Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Understanding is never enough, part 1

For most subjects in school, you're finished studying once you've understood the lesson. You may need to remember facts or equations for a test, but for the most part, you are good to go once you know the material. Your main goal is to do well on the test, after which, unfortunately, you will probably forget most of what you studied.

This is not so with language learning. Understanding is never enough when you want to learn to speak a new language. Understanding only lets you take a grammar test and do well on it, but it won't let you speak the language well. It doesn't matter how much you know. You may know all the grammar there is to learn, and you may complete a grammar exercise perfectly, but these won't make you speak English well, and you will still be judged by how well you speak. If you can't string a sentence correctly, people will still think that your English is not very good--sad, but true.

It's important to remember that your level of English is always gauged by how well you communicate, not how well or how fast you complete an exercise. This means that students who are in advanced classes because of their advanced knowledge of grammar can still sound like they are having problems speaking English if they don't get sufficient practice. Practicing helps you remember what you've studied, but more importantly, it lets you get used to saying things in English. You're essentially making your brain and your vocal apparatus work together to produce English sentences. Consequently, the more you practice the better you'll speak English and the faster you'll master it. A lot of practice, basically, erases your imperfections when you use your new language.

You are practicing English every time you speak to someone, every time you watch a show or sing a song in English. However, the practice that I want to talk about more is classroom practice--something students are sometimes not too crazy about. In part 2 of Understanding is never enough, I'll explain why practicing in the classroom is crucial in improving your English, why you should eagerly participate if you're a student or urge your students if you're a teacher. Stay tuned.

good to go - ready; have met standards
string a sentence - put a sentence together; form a sentence 
gauge - check; critique; evaluate 
vocal apparatus - body parts used to produce sound: mouth, tongue, teeth, vocal cords 
not too crazy about - don't like
crucial - very important 
urge - push; encourage

Brought to you by Joe Yu and the small guide site.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joeyu2nd.
Be a fan of the small guide site on Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment