Why you should focus on learning situational English

In my last blog post, I explained that there are two categories of sentences:

  • things that you say about a topic
  • things that you say in a certain situation

For example:

But I didn't explain is why this is an important difference. It's actually very important. One of those categories is very easy to learn about, while the other is much harder to learn about.

You can learn to talk about a topic anywhere. You can read articles on the Internet about family. English textbooks will teach you all of the vocabulary you need. If you have a language exchange partner or tutor, you can bring up the topic of "family" and have an hour-long discussion on it.

However, none of this practice will prepare you for actually talking to family members.

I learned this the hard way several years ago. I was living in Japan and had been studying Japanese language very seriously for a few years. I worked with a private tutor every week and spent a lot of time trying to expand my vocabulary.

Around that time, I proposed to my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and suddenly found that I had not only a fiancée, but an extended Japanese family as well. They didn't speak English, so I had to communicate with them in Japanese. But despite all of my study, I had no idea how to talk to them. I didn't know what to call my mother-in-law and father-in-law. I didn't know what level of politeness to use when I wanted to ask for something. I also didn't know how to describe common household objects and activities. 

There are many situations like these that are "hidden" from language learners. How do people speak at home? At work? With their close friends? In the bathroom? With their doctor? With a mechanic? This is why PhraseMix lessons are each focused on a specific situation. I think it's the area of language learning that people need the most help with.

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