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Problems faced by south-east asian in studying tenses and their solutions Essay


What do you think are the problems faced by the Pakistani learner while learning tenses of English? This paper highlights the problems of grammar teaching. Some teachers have been selected who have taught/have been teaching grammar for several years at school level. On the basis of the feedback given by the teachers, this research report is presented.


Language is the chief means by which the human personality expresses itself and fulfills its basic need for social interaction with other persons.

It is clear that the term “grammar” has meant various things at various times and sometimes several things at one time. This plurality of meaning is characteristic of the present time and is the source of confusions in the discussion of grammar as part of the education of children. There have been taking place violent disputes on the subject of teaching grammar at school.

The ability to talk about the grammar of a language, to recite its rules, is also very different from ability to speak and understand a language or to read and write it. Those who can use a language are often unable to recite its rules, and those who can recite its rules can be unable to use it. Grammar organizes the vocabulary and as a result we have sense units. There is a system of stereotypes, which organizes words into sentences.


What skill does grammar develop? Does it gives the ability to make up sentences correctly to reproduce text adequately? If does so then how much practice is needed for the development of the practical skill that can enable pupil point the specific grammar structure differences between the mother tongue and the target language.


Systematic and an organized study of tenses in grammar can solve the communication related issues in learning especially those related to the target language.


1. To investigate problems faced by Pakistani learners during English tense-learning. 2. To recognize the hindrances faced by students in learning tenses. 3. To highlight the problems of grammar teaching and suggest the solution for them.


It will prove to be useful in obtaining information from students and teachers statistically, and will give an accurate report on how the problems come forth and consequently how to tackle them


The component issues are how to enhance the


Author: Middlesmoor

My main belief is that modern teaching techniques and their text books can be too dispersive. The principles of the ”communicative approach” allied to the presentation of language according to the seemingly self evident concept of the “functions” of language, when put into the context of the class room, lead to confusing lack of focus. As a result, when pupils have a sense of confusion they become de-motivated.

I have a central objection to the theoreticians’ distinction between “learning” a language and “acquiring” one when it is applied to school. Schools are not full of infant native speakers trying out the language as was the little English boy who said “I swimmed in the river.” Huge damage has been done. Schools are artificial places and they need a whole range of techniques of learning.

Another objection to the notion of “acquiring” a language and wanting to imitate that in schools is that it makes us think that memory in school can be viewed as similar to the mechanisms that help us “acquire” (absorb unconsciously) our mother tongue.

The word ”acquire” is preferred as a softer word than learn. Learn is considered too Prussian as it were and linked to memorising. However consider how the expression “learning by heart” is a much less rigid sounding expression than if we used the term “memorising”. In the distinction; “learn” versus “acquire”, the idea is that learning is the wrong mechanism – dull, bookish and forced. Why is it that a term like “learn”, suddenly, after thousands of years of happy use in the language suddenly smells and we have to invent “acquire”? I’m suspicious of such distinctions and the undermining of accepted sense. Such theological repositioning is tendentious. It supposes that something is proved by simply using a supposedly self evident term. We can say that children “learn” that fires burn or they “learn” that not everything is what it seems to be! We don’t need to say that they “acquire” the effects of fire or differentiation!

Young English children “learn” that there are some action words (verbs) that are regular when applied to the past (arrived) and others that behave in odd ways (swum). These distinctions come slowly. They “learn” them, as they do other things, by trial and error. It is true that young children “pick up” languages with amazing ease, but that is another story and it is certainly not a secret ability easily transferred to schools by thinking that such ease is natural and unthinking as is suggested (not proved) by the use of the term “acquire”. But this distinction has made text books woolly with false naturalism.

