Tobias Zimidzi Education Correspondent
IN order for any game to be played, it is governed by rules.
If such regulations are broken, those who violate the rules are penalised. Afterwards, the play resumes.
A case in point is football. Like any other sport, it has a set of principles which both the referee and players cannot do without.
Similarly, in Mathematics, there are rules called formulae.
If one hardly knows a formula or a set of formulae, they can barely solve a mathematical problem.
It is difficult to solve a given mathematical problem without applying a formula.
English language is no exception.
Like soccer and Maths, it has its own principles (grammatical rules) that one needs to master to communicate effectively, both verbally and in written form.
Besides the rules, one needs to be knowledgeable about exceptions to certain rules.
A vast knowledge of grammatical rules enables one to communicate proficiently while little knowledge of the same regulations makes one struggle, whether verbally or otherwise.
The solution to this problem is clear, one has to know the grammatical rules to write proficiently and speak fluently.
Mastery of spelling rules is as important as knowing any other rule. Common words such as “writing” and “dining” are misspelt with double “t” and “n”, respectively. Learners do not know that “write” and “dine” lose their final “e” before adding “…ing”.
While one doubles the final consonant before adding “…ed” to “transfer” so as to get “transferred”; the same rule does not apply to “vomit’” This word is an exception to the rule. This explains why “vomited” has a single “…t”.
More often than not, subject-verb agreement rules are broken whether one is speaking or writing. Surprisingly, the regulations are easy to follow. ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’ and ‘they’ agree with verbs without ’…s’ or ‘…es’. Conversely, ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’ agree with verbs with ’…s’ or ‘…es’. The same rules apply if nouns (subjects), which replace the foregoing pronouns, are used.
All uncountable nouns are singular. For this reason, they agree with singular verbs. “The news reaches us late” and “Politics is tricky business” are correct statements as the subjects (news, politics) and their verbs (reaches, is) agree.
Equally important is the use of prepositions…which one to use, where to use it and where not to not to use it.
“We reached home late” is synonymous with “We arrived at home late”. The rule is simple: “reach” is not followed by a preposition whereas “arrived” needs “at” immediately after it. Likewise, “gets” requires “into” while “enter” does not. For instance, “we get into our classrooms” is the same as “we enter our classrooms”.
Direct and indirect speech has its own principles as is exemplified in this statement: Peter said “I will buy my mother a dress” becomes ‘Peter said he would buy his mother a dress”.
By the same token, Jane said ‘I went to Chipinge yesterday” changes to “Jane said she had gone to Chipinge the day before.”
Should there be no changes in punctuation, pronouns and so on, the indirect statements become wrong.
Knowledge of rules is not enough.
Learners are expected to apply the rules appropriately whenever they communicate.
As regards comprehension, students have to apply their knowledge of grammar when they answer questions centred on pronouns, synonyms, reported speech and so forth.
If, for example, the contextual meaning of “vendor” is “hawker”, the knowledge of synonyms becomes helpful in answering such simple recall questions.
Composition writing requires both teacher and learner to know as many grammatical rules as possible, since one or more are applied in every constructed statement.
Regrettably, one or more mistakes are made in each statement since learners do not know the grammatical principles.
In this connection, knowing the regulations helps not only in comprehension and composition learning, but also in answering language questions in Section B of ‘O’ Level English Language Paper Two. Better still, verbal communication (which is marginalised by virtually all schools) is enhanced.
In order for the learners to grasp all language structures in the new English Language Syllabus (4005, p11-12), English teachers must be well versed with grammatical rules so that they can explain the principles during lessons.
This undoubtedly pays dividends as learners’ communication skills improve, thereby raising the badly needed pass rate of the school in particular and that of the province in general.
In summation, knowledge of grammatical rules can hardly be overemphasised.
Therefore, teachers must know these rules so as to explain to learners during lesson delivery.
This enables our schools to produce fully-baked products that can speak fluently and write proficiently at ‘O’, ‘A’ Level, tertiary levels and beyond.
In a nutshell, grammatical rules are indispensable in the English language teaching-learning process.