How learning grammar is like painting.


Language learners sometimes try to learn too much at once.

For example, I often get questions like this:

I don't know how to use 'the' and 'a'. Can you explain how to use them?

Well, no, I can't.

First of all, "the" and "a" are too complicated. There are many rules for how to use them, and there are many exceptions to every rule.

Even if I could explain "the" and "a" to you perfectly, I don't think it would really help. After you read my perfect explanation, you would probably forget most of it.

And even if you remembered all of the rules perfectly, you still probably couldn't apply them all in real time when you're in the middle of a conversation.You would probably continue to make most of the same mistakes that you made before.

Learning grammar is like painting a masterpeice.

If you've ever tried to do a painting, you know that the best results don't come from picking up a paint brush and directly painting the finished image. A good painting often starts off with a sketch.  Then the artist does a more detailed sketch, and then maybe transfers that sketch onto the canvas. Then you start painting. You paint in some color for the background, then some background details, then the foreground, and so on. Each step adds a little more detail.

It's helpful to think of your English language education the same way. You can't learn everything all at once. You have to keep coming back to the same material and learning it in a little more detail each time.

It's important to be patient. I know a lot of English learners who have spent many years studying English, and who have even lived in the U.S. for a long time, who still make a lot of mistakes with "the" and "a". That's totally OK and nothing to be worried about. Just continue to improve your grammar masterpiece, a little at a time!

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