When a young 3 year old told me “Today we swimmed in the river” he was intelligently generalising about a “learnt” aspect of verbs. By observation and repetition practice he had seen regularity – though yet imperfectly. The mentality – the brain mechanisms of learning your “mother” tongue are mysterious and specific to certain ages. We should be very careful before thinking that this mystery can be reproduced by means of class room text books in the weirdly unreal setting of a school classroom. No, language learning at school depends on suitable procedures for “learning” and remembering. Obviously “learning” is a complex matter. But one shouldn’t tendentiously falsify the word/- concept “learn” into a daft travesty of “crouch – over – your – books – and – memorise “, from which we are then rescued by the saintly term “acquire” which possesses the secret of doing everything effortlessly!.

Few of us these days exercise our memory. It should be obvious to anyone that language learning requires memorisation. Out of fear of so called rote learning we think everything should proceed “naturally”, be acquired, i.e. effortlessly. However, we learn our own language with considerable repetitive practice. The so called “natural” methodology of language teaching is a sham. What we need is artificial procedures that mimic certain repetitive practice situations in the native learner and these procedures should be fun. When we learn our mother tongue we are at full stretch in our attention and will to understand and communicate. This is not so at school.

In the grammar book there are countless suggestions for practising and recycling the specimen sentences “nuggets’ on the grammar pages, and games for learning vocabulary. Who in the “natural or “communicative approach” is doing the artificial / unnatural business of teaching vocabulary? In my experience, running a language school for foreign children, they know hardly any words in a really active sense; i.e. Words that are easily recoverable to their memories. Since young people have good memories the grammar units are exemplified with short plays that focus on the one grammar aspect. These plays are to be learnt by heart and acted and preferably filmed within 10 –15 minutes. (may be in competetive pairs doing the same play.) Thus the slower children will be really helped to keep up with the rest of the class by watching various versions of the same play / grammar area. And then everyone can have further repetition practice by watching the videoed performances. These plays are also examples to help pupils make similar plays around grammar islands. To get their imaginations going and give ideas for plays, I have supplied a whole last section called “Human life charts”

Teaching “Grammar” is often confusing. Instead of focusing attention on the basic grammatical forms of language, the enterprise gets drowned in pedantic “metalanguage”. Often grammar teaching makes matters worse.

I felt at Middlesmoor that I could do it differently. Small children of any nationality are aware of grammar. They build up hypotheses of trial and error. In our example of “I swimmed a “rule (…ed) has been perceived that has exceptions (“irregular verbs!) Why do I point this out? Because some experts have been so disapproving of bad teaching of grammar that they reject any teaching of structural consistencies. Children are not just creative. ( they are rather less so than they are famed to be!) What they are is quite sharply rational. They appreciate clarity. I wanted a simple grammar book. There wasn’t one. The reason is that people who write grammar books are writing with a worry about what pedant teachers or experts will say of their definitions.

They are not thinking directly of the “customers” (the students) The result is that there is far too much “exactitude” and the student has too wade through oceans of “truth” only to drown in it! I decided that at Middlesmoor we needed to give the visitors security with the very basic language patterns which were at the same time clothed in examples of immediate utility: “Can I have some water please?” ” I haven’t seen her” “When are we playing football?etc. When we are young we learn without grammar but then as children, play activities are relatively repetitive and restricted. Therefore young children’s speaking is focused on a restricted vocabulary and certain simple grammatical structures.

We therefore had to write our own grammar to suit the very uncertain knowledge of our visitors: particularly the Italians. Grammar must be presented in larger areas than is usual and be supported by creative open ended material which is still grammar focused. We made a special linear grammar to make self access possible to the students. In this way lessons are paradoxically liberated from grammar. There is no sense in splitting up and atomising the grammar for easy digestion. (that is, easy digestion at first view). For example it is only apparently sensible to split into gradual sections, the presentation of the 3 futures or 3 pasts (past perfect and past simple and past continuous) Their use is inter dependent. Teach them together and after the first difficulty of “too much at once”, progress is quick and lasting.) You don’t have to give to a grammar the gradualised lay out of a course book.

