Getting to Grammar: If you want accurate grammar quickly, Steve Kaufmann's method is not for you

I stumbled across an article that in same way crticised Steve’s input based method :Street-Smart Language Learning™: Getting to Grammar: If you want accurate grammar quickly, Steve Kaufmann's method is not for you

This fellow states that Steve’s mistakes when he’s using his languages are linked to the fact that he doesn’t pay to much attention on grammar.

I have to say that this guy doesn’t seem to understand that in order to be able to be more efficent in a language ( and even in your own) you have to listen,read,write and speak sometimes. I mean the simplest test between a person who uses a language well and one who doesn’t is to ask them how much they spend their time reading for example (though you can also observe that from just talking with them).

The thing with grammar I have to say that it’s overrated . My mother was asked to tutor a girl who’s mother is a university proffesor of Romanian literature (if I remember correctly) . If a university professor doesn’t have a great understanding of all the grammar rules and terms and can teach at that high level why would someone like us who only want to learn a language should nail down all those boring meta-linguistic items ?

Steve’s method does say to look out for patterns in the language though and look these up as you begin to recognize them. Also I think Steve suggests that one should maybe begin with a tech yourself book and then move to lingQing at LingQ. I don’t think you can nail down the grammar anyway until you start reading to listening to content, anyway what do I know, I am still learning my Spanish, probably at an intermediate level, but found that a combination of both LingQ and Assimil are really helping me!! I don’t think anyone can really study grammar without reading and listening and trying to figure it out for yourself.

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When you first start learning a language, drowning yourself in grammar rules is not the way to go. I have tried this, and it led to me losing all motivation and I still do not even want to look at the language anymore because I got so focused on the grammar.

Do not get me wrong, grammar is an essential aspect of learning a language; however, I am now in the mind set that I need to expose myself to a decent amount of material with the language to even start worrying about grammar. You can clearly understand simple texts in a new language just by knowing words. As time goes by and you read and listen more, you will be able to remember the endings and remember the context on how they’re used.

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It is true that the lingq system doesn’t teach you any or much grammar. I think that is one of the parts of noticing within the language. You have to notice some of the grammar being used in either day-to-day conversations or the more formal language used in literature or in business and government conversations. I guess in a way it is part of the lingq system of trying to make notice how sentences are used. That may be my opinion, but if Steve( If you’re reading this thread) might of learned a lot of the languages grammar through noticing in some way, with a little help from a book or a native. I mean with all of his reading he does. If he learned some words from basic material such as TYS or any other course, and then started reading something. He could potentially figure things out through context or similarities from another language.

I have to agree with Le_Jr .Of course that we need some knowledge of grammar but we mustn’t rely on it to further our progress .
Just imagine how many rules you’d have to master in order to learn a language from scratch . I always pondered on how many grammar rules a language contains and that it would be impossible to learn each one individually .

@Le_Jr: By the way how is your Hungarian and what resources do you usually use ?


@MADARA: I used to concentrate purely on grammar, because I feel it’s one of the most important things; but I’ve found it does more harm than good, so I slowly acquire new grammar rules and structures to make sure I don’t over do it with all of the rules. How do you go about learning grammar?

@Le_Jr: Well I kind of do what Steve does, I read the explanations and also the examples which are provided for the specific rule.

But the thing is that even if it proves useful (the explanation I mean) there will be always other things that I want to express by speaking or writing and there is no way that grammar can help me make complex sentences just by listing some random indications . Languages consist of lots of words,idioms,phrasal verbs,proverbs which can be used only when we start to ‘feel’ the language and this is possible only through input.

Grammar alone can’t help you in using languages as if they were second nature because no matter how much you work you’ll always have to examine each item that your message contains.It resembles in a way with mathematics , were you can only solve exercises if you practice and not write the equations which you have to know over and over .

