The Grammarian is a person that watches for language correctness during the meeting, and also provides a report at the end. Usually he also provides a “word of the day” for people to try to use in their speeches.. In this case, language correctness does not only mean things that were incorrectly worded or pronounced, but also things that were exceptionally well done, such as a very appropriate use of an idiom, a spot-on expression, an interesting rhetorical device, an uncommon word, etc.
Sometimes - especially in clubs using a language that is not the native one - even the correct pronunciation of a word by a speaker can stand out if there’s a habit of mispronouncing it. For example, in your report at the end of the meeting you could note: “I’d like to commend Anna on her correct pronunciation of the word Image, as most people here tend to pronounce it as /ˈɪmeɪdʒ/, when in reality it is /ˈɪmɪdʒ/”“
As with all roles, at the beginning of the meeting you will be asked by the Meeting Leader to explain your role. Use this opportunity not only to explain what the role is about, but to point to frequent types of mistakes that are made in the club and ask people to watch out for them:
“ Thank you Aneta. Today I will be the Grammarian of the meeting. There’s probably nothing more damaging to your message and your authority as a speaker than poor grammar and poor language. I will be listening carefully to your language use to note both good and bad things. I’ll be especially on the lookout for a mistake that we often make in this club - mispronouncing the th sound, so that ‘think’ sounds as ‘sink’ Please be careful ”.
At the end of the meeting, provide a report of everything that you’ve written down. Unlike the timer, it’s ok if you summarize a common mistake and mention it just once:
“Before I comment on the individual use of language for each of the speakers, I’d like to note some common mistakes. First, the plural of child is children and not childs. Also, remember that in English final consonants are especially important. Many times I heard ‘think’ when the speaker really meant ‘thing’. “
A word of warning about grammarians : Many times a club will using a non-native language (let’s say an English speaking club in Spain, for example) but will have a couple of native speakers. There’s a big temptation to ask them to be grammarians very frequently, since obviously they’re in the best position to be judges of how their language is being used. However, this can quickly become very boring or tiresome for them (especially if they work as language teachers as it usually happens). They might accept your request, but many times it will be out of politeness and someday, they will just become fed up and stop coming to the club. Although Agora Clubs are a great way to improve your control of a foreign language, that’s not the primary goal, and an Agora Club Meeting is not a foreign language class. If the grammarian has to be someone non-native that isn’t exceptionally proficient with the language, then so be it. In this case, they’ll concentrate more on the positive things and on counting filler words and the word of the day, rather than on noting and correcting other people’s grammatical mistakes, and this will also be fine.
Also, if you have the infrastructure, you could consider inviting remote Agora members from other countries to attend virtually and act as grammarians in your meeting. The role of the grammarian is exceptionally well-suited for that purpose.
Word of the Day
The “Word of the Day” is a word, idiom, or proverb that the Grammarian chooses, and that all participants should try to use in their speeches. It serves two purposes:
- It enriches the vocabulary of the members.
- It trains members to adapt their speeches on the fly to new circumstances and factors, instead of simply memorizing them.
The Word of the Day should be a word that is not excessively easy, as in that case it would defeat the first purpose, but neither excessively hard as to make any use of it impossible.
Once you’ve selected the word of the day, you need to prepare:
- A short explanation of the word.
- A couple of examples of proper usage
- A couple of sheets of paper with the word printed, so that you can place them in locations visible to the speaker and possibly the audience. These sheets of paper could look like this:
Theme of the Meeting
A slightly more difficult approach is to provide a “Theme of the Meeting” instead of merely a Word of the Meeting. For example, a meeting could be devoted to “Exotic Countries”, or to “Science” or to “New Year Celebrations”.
In this case, the Grammarian should watch for any expressions or idioms related to the overall theme of the meeting, not just explicit mentions of the words. Since the goal still remains the same - training members to adapt their speeches on the fly instead of memorizing them, these expressions or idioms should be counted only if they were not obviously in the speech before the theme was decided (otherwise, it would be just a case of luck).