The objection that the usual practice of splitting up grammar into small bits, helps the student because it is “gradual”, is totally mistaken. (Besides, once split up how can he/she go back to study the interconnecting logic of the “whole” problem or actually find what he wants) The benefit of the “whole” presentation of islands of grammar is that the student can find his own way to a whole understanding: the grammar gradually comes into focus as it does when we learn our own language. It also means that such larger units of connected grammar are much more easily turned into grammar plays. What is “grammar” but just that regularity that the 3 year old’s “I swimmed” was hypothesising?

Children in a classroom situation need language that is focused and easily recyclable: that is, we must artificially recreate the simple environment of our previously described child learner of L2 and situate that language in a context that encourages repetition and recreation

As a bridge from these grammar areas and phrases I have written grammar plays. At Middlesmoor we use theatre a lot. Children have much readier memories than adults. A pity we don’t exploit this more. Children learn languages quickly in the natural state because communication is desired by them and also because the language they use is so narrow, and it is endlessly recycled, repeated and refashioned. Children work outwards from a tight circle of usefulness.

The plays are a way of making up for the fact that class room situations in which children are taught are all more or less artificial and that the ways of “natural language acquisition” cannot be transferred to text books.

My preferred method of teaching would be to base everything on grammar and special dictionaries and to use the blackboard as note pad for collecting information about the children’s real world of experience. Also newspapers contain stories that fascinate children as young as 9 or 10. They just need a simplified sentence structure and vocabulary.

A final point. If we don’t make a fetish of grammar and also if we are no longer terrified by the idea that “grammar is old fashioned” we will be the quicker free of it and able to use the language for interesting tasks, ie. we will use it naturally! A didactic that frankly uses grammar as a central reference point from which to depart ( and only return to in quick visits) will be much freer from it than the victims of the hotch potch muddle of “functional” text books. Obviously we must avoid the old grammar teaching which was abstruse gobbledy gook that was like a mountain range so tortuous to cross that few survived to reach the actual language!

Katy Allen MBE
Director, Village Education Project Kilimanjaro

An analysis of the obstacles in the way of effective pupil-centred teaching and learning of the English language in Tanzanian government

I have 14 years’ experience working in government primary schools through the NGO Village Education Project Kilimanjaro. It is apparent from working in the schools, from visiting the EQUIP programme in August 2007, and from conducting a district seminar and other training and observations that pupil-centred learning is not taking place on any significant scale in the teaching of English. Only an honest evaluation will assist any future development of primary English education

In teaching English to young learners it is essential to consider how children learn. There are recognised stages of cognitive development that every child passes through, and teaching material should take account of this. There is also a very great need for the motivation to learn English for both the pupils and the teachers.

teaching ideas. It is not sufficient to leave these teachers with inadequate support. They must now be spoon-fed with lesson plans, detailed ideas for games and activities and material for inter-cultural studies, as well as basic structures, words and phrases for them to conduct classroom routines in English as well as delivery of some specific English tuition.

All of this will take account of the age of the pupils and their stage of cognitive development and also of the current level of expertise of the available teachers, the need to motivate both pupil and teacher, and the time available in the classroom for routine activities. Teachers need detailed, supportive materials so that their pupils are motivated, and learn systematically and the teachers themselves are assisted to understand the English being taught and assisted with the methods of teaching.

It is important to bear in mind the stages of development of children when assessing or planning a primary language course. For an overview of Piaget and Stages of Cognitive Development see Appendix 1.

In addition attention should be paid to how the brain works. Glover and Bruning5 have summarised six major principles of cognitive psychology as they relate to instruction: 1. Pupils are active processors of information

2. Learning is most likely to occur when information is made meaningful to pupils 3. How pupils learn may be more important that what they learn 4. Cognitive processes become automatic with repeated use

5. Metacognitive skills can be developed through instruction 6. The most enduring motivation for learning is internal motivation

Teachers with insufficient subject knowledge have very little if any confidence. Teacher training should be concerned with two elements:15

1. Subject Knowledge – ensuring that the future teachers know and understand
enough about what they are to teach to be able to teach it effectively 2. Subject Application – ensuring that the future teachers know and understand enough about how to teach what they are to teach to be able to do so effectively.


Qualitative research is a method of inquiry appropriated in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. The qualitative method investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, when.

Hence, smaller but focused samples are more often needed, rather than large samples.For example, if you are asked to explain in qualitative terms a thermal image displayed in multiple colours, then you would explain the colour differences rather than the heat’s numerical value.The most common is analysis of qualitative data is observer impression.Observers examine the data, interpret it via forming an impression and report their impression in a structured and sometimes quantitative form.

First, cases can be selected purposefully, according to whether or not they typify certain characteristics or contextual locations. Secondly, the role or position of the researcher is given greater critical attention. This is because in qualitative research the possibility of the researcher taking a ‘neutral’ or transcendental position is seen as more problematic in practical and/or philosophical terms. Hence qualitative researchers are often exhorted to reflect on their role in the research process and make this clear in the analysis.

Thirdly, while qualitative data analysis can take a wide variety of forms it tends to differ from quantitative research in the focus on language, signs and meaning as well as approaches to analysis that are holistic and contextual, rather than reductionist and isolationist. Nevertheless, systematic and transparent approaches to analysis are almost always regarded as essential for rigor. For example, many qualitative methods require researchers to carefully code data and discern and document themes in a consistent and reliable way.


quantitative research refers to the systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to phenomena. The process of measurement is central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.

Statistical surveys were used to collect quantitative information about items in a population. Surveys of human populations and institutions are common in political polling and government, health, social science and marketing research. The survey focused on opinions or factual information depending on its purpose, and involved administering questions to individuals. When the questions were administered by a researcher, a structured interview or a researcher-administered survey prwsented itself.



Questionnaire replies

Name: yasir arafat

School F.G boys secondary school chattar

Class: 5

1. A 5. A

2. A 6. A

3. A 7. A

4. A 8. A

9. Ans: the tenses should be taught in such a way that the students must not be asked to memorise the rules but to be able to use them properly. In this way an internal grammar would be generated which would be helpful in communication rather than a hinderance.

10. Ans: In the beginning the teacher should try to gain the attention and interest among the students by explaining the similarities between English language and the native language. Then he should try to teach English tenses in English.

Name: Zahid Ali School: F.G school Malpur Ibd.

Class: 6

1. C

2. A

3. A

4. B

5. A

6. A

7. A

8. A

9. Ans:

10. Ans:

Name: Kamran School: Madina Model College

Class: 8

1. B 5. A

2. A 6. A

3. A 7. A

4. A 8. A

9. Ans: The students should first know the basic things of grammar like parts of speech and then sentence structure and then move on to tenses. And the tenses should be in such and order that they should move from easy to difficult.

10. Ans: Tenses teaching should be made interesting and the teacher should first motivate the students in this regard. The students should be asked to make use of every tense they go through.


To develop one’s speech means to acquire essential patterns of speech and grammar patterns in particular. Children must use these items automatically during speech-practice. The automatic use of grammar items in our speech (oral and written) supposes mastering some particular skills – the skills of using grammar items to express one’s own thoughts, in other words to make up your sentences.

We must get so-called reproductive or active grammar skills.

A skill is treated as an automatic part of awareness. Automatization of the action is the main feature of a skill.

The nature of Automatization is characterized by that psychological structure of the action which adopts to the conditions of performing the action owing frequent experience. The action becomes more frequent, correct and accurate and the number of the operations is shortened while forming the skill the character of awareness of the action is changing, i.e. fullness of understanding is paid to the conditions and quality of performing to the control over it and regulation.

To form some skills is necessary to know that the process of the forming skills has some steps:

– Only some definite elements of the action are automatic.

