Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Conversation: easier than you think"

It has been the usual bane of English learners to speak using grammatically-correct sentences as well as choosing the right words to say in the right context, order and word form. There are some statements that could be grammatically-correct, but not really appropriate for that context.

A common example:

"My stomach is ache." (incorrect word form)

  - "ache" in a sense can be quite appropriate, but it's best to use the Adjective form of this word: "aching" or the easiest word: "painful"

The correct sentence therefore should be: "My stomach is aching." or "My stomach is painful."

There are some cases that the difficulty lies in the Be-Verb "is", case in point:

"It's depend" and "It's become" - If the contraction is fully written, it would look like, "It is depend." and "It is become", which should actually be: "It depends" and "It becomes".

Learning strategy:

Many of you will say: "I have been studying English for a long time. What could I do to improve faster?

1) Breaking your habitual mistakes should be your priority. Taking notes of your errors or when teachers correct them is a good learning opportunity.

2) Constant practice is vital to ensure maximum retention as well as for long term integration. You have to be accountable for your learning and find the time to practice constantly and use whatever you learn during conversations with teachers.

3) It takes months or even years to learn a language. The key is persistence and perseverance and constantly correcting any mistakes that you make.

4) Error-detection and correction should be part of your communication skills, so that you can always choose the right word in its right form if in case you make a mistake.

5) It's not really important how long you are learning English, but it's the quality of what you learn. For some individuals though, having a time frame would keep them motivated. Learning therefore should be individualistic according to your specific needs and level.

Learning Mindset:

1) We all studied English in school and we learned it out of some necessity that is related to getting passing or even high marks. We have to "unlearn" what we were accustomed to and realize that English is a very functional language and therefore, should be a lifestyle.

2) How then could you expose yourself more to the English language? The environment that you are exposed to is a very important factor in learning and assimilating a language. We can "simulate" an English-speaking environment not only through your online lessons, but also through different forms of media (movies, internet, magazines, newspapers, TV shows).

The content of course depends on your level. If you couldn't handle difficult words from a movie or a newspaper, there will always be easier movies (animation) or easier online newspapers:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/

that you could access. You can always study more difficult content as you improve.

3) Immediate application should also be a priority. It means that whatever new words or expressions you learn, should be immediately used during conversations with teachers in your online lessons. In this way, teachers can also correct any statement errors and you can learn further. Your studies therefore are more progressive this way.

4) Join or even organize an "English group" with fellow learners or with friends. You can also write blogs and organize a network of "educational blogs". In this way, each member of the group would be able to support each other's learning by sharing ideas and tips as well as offer assistance with whatever difficulties each of you might encounter.

5) Your hobbies could be a source of learning opportunities. If you're a music-lover, use that to your advantage and listen to American music. You can always choose the easier songs and even use "YouTube" to watch videos of your favorite artists. You can listen to the song as well as observe how they mouth out the words of the song. If you still couldn't understand, then type the title of the song and find videos with subtitles in it. Too fast? You can always click "pause" or "rewind" the video. It's just a matter of resourcefulness, creativity and patience.

6) Don't give excuses. If you really want to learn English, then do everything "humanly-possible" to learn it in whatever means necessary. Remember that the efforts that you give is equivalent to the benefits that you reap.

7) If your learning is job-related, then you could request your teacher to have a "role-play". If you're a tour guide by profession for example, you could request the teacher to be the tourist and you could be the tour guide. The words that you learn as well as the type of statements you use will be very specific to your profession. There are also sites that could offer role-play exercises:

http://www.onestopenglish.com/skills/speaking/lesson-plans/role-play/
or
http://www.improvespokenenglish.org/search/label/conversation%20-%20patient%20and%20doctor

8) Have fun. Learning English for a long time can result to boredom and therefore could make you feel that you're stuck in a rut. What should you do then? You can either: take a break from the whole thing and do something else, like your other hobbies or you probably just need to take a vacation somewhere. or Try learning English using a different approach: You can use word games like:

http://www.mindjolt.com/letter-twist.html

or google other online word games and learn new vocabulary in a fun way.

9) Okay, now that I have learned a lot. How can I prevent not forgetting them? It's human nature to  remember the last word/expression or grammatical concept that you have learned. The real challenge is assimilating as well as utilizing what you have learned for the long term.

There are no shortcuts, but constantly using what you learn with fellow-learners or teachers online. Experimenting with different statement patterns  as well as "playing" around with words and expressions by trying to combine them in one statement is a good way to know if you are improving or not. Based on your confidence level and whether you feel awkward or not, you will know if you could use words better than before.

Think of it as if you're riding a bike or when you learned how to speak Japanese. It took weeks, months or even years of learning to balance on a bike or speaking straight Japanese sentences. But you have learned it nevertheless. Once you have learned it, you will not forget it - provided that you use it.

10) Learn spontaneity. It's also part of our nature to "memorize" a script or a few phrases and try it out when having a conversation. We of course should start somewhere, so to speak. Beyond this, you should try to use as many words and expressions that you have learned and just let your ideas flow, while observing logic and correct grammar. Conversation is not really about impressing your listeners with how much words you know, but what's important is you convey your thoughts and feelings as effectively as possible.

Remember this: K.I.S.S. = "Keep It Short and Simple" - simple words in simple statements. If you're confident enough to use idioms and slang, by all means do it. As long as it doesn't disrupt the logical flow of your words.

I hope I have helped you out in some way in learning how to converse effectively. These practical solutions offer insight not only in terms of the learning aspect, but also help you realize what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as knowing what works and what doesn't. In other words, with every mistake that you make, difficulty you encounter and small triumphs that you experience, is a step closer to knowing yourself better and figuring out an efficient and effective learning strategy that is unique to your needs and level.

English is a lifestyle, so make it count :)






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