Learning English As a Second Language
Learning English As a Second Language
Language is a very important part of human society, and has been evolving for hundreds of thousands of years. Learning a language is a difficult task, but can be very rewarding. Fortunately, everyone has experience learning at least one language. If you look at the way you learned your native language as a child, you will gain valuable insight into how to learn a new language, such as English.
Many people think that children have an easier time than adults learning languages, but this isn’t true. Children learn their first language because they don’t have a choice. They are in an environment where everyone around them is speaking a language they don’t understand, and they have to learn the language in order to communicate. Many times, people don’t learn a language because they don’t put themselves in a situation where learning is necessary. In many countries, young people take English classes for years, but aren’t able to start a conversation in English. Students who go to immersion schools, where everyone speaks the language all the time, do much better. Immigrants who move to an English-speaking country, but speak their own language at home and with friends, often never become fluent in English. Immigrants who marry a native English speaker, or spend lots of time with native English speakers, usually become fluent. Looking at these examples, it’s obvious that the most important factor is your exposure to the language. You need to spend lots of time using the language and listening to native speakers.
Even for people who don’t live in an English-speaking country, or don’t have English-speaking friends, it’s possible to create an environment in which you’re constantly exposed to English. Practice speaking and writing in English when you’re alone. Watch English movies, maybe with subtitles in your own language to help you match the words to their meanings. Read English books, or comics if you find books too difficult. Play English music. Try to connect with other people who are learning English, and speak English when you see them. If you can’t find any English speakers where you live, use the Internet to meet people from around the world. The more you expose yourself to the English language, the faster you will learn. It’s that simple.
Many people fail to learn a language because they spend all of their time studying the language, and none of their time using it. If you spend all your time reading about exercise, and no time doing the exercises, you won’t become very fit. In the same way, unless you actually use a language, your brain and tongue won’t get any practice, and you won’t be able to hold a conversation. The most important part of learning a language is to listen to the language and speak it. You can’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that children don’t speak properly when they’re young, but they will become fluent later on. You have to think of yourself as a child, gradually learning more complex rules and words.
When you first start to learn English, don’t focus on grammar. Focus on learning words. A child does the same thing, because this is the most efficient way to learn. A young child might say “cookie,” when he or she wants a cookie. Later on, this might become “want cookie,” or “me want cookie.” Finally, it becomes the grammatically correct “I want a cookie.” In the same way, imagine that a tourist, who doesn’t speak your language very well, is asking for directions to the train station. They might ask you “train station where please?” Their grammar is terrible, but you can understand and help them. Language is about communication, and learning useful words and expanding your vocabulary is the best way to communicate. Grammar will come later, and will be easier to learn when you understand the basics of the language.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is that learning a language is a life-long process. It often takes ten years before a child understands all the grammatical rules of their native language, and they will continue to expand their vocabulary throughout their lifetime. Children who are enrolled in a language immersion school will often learn the language, but if they never use it again, they will forget most things by the time they are adults. If you make an effort to use the English language every day, you won’t forget anything and you will keep improving.