Learning a new language, especially English, is always exciting and can open many doors for any reader.
When my friends and I were young, we needed to learn English to understand everyone in our new English-speaking circle. As we grew older, we realized that learning English has many more benefits and is more complicated than we thought.
There are many interesting parts of learning English, with ten truths outlined below.
1. Speaking properly is different to speaking confidently
Speaking properly means so many things, and all of them are difficult to master. That’s exactly the same with speaking confidently.
Some of you might be thinking – What’s the difference?
Well, when someone speaks properly, they don’t only use correct grammar. They also need to have the correct sentence structure, word choice and pronunciation as well.
When someone is speaking confidently, they are just speaking in a way that sounds like they know what they’re talking about.
Don’t let this fool you – It doesn’t mean that how they’re saying something is the correct way to say it.
For example, when someone is making a speech and they are relaxed and friendly, they are speaking confidently.
However, what they’re saying could be utter nonsense if it isn’t grammatically and logically correct.
This is why it’s important to learn both the proper and confident way of speaking English. The proper way will help people to understand what you’re saying and vice versa.
The confident way will help you improve your interaction while speaking the language with someone else.
2. English-speakers are open-minded with foreigners’ linguistic mistakes
It is a law of nature that mistakes happen, so why should it be any different when speaking a new language?
Anyone who speaks any language knows the building blocks of learning: Trial and Error. We first hear or see what we need to learn, and then we repeat it until we master it.
There are bound to be a few slip-ups when learning English, but native speakers that hear it don’t mind at all!
In our multicultural and globalized world, more and more people are learning to speak English. This is why native English-speakers don’t mind hearing foreigners make mistakes – It’s nothing new to them as they hear it a lot.
This is a blessing for learners, because you can be properly corrected by a native speaker who knows what they’re talking about.
If you feel a bit embarrassed for making a mistake, it can lead you to repeat the correct version to prevent recurrence.
Mistakes shouldn’t leave you feeling ashamed though. If you’re feeling unmotivated around native speakers, then say to yourself ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and try again.
The native speakers won’t mind!
3. Group lessons aren’t for everyone
Some people think that if something was done a certain way for hundreds of years and it worked, why change it now?
The answer is easy: Because everything changes and we need to adjust ourselves with that change to survive.
The same goes for learning: We are provided with more opportunities to learn however it fits us.
For example, if you struggle with shyness, you can have private lessons until you feel confident enough to speak in public.
Group lessons could also distract you from very important information. Speaking to school peers with the same language skills might not improve your skills, because you might learn their mistakes by accident.
If you learn from and speak to native speakers, you’re more likely to learn the correct way of expressing yourself and understanding others.
On the other hand, if you have a competitive spirit, group lessons could be the perfect way for you to learn. The more students there are, the bigger the competition which means more practicing to be the best.
Which ever your learning style, remember that you have options.
You should see which one suits you best, so that you make the most of your learning experience.
4. Mistakes by accident will be funny sometimes
From time to time when I speak in a foreign language, I’ll make a mistake and the listener will laugh.
I won’t get offended though, because I’ve been around non-English speakers my entire life and know that mistakes sound funny sometimes.
For those of you learning English: It’s not an insult when they are shocked or laugh!
I heard a non-native English-speaker talking on the phone saying that he’s employing ‘casualties’ for the high season. What he meant to say was ‘casuals’, but it was indeed a funny accident. When I corrected him, he even started laughing as well when he learnt what ‘casualties’ are! It wasn’t just a happy moment that was created, but an educational one too.
What we all need to keep in mind is that mistakes happen, and they happen in language too. It’s also one of the best ways in which we learn: To see what works and what doesn’t.
5. English is almost a universal language
We all know that in most countries, we’ll find someone somewhere that speaks English. This is because English is important to the entire world. It is the language that all of us can easily learn, and that most of us understands or knows completely. Major businesses, banks and all governments have employees with English-speaking abilities for this purpose entirely.
Most schools teach English as either a native or second language, and tertiary education is quickly picking up that pace as well. Learning English is not only an option in many education centers, but is also highly recommended because of its benefits. Much of the world’s population speaks English, making it one of the most useful languages to learn.
