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Last month, Zion Kim’s article “Foreign Language: let’s speak more, write less” advocated for language classes to stop with monotonous grammar drills in order to have more verbal lessons. However, she failed to realize that these grammar exercises are the sine qua non of learning how to speak a language. You cannot expect to be in full control if you do not have the backbone that grammar provides. It can be extremely tedious to do worksheet after worksheet of verb conjugations, but that is why many teachers in the foreign language department incorporate activities like skits and videos into their lessons.
I currently take AP Spanish and I am extremely grateful for all the worksheets that drilled the tenses into the forefront of my mind. If not, I would have never learned how to formulate what I wanted to say in Spanish. In her article, Zion Kim said that while students are busy translating they are “missing the enjoyable part of learning a language, which comes from exploring how that language shapes the thoughts, feelings, philosophy, lives and cultures of the people who speak it.”
I agree that this is the most rewarding part of mastering a language, but Ms. Kim does not yet understand that these are very abstract concepts. How can you grasp the meaning of them if you can’t conjugate a verb properly?
It is like learning how to play a new instrument, you cannot just jump right in and play like a pro. Similarly, learning a language will take time, patience, and an immense amount of verb conjugations.