Blogger's down, so I have to post this later, but I am writing it now cause I'm thinking about it.
One of the things I do is teach language. English in particular. One of the other things I do here is (try to) learn language, specifically Catalan and Spanish.
This leads me to thinking a lot about language and grammar. Syntax and structure.
It leads all of us to this. Not many people can talk clearly to their grade school kids about infinitives and imperatives, phrasal verbs and subjunctives, but we are all buried in this and we talk about it. A lot. My kids love spelling bees and we will sit around with a Webster's after dinner sometimes and spell. Surprisingly fun, that is.
The thing is though, sometimes I find a student, or students, that simply cannot get some aspects of language, usually, flow and form, prepositions and word order, or odd word choices. They are spending too much time translating in their heads and WAY too much time with a thesaurus.
I believe, I truly believe, there is a limit to what any individual can learn of a language from rules. From studying the grammar.
Most of language has to be learned by ear and by eye, by listening to it and reading it until the rhythms and the patterns of the language become natural to them, till they sound right.
There is some mighty powerful neurological language crunchers in our heads that figure things out that grammar rules simply try to explain. That is what is important, if the grammar is ahead of the language, you have the cart before the horse.
Grammar should assist in understanding parts of language that we find confusing rather than driving the investigation of language.
Am I losing you? Probably, I've thought about this too long, and it is too late for clarity.
I guess my bottom line is that reading and listening to a language are immensely powerful tools in learning a language as it harnesses vast regions of our minds outside of our frontal cortex, outside of our conscious reasoning....and lets us get a handle on so very much more of what is going on. Lets us learn, like kids learn.