Improving graduate-level studies

In the Pakistani context, the English language has taken a vital place, especially on academic grounds. At the university level, the Pakistani academic medium of instruction is English. In this case, for better performance, it is essential to have a firm hold and learn grammar rules. Grammar is a meaningful systematic structure that is governed by specific pragmatic constraints. For accurate language understanding, grammar is considered an essential aspect of foreign language instruction.
Nowadays, it has been observed that students are facing difficulties in the formation of correct grammatical structured sentences. At once, the weak knowledge and learning of students come up in front of us as the main reason. Why the students still at the graduate level are being observed making mistakes in the correct formation of sentences? On the other hand, we can see that except for two subjects in our native language, all are in English at maximum institutions. Where the weak understanding is left? It has been observed that students face difficulties in understanding grammar and teaching methods are also required to be more effective. Identification of individual problems by a teacher would help students to overcome their weaknesses. Thus, there is a need to teach grammar instructions in context.
By studying public and private universities’ students of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, it has been found that grammar instruction through context positively affects learners’ competence in using grammatical structures correctly in their language skills. It is useful to teach and show students the language functionality in paragraphs or sentences. Connecting the ideas one after another shows the connection between the sentences. The paragraphs are made to discuss one idea leading to its sub-topics. It will follow the connecting ideas in the next paragraph. For maintaining the connection between the paragraphs, there is a need to show transitional words for the continuity of the ongoing discussion.
However, for effective teaching, three areas of grammar are suggested to be taught i.e. grammar as a rule, as a source, and as a form. On these bases, learners will be able to build their knowledge and use correct language by taking it as a rule and feeling secure. Hence, there is a need to focus on the root cause of weaknesses i.e. weak understanding of grammar. Here is a need to teach rules again for effective outcomes. According to Widdowson (1990) that grammar is a liberating force, not a constraining imposition based on lexical categorisation.
In this regard, the researchers have also found grammar as a powerful undermining and demotivating force among learners. Thus, it leads to focusing on grammar for effective communication. The teachers cannot change the made grammatical rules but there are ways of effective teaching and making students familiar with them such as introducing controlled exercises and assessing students on their ability of understanding. Secondly, delivering communicative lessons to students for practicing the target grammar. Thirdly, giving communicative tasks for creating real operating conditions for students in the form of speaking and writing exercises. Fourthly, extracurricular activities would create a good platform where a student gets exposure to communicative tasks such as speeches, debates, poetry, talk shows, etc. Fifthly, engaging students with high-interest mentor texts, and sixthly, learning through developed model concepts by reflecting on them.
Particularly, teaching in context, there is a need of considering the proficiency level of a student. The highly proficient students would perform better than the lower-proficient students. In this scenario, lower proficient students require specific text for their language learning. Thus, it shows that the teacher has a great role in teaching and making students’ concepts clear about the grammatical rules and concepts. A meaningful sentence cannot work without lexical categories and understanding of these, there is a requirement of going through the standard rules and regulations for creative thinking to construct words, phrases, and clauses leading to a complete sentence. The syntactic analysis in this regard helps students to understand the formation of a sentence and its constituents. It is the formal design process through which grammar rules and structure are checked by focusing on the relationship between words. Thus, this analysis makes the concept clear in the form of a test.

The writer is an award-winning columnist, researcher and Visiting Asst. Prof. (Ph.D. in Linguistics, Malaysia) at Riphah International University & Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She can be reached at saira.asad2011@gmail.com.

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