How to Learn English: 4 Myths

Posted on June 21, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English

 

Do you speak English as a foreign language? Do you live in London? You must be improving your English then, right? We explore some common myths about learning English.

 

    1. Learn English just by living in an English speaking country

      Before I went to Japan, a monolingual friend assured me that I would learn Japanese in a month or two talking to people in shops. Others assured me that because I would be living in Japan, it would be fast and straightforward to learn Japanese. Full of optimism, I pictured myself chatting away in Japanese, sounding extremely cool, after a short time with little effort. Disappointingly this didn’t happen! Being able to hear the language around you in the street only has limited value.

      Likewise, it’s perfectly possible to live in London and stick to your language comfort zone. Many people associate primarily with people who speak the same first language and this slows their English, as well as cultural understanding. If you can read this I’m sure you have no problem speaking English to people in shops, and this is quite limited.

    2. Learn English just chatting with native speakers

      Talking to native English speakers will certainly improve your fluency and is the best way to learn English. Currently I am taking Spanish classes and when I was an absolute beginner I started off asking Spanish people to speak to me in Spanish. I lacked any sort of grammatical structure so I couldn’t work out whether people were talking about the future or the past, speaking hypothetically and so on. I highly recommend this speaking immersion method but if you want to speak accurately you should do it in combination with classes.

      Hold on, hold on, I hear you say. You learned English after being born in England and grew up speaking to native speakers. So what’s the problem? Our adult brains don’t process new languages in the same way that children’s brains do. Children can work out things that we can’t. However, we adults may be better at learning languages than we think we are, as this article on child versus adult language learning points out.

    3. Learn English first and practice with native speakers later

      Another English teacher in Japan told us about this theory during teacher training. One of his students was shy and insisted she would learn English first by herself and then practice speaking with native English speakers. The problem with this approach is that you will forget things quickly without practice. If you practice with native speakers you will keep what you have newly learned fresh.

    4. Learn English just from reading books

      When I first saw the TV show Lost, I was horrified that the Korean character Sun appeared to have learned very good English just from reading a book. Later in the series it turned out that she had been having English classes in secret. If you learn English only from books you will go some way, but speaking and listening skills are key too. With English it’s particularly important to listen because our writing system often doesn’t show you how to pronounce the word correctly.

     

    Disclaimer!

    The key to improving your English is to balance study, practice and integration. It will improve your English to live in an English speaking country, chat with native speakers, build on your English from school and read books in English, just not in isolation.

     

    What other myths about learning English have you heard? Let us know in the comments.

     

    Read about how your comfort zone is limiting your language development here.

     

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