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ELT Concourse

Introduction to the pre-initial training grammar course


This section of the site is for anyone who is about to embark on a CELTA or other initial training course but for whom the grammar of English is something of a mystery (and, quite possibly, an intimidating one).  That will normally include anyone educated in an English-speaking setting because the grammar of the language is rarely taught (or, if it is taught, rarely taught well).
If you have learned English by picking it up, rather than being formally taught the language, this section is also for you.

What follows will serve just as well if you are taking the only other proper initial course, that administered by Trinity College, the Trinity CertTESOL.
If you are taking another sort of unrecognised course, it will help but you are ill advised to take such a course at all.

Incidentally, you may find similar 'courses' to this one provided by people who want to take your money for them.  Some of them may even be accurate, but why bother?


The menu on the left

The green menu on the left contains links to other parts of this site that you may find useful, now, during a course or after your course.
The menu appears on all pages in this section of the site.

This is where the links take you:

CELTA index
This will take you to the main index for all the guides specifically concerned with preparing for and following a CELTA course or any other initial-training programme in English Language Teaching.
Grammar for CELTA
This will return you to this page.
Language analysis
This will take you to the index page for a course in Language Analysis covering phonemes, morphemes, words, phrases, clauses and sentences and discourse.  It is much more thorough than this and probably best left until after your course unless you have time hanging heavily on your hands.
A simple grammar
This is written with learners of English in mind and is, therefore, quite straightforward.  It covers more than this short introduction and is available as a PDF document to keep by your side.  It may be helpful if you find yourself needing to explain grammar points simply and clearly to learners.
A basic ELT course
This is written for people who have had no formal training at all in teaching languages.  It is not a replacement for a proper course, not least because you won't get a certificate at the end, but it will give you some language basics and a set of tools for working in the classroom.
Teacher training index
This is the overview page with links to all the guides on the site including CELTA, Delta and much more.  During or after the course, you may like to start with the Initial plus guides which are designed for people just like you.
Courses on this site
This site contains short courses in a variety of areas for both learners and teachers.  In particular, there is a course in how to transcribe (i.e., write down) the sounds of English.  Sooner or later, you will have to learn how to do this.  If you have the time, gaining at least a passive, reading knowledge of the phonemes of English will pay dividends on your course.
After your course, you may find some of the other mini-courses useful.
Worksheet task
This is a test that you can take at the end of doing these four sections.  It comes with a key and will act as a reminder, some revision and a check that you have understood.  The link opens in a new tab and you can make a note of your answers or print it out and work without a computer.
A-Z index
This is a long index where you can search for any areas that interest you.  If, for example, you encounter an area of English Language Teaching on your course that you want to know more about or don't understand, use this index to see if there is a guide on this site.  You can also search the whole site using the link at the foot of all pages.


Why do this first?

You may think that you will learn about English grammar during the course and don't need to prepare yourself because, after all, you are paying someone else to teach you about grammar and much else that you will need to start your English language teaching career.
A website dedicated to helping people on CELTA and other initial training courses (albeit written by someone who is not a teacher trainer and wants to sell you a book) goes so far as to say:

the CELTA is very much about ‘just-in-time learning’; you only have to learn the grammar point for your next teaching practice in detail.

and goes on to give some advice about what to say to learners who ask you something about grammar that you don't know, suggesting:

Remember that you can control and manage their learning, and part of that means staying focused on the learning objective you are teaching.

Apart from the fact that you can't teach a learning objective and you cannot control other people's learning, this is unambitious and fraught with perils.  You can do better than that.

There are at least four things wrong with the view that you do not need to learn much about the grammar of the language before you begin a CELTA or other initial training course:

  1. Initial training courses are usually very intensive with, typically, only about 120 hours of tuition (and often less).
    There simply isn't time to cover all the grammar points you will need to know about on such courses so any language analysis work will be very selective.  Often the selection is made with the demands of teaching practice in mind so the only grammar you may be taught will be limited and very partial.
  2. Many tutors on initial training courses are, regrettably, not particularly well informed about the grammar of the language.
    Often, this is because they do not feel that mastery of more than the basics of grammar is necessary or because they are not themselves confident of their knowledge of the subject.  Such tutors are probably excellent sources of good classroom practices but less useful as a source of information about the language itself.
  3. You are going to be very busy during a course and anything you can do now to take the load off your shoulders in terms of researching and reading about a complicated area will pay dividends later.
    Getting to grips with grammatical systems and terminology now will mean you have more time and more confidence to focus on teaching rather than personal learning.
  4. Learners are not predictable and nor are they particularly impressed by being told that the answer to a simple question will need to wait until you have had time to learn something about the subject you are teaching (see below).


