Modern Language Textbooks Focus on Grammar, not Communication

I believe that our modern language textbooks are really just grammar textbooks in disguise. Here’s some reasons

1)  Most of the conversation or dialogues in the textbook are structured  to teach/practice the grammar.  These conversations do not have a natural flow as real life conversation do. Verification: Ask a  native speaker if she or he would actually say that conversation.

2) Most textbooks have more pages devoted to grammar than to communication. In one text there were twice as many pages devoted to teaching/ practicing grammar than to communication exercises or even vocabulary. Often the communication exercises were simply meant to practice the grammar.  Verification:  If no one cares about the answer, then the questions are probably grammar exercises.

3) Most textbooks have many identification nouns, few verbs and even much fewer adjectives so students cannot express their feelings about the topic.  Textbooks often teach a group of verbs only when they demonstrate a grammatical point such as stem changing verbs, reflexive  or preterite irregular verbs.  Most textbooks do not give students a wide range of adjectives so that the students can actually talk about the topic.  For example, one textbook has a unit on classes but only uses the verb  “is”; students cannot communicate much about classes. Verification: If students in a  beginning language class are studying classes, can they tell what they like or dislike about each class such as “”The test is hard, The teacher gives too much homework. We never use computers in class.”

Is your textbook really a grammar book or does it focus on communication?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (28+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask partner a question from a card-whole class), Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group), Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers: I have a series of modern language visual stories (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students. Can use in any language since there are just visuals, no words.

My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at

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