Is Grammar really that important now?

I’m currently learning Spanish with the 2014 Assimil book ( I really enjoy using it as I like listening and read and I am able to practice my pronunciation too )

my question is do I really need to focus on learning all the grammar rules? I find them really boring and I have a lot more fun speaking listening and reading.

im using the Assimil book for 30 mins a day and I have thought about buying a Spanish book with audio to build my vocabulary and help with my pronunciation too. and that would be for another 30 min a day.

my ultimate goal is to be become a very high level in again listening reading and speaking.

any advise or stories would be greatly appreciated!

hasta luego!

I think grammar can be fun if you find a resource with a progressive route. I personally recommend trying a hugo in 3 months textbook because it progresses you through the grammar from the beginning in a well explained way with exercises. Chapter 1 is week 1 and chapter 13 is week 13 so it is a very planned route and you may easily finish the book in under 2 weeks.

I’m currently still working through their hugo french in 3 months book and once done I plan to do even more grammar exercises from my other books before I begin lingq.

I am new to languages but I’m sure we all need written exercises for grammar, flashcard techniques for vocab, and after a certain level have immersion techniques. I admit I do not know any spanish but I can label some languages that I am sure are a true nightmare to start (burmese, amharic, traditional mongolian) and french looks like a language that requires more grammar work than a language like filipino. So, I’m not too sure about spanish. I would have to use my own r if I ever attempt it.

No, don’t try to learn grammar rules by heart, especially if that’s not your cup of tea. Keep exposing yourself to the language. Take Assimil’s “review lessons” as a way to solve your doubts about how the language works. Read trough them but don’t try to commit them to memory. Go back to them (or to some other grammar resource) when you think you’re missing something.
Concentrate on reading and listening and you’ll advance in the language

I am only speaking with experience from French, but besides conjugation, there is not a need to study a lot of grammar. With languages like Chinese, you hardly need to study any.

With a lot of exposure to fairly comprehensible language (which is what LingQ is all about), grammar can really take a back seat. It’s important in order to bind together what you’re learning, but you don’t need very much up front.

Personally, my best results come from periodically looking through grammar explanations after I’ve already spent some time soaking in the language, in LingQ or elsewhere. Once I’ve done that, studying grammar becomes a fairly entertaining process of recognition, rather than memorization of rules. “Oh, that’s why they do that!”

Before exposure, grammar is like memorizing random numbers.
After exposure, grammar is like finally discovering the stats of your favorite sports team.


i personally find it very important. without a good grasp of grammar and structure, i often find myself “understanding” every word individually in a sentence but not able to grasp any meaning from it.

It depends on the language.
For such languages like Russian the grammar is really important because you can’t say anything whithout some knowledge of the declention and conjugation.
For the languages like English ti is not so important, you can speak a bit without grammar.
But for speaking without mistakes you need grammar in English as well.
But of course, nobody needs to learn all grammar rules for speaking a phrase.
That can be made step by step, without boring long exercises - you read somethging and you can’t understand why it’s so written or so spoken, then you can find some rules about it,.the next time you can be iinterested in other structure etc.
For example, in Spanish without knowing irregular verbs you won’t be able to undestand some sentences and morover - to use them in speaking.

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You can understand sentences without knowing the irregular verbs. I also dispute that there are “grammatical” languages, where a focus of grammar is more necessary
In the beginning you take each form as a separate word. If it were English you would see “saw” and the dictionary would tell you what it means. No need to remember that the verb conjugates “see, saw, seen” at this stage. This is the same when you learn Spanish or Russian. There’s no problem understanding, not even speaking.
Notice that Steve learned Russian, and then Polish, Czech, … without focussing on grammar.
I’m not against learning grammar myself. I do it often but the OP’s original question was:
Do I have to learn grammar rules at this stage (beginning) of my learning". In my opinion the answer’s simply “No, you don’t have to”, especially if you dislike it, as the OP said
That doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from occasional reviews as you feel the need to do so
Having said that, some general idea of “how the language works” surely helps, only there’s no rush to get it.
OP’s question was in the context of the Assimil method, which is based on dialogues plus some notes on grammar. In that context I (as a usual user of the method) would advise to focus on the dialogues and only have a quick read about the grammar points. Not try to memorize it, take it just as a “map” of what you’ll eventually have to come to grips with in your language learning process

" I also dispute that there are “grammatical” languages, where a focus of grammar is more necessary"

In Arabic - probably the case with Hebrew too, if you want to read (and therefore speak too) correctly you must know grammar. Else you’ll only be trying to guess the short vowels, which is a major reason why learners find Arabic difficult. When you know the rules, it becomes much easier.