Why should I learn about grammar?

There are a number of reasons:

  1. Your students will expect you to know about the grammar of the language they are learning.
    It is true that the focus in classrooms today is often less on the grammar of the language and more firmly on learning how to do things with the language (what is called a functional rather than a structural approach to teaching and learning).
    However, it has long been recognised that formal, structural language knowledge is part of the ability to communicate effectively in any language.  You may be an effective user of English but have little overt knowledge of the grammar of the language (which is why you are reading this), but when you come to teaching the language, you will need, in almost every lesson, to tell people something appropriate and reliable about the structures of English.
  2. You will need to select and present language in a learnable way.
    If you don't know about the grammar of English, you will be unable to do this properly and probably end up confusing your learners and making their lives even more difficult than they already are.  That's not really forgivable.
  3. It's part of your job.
    Teaching is a practical skill but a skill based on nothing more than an intuition about language is liable to break down when you are confronted by the need to explain, develop and practise a specific language structure.  If you don't know your tense from your aspect or your adverb from your preposition, life will be hard and uncomfortable and your students will soon lose confidence in you as a teacher.
  4. Learners make mistakes.
    That's obvious, of course, and, some say, an inevitable and useful part of the learning process.
    Dealing with error in the classroom places immediate demands on you and responses such as
        That's not really English
        That's wrong and should be ...

    and so on are rarely enough.
    You need to be able to recognise what's wrong, correct it appropriately, or lead the learner to the correct answer, say why it's wrong and explain the system in terms that the learner can comprehend.  To do that, you need to have a grasp of the grammar of the language and be able to select what the learner can handle at this stage as well as being confident in your ability to analyse the language.


Why this material?

Mostly because we have made an effort to ensure it is accurate and trustworthy.  It is not comprehensive and does not, in the interests of clarity, include everything.  As far as it goes, however, it is accurate.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other sites which, despite perhaps being genuinely interested in helping people prepare for and pass an initial training course, appear to be written by people whose grasp of the grammar and structures of English is, to be generous, shaky.

Here's an example of what is meant taken from http://passthecelta.com/course-skills/parts-of-speech/.  All headings here are taken verbatim from the site and are in this type face.
The site lists what it calls the basic parts of speech and that list is: subject, object, preposition, adverb, verb, adjective, noun (countable), noun (uncountable but that term is left out), auxiliary verb, modal verb, pronoun, article, conjunction.
That is not a list of the word classes in English or any other language (or even the old-fashioned parts of speech).
The only word classes proper in that list are: preposition, adverb, verb, preposition, adjective, noun, pronoun and conjunction and the list ignores determiners and interjections.  The other categories refer either to a sub-class, such as auxiliary verb (which should be called primary auxiliary verb), modal verb (which should be called modal auxiliary verb) and articles (which form a subset of determiners).  Subjects and objects are not, of course parts of speech or word classes at all.  They are, technically, arguments and their function is to do with syntax not vocabulary.
The site lists, incidentally, only coordinators under the examples of conjunctions and despairingly sends you off to another confused, inaccurate and confusing site should you feel you are not confused enough.
The website owns up to:
This website represents the personal opinions and shared advice of a single individual.
It is not affiliated, approved or endorsed by University of Cambridge ELA.

which, considering its error-strewn content, is probably just as well.

