You asked and I listened! Click here to download the new vocabulary used in this article. An easy reference list of 21 expressions, phrasal verbs, noun phrases and so on, used in this article.
Myth #1 The Best Way to Learn
Grammar is Through Endless Rules
Believe it or not, kids in the UK do actually learn foreign languages. Well, by learn I mean ‘get told about’. Here’s my story.
When I was 11, I started to learn German and Spanish at school.
Now, I didn’t have a choice about learning these languages. I was told that I was going to learn these languages.
I had classes three times a week for 3-4 years, and now I can’t remember anything from those classes.
Do you know why?
Because every class was a grammar lesson taught in English. All we did was grammar exercises and simple writing tasks.
My teachers didn’t teach us in German or Spanish either. My teacher used English 90% of the time in class.
Does this sound familiar? My guess is that you’ve been in classrooms where the teacher spends most of the time speaking in your language and teaching you grammar.
It’s easy to teach like that, and it’s easy for you to feel like you’re doing something.
But, it’s not the most effective way to learn.
You need to apply what you’re learning. You need to communicate in English.
Yes, you need grammar, but it’s not all you need.
Myth #2 You Don’t Need Grammar
Myth #2 is the popular belief that you don’t need grammar.
To some extent, this is a valid point. You’ll speak ‘more fluently’ if you practice expressions and patterns. But if you really want to communicate effectively, creatively and originally, grammar will help.
If you’re a business person, a student or someone who needs to write in English, you definitely need to have a good working knowledge of grammar.
The key phrase is ‘working knowledge’. This means that you actually know how to use the grammar. You need to internalise grammar from consistent and creative practice. For example, it can help to know when to use each tense.
The problem with this myth is that people use it as an excuse to be lazy. Let’s face it, ignoring grammar is easy, but don’t just do something because it’s easy. Do something because it helps you to reach your goal.
If grammar will help you to reach your goal, then study some grammar.
Myth #3 You Can’t Practice
Speaking On Your Own
I’ve dispelled this myth before. I learnt how to have conversations in Japanese on my own, and you can do the same in English.
All you need is some creativity and an internet connection.
In fact, the only times that you really need to have someone to speak to are:
- Genuine, real conversation – such as discussions
- Feedback, error correction, and speaking practice
- Specialised practice like interviews, presentations and accent reduction
For everything else, you can practice on your own. I practiced speaking Japanese on my own so that I could feel comfortable speaking to native Japanese speakers.
Want to know how I did it? Here’s my secret:
- To get better at answering questions, I used my pause and answer method.
- To get better at fast, natural speech, I spoke to myself.
- To build expressions, I mimicked TV shows
- To improve my pronunciation, I used shadowing.
In fact, speaking to yourself has some pretty cool benefits, such as improving your focus and problem solving ability.
It’s very possible to develop your speaking skills on your own, you just need to know how.
NOTE: Click here to download the list of the difficult vocabulary used in this article. An easy reference list of 21 expressions, phrasal verbs, noun phrases and so on, used in this article.
Myth #4 You Don’t Need
To Practice Writing
There’s a current trend where people seem to forget about improving their writing and just focus on improving their speaking. And, to be honest, I can understand why.
Writing has not really got a good reputation.
Here’s a story of a student I taught in the UK – maybe you feel the same way.
James was an international student from Taiwan. He was studying international business where he had to give a lot of presentations and write reports.
He was quite happy with his writing ability. He had spent years in English classes where they just copied sentences and practiced grammar. He understood grammar and knew how to write using simple structures, so he thought that he didn’t have any problems.
On the other hand, he didn’t practice speaking in Taiwan very much, so he spent all of his time practicing speaking.
The result? His presentations were great – well structured, well paced, and well pronounced.
But his essays… well, they were not great.
James did not actively try to improve his writing outside of class, so things like his sentence structure, word order and ideas actually got worse.
Because he neglected his writing, he couldn’t express his ideas well in his essays.
So what’s the point here?
Learning a language is not just based on one skill. If you really want to be advanced, it’s not just about being able to speak to people. You also need to be able to communicate in other ways. This includes writing, understanding the culture, and being able to listen well.
But there is a simple fix, and that is to incorporate everything into your practice. Don’t just focus on one skill.
Myth #5 IELTS Will Prepare
You For University
Now, I know I said IELTS, but let’s not just pick on IELTS. This can also be said for TOEFL, TOEIC, and other language courses.
Let’s look at three pretty big differences between an IELTS essay and an academic essay:
Writing 350 words is not the same as writing 3,500 words. Writing a short text under a time limit based on personal opinion requires a different set of skills to writing a more in-depth 3,500 word essay based on research.
The Grading Focus
Language tests focus on your ability to use language. Academic essays focus on your ability to develop, explain and communicate ideas.
The Language Used
In a language test, you’re encouraged to use idioms and personal expressions, such as “This is a hot topic” or “in my opinion”. In an academic essay, you’d be marked down for using informal language.
Language tests might ‘prove’ that you know ‘enough’ English, but it’s not enough. You should still prepare yourself for university.
How do you do that?
The first thing I suggest, dear reader, is to start reading more.
No, you don’t need to read more Facebook statuses! Read more academic writing and news articles. Read things which get you excited and challenge you. Read so you know what to expect.
Are there any myths here that you do or don’t agree with?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Ready to learn the language in this article? Click here to download the list of the difficult vocabulary used in this article. An quick reference chart of 21 expressions, phrasal verbs, noun phrases and so on, used in this article.