Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why You Should Learn a Foreign Language To Help Improve Your English Grammar Skills

I always ask writing students on the first day of class if they speak, read and write a second language. This offers me some insight into their knowledge of grammar.

As far as I can tell, American students are not taught grammar rules the way they used to be taught. There is less diagramming of sentences and less focus on verb tenses. This cannot be avoided in a world language course.

I took Intensive Italian at Smith College and heard the words “subjunctive” and “past participle” for the very first time. They had never been mentioned in English classes. I quickly discovered that the class was not only going to teach me a foreign language, but also grammar in general.

By learning a foreign language, you learn to look very closely at your sentence structure. The attentive student will actively consider what the adjective or adverb is modifying. Verb tense, person and address will be in the forefront of your mind. In fact, it can’t be avoided.

From the creative point of view, you’ll also learn new ways to comprehend the world. For example, in Italian, the phrase “I miss you” is literally translated, “You are missing to me.” The subject who completes the action “to miss” is different from English. This offers a culture lesson in both your native language and the newly learned language.

This approach will not only help you write more coherently in English, but also widen your understanding of the world.

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