Noguchi response

I think that Noguchi’s article brought up issues in grammar education that were similar to those discussed by Curzan in our previous reading. The most important point which I think he brought up is the fact that the grammar that is commonly taught in school has very little to do with writing, even the formal kind which students are expected to produce. As I was reading Noguchi’s discussion of the three reasons why grammar education may prove ineffective in improving students’ writing abilities, I kept coming upon the idea, which the author also briefly alludes to, that the another underlying reason for why grammar learning may not be transferred by students to their writing is that, for native speakers of English, a fully-formed grammar already exists in their heads, with which a number of the prescriptive rules of the language may be at odds. Especially in the case of speakers who, as Noguchi mentions, speak a non-standard form of English, I imagine standard grammar education in school becomes something like learning a very dry and unforgiving foreign language. In that sense, I agree with what Noguchi has to say about cutting out the parts of grammar education which produce a clutter of essentially unnecessary grammatical terms. Native speakers of English (or any language, really) will know intuitively what “verbs” and “nouns” and so forth are, without needing to memorize the names for these concepts. I feel, as Noguchi seems to, that the best course of action in addressing change in grammar education, is to consider the elements of grammar that are most often misused by students in their writing. Thus there will be no more need to mire hours of class time in pointless repetition of concepts students already know intuitively. I think the descriptive rules of English grammar, while fascinating from a linguistic standpoint, don’t really hold any relation to what is prescribed in schools as formal written English. These rules focus on what is spoken, rather than what is written, because of course, written language is largely only arbitrarily related to spoken language. I suppose this is what Noguchi was getting at when he conjectured that, even when it is learned correctly, grammar is not transferrable to writing. The concepts that are presented are either too obvious, or too arbitrary, and in writing, students most likely choose to ignore them. This might be a bit too simplified of a situation, but I think that in the case of truly indecipherable writing which is ridden with grammatical and logical mistakes, the problem is not that Student X hasn’t done his grammar homework – it is probably a more deep-seated cognitive issue, and assigning more worksheets on the proper use of the semicolon is not going to make it go away. To return to the idea of teaching students more style-related grammatical points, I think an underlying issue in what Noguchi was discussing is the way that formal English writing is essentially writing for a very specific audience, which in itself is probably as limiting as some of the prescribed rules of grammar that students are somehow expected to use. In those terms, writing “improvement” is really just fitting the mold of the expected audience as closely as possible, which is almost at odds with what Curzan was saying about necessarily allowing students to make up their own minds about particular grammatical points based on a more informed understanding of natural grammar. Through his essay, Noguchi effectively places the learning of style and “writing for the audience” entirely into hands of English teachers – grammar education has to change, but students’ own ideas about grammar usage aren’t particularly considered, except in the area of phrasing something best to fit the “formal English writing” mold. Curzan’s, in contrast, urged a more active conversation between teacher and students on the points of grammar usage. Perhaps in part this can be attributed to the fact that Noguchi’s article is slightly more dated than Curzan’s was.

Maryna Sidykh

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One Response to Noguchi response

  1. Pingback: How do you approach grammar? « Polyglot Posturings

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