Chapter 4. A Discussion about Grammar Types
The review of grammar types above provides insights into devising an ideal grammar of Hla’alua. I notice that there are similarities shared by these grammars (see Figure 6). The two major categories of grammars are presented (1) as a square labeled as reference grammar (i.e. RG) and (2) a pentagon labeled as pedagogical grammar (i.e. PedG). In between these two categories, there exists a rectangle representing community grammars (i.e. CG). The three
grammars that belong to pedagogical grammars are practical grammars (i.e. PracG) represented as an ellipse, learner’s grammars (i.e. LG) represented as a parallelogram on the right side and a learner’s guide (i.e. L.-Guide) represented as a trapezoid on the left side.
Figure 6: An integration of different types of grammars
Their distinctive and shared properties could be considered when designing pedagogical materials to accelerate minority language learning.
Implications for Compiling a Hla’alua Learner’s GuideI lay out some attributes of an ideal Learner’s Guide to Hla’alua by bringing together the relevant features of different grammars above:
Table 7: Attributes of the proposed Hla’alua Learner’s Guide
Goal: to help Hla’alua people learn by themselves
Readers: to target Hla’alua adults who are not linguists or
Objectives: (a) to transform information contained in the Hla’alua
reference grammar written by Pan (2012) into understandable grammars to the readers
(b) to re-arrange the information contained in the existing materials of Hla’alua, such as textbooks sentences and texts contained in the reference grammars
(c) to introduce the grammar points in a learner-friendly way to build on the learners’ knowledge step by step, and
also to sustain the learners' motivation33
(d) to present grammatical topics with instructions stemming from SLA theories, and in a manner similar to how EFL (i.e. English as a Foreign Language) is taught in Taiwan
Format: to write the grammar in Mandarin, the national language
of Taiwan with Chinese characters
Method: to describe metalinguistic knowledge of Hla’alua by
comparing its structure to that of Mandarin and other languages known to the readers
Additional value: to complement existing language resources available to
Hla’alua leaners, including Hla’alua short stories, e-learning materials, a picture dictionary and a Hla’alua- Mandarin dictionary(to be published by Chiu)
The structure of the Learner’s Guide presented above suggests four aspects to explore further.
Firstly, an introduction to Hla’alua sounds and spelling system has a
high priority in the development of the Learner’s Guide to basics of Hla’alua
for beginners. This is to lay the foundations for the volume from the perspective of the Learner’s Guide compiler (henceforth compiler), such as what orthography is adopted and how word formations are affected by sound
33 This can be done by including some essential Hla'alua elements from their culture
and some useful expressions that can be used immediately in their daily life. (See chapter 5 for more discussion).
changes. Alphabetic code, knowledge of the ways that sounds match the letters, is a crucial component that learners need so they can read texts. Given Hla’alua beginners are not familiar with Hla’alua sounds or romanization, such introductory chapter would provide a solid foundation for them to be able to articulate utterances and to read the examples provided in the Learner’s Guide. Reviewing the existing pedagogical materials of Hla’alua becomes essential to devise a workable method of introducing the key elements of Hla’alua sounds and its spelling system.
Secondly, it is necessary to explore the layout of the existing Hla’alua pedagogical materials concerning what elements of Hla’alua are expected to be learnt, in what order, under what instructions. To a compiler, an evaluation of the Hla’alua textbook layout provides critical implications of the overall organization of the grammars. With the learners in mind, considerations for their sequential learning require a careful presentation of grammatical topics. An ideal organization, therefore, corresponds to what I define as a "learner-friendly order" that builds on readers’ knowledge step by step and sustains readers’ incentives to go through the grammars.
Thirdly, developing materials for learning Hla’alua as a second language requires an investigation of a model of second language acquisition that is specifically designed for the Taiwanese learners. The method of learning English as a foreign language in Taiwan is a potential model for learning Hla’alua.
Lastly, helping adults learn a language on their own requires the understanding of differences between language instructions with and without the presence of a physical language teacher. This suggests a review of not only the Hla’alua textbooks used at school, but also the non-textbook materials. Such analysis is necessary because reducing the obstacles to language learning without a teacher critically influences the outcomes of self-learning, given that the most effective method of language acquistion probably is to learn from interactions with native speakers or teachers. Therefore, comparing different types of materials allows me to recognize the advantages and weaknesses of a
self-learning grammar and to provide alternatives to compensate for the weaknesses.
The next chapter will draw these ideas together in a discussion of pedagogical materials.