– The Automatization occurs under more difficult conditions, when the child can’t concentrate his attention on one element of the action.

– The whole structure of the action is improved and the automatization of its separate components is completed.

What features do the productive grammar skills have?

During our speech the reproductive grammar skills are formed together with lexis and intonation, they must express the speaker’s intentions.

The actions in the structural setting of the lexis must be learnt.

The characteristic feature of the reproductive grammar skills is their flexibility. It doesn’t depend on the level of Automatization, i.e. on perfection of skill here mean the original action: both the structure of sentence, and forms of the words are reproduced by the speaker using different lexical material. If the child reproduces sentences and different words, which have been learnt by him as “a ready-made thing” he can say that there is no grammar skill. Learning the ready-made forms, word combinations and sentences occurs in the same way as learning lexis.

The grammar skill is based on the general conclusion. The grammar action can and must occur only in the definite lexical limits, on the definite lexical material. If the pupil can make up his sentence frequently, accurately and correctly from the grammatical point of view, he has got the grammar skill.

Teaching grammar at school using the theoretical knowledge brought some critical and led to confusion. All the grammatical rules were considered to be evil and there were some steps to avoid using them at school.

But when we learn grammatical items in models we use substitution and such a type of training gets rid of grammar or “neutralizes” it. By the way, teaching the skills to make up sentences by analogy is a step on the way of forming grammar skills. It isn’t the lexical approach to grammar and it isn’t neutralization of grammar, but using basic sentences in order to use exercises by analogy and to reduce number of grammar rules when forming the
reproductive grammar skills.

To form the reproductive grammar skills we must follow such steps:

– Selection the model of sentence.

– Selection the form of the word and formation of wordforms.

– Selection the auxiliary words-preposition, articles, and etc. and their combination with principle words.

The main difficulty of the reproductive (active) grammar skills is to correspond the purposes of the statement, communicative approach (a questionan answer and so on), words, meanings, expressed by the grammatical patterns. In that case we use basic sentences, in order to answer the definite situation. The main factor of the forming of the reproductive grammar skill is that pupils need to learn the lexis of the language. They need to learn the meanings of the words and how they are used. We must be sure that our pupils are aware of the vocabulary they need at their level and they can use the words in order to form their own sentence. Each sentence contains a grammar structure.

The mastering the grammar skill lets pupils save time and strength, energy, which can give opportunity to create. Learning a number of sentences containing the same grammatical structure and a lot of words containing the same grammatical form isn’t rational. But the generalization of the grammar item can relieve the work of the mental activity and let the teacher speed up the work and the children realize creative activities.

The process of creation is connected with the mastering of some speech stereotypes the grammatical substrat is hidden in basic sentences. Grammar is presented as itself. Such a presentation of grammar has its advantage: the grammar patterns of the basic sentences are connected with each other. But this approach gives pupils the opportunity to realize the grammar item better. The teaching must be based on grammar explanations and grammar rules. Grammar rules are to be understood as a special way of expressing communicative activity. The reproductive grammar skills suppose to master the grammar actions which are necessary for expressing thoughts in oral and written forms.

The automatic perception of the text supposes the reader to identify the grammar form according to the formal features of words, word combinations, sentences which must be combined with the definite meaning. One must learn the rules in order to identify different grammatical forms. Pupils should get to know their features, the ways of expressing them in the language. We teach children to read and aud by means of grammar. It reveals the relation between words in the sentence. Grammar is of great important when one teaches reading and auding.

The forming of the perceptive grammar and reproductive skills is quite different. The steps of the work is mastering the reproductive skills differ from the steps in mastering the perceptive skills. To master the reproductive grammar skills one should study the basic sentences or models. To master the perceptive grammar skills one should identify and analyze the grammar item. Though training is of great importance to realize the grammar item.

