English Today

Original Article

Bridging the Grammar Gap: teaching English grammar to the iPhone generation1

University College London

Bas Aarts c1, Dan Clayton c2 and Sean Wallis c3

For second language learners, the value of the explicit teaching of English grammar has never been questioned. However, in recent times there has been dissent about whether or not to teach English grammar to native speakers. From the late 1960s onwards English grammar teaching in the United Kingdom largely disappeared from the curriculum, and was replaced by teachers focusing on students learning to express themselves. This was in the main not a bad thing, because it made students active participants in their own learning, and they were expected to think critically and express themselves well. The teaching of grammar, with its emphasis on rules, drilling and learning by rote, was seen as conformist, dull and unnecessary, and this view seemed to be confirmed by research into the effectiveness of grammar teaching.

(Online publication March 06 2012)

BAS AARTS is Professor of English Linguistics and Director of the Survey of English Usage at University College London. He is Vice-President for the Profession of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE), and with April McMahon and Wim van der Wurff he is editor of the journal English Language and Linguistics (CUP). His most recent publication is the Oxford Modern English Grammar (2011, Oxford University Press). Email: ucledba@ucl.ac.uk

DAN CLAYTON is an A-level English Language teacher at the Sixth Form College in Colchester, a senior examiner for the AQA awarding body in the UK and a Research Fellow at the Survey of English Usage on the Teaching English Grammar in Schools project. He also writes for the English and Media Centre's emagazine (aimed at A level English students) and for Nelson Thornes and Philip Allan Updates. Email: d.clayton@ucl.ac.uk

SEAN WALLIS is a Senior Research Fellow at the Survey of English Usage, and was responsible for the programming and design of the App. He supervised the completion of the ICE-GB and DCPSE parsed corpora and created the ICECUP software for exploring these corpora, a contribution which has opened new avenues of linguistic research. He is the author, with Bas Aarts and Gerald Nelson, of Exploring Natural Language (John Benjamins, 2002) and has written a range of articles on corpus linguistics methodology, from corpus design and annotation to experimental design and analysis. Email: uclesew@ucl.ac.uk


1 The authors are based at the Survey of English Usage, UCL. The App is a spin-off of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) entitled Creating a Web-Based Platform for English Language Teaching and Learning, in which we are developing a website for classroom-based teaching as well as self-directed learning in secondary schools. For more information and relevant links, see Websites below.