How to “Learn” English – Part 1

This is a tough question because it’s a very broad question. How should one go about approaching learning English and what methods would be effective?

Mikhail:
Okay. So, one question [inaudible] that I get asked a lot is… I mean, lots of people just ask me with questions straightforward.

Yinso:
Okay.

Mikhail:
How do I learn, yeah, how do I learn English? How do I learn English?

Yinso:
That’s a pretty big topic. Okay.

Mikhail:
That’s a big topic.

Yinso:
So how do I learn?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
My handwriting always needs to improve. How do I learn English?

Mikhail:
English…

Yinso:
Okay.

Mikhail:
Let me, let me just give you couple of ideas for this big topic, because this is just something that comes to mind immediately when I hear that question.

Yinso:
Right, right.

Mikhail:
I just think that, first of all, you need to define the word learn.

Yinso:
Sure.

Mikhail:
I think this is critical. Like what does it mean to learn English? Some people might say, Oh, I just like to learn English. This is my hope. I really like, I like grammar, I like learning English vocabulary. But, I don’t necessarily have a goal of speaking English.

Yinso:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mikhail:
Maybe I just want to learn a bit of English grammar.

Yinso:
Sure.

Mikhail:
So, that’s one thing. So, or another person will say, I don’t care about grammar, I don’t care about vocabulary, I just, I just need to speak it, and that’s my goal. And that’s another type of learn.

And I think first, we need to define what learning is. What, what is your goal with English? And then after that, you will be able to figure out a good way to achieve these goals.

Yinso:
That’s a very fair way of looking at it because as we have talk about multiple times before, it’s always great to start with the end in mind.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Yinso:
So, you know, as you said, what is the goal? Are you trying to speak?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
Are you trying to just understand language in a academic sense, as a scholar? I mean, maybe you want to, I don’t know, read and study a Shakespeare. Something like that.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
Some people might be into those types of things. Right?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
But I think for most people, they really want to be able to speak. They want to be able to speak comfortably.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
Right? They want to be able to talk to others in English. And they want to feel like they are able to sound at ease in the same level intelligence as they sound in their own native language. Right? And you know, obviously some people would like to read and write as well. So, learning a language is a pretty big space. And we talked about this before as well in our first video that we recorded before. It’s like, even for native speakers, we don’t know all the language. The whole English space. Like say for example, lawyers will be speaking in terms that, English terms that I have no idea about. Doctors… They have their own little technical language…

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
…that only they know to speak.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
And you know, the same for me, that my profession is in the software business. So I speak in terms that other people who’s not in the same business will have no understanding what is going on at all. So…

Mikhail:
I can, I can attest… I can attest to that because business people really don’t understand what software developers are talking about.

Yinso:
And that’s part in, part of what we are trying to hope is that we can have something that can help people bridge that gap here. But yeah, you cannot really say that I want to learn English in a broad sense, just because English in a broad sense is a never finishing business.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
So, so I think you hit on, you hit it right on the head here. You really have to define the word learn, and you really have to start with the end in mind. What is your goal? And how to accomplish those goal. And you got to then make sure that you focus all your effort into it. Cause otherwise it’s… How do you know that you’ve truly learned?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
It’s like, how do you know you learned?

Mikhail:
Yeah. Yeah. How do you measure your learning? How do you measure the outcomes?

Yinso:
Right, exactly. So for example, in school, they will teach you bunch of English grammars, and they will test you and quiz you on the grammars. Now, since we’re, our audiences are gonna be people that’s already out of school, how do they measure themselves? Do they have some sort of the test that they go by?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
And if they don’t, how do they find those tests? And in many ways, you cannot really know whether or not you learned unless you have a way of verifying that you have learned. Right? So, so these are the types of things that the language learner is going to struggle with. It’s like, how do I try to exercise or try to make sure that I, my time and effort is well spent. So the easiest way though, I mean the hardest way as well, because a lot of the language learners, they are going to come across this and they’re going to get scared.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
So speaking with native speakers.

Mikhail:
Yeah, yeah.

Yinso:
Because here’s someone who can really judge, and who can really be in the position to say, okay, how close are your skills to my ability to speak? It’s like, it’s interesting that there are a lot of times non-native speakers have easier time to speak to non-native speakers.

Mikhail:
True.

Yinso:
Even though both people might have very broken English and they don’t really understand each other, but they will feel more comfortable talking to each other than they will with a native speaker who probably will understand what they’re saying, even though they’re struggling.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
I think the difference is what, the difference is that when they speak to another non-native speaker, they feel like, okay, we are the same level, so…

Mikhail:
Mm…

Yinso:
So, no one’s going… The other person is not going to be laughing at me.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mikhail:
But if I speaking to a native speaker, or someone who is a near native speaker, then that person could end up laughing at me because how bad I sound. Do you think that’s fair?

I can, it’s, that’s fair. And I can, I can share a couple of [inaudible] from my own experience because I’m basically a non-native speaker…

Yinso:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mikhail:
…who was, was trying to get to near native level basically. And I can tell you that basically this is something that almost every non-native speaker will share with me in conversation, because basically they’re in the same boat with myself and they’re looking for my advice. And I, I usually say that basically we have a gap. In my personal opinion, we have a gap between what native speakers are thinking and saying, and what non-native speakers are thinking and saying. And of course there are also cross-cultural differences. And even among native speakers, we are a different culture, so obviously we are quite different. But the important part is, I think the gap, the gap is a product on both sides. That kind of miscommunication gap. For example, talking about native speakers. So very often a native speaker who doesn’t have much experience speaking other languages or understanding other cultures, they simply kind of, they… they think that we don’t understand what non-native speakers are saying. And maybe some of them don’t want to put some effort into understanding…

Yinso:
That’s true. There’s definitely that.

Mikhail:
…cause usually [inaudible 00:08:10].

So that’s on native speakers, native speakers side.

Now, on non-native speaker side, I noticed something also very interesting. That some native, non-native speakers, they have it as excuse, like for example, they say, Oh, they don’t understand me, ah, so they can’t understand me, so I give up. Right? So, I don’t make any effort. Okay, so they don’t understand me, so I lost. So I’m not going to try again. That’s also not good. I think that they should try again. They should speak clearly. They should at least try to get themselves understood. So I think that this kind of gap exists on both sides…

Yinso:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mikhail:
…and I think the idea is just to bridge that gap. For example, for native speakers, to have more experience talking to non-native speakers and basically people from other cultures. And not, not being afraid of doing so, because I think it’s, it’s really great. And that’s, you can make a lot of friends, you can talk about subjects that you, you can learn a lot. Also, on the non-native speaking side, they shouldn’t be afraid of talking to native speakers or non-native speakers. So… [Inaudible]

Yinso:
Yeah, that is true.

Mikhail:
[inaudible 00:09:19].

Yinso:
Now, let’s look at, let’s look at who has the motivation. So for example, some native speakers.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
They do have the motivations to reach out to non-native speakers.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
Right? Now, the thing is that most of them, and for better or worse, they might not necessarily have the motivation or the reach. And because they in many ways, they don’t have a need to. In many ways…

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
…English speakers have a benefit that they can go anywhere in the world, and someone is going to be able to speak a little bit of English.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
So, you know, a lot of English speakers don’t have that motivation and they simply are just expecting other people to speak English to them. In many ways, we don’t necessarily like that per se, but what we’re talking about here is say, who has a motivation? Right? And so the motivation is most likely, is going to be greater on the non-native speakers side.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
Than you would be on the native speakers side. Native speaker can, can get around without having to talk to non-native speakers.

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