A lot of people around the world are trying to learn English because it’s a useful language that can help them get a better future. It is estimated (because nobody knows exactly) that over one billion people use English as their second language, making it the most popular second language in the world. If you are serious about learning this language, there are five important things you should know.
#1 Learn the language as a child would. Have you noticed that children seem to learn a second language much faster than their parents do? The reason for this is that children have no belief that learning a language is difficult, so they have a positive attitude. This allows them to learn it faster than adults who believe that it’s difficult. A child opens his mouth and uses the second language without caring if it’s perfect or not. The only thing he cares about is being understood. Mistakes are not important to him. Adults, on the other hand, have learned through many years at school that mistakes are bad, so they try not to make very many. This holds them back, and makes them afraid to open their mouths and use the language. If you want to learn a language quickly, you must become like a child and not care if you make mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning, not something to be avoided.
#2 Practice all 4 skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing in equal amounts. The first thing you do is hear the language. Then you copy what you hear and start speaking the language. Later you see how that language is written and you read it. Lastly, you write what you have seen written. The order is always the same. Listening leads to speaking which leads to reading and finally writing. Therefore, you must balance your studying by doing work in all 4 skill areas. A practical example of this is to listen everyday to the TV or talk radio, speak with your friends, classmates and neighbors, read the daily newspaper (the free ones are usually easier to understand), and write in a journal as well as send emails to your friends. This balanced approach will help you develop all the skills equally so you won’t be weak in any one area.
#3 Build your vocabulary. Your knowledge of vocabulary is a large factor of your general ability in the language. Keep a list of new vocabulary that you see or hear. Put them in your smart phone or write them down during the day. In the evening make a list of them and look them up in the dictionary to get a definition. It doesn’t matter if your definition is in English or a translation into your first language. Then make flashcards with the word on one side and the definition (or translation) on the other side. Carry these around with you and review them as often as you can. When you know the word well enough, you can stop carrying it around and add more that you don’t know. Research has shown that in order to recognize and understand a new word, you must see or hear it 7 times. In order to make it an active word that you can use in speaking or writing, you must see or hear it 17 times. So you see, it’s a numbers game. All you need to do is see or hear the word repeatedly and you will learn it. You don’t even have to study it.
#4 Develop a positive attitude. You’ve been studying English for a while now, but you still aren’t very good at it. This is natural. Nobody learns a new language quickly. For the average adult it takes between 3 and 5 years to learn a language well enough so you can easily function in that language. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not learning as fast as you want to. Everyone learns at a different speed, so never compare yourself to other people. Just know that one day in the future your English skills will be as good as anyone else’s. It will happen. It’s only a matter of time. Knowing this should improve your attitude while you’re still in the beginning stages of learning.
#5 Take care of your body. Your brain will follow your body. If you eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly, it’s not only good for your body, but also good for your brain. These habits are beneficial whenever you are learning anything, especially a new language.
None of these things are difficult to do, but there is one problem. Things that are easy to do are also easy not to do, so at first you have to develop the habit of doing these things. Research has shown that to form a new habit, it takes 31 days. At the beginning of this period you have to force yourself to do these things, but at the end they become habits that are automatic. Don’t worry if you miss a day or two. Just recommit yourself and you’ll be back on track. It’s that easy.
Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.
attitude: way of thinking
avoided: not done
balance: do equal amounts
factor: reason, something that produces a result
definition: meaning of a word
research: studies done to find the truth
recognize: know by seeing or hearing
function: do things
compare: think you’re better or worse
matter of time: with enough time it will happen
beneficial: good for you
period: amount of time
automatic: happen by themselves
recommit: decide again
on track: doing what you planned to do
Pronunciation Exercise: Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.