As I was reading Noguchi’s essay, “Grammar and Teaching of Writing“, I couldn’t help but think back on my own life and when I learned grammar. Surprisingly, I couldn’t remember a time when I even really spent much time on English grammar in school; our grammar lessons in English class were always short and more for the purpose of brushing up on what we really already knew. But how did we already know it?
Since I couldn’t remember a time when I ever really learned English grammar in school, I thought about how Latin grammar and Spanish grammar (I took Spanish all through grade school and Latin in high school) were taught in class. It was not really through writing that I learned the grammar of these other languages, although we did do many grammar worksheets and quizes, but rather it was through speaking, or at least for the purpose of speaking. Our goals in Latin and Spanish class were not at first or really ever to compose essays beautifully written with correct and good use of the grammar, but mainly to be able to communicate and speak so that natives of that language would understand. Although there are many forms of languages, including slang, grammar was taught as a basic form of communication.
When I thought about learning grammar in Spanish and Latin class, it made me realize that my classmates and I already pretty much knew grammar by the time we were in elementary school because we had learned it when we learned to talk. Perhaps we may have not gotten the correct articles and tenses when we were two, but when we said, “Me want bottle now”, at least we had the idea, even without knowing it, of syntax, subject, and object!
Taking all this into account, I agree with many sources that Noguchi references in his essay in that we shouldn’t spend so much time teaching grammar in school, especially when it takes away from writing time, because to me, it has less to do with writing as it does with language and learning to speak. However, we can’t ignore that writing is a huge part of our society and proficiency in this skill is required for many fields. Many of my tutees that come into the Plangere Writing Center have a lot of trouble with grammar, but they seem to be able to express themselves perfectly enough when talking to me. This is why I think Noguchi’s second idea to “decrease the classroom hours spent on formal grammar instruction by showing how to capitalize on the already-acquired yet unconscious knowledge that all native writers have of their language” should absolutely be implemented and would solve many problems with bad grammar in writing without sacrificing time spent on actually writing which is dire in developing good writers.
It is as if we are spending too much time planning, and not enough time actually doing what we planned for. What’s worse is that what we are planning, we have already pretty much devised in our brains, and we already know. We need to take advantage of what we already know so that we can get to writing!