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Grammar matters
Grammar matters

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1 Why does grammar matter?

In this introductory activity you will hear a short extract from an interview with Lise Fontaine, a Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. She is widely known for her work in Systemic Functional Linguistics, and is author of the book Analysing English Grammar: A Systemic Functional Introduction (Fontaine, 2013).

Activity 1: Why is grammar awareness important?

Timing: 15 minutes

Listen to the interview with Lise Fontaine and then answer the following questions:

  1. What two reasons does Lise give for the importance of raising one’s knowledge about grammar?
  2. Do you agree with Lise? Can you think of any other reasons why it may be worth while studying grammar? 
Figure 1 Lise Fontaine
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Interview with Lise Fontaine
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  1. The first reason Lise gives for grammar being important is that success in almost anything means you need good communication skills, whether this is in your role as a parent, in your social relationships, when you negotiate a contract, or handle calls in a call centre. All these roles and tasks require flexibility and dexterity with language, and perhaps especially oral language. There is an implicit assumption in what Lise says that a dedicated study of grammar will provide someone with the understanding they need to develop such skills. The second reason given by Lise is that the age we live in – labelled by Lise as moving from the information into the digital age – puts communication in the hands of us all. Everyone has the possibility to use mobile technologies, Facebook, Twitter and to write blogs. This generates demand for a new kind of literacy – a digital literacy. And again, the assumption here is that a heightened awareness of what language can do is very useful in developing digital literacy skills.
  2. Lise argues persuasively for the value of grammar awareness particularly in the context of a world in which many more of us are text producers as well as readers. However, some would argue that, rather than focus on grammar per se, it is more helpful to think of language awareness, as the word ‘grammar’ can seem off-putting to some people. You may have come up with a number of other reasons why it may be worthwhile focusing on grammar – for example:
    • the importance of giving a good impression of yourself as a writer
    • enhanced ability to pass exams and succeed in job applications
    • getting your message across clearly
    • upholding proper standards of language use.