6 pieces of language learning advice from top English teachers
As teachers, we are always giving out advice, but what advice have we been given that has really stuck with us? Advice that changed us and helped us see things in a different way. Improved our language learning skills and even our life?
Recently I have been making some great connections with some amazingly talented teachers from all over the world. I asked them what the most useful piece of advice for language learning they had been given was, and this article is the result!
I hope their experiences and advice can inspire you to keep on learning, look at language in a new way and hopefully make some great improvements to your English skills!
Learning should be fun!
Kirsty D Major
One of the best pieces of advice I got was from a German friend, who said that when reading a more difficult text, I should pick a number of important new words to learn, and not stress out about all the words that I didn’t know, or try to commit them all to memory. This helped me to become more selective and strategic about the words that made it onto my vocabulary list, and because of that, I had better results because I was working with words that were actually relevant. This helped me to build them into my conversations and writing.
Another piece of advice was from a fellow Turkish learner, who believed that learning should be fun. Ok, there are some skills which we naturally shy away from because we don’t enjoy those activities (for me it was speaking), and it’s important not to neglect these things, but if you really want to make progress with language learning, it’s good to build the activities into your everyday life and do things that you enjoy. This could be reading Turkish recipes so that you can cook delicious food, finding music that you like, or finding a book or web page about one of your hobbies, which will motivate you to read more than a text on something that doesn’t interest you. When I started doing this, I found that I had more time for learning – it’s amazing how you find time for the things that you want to do! Also, listening to podcasts or the radio in another language is easy to fit in whilst you’re doing other things.
Bio: Kirsty provides support and training for people who want to develop their English, particularly those who need to use English at work.
Find your edge!
The best language learning advice actually came from my Yoga teacher. It went something like, “Growth is about finding your edge and staying with it patiently until it expands.” By edge, my teacher was referring to the boundary line between what you can and cannot do. With our physical body, this is obvious – there are some poses I simply cannot do. In language learning, not so much. Language is a pose of the mind and so, it is something we cannot see. Finding our edge in language learning is about finding the line between what we can and can’t do with our target language. Then, our task is to be comfortable with that while still maintaining the commitment to improving. For me, this mindset has helped me immensely to eliminate stress and maintain a committed focus that has carried me far with Korean, Spanish, and the other languages I am learning now.
Bio: Jeremy is an English and Korean teacher. He has created a best selling course on Udemy for teaching beginner Korean, and has a deep and philosophical understanding of language and learning.
Languages open you up to a world of possibilities
“When I was studying for my A levels, one of my Spanish teachers told us one day that with our knowledge of Spanish, we could easily go and live in Italy or Portugal for a year and learn the language.
This completely opened my world to languages.
I thought that I’d been offered French and Spanish at school and once I left that would be my language learning opportunities over.
Being told that other languages were accessible really changed my approach to language learning to one of curiosity and discovery, which has led to me studying many languages I never would have considered possible!”
Bio: Lindsay is a multi-award winning language tutor and vlogger. She specialises in inspiring people to self-learn languages as well as offering courses and online tutoring.
Gabriel EA Clark
When I was studying Turkish after moving to Istanbul, my father decided to start studying it, too. I had only been using one book to study from, but when my father visited, I saw that he was using at least 2 or 3.
Because my dad is a language-learning expert (he ‘s an Arabic-English translator and communicates flawlessly in Arabic), I followed his example and started getting my Turkish learning from other grammar books, magazines, comics and whatever I could find. It made a huge difference.
It’s like getting advice from someone: if you just go to one person with a problem, you’ll get one person’s view. But if you ask several people, you’ll have a better idea about what to do.”
Bio: Gabriel Clark is an English teacher with 12 years’ experience. He’s the “Clark” in Clark and Miller, a website that focuses on giving learners a deeper understanding of how English works through online courses and a blog that often features giraffes.
Do what you love!
Back in 2006 when I was in the Air Force learning Arabic with the DLI (Defense Language Institute) the Army chaplain (and polyglot) said to our class “discover what you love to do in the language — such as music, travel, connecting people, and even falling in love — so that learning the language becomes a means to an end (which it is), rather than the goal itself.”
Bio: Tony Marsh was an Arabic cryptologic linguist for the Armed Forces. He created a teaching method which works on the principle that language can be taught and self-taught using building blocks known as a “Language Matrix”.
Think about the how, not the why!
The best piece of language learning advice given to me was not actually language learning advice. It was just a comment from the teacher when I asked him a simple question. I asked him:
“But what does that mean in English?”
And his response was:
“Not everything has a direct translation into English. Just try to get the feel for the words and what they mean. Don’t worry too much about the direct translation”
And that’s a valuable piece of advice that I think makes a lot of sense. You see, you don’t need to be thinking in your own language when you’re using English. You need to be thinking in English when you use English. You need to think: what would I say or do if I were an English speaker…? Or, how should I act in this situation as an English speaker…? Learning English isn’t just about learning words… It isn’t like learning physics or maths. English is a living language that was created through culture and centuries of development. It’s more than just different words. So, don’t look for the direct translations of English into your own language. Instead, focus on understanding how to use English.
Bio: Sam Pealing is an English teacher and lecturer who focuses on two things: helping higher level English learners use English easily, and international university students get better grades. He sends out daily advanced English lessons via email.
So there you have it, some great advice from some great teachers. Check out their sites, and as Gabriel says, diversify! Try out some new teachers, see language in a new way, and keep on learning!
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