Many people believe that they need to learn grammar in order to speak a language. However, they find that learning grammar is a daunting task. Grammatical terminology is often complicated. There are frequently complex rules with countless exceptions. It is not surprising that learners then think that foreign languages are difficult, and even presume that some languages like Arabic or Turkish are impossible to learn.

A grammar of a language is really a collection of observations, usually written by academics and professional linguists, about how the language works.

In many cases, grammars are also written for linguists or academics. You could for example, learn a lot about a language without being able to speak a word of it. See Ezra Pound’s article, Agassiz and the fish, as a metaphor illustrating the difference between learning a language and learning about it.

Understanding some of these grammatical observations – the grammar of a language – can help you to learn a language more efficiently as the ‘grammar’ can illustrate patterns and models which you can use to become more creative and productive. But the important thing is to view grammar as an aid and support to what you have learned and a way to become more creative and productive.

For example, in HandsOnTurkish you learn how to say that you would like a salad.

Bir salata istiyorum.

Using this pattern and using words that you learn in HandsonTurikish, you can also say

Bir araba istiyorum.
I would like a car.

Bir bilet istiyorum.
I would like a ticket.

Bir çay istiyorum.
I would like a cup of tea.

If you wanted to become even more creative you could look at the form ‘istiyorum’ and the ‘grammar’ of that verb.

The verb ‘istiyorum’ consists of three building blocks

isti + yor + um

Literally the form means “would like + now + I’

If we change the last building block to uz we get

Bir salata istiyoruz.
We would like a salad.

If you do not add the last building block at all, then we have

Bir salata istiyor.
He (or she) would like a salad.

If you wished to explore the ‘grammar’ further, then you could discover how to say ‘I wouldn’t like a salad’; or you could find out how to ask ‘Would you like a salad?’

So is grammar important?

Studying grammar is learning about the language. Ideally, you want to learn the language and how to use it. Grammar should not be something that is daunting and difficult, but it should be seen as a good way to recognise patterns and systems that allow you to express yourself better.

HandsOnTurkish helps you to speak the language first and then through carefully selected grammatical insights, the course explains how the language works and shows you how to use the language effectively.

HandsOnTurkish is a new EU-funded Turkish language learning course available online and on the appstores.

Carl Taylor is a linguist and publisher and has been developing language learning materials for over thirty years for governments, schools and general learners.