Never tell yourself that you "know" an English word or phrase.

Here's one secret of great language learners:

Never tell yourself that you "know" something. 

Do you know the word "Hello"?

When you first started learning English, one of the first words you probably learned was "Hello". It seems like such a simple word. But stop to think about how well you really know the word "Hello":

  • You probably still pronounce it with a foreign accent.
  • You probably use it in situations where "Hi", "Hey", or "Good evening" might be better choices.
  • People sometimes use "Hello" with special meanings that you probably don't know about.

Some time, a long time ago, you started to feel like you already knew the word "hello". Now you don't pay much attention to it when you hear or read it. It's less interesting than a lot of other new words which you could be learning instead. Because of that, you've stopped getting better at using "hello".

Recognizing a phrase isn't the same as mastering it.

Now think of a bit of English that's not as common as "hello". For example, this phrase:

mass transit

Maybe you've heard the phrase "mass transit" before. If not, then you can click on the link and read about it.

Now, if you're talking to a friend and she says "We don't have much of a mass transit here," you'll be able to understand what she means.

However, it's important to know that there are different levels of learning. Even though you can understand what your friend is saying, remembering the phrase "mass transit" is much harder. Using it correctly yourself is even harder.

Because of this, you can't ignore words and phrases, even if if you feel like you recognize them. Stay humble. Keep your mind open.

Keep improving your theories.

Instead of thinking that you "know" an English word or phrase, imagine that you just have a theory about it. A "theory" is a guess that can be changed later.

For each word and phrase that you come across, check it against your theory. Does it fit? You'll discover a lot of English that doesn't fit what you expected. That's OK. That just means that you're learning something new and interesting! Adjust your theory.

If you listen and read with an open mind, you'll find that even really simple words can be used in a lot of interesting and unexpected ways!

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