Study English naturally

My mom once told me: “You gotta learn a foreign language the way you learn Vietnamese, little by little, everyday, and then you can make the language yours.” (this is somehow like the Vietnamese proverb “Kiến tha lâu đầy tổ” 😀 ) (I believe this is what anh Luan said in his Learning Practical English post.) Do you remember how children learn to speak? They listen, imitate each word, imitate a phrase, then a sentence (everyday!), and when they are strong enough, they can make their own sentences.  Now, even though we are no longer children, we can still learn English the way they do. And I do believe this way of studying is really helpful.

So, to learn English, first we have to love the English language and want to learn it.

In order to speak well, we have to listen a lot, learn to say each word correctly, learn correct phrases and then learn correct sentences. This might seem funny, but in fact very important. Let’s imagine a foreigner trying to say “Tôi không muốn đi chơi đâu cả” but say “Tôi đâu cả muốn không đi chơi” instead. With the same words and almost the same order, the latter sounds strange and hard to understand for us. Similarly, when we speak English,we may use exactly the same words but if we put them in some strange order (which may sound perfect for us,) the outcome will be confusing for native speaker 🙂

Here is a website that have some very interesting ideas about English Study – . You may read it to relax and refresh after a hard-studying and hard-working day (please discard the advertising part of that website 🙂 )


19 Responses

  1. “Being a child, you have more chance to get through the heaven gate”, Jesus said.

    I made a mistake when I learned English: Try to talk fast and think that it’d make me sound like a real native speaker. Did not work! Being patient and humble like a child would do.

    When I teach Analysis, to help my students remember that A/B is big if A is big and B is small I tell them the following quote from Lev Tolstoi (if they don’t know who this guy is, mention “War and Peace” or “Anna Karenina”, I proudly inform that I read these in Russian!):

    “The greatness of a man is a fraction. The numerator is what he really is and the denominator is what he thinks he is.”

    It applies, I guess, here too. 🙂

  2. I think the most natural way to study English is to talk to native speakers (American, British or Australian 🙂 ). Be friend with them so that we can have more meaningful conversations rather than just a few quick sentences “How are you”, “Where do you come from?” Only when we become sufficient close friends, they will tell you your mistakes (plenty of them) in your pronunciations, the way you talk, the way you think, etc.

    I have an advantage of studying abroad for my undergraduate degree, so the process of getting used to English culture occurred to me in my twenties. However, it might take more effort if you are in the late twenties or thirties and fully submerged in Vietnam culture. However, we might loose our Vietnamese culture in the process of acquiring the English culture 🙂

    When I was in Texas, I followed a Bible study group with mostly non-mathematical people. I think it was very interesting experiences. It is good to know how mathematicians are viewed by other community 🙂

  3. I went to bars with my classmates! 🙂

    When you are drunk, you talk! Right? 🙂

  4. English is not quite natural! Watch Victor Borge for examples. “I sit up all night”. How do you sit “up”? 🙂

    This is my own experience:

    When I first came to my school in the US, they put me in the same office with an Indian guy (forget his name!). One day, after lunch, we felt sleepy and wanted to take a nap. It’d be weird to nap in our office, we thought (now, I do it often). There should be somewhere more appropriate for that purpose. I asked my officemate what he called it. “Well, a room where you can rest must be a restroom?”, he said. I trusted him. We went to the department office and asked a lady where the restroom was. “Down the hall way, turn left then right, you’ll find it at the second door”, she said. So we went.

    Of course, what we found is not a suitable place for our naps! We went back and complained to the lady. She then knew what we were looking for and explained to us that it was called “the lounge”!

    I then asked her “By the way, how do you rest in there ?”. 🙂

    How unnatural is this language!

  5. complaint->complained!

    Don’t know how to edit after submit!! 😦

  6. “When you are drunk, you talk! Right ?”
    This is definitely true 🙂 Most American girls know how to drink beers. They might have higher alcohol tolerance than yours 🙂

    English is just a means for you to get a scholarship or assistantship, to study for some degree in some English speaking countries such as America, Australia or Britain. At the end of the day, the most important things are your true personality, your hopes, your dreams, your personal beliefs. Those values are hard to be changed no matter what language you are speaking in…

  7. Agree!!!

  8. Just another idea. I’ve found that you can’t learn a language well if you don’t know the culture. Now, I still don’t understand American jokes. More or less, I am interested in learning English since I am curious about the culture. Like foreigners coming to Vietnam, if they have no idea about our culture, they would smile if we say “So Khanh” (thinking of that as a compliment :D)

  9. I think it’s hard to learn English in Viet Nam. You can’t speak English more often because there are few people can speak English with you.

  10. I think if u want to be good at speaking, u should practice much in writting. If u is good at writting, u can explain your ideas in corect ways. After u had skill in writting, u should read your sentences when u wrote them. Then u can explain your ideas directly in speaking.

    That is only my opinion! But I am very bad in writting. I hope I can improve my writting skill through this blog! 🙂

  11. Hi Lam, you are right that it is hard to study English in Vietnam. Of course the best way to master American English is to study it in the USA. However, you can still gain some good English level to take all the standard tests as TOEFL or GRE (I didn’t have to take GRE though 😀 )

    My point was:

    1. to be better in English, we need to learn it everyday. We may spend little time if you are busy, and more time if we want to. IMHO we can’t expect to study virtually nothing then spend 2 months of heavy study and still get high score (except for some genius out there that I’m not 😀 )

    2. In order to speak English well, we need to listen a lot. Just like children when they study how to speak – they listen and immitate.

    3. MaugiaotiengAnh had a good point when saying we need to practice much in writting. However, that alone is not enough as for good speaking purpose we also need good pronunciation and a fast thinking ability.

  12. A good speaking must have a fast thinking ability. That is right. But I do not worry about it.

    To become a good pronounciation person is so hard. And this is one of my problems. Hix!

  13. I still have an unfinished article on this blog which I do not expect to finish soon. 😦
    I have a question:
    – Why do we need to think fast in order to speak well? Did you mean finding English words quickly or having ideas to respond quickly?

  14. Anh Luan, my idea was for the speak part in TOEFL test, where students only have a limited time to elaborate the answer. By that I meant both, ideas and words to express it in a acceptable way, not necessary totally correct but understandable. Well… for “understandable” I can’t define it but can only feel it ^^

  15. It seems that those who need this blog to practice English don’t seem to bother, and those who don’t need this blog seem to enjoy so much 🙂

  16. I second 😀

  17. By the way, how is the Skype project going? At least I know it must be disrupted by the outage. 🙂
    I suggest that we inform people of the “project” on this blog and ask for participants. (However, I will not take part in for at least … nine moths 🙂 )

  18. I will email you about it 🙂

  19. I think English is a type of langue too hard to,we should spend lot of time for it.we need patient and confident.Don’t bore when you are mistake.this is the truth metion from my heart.bye!

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