Do you really want to learn English? Do you know how to learn English?
I know a person who did 70 hours of English a week. Yes! A week.
That was about 300 hours learning English a month and over 3,000 hours a year!
It was a free English course. It was with native speakers.
It included listening to music in English. There were also high quality DVDs in English
When he watched TV he always watched in English.
He used only English books
It sounds excellent doesn’t it? How much English do you do every year? Does it compare well with this student? I suppose that it doesn’t
With so many hours of English every week he did:
– The past simple and past continuous
– The present perfect and the past perfect
– Passives and imperatives
– All conditional forms
– Question tags
– Phrasal verbs
– Etc, etc, etc.
But, do you know what?
After 12 months:
– he couldn’t read English
– he couldn’t write in English
– and he couldn’t speak English
It’s incredible but it’s true. What is even more incredible is he was very happy with his course!
Every year the same thing happens to hundreds of thousands of people learning English and also people learning French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Swahili and many, many more languages.
So …….. what was the problem? Did he have some kind of handicap that prevented him from speaking or reading or writing?
NO! The reason is very, very simple ………… he was a BABY.
This is how we all acquire language. From when a child is born, or even before, a child is exposed on a daily basis to the language or languages in its home setting. If a child has more than one language at home, or in its regular contact with people like grandparents, childminders, nursery teachers etc, it can distinguish between them at the age of only six months.
Our brains are “pre-programmed” to be able to slowly make sense of all the strange sounds and language stimuli that it receives. Our brains then start to see the patterns of how their language or languages are formed. It is normally only after thirty months or so that children begin to talk in any kind of understandable way. It can still take a few years more before a child completely masters their language or languages.
For a child to discover that the protuberance in the middle of their face, which is so often full of snot, is called a nose, does she check a dictionary? Or perhaps we have a pre-programmed vocabulary list in our brains just waiting to be activated? Of course not! The child learns the names of things, actions etc based on repeated hearing and associating a word sound with the object or action etc. So after the child’s mother, father, big brother, grandmother, grandfather, next-door neighbour, childminder etc has said things like:
– I think he’s got his father’s nose.
– What a cute little nose!
– What a snotty nose, do you want Mummy to clean it for you?
– Let’s put some sun cream on your nose, so it doesn’t get burnt.
– No Johnny, we put our food in our mouths, not on our noses!
tens, or even hundreds, of times, the child’s brain associates the word sound “nose” with this object in the middle of our face.
It is absolutely essential to remember this basic reminder of how languages are learned. Knowing this and understanding it will help us all to make the right decisions when starting, or re-starting, to learn another language that is not our own mother tongue.
– To be able to learn, understand and use a language it is necessary to have regular contact with the language.
– It is also important to have a good language model, if possible.
– Children do not spend one year learning the present then go on to the past
– Remember the purpose of language is to allow communication with others.
So, why don’t you test yourself?
How many hours contact do you have with the English language every day, every week, every year?
What do you do?
In future posts on the blog and articles on the web we will give you advice on how to learn English in an effective, and we hope enjoyable, way.