Over the past year, I have been communicating with some English teachers who impressed me with their love of learning. Although not directly involved in teaching, I have some tips to share. My fans have learnt a lot of ideas and practices from my sharing. Your friendly comments are welcome!
Unlike most learners, I rarely do exercises or take mock tests. Even when tutoring others, I don't teach test-taking skills. The reason for it is that I do not study to pass the exams. Some might doubt if I could cope with all the tests and exams. On the contrary, I never failed any test whether in English, Japanese, French or in Korean. And to make it more interesting, the students I tutored did well in the exams too.
I spend most of my study time reading and listening, for instance, reading stories, listening to the recording and radio, transcribing, reading aloud, shadowing, reciting,...etc. Perhaps I am not very smart and often have to read aloud a hundred times before I can recite a text. This stupid approach, perhaps, enabled me to maintain a high level of proficiency in different languages in an environment where I had very little interaction with the outside world for quite a few years.
My observation of children learning English has revealed that parents are excited to see their children singing and cheering in English. This learning-by-doing method may work well for young learners. But an obvious weakness is insufficient quality input.
As far as school students are concerned, many learners just read a text a few times before moving on to the exercises and mock tests. Perhaps they expect to consolidate their English learning with drills and exams.
Some of my fans often complain that the main reason for their slow progress is the lack of an English-speaking atmosphere and the shortage of English speakers to serve as language partners. Teachers may find that senior high school students tend to speak better, whilst students in junior high school and primary school have little to say. This means that the quality and quantity of English input in primary and secondary schools is not satisfactory.
Therefore, I have always advocated that the quality input of English in primary schools should be increased so that students can master 3,000 to 5,000 words upon their graduation. There is not a lot of homework in primary school, and the ‘double reduction’ has freed up much time. What’s more, children are language geniuses at an early age. I believe bilingual competence should be a part of the basic qualities of a contemporary citizen. The less he learns as a child or teenager, the more challenging English study will be when one tries to learn it later on.
Adult learners involved in self-study should focus on reading and listening. From my communication with some English teachers, I have found that they are impressive for their great knowledge of subjects, predicates, objects, determiners, gerunds, complements, predictive, subjunctive mood... but their written English often teems with mistakes and awkward wording. So, instead of trying to go through big grammar books or looking for oral English training, they are suggested to keep reading, listening, watching, shadowing and communicating with people in English. That's the way to improvement.
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