The following article is the beginning of a series of articles about the best ways to learn English. These articles are not necessarily associated with presenting, but they are associated with the way you can learn and improve your English.
I have been teaching English for nearly ten years and most of the students I have taught have been adults. Many of those students have had great intentions and have improved their English speaking ability. However, most of those students have had impossible goals and have quit learning English because, they say, it is too difficult.
The truth is, learning English is no more difficult than learning anything else whether that is history, biology, mathematics or geography. The problem for these students is not in learning a language, but in the way they are learning that language.
Imagine for a moment that you have an interest in a new music band. You heard their song on the radio as you were going to work and you are curious about who they are and where they come from. When you arrive at you desk you open up Google and search their name. In your search results you come across a Wikipedia entry and you click on the link. In front of you appears a very long article about the band, their history, the music they have made and the band members. You begin to read. Thirty minutes later you have finished reading the article. Now you know everything there is to know about the band.
At lunchtime you tell a friend about the music you heard and you begin telling them about the band, the albums they have made, its history and its members. How can you do that? You only read the article once, suddenly the powers of recall you possess suggests that you are an expert on this band.
The reason you can do that is because you have an interest in the band. If you were to look up some boring, historical figure you have no interest in you would be hard pressed to recall anything about their lives. But a music band that you have a real interest in you can remember almost everything.
The simple truth is if you have no interest in English, no real interest in how to ask correctly for directions to the nearest post office or how to find a bar of Snickers chocolate, then no matter how many times you try to learn the phrases you are not going to memorize them or be able to recall them.
Before you can really learn anything properly you need to have a curiosity in the subject, or at the very least a curiosity in a particular part of something. This is the same for English. Your interest and your curiosity are the secret weapons you have to learning something and learning something well.
The biggest sadness I have as a teacher is that there are millions of people around the world today learning English, not because they actually want to, but rather because they think they have to. These people are wasting their time, their money and their teachers’ time. They have no interest in English other than they think it will help them in their careers.
These people are the students who enroll in a language institute with the goal of spending the next six months studying English thinking that they will speak fluent English at the end of it. They do no studying at home, they never open their textbooks outside of the classroom and they skip classes whenever the tiniest excuse comes to mind. Still, they think they will be fluent speakers at the end of six months.
Sadly they are very wrong and very misguided.
The way to learn English is to be completely focused on what you actually want and to have a real interest in what it is you really want to learn. For example: imagine you regularly have meetings using video conferencing at your work. This is the only time you use English during the day, but these video conferences happen every Monday and Friday evening. Studying how to buy a movie ticket or go shopping in a shopping mall in English is not going to help you in a teleconference. However, studying the language of meetings and learning some of the phrases that can help you to express you ideas better will help you.
By focusing on the actual language you need to do your job is going to be a much more effective way of learning English. If these meetings are important to you, if you want to be able to communicate you ideas in these meetings, then it is logical that you are going to have an interest in improving the way you communicate in these meetings. Therefore, rather than learning how to check in to a hotel use the wonderful power of the internet and research the language of meetings and teleconferences.
Learning the small parts of English, the parts that you will actually use, is going to be a much more effective way of learning English. Trying to learn how to order a T-shirt in a larger size may not be interesting to you, but learning how to negotiate a longer time to complete a project just might be something you need to do and are therefore much more interested in learning.
So before rushing off to enroll at the nearest language institute, think carefully about what you are interested in. Look at the curriculums of the classes the institute teaches and make sure you enroll in a class that you will have an interest in and teach you the English you need.