You can learn a foreign language in two ways:

  • 1. By immersing yourself in the language, and learning it through constant exposure and repetition
  • (kids are so great at language learning because they are so great at immersing themselves, and at fearlessly jumping into a new language environment).

  • 2. By having the structure and workings of the language explained to you
  • (this is where us adults have a great advantage, as our adult brains can understand and apply explanations of how the language works, and this allows us to significantly increase the speed with which we learn the language)

    The ‘best’ way to learn a language (best = fastest, most efficient, most guaranteed, most satisfying) is to learn using a combination of both methods.

    This post helps you out with point 2, and tells you six essential grammar terms that will help you understand how any language in the world works.

  • Verbs
  • Verbs are the heart of any language and are the most important part of the language that you are learning. Whole sentences can be made out of a single verb. Eat. Drink. Be merry.
    Verbs are ‘doing’ words or ‘action’ words. Look, be, jump, contemplate, become… are all verbs

  • Nouns
  • Nouns are things. Nouns are things that are real and that you can point at (tree, mother, Julie, Christchurch). Nouns are also things that you can’t point at (beauty, happiness, darkness, love). If you can put the word ‘the’ in front of it (in English) then it is a noun.

  • Pronouns
  • Pronouns are I, you, he, she, they, we, it, me, him, her, them, us, this (as in this is a pen).
    Pronouns are nouns, but instead of saying the actual name of the thing, we use a pronoun instead. For example, in a world without pronouns we would say:
    “This pen is a pen. The pen is Julie’s pen. Julie gave the pen to John. (My name is John). Now John has the pen.”
    But in the glorious world of pronouns we can say:
    This is a pen. It is Julie’s pen. She gave it to me. Now I have it“.

  • Adjectives
  • Adjectives are describing words. They describe things (i.e. they describe nouns). Big, happy, ugly, immense, impressive, confused, confusing… are all adjectives.
    If you can make a sentence “I am ___________”, then __________ is an adjective.

  • Prepositions
  • Prepositions are the ‘little words’ that make verbs more specific:
    He’s going to China, I’m from New Zealand, I live in Auckland, She’s thinking about travelling, I’m speaking with my brother, I put it on the table.

  • Adverbs
  • Adverbs are also describing words, but they describe actions (verbs). Quickly, happily, immensely, impressively, confusingly, only, are all adverbs.
    If you can make the sentence “I _________ ate the apple”, then __________ is an adverb.

    There are many other grammar terms out there, and some will be entirely unique to the language you are learning. But if you are new to grammar, this list is a great start to getting you understanding the language you are wanting to learn.