Mmmmmm. I’m not convinced. Again, I’m not arguing that learning grammar’s not useful. I’m saying that focusing on learning explicit rules only takes you so far and it’s not even indispensable.
I’ve learned some Persian, which uses the Arabic alphabet and doesn’t mark short vowels.
When you begin learning one of those languages, you do need to be told what the short vowels are: you can’t predict them from grammar. As you learn you get to know patterns, which are what have more predictive power. Of course that’s knowing grammar but the actual rules are not the key
Besides, the problem of “predicting short vowels” is only important when you’re reading texts. If one of the main dificulties of Arabic were that one, that would mean that understanding spoken Arabic or speaking it should be easy, which I don’t think is the case
It would be entirely possible to learn Arabic like this:
You forget about reading un-voweled texts: you focus on vowel-punctuated texts and transcriptions to the latin alphabet or systems that would provide you with a sample of pronunciation, such as lingq (anyway, that’s how you’d learn a dialect) and on listening. After you’ve got a good level you begin speaking, you go on like that until you have a good level.
After that, you tackle not-vowel-punctuated texts, you use your knowledge of the language to predict short vowels. Notice that that is how native speakers (of classical Arabic, when they existed) would’ve learned to read: they know the oral language and predict the pronunciation of the texts based on that, before learning explicit grammar rules.
Also native speakers of Hebrew learn to read without vowels based on their knowledge of the oral language, not based on grammar rules.
This method would allow you to learn Arabic with as little (or as much, depending on your system) learning of explicit grammatical rules as “not-so-grammatical” languages. For me, this proves that the difference is arbitrary.
Again, with that I don’t mean to say that knowing the rules is not useful, only that it’s not indispensable and it’s the same for all languages, depending only on your learning method (or the one imposed on you)

Another thought on this (very interesting) example. In my view, learning to read the short vowels in abjad-using languages is not very different from learning the pronunciation of words in non-phonetic languages, such as English, French or Russian. The written system underrepresents the phonemes of the words so you must learn them separately. There’s no way around that need. You do have some general rules but they fail very often, so you can choose to rely a bit more or a bit less on them, depending on what you prefer, but at the end of the day, pure memorization of the pronunciation is unavoidable
The same is exactly true for Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, etc. In the case of those languages, the “not very reliable” rules for deciding pronunciation of written words are related to some extent to grammar (which is less the case for the former examples) but the general idea is the same: the rules only take you so far, there are lots of exceptions to the general rules so you must remember the pronunciation of each word separately from their written representation), the rules only take so far and, depending on your learning style, you may decide to rely more or less on them but, ultimately, it’s not an issue of rules: at some point, you must learn the quirks of each word separately

Notice that native children would learn to read Arabic or Hebrew in the same way as French or English children: they know the oral language and use that to find the right pronunciation. In either case they would learn to read before learning explicit grammar rules. Foreign learners can do the same if they so choose

I think studying basic grammar by heart is very worth the effort in any language you study, for the relationship of time invested really pays off. Based on the pareto law 80/20 you can learn 80% of the grammar by studying just the basics. We all know that in each rule there are its exceptions, yet rules are useful because they describe accurately most of the cases.

On the other hand I do not recommend that anybody focus on grammar beyond the basics, so after learning the basics, I’d study grammar once in a while just as a means to ground the input I’ve got through exposure, but still, I see this point imperative and unavoidable to efficiently get a real mastery of a language.

As far as highly grammatical languages like Russian goes, well, you actually may understand just by knowing words and some set phrases but creating intelligible output would be very difficult even at the beginner levels . May be I’m wrong, Didn’t you ftornay study cases, motion verbs, and aspects separately before you were able to speak fluently?

