Monday, December 12, 2005


I'm probably a rare bird, and I don't mean undercooked, for being able to say this, but I always loved grammar. It was easy to learn and made sense.

As an EFL, English as a Foreign Language teacher here in Israel, I'm seeing a definite increase in the difficulties teaching grammar. It finally hit me that the problem is that my students don't know their native tongue well enough. Very few of them speak Hebrew properly, and when I have to check translations into Hebrew, I see that their spelling is even worse. In addition they're only taught composition-writing skills towards the end of high school, making composition writing in English horrendous.

I know things are different from when I was in the first grade, half a century ago, but how different? I went to school in New York, in the public schools and we learned lots of language skills. How is it today?

I understand that the use of "workbooks" has reduced writing. It's obvious. There's no comparison between copying questions from the board and writing answers in one's notebook to filling in a space, or connecting lines, etc.

Recently I'm purposely forcing them to copy from the board, and I still have to use a chalk board, so I come home looking like a clown, with blue chalk on my face and yellow on my dark skirt. And in all seriousness, it's physically taxing for the kids. So I call them wimps and ask how they'll do in the army if a little writing is too much.

And the worst thing is that I'm finding myself teaching them general grammar that they should be learning in Hebrew, and I don't know the official terminology in that language. So they're going to hear a strange version and then not recognize the term when they learn it in proper Hebrew.

I have no choice, so I'll just keep trying and I'm always trying to pressure those who teach younger grades to make sure their students know Hebrew well before English.

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