As part of my teaching at the University of Salzburg, I am faced with something that comes naturally, but something about which I, and pretty much every other native speaker, know very little about. Grammar. Dun dun daahhh…
After running into a wall a few times in my first semester, I am beginning to feel a little more at home with concepts that I’d only heard of before. Nonetheless, most days I come up against a part of our fab old language that I can’t for the life of me explain. And so most days I find myself scurrying round in my pile of grammar books trying to find the answer. It’s not unheard of for my incredibly learned colleagues to also go scurrying around trying to find the definitive answer as well. But that moment when I find the answer and all the blocks fall into place is astonishing and exciting and pushes me on to work through the next conundrum.
So, in part to help me and in part to help you, I am going to do a little series on English grammar – for those of us who already use grammar properly, but might not know why things happen as they do. This is advanced ESL for native speakers. Or, things about English that non-native speakers know, but native speakers don’t.
I woke up this morning with the image in my head of the cover of a book I read when I was a teenager: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.
(title courtesy of my Grandad Mawdsley, used whenever he didn’t like the direction of conversation, or simply couldn’t hear it!)
Would you believe it? Forty years’ worth of fledglings have delighted in the highs and delights of Jim Henson’s colourful, exciting characters teaching something that had previously been mind-numbingly boring and remarkably repetitive.
Wasn’t it easy at school? You wrote a first draft, your teacher corrected it and told you how to make it better and that was that — you got a good grade, (or you didn’t!) but ultimately it didn’t really matter … not in the great scheme of things.