We’ve talked about grammar a number of times, including what we think is the best time to start learning and a practical way to go about it. Learning the grammar of a new language can be one of the most difficult and therefore discouraging steps for beginners. That said, it’s also a useful tool for many learners – provided it’s used properly and at the right time. Our MosaLingua grammar lessons are designed to help you better understand the grammar of your target language and can be a powerful aide in your learning journey.
Whether grammar lessons should start as early as possible or later on is still a topic of debate. At school, we usually learn grammar very early. This is partly due to large class sizes, which make it difficult to use alternative exercises for learning — and especially speaking. But when learning a language on your own, especially with all the new tools available online (like language exchanges, blogs and videos), starting with grammar early on isn’t necessary or even very effective.
The rules of grammar can appeal to those with an analytical mind. But by starting with grammar, you risk getting stuck in this analytical approach to language. Analyzing every word and forming your sentences like a math equation makes it difficult to speak fluidly. It takes a lot of effort, doesn’t come naturally to most people, and it’s definitely not the way we learn our native language as children.
By stripping away the “scholastic” method, you can focus on learning vocabulary and a few well-chosen sentences to use as models. This dramatically reduces the time needed to start learning and leaves more time to practice. After all, it’s by practicing that we make the most progress.
In his famous comprehensive input hypothesis1, Stephen D. Krashen suggests getting exposure to a large variety of resources in the target language as early as possible. Only a bare minimum of vocabulary is necessary to start understanding a new language. Right from the start, says Krashen, by exploring material you find interesting, your brain will subconsciously assimilate the structure and rules of your target language. And with the internet, you’ll find lots of interesting material: movies and TV shows are widely available, there are podcasts on lots of different subjects, and YouTube channels have thousands of hours of free content.
Soon after, it’s possible to move on to written and spoken expression. According to the comprehensible output hypothesis2 by Merrill Swain, doing so will allow you to make further progress in your target language. As we try to express ourselves, explains the author, we’re able to see the gaps in our knowledge (grammar, vocabulary, etc.) and address them. This strategy activates complex mental processes that are highly effective for learning and memorization.
When it comes to putting theory into practice, many polyglots have successfully applied these principles. Benny Lewis, a famous polyglot who speaks at least 16 languages, even mentioned them in his interview with us. Lewis starts by learning vocabulary with a Spaced Repetition System (the same system the MosaLingua apps use), practicing the language in other ways at the same time. Once he’s able to express himself more fluidly, he tackles grammar, which allows him to correct any errors and build more complex sentences. On average, three months are all he needs to achieve a basic understanding of a new language. And Benny, like most polyglots, isn’t a genius (sorry Benny!). And, like many of us, he even had trouble learning languages at school.
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At MosaLingua, our team is convinced of the importance of grammar. But we also think it’s most useful once you’ve acquired the basics (level B2, for example). With your MosaLingua app and a little practice in the real world, you can reach this level pretty quickly. At this point, grammar lessons will help clear up any questions you’ve encountered and will be much more enjoyable. We stand out from other methods by using smart shortcuts to learn a language in the least amount of time possible. You’ll never have to do any exercises whose effectiveness is uncertain. But we also want to go further and help users who are interested in learning the nitty-gritty details of grammar.
That’s why we offer a few different options and materials for learning grammar when you’re ready. We’re working on developing more content for other languages, so stay tuned if you don’t see your target language here.
- We’ve written numerous lessons on English grammar, most of which include videos from our English teacher, Abbe. We’re working on a big grammar guide, so be sure to come back soon.
- You can also find video lessons on our YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe and turn on your notifications (by clicking on the bell icon)! That way you can stay up to date on all of our latest videos.
- Explore the English Grammar Lessons category in your Learn English app.
- We did the same thing for German grammar and put together some short grammar lessons and videos in our Complete Guide to German Grammar (say that 5 times fast!).
- All of the video lessons are recorded by our German teachers and available in the German grammar playlist on our YouTube channel. Save it to your favorites and watch them at your leisure!
- Explore the German Grammar Lessons category in your Learn German app.
- Our Spanish grammar guide is coming soon! Keep an eye out on the blog. In the meantime, check out our articles on conjugating irregular verbs in Spanish, how to choose between “ser” and “estar” when you need to translate “to be,” and the different uses of “se.”
- Explore the Spanish Grammar Lessons category in your Learn Spanish app.
- Finally, if you’re learning Italian, our language teacher Mara explains the finer points of Italian grammar on our YouTube channel, and you can find additional written grammar lessons on our blog.
- Explore the Italian Grammar Lessons category in your Learn Italian app.
We don’t claim to be a complete language-learning system. That’s why we share free content all the time to complement your learning with additional resources, like our blog, our YouTube channel, and our newsletter. You can pick and choose the materials you need the most. If you want a more structured learning experience, check out MosaLingua Premium (Web & Mobile) and our MosaTraining Learn Any Language course!
In this video, Luca explains when to start learning grammar in your target language (in his opinion), and one way to do it. The video is in English, but subtitles are available in 6 languages. Watch it on YouTube, or just scroll down.
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 The Input Hypothesis: Issues and implications. By Stephen D. Krashen. Loddon & New York: Longman, 1985
 Swain, M. and Lapkin, S. (1995). Problems in output and the cognitive processes they generate: A step towards second language learning. Applied Linguistics 16: 371-391, p. 371.