As a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) and to speakers of Other Languages, I have become aware of how Australian English and the grammar we use, is probably in a more chaotic state of flux than has ever previously been the case. The spectrum of current influences is over and above the natural tendency of languages to evolve with time.
Influences on Grammar
Among the influences are computer language – largely driven from America; new communication technologies together with social media, that demand abbreviated forms and symbols for speed of communication; heavy exposure of children to American English through TV and video games; the increasing use of “international English” – a which has developed through English being the lingua franca in the globalised business world; the effects of the modified English that results when those who have learnt it as a second language become teachers, journalists, copywriters and lawyers.
The decision to reintroduce the teaching of grammar by way of the Australian National Curriculum for English is an effort to standardise where precision and agreement on meaning may matter significantly. These issues lead me to “Grammatikus”, a new online resource for ages 10-15 that promotes enjoyable learning of grammar.
Aligned with the National Curriculum, it is an Australian interactive game that teaches English grammar. Grammatikus is also the name of the hero, the name of the story, and the name of the game… “Immersed in a world of mystery and adventure, players of all abilities become the central character of the story, as they embark on a personal journey.”
I found a lot to like in Grammatikus. A locally produced product; the excitement of its originators, their dedication to the project, and love of teaching, is apparent in the imaginative ways they have come up with of approaching a subject typically thought of as dry and without intrinsic interest.
Through Grammatikus the learning of grammar becomes a fun and rewarding activity providing the tools to tackle mighty challenges which are woven into a fantasy adventure story in a mythical land populated by characters with various powers and capacities for good and evil.
The accompanying illustrations and maps are wonderful as are the avatars students construct for themselves by mixing and matching a range of options as to armour, body parts, shields and weapons, all with their own unique properties to aid in the great quests participants are enticed to undertake.
Understand and manipulate language
Players may even find themselves appreciating grammar for its own sake as they grow confident in their ability to understand and manipulate language at an ever higher level.
I looked at Adjectives and Nouns as these are the two sections made available in the Library demonstration. Each section (part of speech) has a prologue, several tutorials, a game and section for testing new knowledge, and an epilogue. The prologue outlines the story and is delivered in suitably grave style to set the scene, with all its dangers and challenges, and to draw participants into acquiring the almost “sacred” knowledge that will empower them to realise their quests.
“Virtual” Tutorials with suitably inviting names such as, The Nether Worlds, Hollow Earth, The Seal is Found, Vast Beyond Imagining, The Place newly Made, present the grammar couched in language in keeping with the adventure. These are followed by a game, (A Great Flood; Tunnel of Trouble), in which their avatar must make correct grammatical choices in the guise of attacking, blocking, leaping over and running at great speed though fantasy territory liberally scattered with pitfalls and traps as in any computer game of this type. Players may earn gold to spend on new armour and weapons. After the game, there is an opportunity to practice the learning from the tutorials, and then to test the new knowledge.
The tutorials are clever; the grammar is embedded as simply another aspect of the vital tools and equipment necessary to undertake the adventure.
Grammatikus currently covers Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns, Verbs and Adverbs. Phrases, Prepositions and Conjunctions will be available in 2013. I noticed an optional answer to one of the practice activities provided in the wrong order which the local developers corrected.
This inventive resource will grow and develop and be refined as the experience of students and teachers alike is fed back to the game’s originators. The work that has gone into making Grammatikus as fun and engaging as it is, as well as pedagogically sound, demands recognition.