My priority is learning how to understand the “spoken” language and converse in the same language effectively. Therefore though grammar …especially the conjugations of verbs… is important. However “alone” it is useless for my purposes and would take up too much of my (and this I am sure is the same for everyone) valuable time…better spent listening to the language as normally spoken and speaking it…and of course learning (though not completely memorizing) new vocabulary… As an example…I had at least 4 years of high school and college German…but I could not really speak it well and certainly was not able to understand the spoken language as normally spoken…as there were few “avenues” to listen to it .other than curriculum tapes and such. In addition I had a year and a half of French at college level…and also could not speak that well either (the pronunciation rules were much more ambigious in my opinion than German) and could not understand the spoken language at normal speed at all. Then I took private lessons at "Inlingua " school for around a year and a 1/2 (very expensive). However I was able to speak Italian , read it , and able to understand the language if spoken slowly(I was in Italy for a month many years ago). Now I am learning Spanish…and in around of year of focused learning (without a class up until starting one this week), with LIngQ.,hispanics I can talk to at work, and the ubiquitious “Tela Novelas” …I am able to understand about 40-50 percent of rapidly Spoken Spanish…and read it well. I studied and study Spanish grammar on my own…but again…learning grammar from a book…is useless for conversational language unless you listen well to hear the verbs and forms of same you are studying…and also speak the verb forms you study…to integrate it in that part of your mind that listens/comprehends and also verbalizes . As an aside…when I spoke Italian…i usually only used the compound present/past participle form …ie. “Ho fatto, avevo fatto” for past all the time when talking…and was easily understood . And of course did not have to remember /memorize the simple/absolute past forms ie. “feci” …only the helping/auxiliary verb and past participle(that was the same for first person, 2nd person…etc…making it much easier). However by “lacking good knowledge of the forms of absolute past”…i was unable to know what was said when hearing the absolute tenses. In my experience one can have limited vocabulary to talk …but needs more extensive vocabulary to comprehend(as they’re are many words for the same/similar action and objects ).back on point…grammar is is very important…but if one studies grammar in books with limited time listening to the language and/or speaking it…they better stick to "reading ". I was told of a man (non hispanic) , at my work, who had studied spanish in school for many years and was able to read the written language perfectly . He applied for a spanish speaking position in which he had to speak to hispanic clients …after a short time in the position he had to confess to his administrators …he could not perform the job as he was unable to adequately understand the clients…so he had to return to his previous title.
@Madara…if the person criticizing Steve is the same guy I say on Youtube…with some MMA stuff in the background…that guy is a real jerk. (if the same person) He tries to act macho and stuff while concurrently pretending to be an intellectual. Kind of a cheap imitation of Joe Rogan (who actually seems OK).

@MADARA…sorry …no the person who made video criticizing Steve that you mention is not the same idiot with all the MMA stuff in his videos that was criticizing Steve (and I appreciate MMA…but the guy I saw was truly a jerk.). I guess Steve;s success and that of his members are bringing the jealous ones out of the woodwork.!

@opewale: I’m not sure if this is the guy that you saw in that video , maybe you’re confusing him with Clugstone .

Yes that is what my last note said …i checked the website you listed and it was someone else…

Thanks ; )

I use LingQ primarily to obtain more vocabulary and retain. After a while, you begin to absorb how the language works and what is appropriate to a native speaker. If anyone is dying to study grammar, the teach yourself series is a fantastic resource.

Although I am a professional teacher, I admit that the Grammar can’t be a main goal by studying of any language: both the foreign language and the native one.
But of course the knowledge of the main Grammar rules and structures helps you by making phrases correctly.
It means we can’t deny the Grammar, but we have to refer to the Grammar books from time to time when we for example analyse our mistakes, especially by writing.
By the way, as a provider I put to the libraries of also the grammar lessons in English, German and Russian where I try to give some main Grammar structures in the practical usage with some as simple as possible explanations.
And the last remark: there are the languages where the Grammar rules are not so important for the first level like English and there are some languages where without some main rules you can’t speak or write correctly even very simple sentences like Russian or German.


