I hope you won't be embarrassed if I praise you a little.
You're one of the very best and bravest English learners. How do I know that? Because you're reading this. You're reading a blog post written in English, on a site that's written completely in English, without a bit of translation into your native language.
It's not easy to do that. I know that you probably come across a lot of sentences that you don't understand here. You might even be confused by some of the items in the site navigation. Even if you do understand it, I know that it takes a little bit of extra concentration and patience.
Most English learners don't do this. They stick to learning materials that are written in their native language. Learning through your native language can be useful at first, and you will make...
If you try to speak English and make a mistake, none of these things will happen:
- No one will point and laugh at you
- You won't lose your job.
- The townspeople won't chase after you with torches.
- You won't be locked up and thrown in jail.
- The love of your life won't dump you.
- You won't be permanently banned from speaking English ever again.
In fact, chances are no one will even notice.
Just a friendly reminder not to take yourself too seriously. We all need that at times, don't you think? :)
Have you ever noticed that it's a lot easier to understand someone who's speaking directly to you in English than a conversation between two other people?
I have this problem when I visit my in-laws in Japan. If I'm riding in the car with my wife and her mother and they're speaking Japanese to each other, it's hard to understand their conversation. Sometimes I have to ask my wife to repeat what they're talking about. When my wife summarizes the conversation for me in Japanese, I'm usually able to understand it.
The reason that this happens is that we all naturally adjust our way of speaking to match the audience. When you speak to a colleague, you naturally use terminology that's specific to your field. When you speak to a child, you use smaller and more gentle-sounding words. When you...
This week, I wrote about the concept of fossilization. This is the term for when your language ability "freezes" and stops improving. You keep making the same mistakes over and over.
I got the idea to write the article from a blog post on the interesting site Keith's Voice on Extreme Language Learning: "Making mistakes is bad or good?" Keith practices an extreme "input-first" method of language learning, where he listens to the language for many hours before trying to use it. (For example, he's spent over 2,000 hours watching TV in Mandarin Chinese.)
According to the article,
Mistakes by themselves are not bad, but when you keep repeating the same mistakes, it develops a pattern in your head which, to you, starts to sound OK.
Keith's solution is to avoid speaking as much...
When some aspect of English confuses you, what should you do about it? Should you ask a teacher or consult a book? Or try to figure it out for yourself?
If you've been reading PhraseMix for a while, you probably already know what my answer is going to be. In the past, I've written about why you need to practice English, not just learn it. But this answer may be helpful anyway.
Think of a question like one of these:
- When should you use "did" and when should you use "have done"?
- When do English speakers use passive sentences ("be __ed")?
- What's the difference between "just" and "only"?
The reason that these are interesting questions about English is that the answers are complicated. If the answer were easy, you wouldn't need to ask about it. (No one asks "What's the difference between...