Despi­te all the work that has been done on first- and second-lan­guage acqui­si­ti­on, we know sur­pri­sin­gly litt­le about how lan­guages are lear­nt, and even less about how they can best be taught. Theo­ries come and go, asser­ti­ons are ple­n­ti­ful, facts are in short sup­p­ly. This is nowhe­re more true than in the area of grammar. The trou­ble with tea­ching grammar is that we are never quite sure whe­ther it works or not: its effects are uncer­tain and hard to assess. If we teach rules, some­ti­mes stu­dents mana­ge to app­ly them and some­ti­mes they don’t. Prac­ti­ce may have some effect, but car­ry-over to spon­ta­neous pro­duc­tion is often dis­ap­poin­ting. If stu­dents speak more cor­rect­ly as time goes by, is this becau­se of our tea­ching, or would they have got bet­ter any­way? Rese­arch on metho­do­lo­gy is incon­clu­si­ve, and has not shown detec­ta­ble and las­ting effects, for ins­tance, for impli­cit ver­sus expli­cit ins­truc­tion, for induc­ti­ve ver­sus deduc­ti­ve lear­ning, or for sepa­ra­ted-out stu­dy of struc­tu­re ver­sus inci­den­tal focus on form during com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve acti­vi­ty. Under­stan­d­a­b­ly, tea­chers are unsu­re how much importance they should give to grammar, what grammar they should teach, and how they should teach it. Lan­guage-tea­ching fashions con­se­quent­ly oscil­la­te from one extre­me, whe­re grammar is given star bil­ling, to the other, whe­re it is back­groun­ded or com­ple­te­ly ignored.

Ein aus­ge­zeich­ne­ter Auf­satz von Micha­el Swan. (Tipp von Ralf Siegesmund)

Ein Pro­blem für uns non-nati­ve spea­k­ers ist natür­lich, dass es für uns prak­tisch unmög­lich ist com­pre­hen­si­bi­li­ty, accep­ta­bi­li­ty, scope und fre­quen­cy zu beur­tei­len, das macht prio­ri­ti­sing extrem schwer.