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The right way to improve English is to use it, not to "learn" it. (外语)

by super(学霸) ⌂, 2014-10-07 23:27
edited by 学霸, 2014-11-24 13:40

It's wrong to “learn” a language. By “learning”, we can easily focus on grammar, vocabulary, or phrases. The right way is actually to forget these things and to just use the language. Watch TV, read newspapers, talk to people. Try to understand and to make yourself understood. Don't be afraid of making mistakes in grammar or vocabulary or pronunciation. Chinese English like “long time no see”, or “you ask me - me ask who”, are wrong but very effective. My mother-in-law has been “learning” English for years yet she can hardly speak or understand anything. On the other hand, a woman I know never attended a class but she works as a nanny for an English speaking family. She often talks English speaking drivers into giving her rides home.

Years ago, I had my first break-through in English after a trip down the Changjiang River. I was going home for the holiday from Wuhan University. To relieve boredom during the long hours on the ship, I brought a book called “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Even though I didn't know a lot of words in the book, I was able to finish it in one go and I more or less understood the plot lines. My strong interest in detective stories probably helped me in overcoming any barriers. Afterwards, I felt much more confident about English and my “sense” of the language was greatly improved.

This is a good example of “using” a language, instead of “learning” it. I didn't care about grammar; I didn't bother to look up unknown words. My only goal was to enjoy the detective stories. In the end, however, the many hours of submerging in a language probably sank its grammar in my head better than days or weeks of studying grammar rules. And I probably guessed correctly lots of the new words in the book and “learned” the most frequently used ones.

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