So, you want to learn or improve your English language skills. You grab your books, download the popular language apps and maybe try to create a schedule with time slots to learn English phrases. Not a terrible plan. But, when you really think about it, is that how you learned your native tongue? Were your most seamless language lessons learned from a textbook? No. By the time you got into language classes at school you were already fluent in English. You absorbed the pronunciation, enunciation, tone and grammar in ways a book could never explain. Many times people make the mistake of forgetting that the easiest way to learn a language is to intentionally listen to people who speak that language.
You’re not alone. Here’s 6 big mistakes people make when learning English.
1. STUDY! STUDY! STUDY!
English sounds nothing like it looks. And if you’re not spending time around people who are skilled at speaking the language then you will get caught up in trying to understand grammatical nuances that can’t quite be explained, or, have no need to be explained. Instead of sitting at home alone with your head in the books, watch English television series and go out to meet and converse with native English speakers. You just can’t learn to converse in a language without listening to other people have conversations.
2. MAKE FRIENDS WITH OTHER ENGLISH LEARNERS OR NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS
Learning a language (especially English) is not an easy thing to do. So it’s normal to want to be friends with people on the same journey as you or people who speak your native tongue. You all know the same words, laugh at the same jokes, you feel safe because the person next to you doesn’t really know much more about the English language than you do. But the truth is, you’re cheating yourself. If you want to learn, you have to make friends with people who know much more than you do. It’s important to get used to the way real native speakers use English on a daily basis. We know it means stepping outside your comfort zone, but choose to be a little nervous instead of sounding a lot like an English language textbook. So the next time you go out to lunch, try sitting at a table with colleagues whose first language is English.
3. READ EVERYTHING AND LEARN NOTHING
Now don’t get us wrong. We are not against reading, but we didn’t learn our first language by reading. We had everyday conversations with our parents (well, so maybe we listened to our parents for a few years before uttering a word), listened to songs, TV, whatever radio program our family put on, etc. Basically, we participated in everyday activities! Why fix something that’s not broken?! Don’t waste years studying and reading or you will be disappointed when you travel to the country and you don’t understand what people are saying. You have to learn the English language by listening to understand native speakers. Don’t shortchange yourself by only reading to learn a language that’s meant to be learned by just living.
4. LEARN PRONUNCIATION BY LOOKING AT HOW WORDS ARE WRITTEN
This is a big one. You know you learned English the right way, when you know in your gut how something should be pronounced. You didn’t learn the word in a book, but you learned it because you heard native speakers say it. Those who guessed pronunciation from a book will have a hard time in real life conversations, because English rarely looks like it sounds, kinda like French. You should never try to pronounce French without listening to a native speaker first. It’s actually best to just close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you. Don’t look at the words and your pronunciation will get better. Promise.
5. LEARN ENGLISH THROUGH ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEXTBOOKS
Textbooks do not depict real life. While textbooks were written for structured, classroom settings, language transcends every social space in life and certainly thrives in unstructured settings. If you’re going to learn the English language, we don’t recommend that you try to do it through textbooks alone. Consider comic books, movies, music, songs, watching interviews with people, things that are done and said in real life. That way, you will understand the language used in everyday situations. Choose something that really interests you, so that you are eager to keep going!
6. NOT PRACTICING ALL LANGUAGE AREAS
With every language you will find that in order to be fluent you have to be proficient in reading, writing, speaking, listening. Many people who try to learn the English language focus on a few areas (safe ones, like reading) and end up very weak in the remaining ones (usually understanding a real conversation). It’s important to ensure there is balance between all the aspects and that means practicing each area in depth.
If you are serious about learning English, then stay committed to making the time to practice and be intentional about immersing yourself in the language. Taking breaks will only frustrate you when you get back to your lessons. If it’s even minutes per day, find the time to consistently weave your learning into your day. You’ll thank yourself for it.
8. COMPARING YOUR PROGRESS WITH THE PROGRESS OF OTHERS
Like everything else in life, your journey is unique. You think differently, go at a different pace, and are motivated differently. So why compare yourself to other English language learners who are on their own parallel journey? Relax, figure out what works for you. Learning English is not an extreme sport and trying to compete is time-consuming and pointless. Do it on your own terms, with your own mix of techniques and strategies instead of getting distracted from your real goal…becoming the best English speaker you can be.
9. BEING TOO NERVOUS TO SPEAK THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Practice makes perfect, so practice you must. Every fluent English speaker started as a newbie. You will be nervous, and some people might blow you off or laugh, but those aren’t your people anyway. Find the people who will be patient as you learn and keep them close. Trust us when we say, you are doing what most don’t have the courage to do. You’ll be bilingual within a year if you steady those nerves and just go out there to try and have real conversations. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for you to be fluent in English. If you really want to commit, you can find experienced language tutors at TruFluency!
You can avoid these mistakes, and frankly, it’s way more fun when you do. The English language is not like any other and is definitely a language worth learning. Steer clear of these mistakes and you’ll be sounding like a native English speaker in no time.