Unlike native speakers, language learners need to construct their sentences carefully, paying attention to which words perform which functions (parts of speech) as they interact in the phrase or sentence.
This is slightly confused and misleading.  One of the guiding principles of teaching a language is to stop this over-monitoring behaviour by learners.
It is certainly true that learners often do need to pay attention to word class (the correct term for the dear old fashioned 'parts of speech' incidentally) but so do native speakers, particularly the one who wrote this site.
The assumption is implicit here, too, that one is either a native speaker or not and that disguises all the intermediate steps between being a non-speaker of a language and a completely fluent one.
By the way, a word's grammatical function is not quite the same thing as its word class but that's a technical point.
I will pass my CELTA course.
subj + aux + v + pron + obj
This is an attempt to see how a sentence can be parsed into its various components.  Unfortunately, it's wrong.
The first problem is that the first word is labelled the subject.  It is, of course, but subjects do not form a word class, leave alone a part of speech.  It is in fact a simple subject-case pronoun.  And pronouns are one of the main word classes.
Secondly, the word my is not a pronoun.  It stands for nothing (which is what pronouns do).  What it is is a possessive determiner.  If you call it a pronoun, you are misleading the learners unforgivably.  The correct word class to assign the word to is determiner.  If you want to be very old fashioned, you could even call it a possessive adjective, but it still is not a pronoun.
Lastly, we have another non-word class classification (obj).  Objects are also not word classes, they are words, phrases or clauses which perform a certain grammatical function in a sentence.  For example,
    I want what you gave Mary
contains an object of the verb want but it is what you gave Mary and that is a clause not an example of a word class.
All full sentences must have a subject.
Not true, even if one can figure out what the writer means by a 'full sentence'.  Try:
    Go into the kitchen and ask your mother
for example.  That is a sentence (called a compound sentence) but it contains no subjects.
Verbs also have a form called the Past Participle.  These are when we use verbs as an adjective to describe something.
The book was TORN.
The necklace had been GIVEN as a birthday present.
There is a form called a past participle and both the examples in upper case in that assertion are correctly identified.  Well done so far.  Unfortunately, the rest of the assertion is wrong.  Past participle forms can be used as adjectives (as in the first example with torn) but that is not their main function.
In the second example, the participle given is not an adjective at all, it's a non-finite verb form making part of a passive voice sentence.
(We are not here to discuss the awful confusing of singular and plural nouns in These are when we use verbs as an adjective.)
Adjective (adj.)
Adjectives are really easy to remember. They simply describe or modify something.
large, red, angry, beautiful, essential, tasty, Korean, leather etc.
The LEATHER chair looked WORN but EXPENSIVE.
My KOREAN teacher turns RED when he is ANGRY.
Half marks.  There is a difference between describing and modifying and a difference, too, between describing and classifying.
In this little mishmash of unlikely examples, we actually do have four adjectives: worn, expensive, red and and angry.  All of them are used predicatively by being linked to the noun they describe with a verb (look, turn and be in this case).  Not all adjectives can be used that way and some must be used that way.  The first of those, worn, is, by the way, a participle adjective and belonged in the last example.
The other two modifiers (leather and Korean) are not really adjectives at all, they are classifiers which tell you the category of the noun rather than describing it.
This may be seen as being rather a picky point but unless you know the difference between a classifier and a central adjective you won't know why
    *The chair was worner
    *He was less Korean
    *It was very leather

are wrong.

You are, of course, at liberty to use that website or any others you may come across in preparation for an initial training course.  You could even invest £59 in a set of materials which were all written by someone who passed the CELTA with the highest possible grade! (unnecessary punctuation in the original).  That means, of course, someone who has completed 120 hours of basic training in a profession in which others have spent decades and are still learning.
Hopefully, this commercial material has been written with slightly more care but we are not about to spend £59 to find out.

Lest you think that this is the only example of a site written by the inexperienced and ignorant for the inexperienced and ignorant you should know that in researching this short guide 6 other similarly confused and unhelpful sites were investigated.


What is covered here?

This is not a complete course in language analysis.  For that, you can go to a brief course which covers the essentials.  The link to that is on the left (click on Language analysis) or you can access the index of the course here (new tab).
This section of the site is only concerned with the basics of English grammar with some tests and exercises to do as you go along and some ideas for how to tackle topics in the classroom.
It covers the basics but they are the essential basics without which you can't teach the language.

The guides in this section are just to get you started.  Sooner rather than later, you will need to know a good deal more about grammar.  Each guide comes with links at the end to help you learn more.
The sensible way to approach the guides is in the order they appear.
Here's the index:

Word and phrase class You may have a memory of learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on at some time in your education.  This guide will cover the basics and extend them a little.
Syntax Syntax refers to how words and phrases combine to make clauses and sentences in English (and any other language).
Conjunction This explains as simply as possible how we use linking between clauses to make longer thoughts and concepts.
Tense and aspect This is an important area concerning the ways that English uses to talk about the past, present, the future and always.
An exemplified grammar glossary This is a list of most of the main grammatical concepts which you are likely to encounter on an initial training course with links to more information.

Beale, S, https: celtahelper.com [accessed 02/06/2020]

http://passthecelta.com/course-skills/parts-of-speech/ [accessed 07/08/2020]