A non-native English speaker tends to keep silent to avoid embarrassment from choosing the wrong words, which is self-limiting. If you’re starting to learn English, take courage from Neil Gaiman, the famous author of sci-fi and fantasy fiction books: ”… if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing your world.” Change is good and I’ve made it my motto in learning a new language.
For 2019, I have resolved to face up to making mistakes if that will open the way to a better command of the English language, without which, I will forever be fearful of change. As I watched the blazing fireworks against a darkened New Year’s Eve sky, I saw myself as one of those bright lights.
Here are 6 main points which served as my doors to learning the English language.
First — Develop the habit of watching English movies. Netflix bingeing is actually a good habit if you are on a learning track. Movies are a good way of imbibing a new language in its natural setting, being used normally in everyday experiences. I would watch the subtitles being shown on the screen as I listen and thus, also learn the correct pronunciation and intonation, together with the visual language.
One can detect an English speaker from a non-native by the speech intonation and so, I have endeavored to develop the tonal quality as well. Intonation is about how we say things, rather than what we say. It’s a difficult process, yes, but as Winston Churchill had said, “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”
Second — Read simple books with simple small interesting stories, so you read more and are addicted to it. If you don’t enjoy reading, your mind isn’t open to absorb as well. I’ve done this a number of times, staying on the page, not peeking at the ending, and enjoying the exciting progression of the story.
Plus, I’ve been psyching myself, “If the goal you’ve set for yourself has a 100 percent chance of success, then frankly you aren’t aiming high enough, “ as the technomad language hacker, Benny Lewis had advised.
Third — Be with people who speak the level of English you want to speak. English Forward telegram chat is such a great opportunity to mingle with teachers in a friendly chilled out environment. It is a home for some of the most generous individuals who provided their support and time to beginners or individuals seeking professional help with their English — whether for academic pursuits, career or personal goals. It has also become mine, and I visit as often as I can to help beginners with their own learning journeys.
Fourth — Create your own words. Google them. See if there is a real word with a meaning for it. If not, Google will suggest the closest alternative for you to learn the meaning. I use this method constantly, especially when I make poems. When I need a last rhyming word, if I can’t find it, I make it and then, figure it out.
I have formed my own “vocabulary” using a root word and adding a prefix or a suffix to suit its usage, whether a noun, verb, adjective or some other derivative. As the education reformist John Dewey had said, “Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.” I have taken much pride in being a well-educated man and taking this time to educate myself is well worth all the efforts. I subscribe to Dewey’s philosophy: “Education requires a design that is grounded in a theory of experience.”
Fifth — Read questions and answers in the English Forward forum or in any other similar place where you can find common questions that people have and a detailed explanation for how it is answered. These practical tips help and go a long way. As the famous author of inspirational books, Zig Ziglarhad stated, “If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you.” I’ll be more fearful of missing the answers than fearful of asking the questions.
Here’s the thing, asking questions never hurts a man but the pretense of knowing all the answers does. Thus, not asking the suitable questions is a dangerous mindset which can stunt a person for life, as well as those under his care and influence.
Sixth — Record your talk or text that you write. Then put it through tools like Grammarly which will tell you all the mistakes it finds to fix it. Once you learn the mistakes and fix it, begin dissection it to see how you can improve further.
- Can you form the sentence in better ways?
- Are there compact phrases to replace a sentence?
- Can you find apt and accurate words?
- Can punctuations be improved?
- Can you remove some text and still get the message across, as shorter is better?
- Read it out loud to see if it flows well?
- Should you break a sentence or merge them for them to flow well?
- What can you do more to create a ‘sway’ with your words?
Language is an art, and a science. Analyze, dissect, improve it like a science and speak out, feel, modulate and improve expression as art. As the celebrated Russian playwright and short story writer, Anton Chekhov will put it, “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice,” I had ventured out of my comfort zone and volunteered for speaking in International Business Conferences from 14 years of age and 11 years hence.
By this manner, I can pay forward to those who have taken time and patience to teach me the beautiful symmetry and richness of the English language, 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.” We can’t count them!