You don’t need to be a tourist to learn English for travelling purposes. Learning English in a non-English-speaking country can bring just as many advantages, if not more!
Just by learning this universal language, working from home or with an international company instantly becomes a new possibility.
6. Learning a language improves mental agility
Research shows that learning our first language improves our future language development.
As we grow up, we improve on our language through repetition (Ramirez-Esparza, Garcia-Sierra & Kuhl, 2014). The interesting thing is that if we learn a second language after being fluent in the first, part of our brain increases. This is important because it’s a part of the brain that affects memory when we’re older (Gabrieli, Poldrack, Desmond, 1998).
There is truth to the fact that people learning a second language also have better linguistic skills than monolinguals. We also become more cognitively creative when learning a second language (Mackey, 2014).
For example, if you learnt a second language, you’d be more likely to have a creative solution to problems compared to monolinguals. Another benefit is improving concentration from using different parts of your brain at the same time when learning a new language (Alban, n.d.).
It seems like there is no down side to learning a second language.
In today’s world there are many illnesses that can be helped by having stronger brain power.
Technology is also evolving so quickly that we need better memory to keep up the new things we need to learn.
So if you’re thinking about learning a second language for just travelling, it could help you more than you thought possible.
7. Learning English doesn’t mean you should stay a student
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re just starting to learn anything new, you’re most likely to feel like a student for at least a little while.
However, it doesn’t mean you should think of yourself that way until becoming fluent. Being fluent in a language could take a while, depending on your learning commitment and speed.
When we start learning a new language, it’s all about vocabulary and pronunciation in order to convey the message in general. Then come grammar and finally fluency. This whole process is dependent on the learner though, and translating in your head (like students do) can cause problems in the learning process.
The goal is to speak English, not translate it. If we keep translating, it is counter productive because it sets back the natural flow of speaking.
By speaking in broken sentences and taking a long time to share your idea in another (new) language, it can also cause anxiety (Mohammadi, Biria, Koosha&Shahsavari, 2013).
We all know that stress can come in different forms. And because we all have different personalities and learning styles, having stress from learning something new like English can cause us to shy away from it in general, or even prevent us from going a step further.
8. Learning English is a lifelong learning opportunity
An English teacher (Haines, 2011) once mentioned that about 1,000 words are added to the English dictionary each year. Another 3,000 or so are created outside of it. It does depend on when you ask because it varies each year, but you can see the big picture here. There are so many new words added that even a native speaker needs to learn them for communicating effectively.
The list of how words can be formed is long (Bodle, 2016), and the rate at which the amount of words grows is increasing. The Oxford English Dictionary updated that more than 500 words and phrases have been added in only 3 months (OED, 2017). This means that if the rate stays the same, we could have 2,000 added words this year.
With all of that new knowledge, we can expect much better communication amongst native and non-native speakers. I know this might sound scary to new English learners, but it’s really not that bad.
9. It doesn’t always sound like it is spelled
English is one of those languages including words that sound differently to their spelling. When we say something as it sounds, it is ‘phonetic’. English is not a phonetic language. For example, if you read ‘phonetic’, the ‘ph’ is pronounced as an ‘f’ instead of a ‘p’ and an ‘h’ separately.
Phonetics has been a focus of speech science for a long time (Alshangiti & Evans, nd) and for good reason. It’s just like many other languages such as German, Xhosa, Spanish, and the list goes on.
Studies show that when you learn a second language, it is very important to be exposed to complex sets of gestures (Flege, n.d.). This means that you’ll learn the pronunciation better if you learn it with seeing, hearing and writing the words that you need.
It’s not that difficult though, especially with today’s technology. If you want to learn with a native speaker, you can take lessons online or with software all from home. I firmly believe in this process as it’s helped me a lot in the past.
The final thought
These aren’t the only ten truths about learning English, but they do help to highlight some important ones.
Hopefully the above ten truths can be of help to those of you learning English or know someone who is.
Learning how to speak English is fun because it is an interesting language and it will open up doors for communication. There are many opinions about all of these things, and yours matters too!
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