Thursday, September 26, 2013

"The Missing Link: A practical advice for learners”

There are many ways of “skinning a cat” (many ways of doing the same thing) when it comes to learning English. Some study English to prepare for language tests (IELTS, EIKEN, TOEIC, etc), others would like to have the ability to deal with foreign clients and most would like to simply be fluent in everyday conversations. (English? simply? You're kidding right?)

I guess it's time to put on the "Eureka" hat and get creative! (Ehhh?!!!?Nandesuka? Nani?Whaat???) I mean it's time to "unlearn" the textbook approach and be imaginative.

Memorizing grammar rules or vocabulary has its advantages, but memory loss just happens the least we expect it. (What did I just say?)

Most if not all, have difficulties in contextualizing what has been learned and is the missing link between knowledge and practical usage of the language. What should a learner do now amidst the constant efforts that seemingly makes them feel helpless?

There’s really no magic pill and since you already know the rudiments of English, just speak it instinctively and spontaneously. Afraid of making mistakes? Be always connected with what you say, correct any error and charge it to experience.
    “I can’t breath. Is it “breath”? or “breathe”?!!

Remember how you learned your own language? (  All of us started out as infants (or should I say, fetuses) 
without knowing a word of anything
(well, except: “goo-goo” or “ga-ga”) but you learned to speak nonetheless.
Learn English the way you learned your own language.

You need not be an “Einstein” in English Studies because anything and everything can be a learning tool (Yes, even that weird English advertisement you saw on TV could help). If you are willing to change your learning mindset, you can be creative enough and use a word you saw on a box of cereal or an English slogan from Uniqlo or Muji perhaps? Why not?

Grammar is of course the basis for every language. It's the backbone for correct sentence structure or syntax, but it can also be an impediment if you critically and constantly think about the structure every time you speak. Most situations require spontaneity and grammar is just a "guide", but not totally the "be-all and end-all" of things.

The missing link therefore is being able "transfer" these grammar rules into practical form and not end up as a "grammar robot" and being overly-conscious of the technical side of the English language. ("Should I use the Present Perfect or Past Tense in this situation??? Why is there an "a" in this sentence, while there is none in some???) This is usually the thinking process while panicking, hyperventilating and ends up in frustration.

If you are one of those learners who seem to be stuck with this sort of mindset, it's high time to "unlearn" this seemingly stressful and confusing process.You probably spent countless hours in school studying the rudiments of grammar in your own language, but as you were growing up, you probably forgot a lot of those rules because you learned how to speak your language fluently in different situations anyway, right?

Learning English is practically the same. Grammar is the first thing we learn, but as we speak the language - it should gradually recede into the background and only used when necessary and not in every situation. (unless you plan to be a Grammarist or have a doctorate in Applied Linguistics- kidding!)

My advice: Learn English as a "situational language" and use your unique experiences as learning opportunities. Use Grammar only as a reference point and rely on your instincts when speaking, if a word sounds awkward when used in a conversation, then it's probably wrong.

Experience as they say is the best teacher, so just keep on using what you know and constantly learn new things and unlearning those methods that are useless and adopting those that are effective.

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