By Elizabeth Céspedes Víquez – English Teaching and Translation Student
People often say that grammar does not have a significant function when it comes to communication, but they are wrong. There have been many opportunities in which I have noticed that many people, by omitting basic grammatical rules, communicate their ideas to others in a wrong way, generating misunderstandings, bad distribution of information, and confused and obstructed comprehension. During the pandemic, we have witnessed many people becoming increasingly engaged in online learning, especially learning English, as this language remains key to promoting career advancement and better opportunities. Many people have chosen to improve their level in different ways, some choose to enroll in complete programs online such as using sites like OpenEnglish, or the British Council course. Others feel that their progress will be better with more accessible tools and flexibility in their use, such as Memrise and Duolingo. But, do these courses offer grammar in their teaching plans?
The focus of applications such as Memrise and Duolingo is the component of providing fun while learning. Unfortunately, they do not consider grammar to be fun, and prefer to replace it with memorization and repetition of vocabulary. However, it does not make sense for the user to learn so much vocabulary if they do not know how to integrate a sentence coherently. For Memrise it is more important to reinforce confidence in speech and understanding than to worry about accuracy (Memrise, n.d.). Meanwhile, Duolingo prefers to include grammar implicitly, as they believe it is the same way we learn our first language when we are children. In addition, they offer users a section of tips with grammatical content, in case the user wishes to go deeper into grammatical structures and complexities, such as the use of comparatives and superlatives (Duolingo, n.d.). These options are free, to a certain extent.
On the other hand, online courses that are guided by real teachers and allow interaction with other students require a payment to access the registration and are platforms designed to be used from the computer. OpenEnglish does not only offers users interaction in speaking and listening, but also a grammar guide so that students can find out why sentences are written in one way or another, in addition to the explanation given by the teacher during the online class (OpenEnglish, 2020). Similarly, the online course offered by the British Council allows students to improve their skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. They also offer users online lessons and support material, related to grammar, and a support course considering the massive confinement due to COVID-19 (British Council, 2020).
In conclusion, it is key to highlight that it is easy for users to download an application to their phones that offers them a wide inventory of languages to learn, and not only that, flexibility in schedules and opportunity to learn in their own pace. These characteristics cause that an increasing number of people use tools such as Memrise and Duolingo. However, as Eugenia Iglesias said in an article of the BBC, when using these apps, they feel lost in grammatical structures. Many experts recommend using resources such as these to supplement face-to-face classes, or personalized online classes (Bettley, 2020), if face-to-face classes are not available because of time limitations, or as seen in recent months, because of pandemic sanitation measures. What method would you use if you were unable to attend face-to-face classes?
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Bettley, B. C. (2020, January 2). Language apps: Can phones replace classrooms? BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-50321918
British Council. (2020, July 17). Covid-19 learning support. British Council. https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/covid-19-learning-support
Duolingo. (n.d.). Duolingo - Learn a language for free @duolingo. https://www.duolingo.com/approach
Memrise. (n.d.). Learn a language. Meet the world. https://www.memrise.com/
OpenEnglish. (2020, May 8). Conoce qué hay y cómo es la plataforma. https://blog.openenglish.com/open-english-plataforma/