The Ugly Truth about English Language Learning
“The best way to learn a language is to live it.”
English language learning has been increasingly popular in Cambodia. Just like students in other nations, Cambodian students spend a great amount of time mastering English as a foreign language. They spend years to reach the desired level of proficiency. Still, they often feel the need to improve their language when they move from one stage to another — from high school to university, and from university to working life.
Why is it that people spend so much time on language mastery and never feels satisfied? Is it because of their innate language aptitude? Or is it a matter of intrinsic motivation? The answer may vary from one person to another. But there is an ugly truth about English language learning that is not commonly heard of.
In his seminars, Zig Ziglar often said that, “repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” Almost every successful person knows this truth. They know that mastery of any skills needs time, effort, and patience. There is no such thing as shortcuts to success. When people witness a person who has such a high success rate, they tend to think that there is a quick fix that the person must have access to.
The same goes to language learning. Proficient language users are often asked how they can learn the language so well. And to answer that question, they often suggest regular practices, self-motivation, personal discipline, and so on.
In contrast, what is seen in a typical language classroom is the transition from one lesson to another. ‘Every day is a new day’ seems like a good description of the classroom these days. When a teacher teaches the same concept over and over again, the classroom climate is labeled as ‘boring’.
Here is when the ugly truth comes into place. For a skill to be fully developed, it needs consistent repetitions; yet from the students’ perspectives, more is better, and new is preferred. This is because the quantity of information infused upon the students’ minds gives them a semblance of mastery.
Knowledge wise, learning more is knowing more. But skills wise, learning more is not doing more. For students to be able to use English well, they need to immerse themselves into the language. They have to practice a particular skill consistently until reaching mastery.
The incongruence between the need and the common practice is the reason why Cambodian students, as well as many others, struggle to develop English language. They spend time studying and restudying the same language points over and over again. But each time they approach the language point, there are little or no consistent actions to shift knowledge into skills.
To escape such dilemma, students should have a personal action plan in addition to classroom learning. They have to work on developing each skill with the time they have. They need to practice beyond the classroom time and incorporate language learning into their daily lives. Language learning should never be limited to classroom activities. Since language is a part of life, the best way to learn a language is to live it.
Written By Chap Vikrant