“My coursebook has very little on word order. Yet my students often get the words in the wrong order. Should I simply ignore this problem?”

Word order is rarely touched on in course books. I have no idea why, given that it is the basis of any language.

Let’s take a simple example: I like you.

You might think that other languages would follow our simple order: subject + verb + object. Not so. Here are the equivalents in a few different languages.

On the other hand in the case of I like you, Chinese, German and Thai are three examples that behave similarly to English.

Only a couple of centuries ago, English speakers would say phrase such as: It liked me not or It liked me ill. Language is constantly evolving towards greater simplification.

In any case, with some nationalities you will find that some sentences that they write or say sound totally un-English. Here is an example of what we would consider strange order (in this case a literal translation from Japanese):

this Jack-built-house live-in-rat is (This is the rat that lives in the house that Jack built.)

This sentence clearly highlights the difficulties that a low level Japanese student might have in constructing a sentence in English.

So, to answer the question. No, you cannot ignore word order.

Adrian Wallwork

The Japanese example comes from Can a Knowledge of Japanese Help our EFL Teaching? John R. Yamamoto-Wilson https://jalt-publications.org/old_tlt/files/97/jan/yamamoto.html