What is grammar?

People who start to learn a new language often waste too much time by seeking out and collecting information that they don’t need.  Grammar is one thing to which people devote a lot of time.

Before understanding why grammar is needed, we have to understand what it is.

Grammar is a set of rules about communications, whether oral or written.  Grammar dictates the way in which we pronounce and write words or combinations of words.  Basically it represents an agreement among people in a specific location about how they will communicate with one another in written and oral terms.

The rules of grammar change all the time, by the way.  They can change because of big political processes.  A country can change the written aspects of a language without changing its conversational aspects simply by changing the alphabet that is being used.  Grammar can also change under the influence of one or a few vivid personalities.  Usually that involves the introduction of a new word, with someone forcing a whole nation to make special use of one or another word.

It is theoretically possible for people to learn specific linguistic laws which have already been changed.

Knowledge of grammar allows you to speak more interestingly and beautifully, but also in a more understandable way.  The rules of grammar, for instance, allow you to indicate that something belongs to a specific person simply by changing the form of a single word, usually in terms of its suffix.

There are languages with complex grammar, as well as ones which require no particular effort in relation to such issues.  There is always an essential and unifying formula.  The shorter the sentence which you speak or write, the less grammar will influence the issue of whether you will be understood correctly.  Still, it is hard to make do entirely without grammar.

Grammar can be compared to traffic rules.  Everyone must be familiar with them, but at different levels.  The extent to which you know traffic rules depends on the extent to which you plan to be a part of the traffic system.  If you only walk and take the bus, you can make do with basic knowledge.  If you want to drive a car, you will have to learn the rules at a far higher level.  If you decide to be a lorry driver, then you have to learn traffic rules in depth.

To paraphrase, if you want to learn a language at the “survival level,” you have to focus on the rules much less than would be the case if you wanted to become an actor or journalist in a foreign country.

This doesn’t mean that it is unnecessary to know about grammar.  Oh, no!  Grammar is very important, but we always have to choose priorities.  If we need to learn how to communicate in a foreign language quickly, it is totally sufficient to use words in their basic singular and infinitive form.

All of this applies to basic language learning.  If you want to learn a language so that you can appear in public and include clever elements in your speech which will delight a large audience, you won’t be able to make do without grammar.  Even more, you’ll have to learn not just “official grammar,” but also the dialects, expressions and specific word combinations of the relevant city or region.