Every day I am amazed at the English language competence of people who have come to New Zealand to live, but whose native languages are not English. And it is certain that one reason for the success of people who learn English as a second language, is immersion these people are immersed in English from day 1, and for that reason they are intrinsically motivated to learn.
I believe that two of the most powerful driving forces for language learning are motivation and confidence. If you have to use a second or foreign language in your everyday life, it is certain that you will learn basic vocabulary and phrases quickly. Human beings are social creatures, and they need to communicate, so if your neighbours are English speakers, that is a good motivation for you to learn English. And the more you use it the more you gain confidence in using it.
But what if you are learning in your own country, where you are not immersed in English? Then you have to create the motivation to learn and practice, in order to gain confidence. That sounds difficult… but it needn’t be. If you are reading this without difficulty, you are already a long way along the road to reading and writing good English, and probably speaking it too. In these blogs we want to give you some ideas about how to continue to use and practice your skills even if you don’t have the chance to interact with native speakers very often. These ideas won’t suit everyone: we are all different, and we all learn in different ways. You just pick and choose the ones that are good for you.
Today, I’m going to suggest one of my personal favorites: getting into the mindset of English by thinking in English, through reading fiction extensively. Christine Nuttall, a well-known advocate for extensive reading, advises that the best way to learn another language is to live among the speakers of that language. But if you can’t do that, and in the current global situation it’s difficult, she says ‘the next best way is to read extensively in it.’ And I agree wholeheartedly. But don’t try to read a 900 word novel immediately. You’ll probably get discouraged and never want to read another book in English.
Choose a Graded Reader written for your English level at ONE level below your own English proficiency.Yes, I mean this. Read something that seems too easy. Don’t believe that it will not do you any good if you know nearly all the words in it. Of course, it’s got to be interesting. If it’s easy, and you are fascinated by it, you will read it quickly, and it will give you practice in fluency. This is the real aim of extensive reading. Then read another one, and another! Very soon you’ll feel confident enough to choose a harder book, and in no time your English level will go up. More on Extensive Reading in a later blog.
Also, I want to suggest useful websites for you to check out.
The first one is the EL Gazette, a bi-monthly print and digital publication covering English language schools and teaching in the UK and overseas. https://elgazette.com/elg_archive/ELG2107/mobile/index.html
Meanwhile, happy English teaching and learning!