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I did study all that. As I said, I happen to like grammar and I even go out of my way to read about it just out of interest, even rather obscure, “advanced” material and topics about the historic evolution of the language, etc.
So, I’m not against grammar study at all! But I also know that I could’ve reached the same level I have with far less grammar knowledge and I know many people who have acquired a very good level without trying to memorize explicit grammar rules, especially in the beginning (which was the OP’s original question). Steve is just one example.
Even I refused to learn a lot of the conjugation/declension/verbal pair tables by heart. I had a look at them from time to time and mostly learned the forms through exposure.

You do have to know grammar in the end but you can just be aware of what you have to come to grips with (without committing them to memory) and concentrate in acquiring patterns. Patterns, not just “set phrases”. If you acquire patterns as you learn vocabulary, you’ll be able to speak, even without knowing grammar rules by heart.

Does learning rules help? It may or may not, depending on your learning style

I agree with magorock, but I would replace ‘study by heart’ to ‘study by use, by examples’.
It’s better to know even in English that in the Present Simple we need the ending -s in the 3 person Sg than to remember all time(!) two forms of words: read-reads, see-sees, make- makes etc.
I don’t agree wirth you, Francisco - I spoke many times with Steve - he doesn’t ignore that we have to know something from the basic grammar at the very BEGINNING!
It helps us to go through the first levels faster and more useful for us.
But Steve and I are sure that every independant learner can have his/her own method of language learning - that’s very important not to make everyone follow the same method!

I agree with the need to know grammar by use and to read introductions into the language, I’ve never said otherwise.
I think we’re playing with semantics here. I remind you of the OP’s original question:
“my question is do I really need to focus on learning all the grammar rules”
Here, “learning grammar” seems to mean “learning by heart explicit grammar rules”. It is this sense of “learning grammar” that I’m discussing here, which is the relevant one, as per OP’s question
He’s using the Assimil method, which is based on a combination of mostly dialogues plus grammar notes and one every seven lections of grammar review. OP’s question is whether he should memorize those grammar parts.
My answer is that he needn’t.
Other “definitions” of learning grammar, such as being conscious of the difficulties of the language (by cursory reading of the grammar notes) or acquiring patterns by use are a different topic and I’ve encouraged the OP to learn “grammar” in that sense, as you can read in my original reply

I get your point ftornay, I partially agree with you and I’d give the same suggestion to the OP as you did, as he seems to be enjoying his approach IF his ultimate goal was not to get a very high level or he had lots of prior experience in this field. My point is, that you as a experienced learner can manage the different parts of the language process quite your way and catch up with your weak points wherever you feel it appropriate. For example, I’ve seen multiple times when people who don’t like studying grammar remained so and kept making basic mistakes up to now or people who didn’t like to study phonetics still have a bad pronunciation regardless of their ongoing exposure to the language.

Nevertheless, I don’t posses the truth and maybe after trying another approaches, I’d recommend a more intuitive way to go about that.

Watch this, and in general check Stephen Krashen’s research (there are other, longer videos in youtube and, of course, technical papers) to see where I come from:

I find that knowing grammar speeds up my learning process.

This being said, everyone is different. Some people pick up a book straight from the bat in their target language and learn this way. Others learn better doing boring grammar exercises. As long as you’re progressing and having fun I don’t see where the problem is with your technique.

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I strongly believe it is important for languages like Russian. With a case based language, it’s important to know the differences, because it can be the difference of being understood and being offensive. There are so many variations of words, that one can’t possibly understand sentences without some sort of explanation. I don’t think repetition will make a difference. If you don’t know, you don’t know. I use grammar books and sites as references. I study grammar as I go, and if I’m still confused, I listen to a lesson like Evgueny’s Практичкеская грамматика to practice. I believe it should be: reading/listening, explanation, then repetition.

Examples of why grammar is important:

Я хочу подарить тебe
Я хочу подарить тебя

Or translated as: I want to give you…

One might think, especially an English speaker, what’s wrong with this statement?

The first statement is giving someone a gift, the second statement is giving someone away as a gift.

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By the way, I think that the knowledge of the basic grammar is much more important for the foreigners than for the native speakers who is hearing the language the whole day and every day and can learn gradually instinctively by a great number of repetition.