Dealing with complicated grammar

One of the main issues for people when it comes to language learning is having to deal with the grammar that accompanies the language. This for many people appears to be the breaking point, and can often be the reason why some people choose not to learn a language as they might not be use to such terms as Dative, Accusative, or Genitive. And even gender nouns which we don’t have in English may seem alien when learning a foreign language.

Of course, there are ways of dealing with complicated grammar, but not every language has complicated grammar. In my recent post I discuss the grammar of Afrikaans as I believe it to be quite simple when we compare it to other languages. Firstly, there is no gender in Afrikaans, which of course is good news to English speakers. There’s also no case system which another positive aspect that makes this language so simple to learn. On the other hand, the grammar of languages such as German may seem daunting at first, but it can be over come.

Firstly, before tackling German grammar we should break it down into it’s components:

Noun                                                                               Verb

Gender                                                        Conjugation 

Der – Masculine                                           Ich – e   (Ich Habe – I have)

Die – Feminine                                            Du – st   (Du hast – You have)

Das – Nueter                                               Er, Sie, Es, Ihr – t ( Er, Sie, Es hat – He, she, it has)

                                                         Wir, Sie – en (Wir haben, sie haben – We have, they have)


   Cases                                     Masculine       Feminine       Neuter

  • Nominative                                 Ein                      Eine                   Ein
  • Accusative                                  Einen                 Eine                    Ein
  • Genitive                                      Eines                 Einer                   Eines
  • Dative                                         Einem               Einer                   Einem

As you can see, German grammar is of course far more complex than the style of grammar we are use to, as a result, it if often the reason why many people choose to avoid learning it. But there are ways of coming to terms with complex grammar that don’t include hours of strenuous study.

Using dialogues

Many language courses such as Teach Yourself or Assimil include dialogues of the language being spoken in real context. These conversational dialogues are an excellent way to come to terms with grammar because one can identify the syntax and word order of the language when reading or listening to the dialogues.

Listening to music

This is of course very similar to using dialogues, listening to the language being sung helps you to memorize vocabulary more effectively than reading. You are also listening to and learning the grammatical rules of the language, which of course it is one of the most important aspects of language learning.

Speaking with people 

Even native English speakers struggle with grammar from time to time. Another effective method of quickly processing through the grammar of a language is to talk with native speakers. This way, there is a chance they are likely to correct you and this way you remember through trial and error.

There is no avoiding grammar when it comes to learning a foreign language, but it does become an important, and even fun part of the learning process particularly at the later stage. When I study the grammar of a language, I see it almost as understanding how the language works of even thinking “So that’s why that’s written the way it is”. Remember, making grammatical errors when learning a language could in fact be the best way of learning efficiently.


About Elliot Conway

My name is Elliot Conway and I am recent graduate in International Relations from the University of Lincoln. My passion in life is learning, and encouraging others to learn foreign languages. This bog will contain posts about specific languages, my experiences learning languages, as well as helpful guides to help you become an efficient language learner.
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2 Responses to Dealing with complicated grammar

  1. etvdzs says:

    I think part of the problem is that the grammar explanations in language books are often very poor. The first few books I read when I started learning German included tables of adjective endings in all the different cases and genders, but made no real attempt to explain why the adjective endings work the way they do. I could never understand for example why one writes “ein weißes Hemd” but “das weiße Hemd”, or “bei gutem Essen” but “beim gestrigen Abendessen” — wouldn’t it make more sense for the adjective to have the same ending regardless of the article that comes before it? Some months later I found the book “Teach Yourself German Grammar” by PG Wilson (probably not in print anymore), and the chapter on adjective endings was a revelation for me. It explained that in the latter cases (“das weiße Hemd” or “beim gestrigen Abendessen”), the article has already done the work of showing the gender, therefore the adjective only needs the simpler -e or -en ending.

    Nevertheless I agree with your main point: Learning to speak and write a language with correct grammar is more a matter of practice (reading or listening to content that one actually enjoys, communicating with native speakers, even *thinking* in the language) than a matter of theory. Merely reading an explanation of some grammar rule in a book and then doing a handful of exercises is not going to result in one consistently following that rule when speaking.

  2. Pingback: A Battle Between Rules and Reality | Language By Amanda

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