Many learners of English think they should learn grammar and only grammar. It’s what everybody wants or what they think they want: grammar, grammar, grammar. Yet, grammar is only a part of the whole thing. There are other parts of the English language that are just as important and are often neglected. Relax everybody, grammar is only ‘a bit’ and should be seen as such.
Firstly, what is ‘grammar’? Well, grammar, it could be said, is a set of rules that must be learnt: much like driving a car or learning how to use a computer. Take for example the 1st conditional: if + present simple + future. ‘If I see you, I will give you the money’. It is like a formula, an algorithm and a little bit like maths. But is this ‘language’? Yes, and errr….no.
The other day, I was in a taxi going to a meeting and the driver, as all taxi drivers do, began to tell me a story about what had happened to him the night before. He was a Londoner and had lived in the capital all his life, so he was a native speaker. The story was in the past and therefore needed Past Simple forms, both regular and irregular. Yet, he didn’t use the Past Simple at all, preferring to use the Present Simple instead. Not only was it the ‘wrong’ grammar but he also used the third person (he goes, she eats) for every pronoun ‘I goes down the pub and I sees my mate etc’. All this is wrong, plain wrong but the funny thing is, I understood everything he said. He was using the Present as it gave the story immediacy and so made for a better story. A lot of jokes in English use the same tense: a man walks into a pub etc. This is incorrect but try telling a joke in another tense! It would sound strange and not funny. So, we can choose grammar, in that grammar is a choice. We can bend it, play with it, even turn it upside down!! As long as the communication is not affected it really is ok.
So, grammar, although important is not central to learning English. It must be seen to be a part of something much bigger, where communication is the most important factor and cannot be seen as maths!!