Memrise is launching a brand new grammar chat mode. We chatted with Memrise’s very own Grammar Guru, Matilde Betti Canuti from the top-secret Language Learning Research Team. Matilde talked to us about grammar, and what it was like to invent a brand new mode.
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about grammar?
Right, this is going to make me sound such a geek, isn’t it?! I’m gonna play it cool: 6… Ok, maybe 7.. Fine, fine 8… TEN!!
We recently interviewed some native speakers who couldn’t really explain the grammar in their native languages. Is it really that important to study grammar?
Ha! Seen that, and been there myself. It’s not easy to think about grammar in your native language(s). In fact, when we acquire languages as kids, no one really tells us when to use one verbal aspect instead of another, do they? And if they do, it’s not the kind of thing that would stop you from communicating. You are already fluent in that language, after all.
There are some supercool phenomena that have been observed in the way bilingual children use code-mixing (aka the mixing of different languages within the same utterance). They’re so incredibly and effortlessly aware of the language systems they’re dealing with, they can blend them to overcome what would otherwise be a communicative hiccup without really ‘breaking any rules’ in either language.
Unfortunately, when you learn a second language later in your life, and especially when you can’t really immerse yourself in it, the path to get to that kind of deep understanding is much longer and harder. That’s why studying grammar is important! It gives you the superpowers you need in order to readily access streams of language and understand how a unit of sound represents different concepts in another language. I believe that many of those who decide to undertake the incredible journey of learning a new language want to not only be able to speak the language, but also crack the mysterious ways in which that language works. That is what learning grammar is, to me anyway.
What aspect of the grammar chats are you most looking forward to?
Oooh! Can I actually say that now? Well, to be honest I’m super excited about the whole concept in general. So many of our users have been asking for grammar for so long, I’m just so happy we can finally tell them we’ve specifically created something for them! And, let me tell you, it’s really cool! It’ll make you want to learn more and more grammar, it’ll open up worlds of knowledge that you’ll be amazed to discover! Understanding the grammar of one language can create a chain reaction that you wouldn’t expect! I’m sure you’ll end up learning something more about your native language too, and you’ll have the tools to crack the grammar of whatever language you next decide to study! And all this will happen with a smile on your face and a funky professor at your side. What more could you ask for?
What were the biggest challenges in putting together the chats?
What was Aladdin’s Genie’s phrase?! Ah yes: ‘Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty bitty living space!’. I think that sums it up quite well, haha! It’s not easy to compress the grammar of a language into interactive, effective, bite-size chats. Also, finding ways of doing so that would be easily applicable to all the languages we have official courses for wasn’t a piece of cake either. But I’m pretty sure we have something high-potential here.
What’s next on the agenda for the top secret language research team?
Well, in terms of grammar we’re already prototyping further enhancements to the soon-to-be-out chats. Apart from grammar, well, I don’t even know where to start! Let’s just say the Research Team is about to embark in a 3-day intensive adventure to put all of our months of work together and create the first mini version of our new, enhanced, greased-lightning Memrise learning experience! There’s also been a rumour about a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway to test out the whole thing in July. We’ll see how that goes 😉
Ciao! I’m Matilde, I’m from a tiny tiny village in beautiful Tuscany called Cetona (check it out here). I studied Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and decided to wander down south to big old London to see if I could be of any help here at Memrise. And, hey, turns out I could!
Now I work as a Learning Innovation Specialist for the greatest Research Team any language learning app has ever seen (no jokes). My role is specifically focused on Grammar and how to make it not only fun and enjoyable for anyone to study, but also an essential part of Memrise and its learning approach.
Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!
The Grammar chat mode is available to our Pro users in a number of our in-house created courses!