The Grammar Dilemma

As I was looking for some teaching materials for my grammar class, I came across the following paragraph:

“Many English learners worry too much about tense. If you stopped 100 native English speakers in the street and asked them about tense, one of them might give you an intelligent answer – if you were lucky. The other 99 would know little about terms like “past perfect” or “present continuous”. And they would know nothing about aspect, voice or mood. But they can all speak fluent English and communicate effectively. Of course, for ESL it helps to know about tenses, but don’t become obsessed with them. Be like those native speakers! Speak naturally!”


The fact is, not only students worry about tenses. Teachers too find it difficult to sustain their students’ interest in learning grammar especially when English is taught as a foreign language and second language. Native English speakers obviously need not know grammar at all as these come rather naturally – but they still learn it.

The problem is, not every one is a native English speaker. It’s hard not to be “obsessed” with grammar when you want to express something in the future but end up using the wrong tense (especially), thus causing some confusion to the person whom you’re talking to. 

Languages like Mandarin, Arabic and Malay do not have tenses to show the differences in “time”. Having tenses merely makes learning English far more complex.  It would be great if we could say:

  • I eat rice today.
  • I eat rice yesterday.
  • I eat rice tomorrow.

… and I’m talking only about tenses minus the sentence structures and exceptions to so many rules that linguists have created.

Wouldn’t Simplfied English be more fun and less taxing on the learner?


Posted on December 3, 2009, in Jottings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Yeap, how I wish. And not forgetting English also absorbed some words from French, Spanish into their vocabulary, making it a universal language. How I wish English is like Bahasa Malaysia, can easily learn that way.

    • Thanks for the response, Rose. It’s true that Bahasa Malaysia is so easy to learn that it is a well-known fact that foreign workers could grasp the language well in just a couple of months. Nevertheless, as with other languages, our national language too has its own problems.

      Cheers 😀

  2. Hi Kevin
    Oh yes even though I’m a bananaz, have to admit I’m one of the 99, very sad and regret to say have not studied well in primary as English was totally neglected then. Very glad to have your guidance and appreciate it very much and its NEVER too late to brush up. Thanks ക

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