Before I found LingQ, I was doing quite a bit of Russian grammar. But although I actually enjoyed doing it, I found it time consuming and not very productive in terms of progressing with speaking Russian. You can’t remember the grammar rules when you are trying to speak! Now I study with LingQ and more or less stopped worrying about the grammar in terms of doing exercises which I used to do. Most importantly using LingQ had made the whole language learning experience more enjoyable and has been much more effective in actually progressing with the language.

The other week I thought I’d try an online test for fun just to see how I’m getting on. I tried Liden&Denz test ( which I think is your school Evgueny?) and got A2+. Well actually I hoped for better, but when I looked at my mistakes I could see that there is some basic grammar that I don’t know well enough . So I’ve been through my mistakes and spent a bit of time to improve on some aspects like for example participles which I got wrong. Since I’ve done that, now I’m recognising the different participle forms in my reading and I’m making more sense of this grammatical form. Actually, I did learn this before from my grammar book but after doing the exercises I forgot it all.

Now with LingQ and basically reading and listening it’s starting to sink in and really its just the continued exposure to the language that is the thing that helps. But I think I do need to spend a little more time with basic grammar especially to learn simple model constructions in the various forms ( for gender, case etc) as this is much more efficient for me than relying on the different forms coming up in your reading, which they will do but it takes a long time.I can do this with the grammar lessons in LingQ plus referring to a simple pocket grammar. This is better than the comprehensive grammar I was using since this gets so complicated you end up getting confused and not remembering anything! I think everyone has to find their own right balance in terms of spending more or less time on grammar that suits their way of learning and their objectives in learning the language.


@ Martin
Yes, Martin, "Liden and Denz’ is my school in St Petersburg, but it has also a department in Moscow.
I like your attitude to the language studying, it’s very reasonable.

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@ evgueny …thanks for support and for your grammar lessons ! I go through them as difficulties come up - they are blissfully short and to the point I think which helps a lot.
Also, what I find useful is to have my Abbyy Lingvo 11 dictionary ( its old , now it may be LingvoX5 I think) up on the screen and in this you can look up all the forms of each word - which you don’t get on Lingvo On line in LingQ. This is handy as sometimes I can’t find a word on the online dictionary but I can track it down in the full dictionary. And for example, you can easily look up in one place the full imperfective and perfective conjugations of each verb which helps a lot for understanding and learning the forms. I get some encouragement when after figuring out a word form I then hear it and recognise it in conversation! But I need to keep listening and reading for new stuff to sink in!

Have you guys tried Duolingo? It is a nice way to learn grammar, painlessly, gamified and well structured. If a topic is hard to understand, it is easy to consult about it elsewere in the web. LingQ and Duolingo is all I used for learning Italian. Unfortunately there is still not Duolingo for Russian, but there is a beta version of English for Russian speakers that I just started. It is quite interesting, but challenging. Phrases like “I drink water” “You drink water” and “Please drink water” are simple in English, but much harder in Russian.

One thing I will say from listening to Steve speak Spanish in the podcasts is that he almost never uses the subjunctive. In general, this is not a big issue, but to fully express yourself in Spanish and to understand subtle differences in meaning, it is vital to be able to use and fully comprehend the subjunctive. This is an area that is often badly taught in Spanish classes and textbooks. The most success I have had is with a private tutor going over very specific points of grammar and uses.

I provide this as an example of how grammar is important in studying a language. I agree that it isn’t the only thing to focus on, but ignore it at your peril! :slight_smile: That said, some languages like Modern Standard Arabic, Latin, and Sanskrit are impossible, in my opinion, to learn without focusing on the grammar from the very beginning. They are just too complex to be able to understand through repetitive exposure. Knowing the grammatical rules actually makes learning them more efficient. Obviously these languages aren’t widely spoken in informal, oral contexts.