Rajinder: Spot on!
Umesh: There are three aspects to learning a language - Visual (things you can see - reading & writing), Speech (speaking), and Effectiveness (using the right language, vocabulary, grammar, intonations etc., for the right occasion conveying the text, meaning, and feelings correctly, without adverse affects on the recipient). Mastery in any one of the three does not necessarily mean mastery in others. On the same note, being a master in reading, writing and speaking in a particular language does not mean that you are an effective communicator. Effective communication takes a lot more than just being able to read/write/speak in a language (as mentioned above).
Coming to learning English, there are two major challenges. One - Grammar related (vocabulary, sentence formation, etc.). Two - Accent related (mostly intonations).
1. Grammar related – You can learn this by reading any number of English publications out there (National and international English News papers/websites/magazines, such as timesofindia.com, msnbc.com, cnn.com, News Week, India Today, Times, People etc.). Look up a dictionary if you don’t know the meaning of any word (Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com
). This will help you not only in building your vocabulary, but also in learning how to construct sentences as well as how to use the words you learn in a sentence.
2. Accent/intonations – We often make fun of Indian English for its accents and idioms, but believe it or not, every country has its own accent of English. The US has over half a dozen different accents, UK has at least 4 distinct and heavy accents (British, Welsh, Northern Irish, Scottish) and numerous dialects, and God Bless some of the European and Asian accents – I can’t understand them even if my life depended on it! So, don’t worry about this in the beginning. But to get a handle over accent, first start talking in a slow, deliberate and enunciated manner. Speak very clearly. Also hear some English shows/movies from around the world to understand how words are generally pronounced. If not, just look up the word on Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com
, and there you will often find a little speaker icon next to the meaning that contains a short audio of how the word is pronounced. Just learn it and keep practicing. Also try to imitate the person you are talking to. After all is said and done, the purpose of our speaking is for the listener to understand.
Regarding how to learn a language, I second Rajinder’s advice. Start thinking “in the language
” you want to learn. As babies, when we are learning how to speak, we don’t have any language to form our thoughts in. As we are forming our thoughts, we invariably start forming them in the language we hear the most (our mother-tongue, or the language our parents speak). As we start going to school, we pick the language and accents that our classmates or friends speak. If this is different from the language we speak at home, we often get confused, but eventually end up picking up both languages. Thereafter, as we continue thinking, our thoughts are involuntarily formed in the language we are closest to (whether it is our mother tongue or another language). And finally, mastery comes in the language our thoughts are formed in. This is the reason why, once we are grown up, it becomes difficult to learn a new language, because we find it very difficult to force ourselves to think in a language different from what our thoughts have been forming in for most of our lives.
Therefore, force yourself to “think
” in the new language (in this case, English). It is initially very hard to do so. However, with conscious effort, you can rewrite the sub-conscious mind and retrain your thoughts to use English as the preferred language. Once you train yourself to do that, you are well on your way to mastery in English.
All the best.
-Som G 7th May 2012 From United States, Woodinville