Method.
In the 1970s, with the development of the studying the regular patterns of learning foreign language, people found that the learners acquired the grammar items with the extremely similar order even though their mother tongues are different, for instance, different peoples come to learn Chinese in China. What’s more, that order was seldom affected by the teaching order. After some learners realized the establishment of a rule doesn’t mean they should use it in the communication, some scholars started to doubt the value of grammar teaching.
If the foreign learners who learn Chinese language in China know the famous linguist Krashen, they may know his idea that the second language is not learned but acquired. That is to say, the grammar teaching is not an essential condition for acquiring a certain language. Of course this is an extreme idea. Firstly, it breaks the grammar teaching system and brings no good to help students master grammar knowledge and train grammar ability.
Besides, if teachers do not teach grammar and just let students to explore, the language teaching becomes meaningless and will never be successful. For example, if the students learn no grammar when they learn Mandarin Chinese, they may gain a better understanding ability and fluent oral Chinese after a period of time learning. But there will be many problems in expressing skills and grammar mistakes.
In the field of teaching Chinese as a foreign language, the importance of the grammar teaching never be doubted and ignored by most of the Chinese teachers. How to help students to be effective in learning Mandarin Chinese becomes a focus for the Chinese language teaching. And they realize that the grammar teaching still very important in Chinese language teaching.
Since the grammar teaching is so important, teachers and scholars should explore the renovation in grammar teaching system on the basis of the combination of function and structure, thus exploring more effective teaching methods to improve learners’ language skills.