Learning a new language can be fun and incredibly challenging, it can be a frustrating experience, but it can have many benefits that you may not be aware of. It’s just a question of determination.
Are you willing to put in the time to make it happen, since English is the most common language spoken everywhere and it has been playing a major role in many sectors of life?
Thus, its importance CANNOT be denied.
About the Author
Rawda is from Egypt and she studies English literature. She’s been studying English for many years, but just started learning real life English four years ago. In her free time, she loves to read books and blogs, hang out with her friends and family, watching news, watching documentaries, playing card games with her siblings, and learning new languages (she’s learning Turkish currently).
So, This is How I learned English
I know my English is far from perfect, but I’d like to share with you what I have been doing to learn English. I’ve never been interested in learning English, I’ve been studying it since I was a kid, but I was just studying it to pass my examinations.
My grades in English were always bad. I never had good grades in English class until I started my high school. In the first two years of high school I hated English more than before, but this time it was because of my foreign teacher. Most of my friends in my class were fluent in English except for me, that’s why she liked them the most and she was a really racist person in my opinion. When she was calling on people for answers, she skipped me. When I raise my hand she ignored it, and I know that she was doing this intentionally. On every essay or written assignment I had, I got nothing higher than a 70%. I asked my teacher multiple times why I was doing poorly and she said: your writing is not what I’m looking for.
In grade 12, I made a friend who changed my life in SO many ways. She was a fluent English speaker, and I won’t ever forget her permanent support of me. I decided at that time that I will fight to improve my English to prove to her that I can get good grades. So I could say, it was like I was in a battle and she was my enemy. I kept telling myself that I have to win this battle whatever the results.
At the end of the year, I won my battle and I got 93 out of 100 on the final exam (which is an “A”). She was deeply shocked, and I’m glad she was. I learned a good lesson, which is why I won’t allow anyone to bring me down or to belittle my abilities.
My real journey and battle of learning English started after graduating from high school. On the summer vacation of 2009, I decided that I would use the internet to improve and brush up (practice) my English. While browsing the web, I found italki “a language learning site” accidentally. I made an account there, and I still remember the first person who I met there who was Fatima from the US.
Fatima accepted to be my English teacher and exchange with Arabic, “my mother tongue.” My English wasn’t good, and she kept correcting my mistakes. But, I was feeling embarrassing sometimes because of my mistakes in both speaking and writing, but she kept advising me that you mustn’t be afraid of making mistakes, but once you make them you have to rectify them with the help of a dictionary. She was so patient with me, so skilled, and a lovely teacher. I used to talk with her for hours in both spoken and written English. I will always be grateful for her the rest of my life.
Because I’m a really shy person when it comes to speaking with foreigners, I left Italki.com after one year of using it. I’ve learned millions of new things from this stunning site, and I met really awesome people, and I’m still in touch with them.
I was living abroad at that time, and because there are many foreigners there, I hardly tried to converse with them, but I noticed that my English wasn’t that good yet and I couldn’t understand them well.
There was a goal that I wrote for myself which is, “I will never give up learning English,” and I’m badly determined to achieve this goal. I confronted many problems concerning English writing and speaking, but I keep reminding myself that learning English is similar to learning basketball (learning a new sport). I spent lots of hours in school to practicing basketball because I loved it. So I was definitely sure that if I spent enough hours learning English with passion, my English would be improved just like my basketball skills. They say practice makes perfect, and this is indeed right.
After that, I was kind of puzzled as I didn’t know what to do next, so I made a decision that I would start reading any random blogs in English. And that was one of the great decisions that I’ve made in my life.
I’m the type of a person who if I started to read anything, I can’t stop because I’m a bookworm (a person who loves to read). I bought a notebook and started to write new vocabulary, slang and idioms and search for their meanings on Google. And I was using a program, which is called “Al wafi,” to listen to the pronunciation of words. I read hundreds of blogs over the past years.
After blogs, I started to buy English books. But just a tip, try to choose the types of materials you love to read. For example, some people like to read literature or novels, some may have tendency towards more straightforward type of reading materials, such as newspapers and magazines. So, pick the topics you are passionate about and read it with blazing interest. Myself, I enjoy reading all types of books, except romance novels, because I’m not into them (I don’t like them). I used to repeat reading the same materials in order to imprint those beautiful words, phrases, and sentences on my memory. Plus, I used to take books with me everywhere; I read where ever I can. I find that I constantly have little 5-10 minute pockets of time where I am waiting either in the airport, school, or restaurant or even in a bored class.
So, the results were unbelievably rad. After spending so much time reading in English, this allowed me to write in English naturally. Writing intuitively means that I can write correctly in English without knowing all the grammar rules, but again I’m not perfect at writing, yet.
Reading can make one learn not only languages, but cultures and rituals of civilizations by making an individual live the past, present, or future of places he or she has never been to and this is what exactly happened to me.
Reading is one of the easiest ways to gain new vocabulary. You may not even need to use a dictionary because you can guess the meaning from context. Not only do you learn new words, but you see and learn English grammar naturally.
Another method that helped me in improving my English is writing letters to my foreign friends and exchanging it with them through the postal service. This idea came to my mind when I was spending one of my summer vacations abroad, and I couldn’t get an internet connection. So, my Finish friend sent to me a text message, telling me that she has lost the connection with me. So we decided that we would exchange letters, writing our updates in life. I wrote to her a letter that consisted of 15 pages. I think it’s too long, but it was a great chance to practice my English writing and to use the dictionary.
My English speaking has also improved through watching documentaries, in English of course. Watching documentaries comes in second place after reading for me. I enjoy watching them and I pay much attention when the characters speak, and sometimes I record it.
Substantially, I remember that the brain is designed to learn. But it takes its time, and it does it on its own schedule. A big problem in language learning is that people get frustrated too quickly because they forget, they don’t understand, they don’t know how to say what they’d like to say. But in fact, you have no control. You have to trust that if you keep studying, you will learn. So, trust the process and be patient.