Grammatik for Dummies

For the past month I’ve been following an intensive French course, and one thing that has no doubt slipped through my fingers since I last learned a language is the terminology: what is a pronoun, a proposition, an indirect object, the imperfect, and even an adjective again? Well, luckily I stumbled across a godsend today in the form of a mini-series from sproget.dk.

I can’t really recall much from Danish lessons in primary school, perhaps only a vague memory of the classroom and making crosses, circles, and squares. And the English and German lessons aren’t much better off either: I remember having difficulty remembering what came between ‘seven’ and ‘ten’, and of using AltaVista‘s Babelfish to help with my German translations. Spanish lessons in secondary school stand more clearly in my mind, but to be honest I took these even less serious than the German, and to this day is still thankful that my grade was not determined by a final exam. Likewise, it is also safe to say that I don’t remember much of the grammar we were taught, perhaps for the same reason that language didn’t interest me at the time.

As Danish is my native language I naturally have a good intuition on what is correct and what is wrong simply by “hearing”. Similarly, through television, my stay abroad, and university courses, I’ve come to speak a decent English. Yet for both languages I remain quite unconscious about their grammatical rules.

However, when it comes to the current French lessons it’s been getting more and more clear that I need to understand the grammar in order to keep up. By my memory holes I can’t tell if this is a particular French way of teaching, but at least my girlfriend remembers that it was also this way when she was taught the language in primary school. And while my initial reaction was that it seemed strange to teach an organic entity through formal rules (after all, language is not what the dictionary says but what is spoken by people), it has actually grown on my — perhaps by a mix of the beauty of the models that have been developed over many years and my personal interest in (mathematical) logic.

So, realising that I was clearly lost for even the very basics (such as just understanding “when being a precise description we put an article in front“) the first attempt was to get a copy of Bescherelle‘s promising La grammaire pour tous. This has been working fairly well, but it makes for a rather slow process when there is no prior intuition: everything has to be “computed” every time, so to speak, by going through the rules. Once in a while I notice a connection with either Danish or English, but often after the computation instead of before. So as a result I’ve been looking for a way to refresh the grammar of the two languages where I do have some intuitive, and as a godsend I found it today!

As if made for me, sproget.dk has made a short 6-episode series, Grammatik for dummies, explaining the basics of grammar and aimed at people wanting to refresh old grammar classes, but also using the latin names for those who are learning a foreign language! I wish there were more episodes, but from the one hour it took to go through all of them I got up to speed on both pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, subjectives, adverbs, adjectives, direct objects, indirect objects, the infinitive, the perfect, the imperfect, the pluperfect, and you can go crazy can you! Very well produced and highly recommended!

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