Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How to Learn Grammar : Simply Go With the Flow!

grammar Grammar explanations in language games? Maybe not. Game playing thrives on the experience of “flow,” a term that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores in his book Finding Flow.

Flow is a state of mind in which things come easily and are done without overthinking. Grammar explanations definitely take your mind away from experiencing flow.

Most people will agree that we don't learn a language from a grammar book. Grammar rules themselves are not set in stone. Some of them are controversial and people argue about them. If you google “controversial grammar rules” plenty of hits will come up.

We learn a language and its grammar – the rules by which a language works – mostly just by listening to and imitating other speakers. Lots of research suggests that our brains are wired to do this.

How to Learn "Grammar"?

Knowing certain grammar rules obviously is an essential part of mastering a language. But consciously learning grammar rules is a different type of activity from engaging in a language: reading, speaking or actively listening to it.

As you are learning a new language, there is a wonderful sense of “being in the flow”: when you are reading a story and getting it; when you are listening and understanding the gist of what is being said; when you are talking, and saying what you intend to express. This feeling of flow often makes the process of language learning an enjoyable experience.

As we are developing, the question of combining meaning with flow comes up consistently. We agree with Ron Davidson, Making a Game of Education (who argues that “games and education are a natural fit.”)

The question is how we can best make that natural fit work for us. For now, we go as far as adding brief grammar “tips” in a translation game. But mostly we set up the language games in such a way that the player makes grammar connections intuitively.  

When you get curious enough about a grammar point, it is interesting to check up on it. Sometimes that's the only way that you can figure out the meaning of something.

But while you're talking or listening to someone talking to you, it's not usually possible to say “Hey, let me look that up.” Language games intend to put you right into the flow of understanding and using a language. That's not a bad skill to practice.