Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grammar Test #1

How good is your English Grammar?

Do you know the difference between the present perfect, the past perfect and the pluperfect for example?

Do you know when to use "its" and "it's"?

Or when colon or a semi colon should be used?

Me either...(I'm now wondering whether that's a grammatically correct statement...)

When you learn to speak a language as a native you rarely have to learn the rules, the only reason I tend to know more about English tenses now is because I've learnt the German rules.

A couple of weeks ago Ben's bilingual English class took a grammar test on indirect speech. His teacher sent me an email after marking the papers appologising for his grade, and the fact that he'd been beaten (in his mother tongue) by several of his German classmates. She was very relieved when I laughed, a German parent would have more likely demanded the paper to be re-graded apparently, but although the result is disappointing, it's also understandable. Ben might think he knows the grammar rules but his brain has spent the last 14 years absorbing the spoken English language, and to then try to take that knowledge and force it through grammar hoops is tricky. I know this from personal experience, because I asked if I could also do the test...

How would you do? Can you put these examples into indirect speech, i.e. report what these people said:

- Dieter Bohlen: "I always did my homework when I was a child, life was easier, but I didn't know this then."
- Lionel Messi: "I've never been to America, but I really want to go there."
- Xavier Naidoo: "Religion is important to me. It always has been. That's why my songs contain religious messages."

Here's what you should have written:

- DB admitted that he had always done his homework when he had been a child, he said that he hadn't known that life had been easier then. (I got 0.5/4.5 for that one)
- LM confessed that he had never been to America but really wanted to go there. (0.5/2.5)
- XN declared that religion was really important to him and it had always been. This was why many of his songs contained religious messages. (0.5/4.5)

I got a D+, worse than Ben, but as I happily pointed out to him and his teacher, I could talk circles (in English) around those kids who beat me, and my accent is better!

Whilst writing this blog I found some great quotes:

  • "when a thought takes one's breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence" - Thomas W. Higginson.
  • "grammar is the grave of letters" - Elbert Hubbard.
  • "grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power" - Joan Didion.
  • "I am the King of Rome, and above grammar" - Emperor Sigismund.
And I'll leave you with this on youtube, it helps if you've seen the film "The Inglorious Basterds", but it's not essential.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

I never finished school, as my parents dragged me kicking & screaming from the UK 3mths prior to taking my O-Levels. I have a quiet passion for the English language & years ago, took up studying it, in the hope of obtaining a qualification.

I gave up somewhere around hanging participles!
It's a fascinating language, but incredibly frustrating at the same time. Have fun with future homework LOL