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Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced English Grammar? Nonsense!

English Grammar Levels

Much of that stress you experience when learning and improving your English could be alleviated if there were no different English grammar complexity levels, isn’t that right?

Just think about it. The moment a foreigner decides to learn or improve English, his success hugely depends on his attitude towards the process. Depending on the perceived difficulty he can either achieve that long-desired English fluency or become completely unmotivated to improve if the end goal of being a fluent English speaker seems like an epic task.

I believe that ANY process – be it English learning, or learning high level chemistry isn’t difficult as far as you fully understand what’s being discussed in the particular lesson or book’s chapter OR you can replicate the results without focusing too much on the details ❗

Even rocket science is easy once you know what you’re doing! 😉

I believe the same goes with English grammar. Well, first of all, I don’t think English students should focus on grammar as much as the industry requires them to do in the first place. Grammar is nothing more than bunch or rules determining how words are arranged in a sentence and you can learn it all just by speaking mimicking native English speakers because spoken English already has all NATURAL grammar in it!

But if you do incorporate certain amount of English grammar studies in your English improving routine, you may become overwhelmed by its complexity. All the grammar terms ranging from very easy ones such as a verb and a noun and ending with advanced high-end grammar stuff like conditional sentences and compound sentences will make you feel that there’s so much to acquire and that you need to spend long, long years learning all that stuff.

And you’re right. If you want to become an English teacher and know all ABOUT English grammar, it will be a lengthy task indeed.

If, on the other hand, you want to become a fluent English speaker, your perception suddenly changes. You don’t need to divide English grammar into beginners, intermediate and advanced because it will only inhibit your progress.

Do you want to see a proof that there’s no easy and difficult English grammar? All right, no problems!

Look at the following two sentences.

Jonnie caught a ball.

and

Our planet’s biological diversity insures a very fine equilibrium which is endangered due to ever increasing human economical activities; also geopolitical developments over the last few decades have put additional strain on our planet’s capacity to maintain the fine balance between man and nature.

The first sentence is clearly a beginners level English, but the second one is definitely too difficult to construct unless you’ve studied advanced level English grammar, right?

Wrong.

And here’s why.

Our PERCEIVED complexity of the second sentence can be mostly attributed to its length and vocabulary. Just because it sounds complicated and harder to understand, doesn’t necessarily imply more complex grammar ❗

Just have a look at what I’m going to do now. I’m going to split the complex-compound sentence into separate clauses.

Our planet’s biological diversity insures a very fine equilibrium.

Equilibrium is endangered due to ever increasing human economical activities.

Also geopolitical developments over the last few decades put additional strain on our planet’s capacity.

Capacity to maintain the fine balance between man and nature.

Looks much better, doesn’t it? 😉 You see, all of a sudden the advanced English grammar level became intermediate just because we split the long complex-compound sentence into the respective clauses. The resulting shorter sentences are much easier to read and understand, but does splitting the long sentence into a number of short ones mean reduction of the grammar complexity?

I don’t think so! Grammar behind the scenes remains the same. It’s just our PERCEPTION that changes! Just because the shorter sentences are easier to read doesn’t mean that some more advanced grammar rules have been replaced by intermediate grammar.

The same grammar rule that binds words together in a sentence Jonnie caught a ball is present in a longer sentence Our planet’s biological diversity insures a very fine equilibrium.

Jonnie caught and diversity insures are two pairs of a noun and a verb. In a sentence they work as a subject and a predicate and other words are simply added onto those two to convey a COMPLETE message.

And here comes the most important part of this blog post…

Those who talk about beginners, intermediate and advanced levels of English grammar, are ANALYZING SYNTAX of the sentence. They’re dissecting the elements of sentence structure and deciding whether this or that particular word combination is, for instance, a prepositional object or a compliment of a preposition. If you say that the word endangered in the sentence Equilibrium is endangered due to ever increasing human economical activities is a predicative complement, they’ll point out that it’s actually a subject compliment. They’ll make your head explode trying to grasp all the terms and concepts. And they’ll be absolutely correct in saying that it’s a very advanced grammar indeed! 😡

I rather prefer looking at English grammar from practical point of view.

All I need to know to communicate successfully in English is HOW words naturally arrange themselves in a sentence. I don’t need to know WHY they’re arranged in a particular way. As to the grammar terms – it’s an even smaller concern to me and I’ll leave it to academics and hard-core English grammar fanatics 😉

So as you can see, if we leave the very ANALYSIS out, there’s nothing advanced about adding a few more words to a sentence. It doesn’t make practical English grammar more or less advanced; I’d rather contribute the perceived complexity to the following two things – vocabulary and collocations. A new English vocabulary word or collocation isn’t more or less difficult than another that you already knew. It’s our perception that brands new things difficult!

I don’t deny, you have to be able to use stuff like English grammar tenses correctly, but then again – you should rather look at them in the context of natural speech patterns rather than analyzing and deciding – all right, this is advanced stuff, I’m not ready for it yet!

If you look at the following English grammar construct – I would have been surprised if I didn’t know what you were like – and try to analyze it, then yes, it’s quite advanced because you’d have to learn new terms such as English Conditional Sentences, and then you’d have to learn how and when to use them and so on.

If you look at the same sentence as two joined phrases – I would have been surprised and I didn’t know what you were like – and just learn them, all of a sudden the very concept of more and less advanced loses its relevance.

There’s nothing advanced about learning a new English phrase, learning its meaning, and learning to use it!

Robby

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English Harmony System

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I completely agree with what you’re saying; and I also have to add that it resonates with the point I was making in this article http://englishharmony.com/present-continuous-vs-present-simple/ nnHowever, I’d say that the first thing you said about the problem not being in the “tidy separation into beginners, intermediate and advanced” is equally, if not more, important that the other one.nnMindset of a student can make all the difference between achieving English fluency and starting to hate the language!

  • Thanks Anne!

  • David

    For me as a teacher the problem is not so much this tidy separation into beginners, intermediate, and advanced, but when the book or the teacher says a rule which is not true. It’s the mis-teaching that concerns me, as I do like the idea of a step by step approach. For example, one problem can be when a teacher says “the past simple is ONLY used in cases where we’re referrng to the past.” Then in the next book the student naturally gets confused by ‘I wish he were…’ or ‘It’s time he left..’.

  • anne

    i LIKE this article 🙂