Sample Linguistics Essay Paper on Approaches and Procedures for Teaching Grammar

Article summary and critique

Article summary

            The article challenges the common practice of using clausal subordination and T-unit-based parameters as the primary methods of evaluating language proficiency levels of second language (L2) learners despite lack of adequate empirical evidence to support their use in assessing writing development. Noting that such an approach has been widely used over the past decades, the article notes that it makes a flawed assumption that progression from learning simple clause structures to advanced and complex ones follows a linear and exponential pattern. Such an approach also assumes that such natural progression is mirrored in transition from learning academic writing to learning professional writing. The article offers a detailed background on various earlier literatures that supported such an approach that primarily focused grammatical features commonly used in conversations such accuracy and fluency. The article notes that this common practice laid much emphasis on average length of the T-units within a sentence. Ultimately, such biased view assumes that sentences with longer T-units and numerous clausal subordinations were more complex.

            These measures are ineffective discriminators in assessing writing development among L2 since they primarily focus on conversation and not professional academic writing. They do not factor in the various complexities associated with professional academic writing that go beyond conversation which is hinged on relatively superfluous parameters: accuracy and fluency with natural language learning progression at its core. Therefore, they cannot be used to effectively gauge language proficiency levels amongst L2 learners.

            To overcome the shortcomings of overemphasis on grammatical features, the article proposes a stage-based approach. The 5-stage approach hypothesized after a corpus study proposes that writing development and assessment for L2 learners can be effectively carried out in sequential stages with increasing complexity. This hypothesized method is modeled on the study that showed, despite being primarily used by many researchers and language teachers to assess writing development among L2 learners, clausal subordination measures are more prevalent conversations compared to professional academic wring where it is widely used as a measurement variable. Grammar complexity, a key quantitative variable traditionally used in assessing L2 learners’ academic writing proficiency, has no uniformity nor natural exponential progression in academic writing as commonly assumed. While noting that this hypothesis has different interpretations, the authors hold that it takes it account the nonclausal features commonly inserted in noun phrases during academic writing. And such vital features could not be accommodated within the narrow approach of clausal subordination or the multifaceted parameters of T-units.

Article Critique

Written by Douglas Biber and Bethany Gray both from Northern Arizona University and Kornwepa Poonpon from Khon Kaen University, Thailand, the article is very objective in its approach to the topic. It not only discusses the background of the topic using reliable sources, it also highlights the weaknesses and strengths of the current and the hypothesized approaches. I believe that academic writing and language learning especially by L2 learners goes beyond quantitative variables such as grammatical structures such fluency and accuracy. Professional academic writing requires individuals to be well conversant with the dynamics in the complexities of phrases. And such phrases should be learned in a sequential sequentially. Therefore, it is imperative that an assessment method that follows the same pattern and puts such factors into consideration is used in evaluating professional academic writing and speaking proficiency. Personally, I believe a combination of inductive and deductive approaches is effective in teaching grammar especially to L2 learners. This is because it will raise the conscious of the learners allowing them to learn the complexities of grammar especially academic writing by equipping them with the ability to move back and forth between general and specifics as need arises (Widodo 124, 126 – 127).     

Work Cited

Widodo, Handoyo Puji. “Approaches and procedures for teaching grammar.” English Teaching: Practice and Critique 5.1(2006), pp. 122-141.