GRAMMAR NOW

Andrés Núñez Leites


I have worked for years in schools where English and Portuguese are taught as a second language. I assure you that once the teachers are encouraged - against the constructivist hegemonic discourse - to teach grammar, not "choking" the students but simply teaching the basic rules of the language, the children begin to speak and write in that second language. It is not the same to learn a first language by family/community immersion, than to learn a second language within the framework of an educational institution. In the latter case, the child or adolescent already has grammatical structures (of their first language) in their cognitive apparatus and applies them to the second language: showing them the difference (yes: conjugate verbs, relate verbs and adjacents, verbal modes, subject and predicate, analyze the concordance between word types or enunciation functions, etc.) allows them to elaborate sentences, that is, to speak and write. It is a pity that this didactic strategy, which has centuries of empirical support, has to be carried out almost clandestinely, because the technical interpretation of the constructivism that hegemonizes the pedagogical discourse in Uruguay (a constructivism that ignores Piaget and Vigotsky), makes that didactic strategy look obsolete and unacceptable, despite its effectiveness.

Yes: grammar demands effort, concentration, repetition, habit, memory. But also creativity, analysis, intelligence, linguistic competence to apply in a different context what was learned elsewhere. Sometimes it is not fun. But, you know what? Those who ask that education be always fun (and consequently ask for an animator or clown teacher and a relaxed student who does not strive to reach a goal but is seduced by stimuli), are the lazy spirits.

The weak character, Nietzsche said, is diluted by the impulses of the environment. The strong character knows how to resist them, aims at a goal, walks towards it, defers pleasure until they reach their destination, conquers their self, learns to be free.