Let’s face it – most English language courses are useless! Most English courses waste both time and money. You will sit in classrooms where the teacher speaks most of the time, you will be asked to memorize hundreds of grammar rules and at the end you will be give some kind of fancy certificate. But in most cases you will “graduate” without gaining the ability to speak English. Why does this happen? Why do so many English programs fail? The biggest reason is the teaching philosophy of many English programs that are based on misconceptions about learning English. Today, let’s look at 4 big myths related to learning English.
One of the biggest misconceptions in learning English is that you are too old to become fluent.
Good news is there is no conclusive research that supports this thinking. Most modern neuroscience research show that you can never be too old to learn something new. In fact, Albert Costa, a professor of neuroscience who studies bilingualism at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona argues that adults might even have an advantage over younger learners in certain aspects of language learning such as absorbing new vocabulary, as adults typically have a wider vocabulary in their native language. This allows adult brains to map new vocabulary easily against their existing vocabulary knowledge base.
Researches such as David Birdsong from University of Texas also support this thinking where they have found adults performed better at pronunciation when learning a new language, compared to children.
So, never ever let anyone tell you, you are too old for learning English! It is just not scientifically true.
Full language immersion is the fastest way to learning English. Living in an English speaking country helps immersing in the English language. There is no argument on this. However, virtual immersion is just as effective. With Skype English courses, it is possible for you to practice Conversational English with native speakers without having to buy a plane ticket or leave the comforts of your bedroom.
The challenge is that most traditional English courses whether it’s for kids, adults or business English, fail to immerse students in English in a meaningful, interesting way. Instead, most English courses spend hundreds of hours drilling ESL students in grammar, silly roles plays and phonetic exercises, not allowing them enough opportunities to practice English speaking.
This one might be slightly controversial but other than paying for 1 on1 Skype English practice with a native speaker, there is no real reason for you to spend thousands of dollars on expensive English tutors, language software or newsletters.
Most students try to learn English from experienced ESL teachers who would charge $30 – 60 an hour. Unless you are an absolute beginner of the English language, there is no need to do this. Instead learn things like grammar, vocabulary, basic sentence structures and even pronunciation from the hundreds of free resources available on the web and just hire a 1 on 1 native English speaking conversation partner to practice speaking 3-4 times a week. This way you self study the parts of the English language that you can on your own and use native English speaking conversation partner just to practice speaking, saving you a lot of money.
Bonus tip – As with most things in life, don’t go for the cheapest option when picking a conversation partner. Most free language partners you find on the Internet are not reliable and most language exchange programs don’t give you enough opportunities to practice English. Learning English is an investment. Just make sure you spend money on things that matter!
A common grievance you hear from a lot of non-native English learners is that they don’t have a large enough vocabularies to start speaking.
However, studies show that in the English language just 300 words make up close to 70% of all language used. If you have a vocabulary of around 1000 words, that should be more than enough for you to get through any one hour conversation or presentation. And most students who have studied English for 2+ years will have a vocabulary of around 1000 words.
The key is to begin speaking English early in the learning process. Learning English is never complete without practicing speaking. It does not matter how many words you know. You can’t become fluent without speaking!
Bonus tip – when expanding your vocabulary, think of new vocabulary more in terms of word families. For example, learn words you can use instead of the word “big” – gigantic, massive, colossal, huge etc. This method of learning vocabulary is much faster than trying to remember the meaning of individual words.