1.3 The Content of Teaching Grammar

Before speaking about the selection of grammar material it is necessary to consider the concept “grammar”, i.e., what it meant by “grammar”.

By grammar one can mean adequate comprehension and correct usage of words in the act of communication, that is, intuitive knowledge of the grammar of the language. It is a set of reflexes enabling a person to communicate with his associates. Such knowledge is acquired by a child in the mother tongue before he goes to schools.

This “grammar” functions without the individual’s awareness of technical nomenclature; in other words, he has no idea of the system of the language, and to use all the word-endings for singular and plural, for tense, and all the other grammar rules without special grammar lessons only due to the abundance of auding and speaking. His young mind grasps the facts and “makes simple grammar rules” for arranging the words to express carious thoughts and feelings. This is true because sometimes little children make mistakes by using a common rule for words to which that rule cannot be applied.

For example, a little English child might be heard to say Two mans comed instead of Two men come, because the child is using the plural “s” rule for man to which the rule does not apply, and the past tense ed rule for come which does not obey the ordinary rule for the past tense formation. A little Russian child can say ножов instead of ножей using the case-ending “ов” for ножи to which it does not apply. Such mistakes are corrected as the child grows older and learns more of his language.

By “grammar” we also mean the system of the language, the discovery and description of the nature of language itself. It is not a natural grammar, but a constructed one. There are several constructed grammars: traditional, structural, and transformational grammars. Traditional grammar studies the forms of words (morphology) and how they are put together in sentences (syntax); structural grammar studies structures of various levels of the language (morpheme level) and syntactic level; transformational grammar studies basic structures and transformation rules.

What we need is simplest and shortest grammar that meets the requirements of the school syllabus in foreign languages. This grammar must be simple enough to be grasped and held by any pupil. We cannot say that this problem has been solved.

Since graduates are expected to acquire language proficiency in aural comprehension, speaking and reading grammar material should be selected for the purpose. There exist principles of selecting grammar material both for teaching speaking knowledge (active minimum) and for teaching reading knowledge (passive minimum), the main one is the principle of frequency, i.e., how frequently this or that grammar item occurs. For example, the Present Simple (Indefinite) is frequently used both in conversation and in various texts. Therefore it should be included in the grammar minimum.

For selecting grammar material for reading the principle of polysemia, for instance, is of great importance.

Pupils should be taught to distinguish such grammar items which serve to express different meanings.

For example, -s (es)

The selection of grammar material involves choosing the appropriate kind of linguistic description, i.e., the grammar which constitutes the best base for developing speech habits. Thus the school syllabus reflect a traditional approach to determining grammar material for foreign language teaching, pupils are given sentences patterns or structures, and through these structures they assimilate the English language, acquire grammar mechanisms of speech

The content of grammar teaching is disputable among teachers and methodologists, and there are various approaches to the problem, pupils should, whatever the content of the course, assimilate the ways of fitting words together to form sentences and be able to easily recognize grammar forms and structures while hearing and reading, to reproduce phrases and sentences stored up in their memory and say or write sentences of their own, using grammar items appropriate to the situation.

The direct method assumed that learning a foreign language is the same as learning the mother tongue, that is, that exposing the student directly to the foreign language impresses it perfectly upon his mind. This is true only up to a point, since the psychology of learning a second language differs from that of learning the first. The child is forced to learn the first language because he has no other effective way to express his wants. In learning a second language this compulsion is largely missing, since the student knows that he can communicate through his native language when necessary.

The basic premise of Direct Method was that second language learning should be more like first language learning: lots of active oral interaction, spontaneous use of the language, no translation between first and second languages, and little or no analysis of grammatical rules. We can summarize the principles of the Direct


– Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.

– Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.

– Oral communication skills were built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and student in small, intensive classes.

– Grammar was taught inductively, i.e. the learner may discover the rules of grammar for himself after he has become acquainted with many examples.

– New teaching points were introduced orally.

– Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.

– Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.

– Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized

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