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Do I need to know lots of grammar to speak a second language?

Let's face it - we can't get away from grammar when we're learning a foreign language. It's there, in some shape or form. And we can decide to embrace it or ignore it.

When children learn their mother tongue, they don't study the grammar: they listen, mimic and modify what they hear. (My son often used to say, 'Mum, I've brung home a letter! And I think he was unconsciously applying a grammar rule that didn't fit that verb.)

So, yes, you can learn a language without knowing the grammar. And that will suit lots of people. However, studying grammar can accelerate your progress in learning a second language, and there are several options you can go for.

Firstly, there are traditional grammar books such as Shaum's Outline of Spanish Grammar, Help Yourself to Advanced French Grammar or Collin's Spanish Grammar and Practice. All of these provide lots of written grammar practice and methodically go through different grammar points.

Secondly, there's a plethora of grammar websites, from the BBC's Bitesize French/German/Spanish to grammar sites to sites dedicated to just one language like

Then, you can go to classes. These usually integrate grammar into the lesson and part of the lesson will focus on the grammatical learning objective, whilst other parts of the lesson may involve one of more of the following: listening, speaking, reading, writing or vocabulary acquisition.

Or you can attend dedicated grammar sessions, and this is something we offer for French grammar. Our first set of French grammar lessons focuses on particular words with various meanings and functions in the foreign language. For example, we run a whole lesson on the word 'de' and its multifarious meanings and another on 'en'. We then read an article that showcases this grammar and finish with an interpreting exercise which also uses the grammatical point. Our second set of grammar lessons are slightly different: we read a contemporary article and then do a text analysis, where we look for different tenses or grammatical points, paraphrase some sentences and do a spot of translation. We then finish with an interpreting exercise. I wouldn't say any of this was easy, but it's definitely stimulating and fun, which is not bad for a grammar lesson!

So there you have it: you can ignore the grammar (as you'll pick it up as you go in any case!) or you can choose to accelerate your learning through various different ways. All are valid, and you just need to work out which would suit you better. That would depend on your learning style, which is another blog post altogether!

If you've enjoyed reading this article, please like the article, or if you'd like to join our grammar sessions, please get in touch. After all, you can never have too much of a good thing!

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