Learning English, How to Make It Easier.
October 27, 2008 12:01am CST
Learning the English language is challenging to say the least. There are some things you can do to make it easier. I have been teaching English for more than ten years now. I have been watching my students struggle and have been sick at heart when I realized how difficult it was and how little progress they were making. As a result I had to take a very close look at how I was teaching. I was doing it all wrong and had to change the way I taught. My students had to change how they learned. There is no way to address the problem of learning English without first talking about the dreaded G word. Grammar, there is nothing more boring than trying to learn basic grammar of any language. You do not have to learn enough grammar that you can pass a college level entrance exam to learn to speak English. Think of learning English like you would think of learning a sport. If you want to learn a sport one of the first things you have to learn are the rules of the game. You don't have to memorize the rulebook but you do have to know the basics. The same can be said of grammar. You don't need to know it all but you do need some understanding of how it works. You don't need to be able to define a noun or verb but you do need to know what they are and how they work. As a teacher it is almost impossible for me to actually teach conversation. The only way to learn to speak English is to speak it. Even before you speak it you must learn to listen to it. When first encountering English it sounds like so much white noise. The words run together almost like water running in a river. Learn to listen. At every opportunity expose your self to English. When you have a chance to watch an English or American movie watch the soundtrack version, don’t watch the dubbed version and if you can turn the subtitles off. Listen to the words and try to figure out how they relate to what is happening on the screen. At first it will be difficult and will not make much sense to you but if you keep at it the words will start to fall into place and become make sense. As a teacher I cannot teach vocabulary effectively. It is something you have to learn on your own. Learn it by listening to English, learn it by reading. Set yourself a target of reading at least one page a day about something that you are interested in. Look up the words you don't understand. This is one of the quickest ways to build vocabulary. Another thing you can do is write. Try writing at least 100 words a day. Write about something that you are interested in and again, when you need a word look it up. If you do this every day you'll be amazed at how quickly your vocabulary grows. When you have finished writing and are happy with what you have written take it to someone who speaks English and asked them to look it over. Ask them to be brutal in their criticism of it ask them to help you make it better. Now the most difficult part, speak English every day and at every opportunity. Do not be shy. Try to speak it with people who speak English as a native language but if there are no native English speakers available to you speak it with your friends and your fellow students. You will never learn to speak English if you confine your learning to the classroom. If you want to learn English you must make it a part of your everyday life, there is no other way. I know I said at the beginning of this that I would help you make it easier to learn English; I did not say that I would make it easy. There is no bit of magic I can give you to help you to speak English overnight. If you're one of my students I can't even teach you English. I can teach you the basic mechanics of English and I can open the door for you to learn but you must walk through that door on your own. Good luck, you can do it if you work at.
• New Zealand
27 Oct 08
Chiang_Mai_boy, Quite a passionately articulate post. Everything you say makes enormous sense. A few years ago I conducted a vocabulary class for people who were learning english. These were 45 minute sessions over two weeks and the class size was 14. We began with a word list of 300 words. Each participant was required to identify a word of the day, write down the meaning and use the word in a number of sentences to reflect shades of meaning. In the class discussion we would invariably go through the work of about 5 participants as a group. They would then break up into pairs and review each other's work. I learned this method from Dr Sarala an academic based in Namibia. http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=657&catID=18
28 Oct 08
Thank you for your kind response. The procedure you describe sounds interesting and worthy of thought. As you can probably gather from my post I have almost despaired of teaching vocabulary. This is partially as a result of my classroom situation. My classes average fifty students and I only see each class one time a week. I am lucky if my students retain anything from one week to the next, let alone and a list of vocabulary words. There is no book, that I know of, that lays a blueprint for teaching English conversation in this situation. I am left with pretty much making it up as I go a long. As much as I hate reinventing the wheel that is the situation I find myself in. Any suggestions I can get are greatly appreciated. I'm going to try to find a way to implement the system you described. It may help a lot with one of my major problems.
• New Zealand
28 Oct 08
Thank you Chiang_Mai for the B/R. I will assume your class age is 12 years and you have 50 students. You will need some help in having the word list - together with the meanings and shade of meanings duplicated. You may want to consider starting with a 50 word list or a number that will fit on one sheet of back to back paper. (budgetary constraints and all) Given the circumstances, I would consider 1. breaking them up into FIVE houses and letting them choose their house names. Each house would have two teams and two facilitators / monitors. 2. Homework would be familiarisation with the word list and making up sentences. 3. Class work would begin with each group reading some sentences. This could be followed by a teacher led discussion around the key learning intentions. Assuming your class meets about 40 times a year, it should be possible to provide every single student to participate at least 4 times in class discussions with a few going up to 10 times. I would be glad to assist in anyway possible, do feel free to send me a PM. Cheers and all the best.
12 Nov 08
As an Englishman struggling to learn another tongue (Not something that comes easily to us), I was interested to read your post. Of course some basic knowledge of grammar is essential, how else would you know how to string a sentence together? I also found that understanding the cadence of the speech was important. At first I could not recognise words that I had learnt because the pronunciation or syllable stress was so different than what I had expected. Fortunately, the language I am learning is a good deal more regular than English. In English the stress can occur anywhere and the language has a natural rhythm, that is nigh on impossible to learn without frequently hearing it. I might add that in many countries you can hear the world service from the BBC in UK on the radio which is a good source of spoken English. How anyone manages to learn this crazy mix of German, Latin, Greek, French and countless other languages, we call English, let alone teach it, is beyond me. all the best urban
27 Oct 08
hi chiang mai boy, i agree with all the things you write in here. And yes English is a language everyone needs to learn to cope with the world. Yes there is no short cut or magic, but patience is the key. We have to practice it real hard and use the language everyday and in every opportunity. Thanks to the internet, for it is much easier to learn the English grammar now than it is a few years back, for there are so many website available to teach us Right Grammar and give us wide vocabulary, only that we have to do our part, the reading and practicing and all that. thanks for your post. It helps a lot especially for those (like me ) who are really trying so hard to understand the World of English. Another I guess that can help us learn the English language, is to have the confidence to use it daily be it in writing or verbal conversation. thanks and have a nice day.hope to read more of this kind of post.
27 Oct 08
English is my first language and unfortunately I am unilingual. I have read your discussion in hopes that I can learn another language other than English. You have some very good suggestions in this discussion and I hope many people will read it.
27 Oct 08
There is a lot ofstudents here on Mylot who are trying so hard to learn to speak English, I can't help but admire the keeness of these young people, and I know it must be hard for them but you have to give then ten points for trying...