Why Traditional English Study Methods Don’t Work

September 1, 2014
1 September 2014,

In an era where humans are making gigantic progress in fields such as biotechnology, ecommerce and nano-science, we still seem to rely on the same English study methods that we have been using since the start of the century.Most English teachers from around the world still place a lot of emphasis on perfecting grammar and vocabulary which is a very traditional and ineffective English study method. There are also still a lot of Spoken English programs where students are given writing assignments as homework.  In some cases, some of these traditional English study methods have made its’ way in to the Internet as Online programs or as Skype lessons.

However, what most non-native  learners around the world have found is that just changing to an online classroom setting or having English classes via Skype will not make any difference if the methodology used to teach English is outdated and obsolete. So in this blog post, let’s take a closer look at some of age old myths that outdated English study methods are based on.

Myth #1: You must perfect grammar when you start to study English


This probably is the biggest myth out there on learning to speak English. Most English educators still try to dump tens and thousands of grammar rules in to their students’ heads only to create a huge barrier in the students mind. As shown in many studies conducted across the world and across multiple languages, most students who try to master grammar before getting an intuitive feel of how the language flows fail miserably or give up, out of lack of confidence.

Think about how you started speaking your native language. Did you start by learning all the grammar in the world or did you just speak? The same approach applies when you start your English study. Once you get in to the habit of having conversations in English, you start speaking freely and the grammar rules you have learned so far start making more sense to you.

This is why Spoken English Practice follows an approach where emphasis is placed getting students to have conversations in English rather than to waste time learning millions of grammar rules. At Spoken English Practice, our sessions are 100% real life conversations students have with native English speakers. Our English study method is practice based rather than theory based.

(BTW, a great FREE resource for anything related to English grammar is Grammarly.com. And there are tones more great free resources out there, so why pay for grammar lessons?)


Myth #2: Practicing Spoken English with non-natives is the same as practicing Spoken English with natives:


Practicing speaking in English with anyone is a good practice however for best results you need to have most conversations with native English speakers. Speaking English is extremely habitual, and if you have most of your English conversations with non-native English speakers who themselves are not fluent or do not have the right pronunciation, you are most likely to form the same flawed language patterns.

That is why we only pair non-native English speakers with native English speakers in our Online Spoken English classes. We have found that this is the most effective way for English language learners to get better. Of course practicing English with non-native English speakers is better than not having any English conversations at all but comes with risks such as bad habit forming.


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Myth #3: You must memorize a lot of words to be fluent in English


A huge misconception in the ESL community is that memorizing a lot of new words is necessary to improving skills in English Speaking. English is a language that consists of millions of words and you only need about 20% of the words in about 80% of real life conversations you are going to have in your life time.

At Spoken English Practice, our English study method focus is on helping you activate your vocabulary. It is our experience that most intermediate ESL students already know a lot of words. The challenge they face is using those words in real life conversations. In most cases, they would pause in the middle of a conversation, lost for the next word, only to find that the next word was really a word they knew very well. So the solution is not in memorizing tons of new words but to activate your existing vocabulary by practicing with native English speakers.


Myth #4: You cannot improve your spoken English as an adult


It is absolutely possible to improve your skills in English as an adult. Believing to not to do so is really foolish.

Think of your friends who have lived a few years in an English speaking country, whether for work or for studies. You will realize that their English has become much better that then left. You will see that they have improved their pronunciation, speak clearer and have become more fluent. If you ask them whether they formally leaned English when they were abroad, you will find that in most cases they did not.

The explanation to this is by living in an English speaking country, by having thousands of real life conversations in English, their brains have started to “think in English” rather than to translate from their native language.

There are thousands of examples of non native English speakers who have gone from an elementary level to an advanced level as adults. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot!