My English teaching job in Chile started in 2015 with a cheerful, laid-back engineering student named Joaquin Vidal, who cracked a lot of jokes and always ensured there was juice on the table for me. Being in a pre-intermediate level back then, I remember him being a bit anxious about leveling up his English. After three months, however, he improved, especially with speaking and listening – he even got a high score in his TOEIC!
Even after we finished the course, we still kept in touch. I once remarked while chatting with him through text, “Your grammar is excellent. Have you been taking classes again?” He said, “No, I just watch series all the time!” Inspired by the way my student challenged the common myth that you have to learn English in a traditional classroom…
Here are 5 common myths about learning English—and why they’re untrue!
1.The best and only way to learn English is to live in an English-speaking country.
Some English learners feel that going to the U.S. or U.K. could skyrocket their skills because they will learn “by force” among the locals. This may be true, but as my engineering student proved, it’s not the only way. Another student I teach now, Sebastian Gomez, has only travelled to the U.S. a few times. He knows that living in a Spanish-speaking country is a complication for learning, but his English has improved a lot since he started studying it four years ago. How did he overcome it? “Just with classes and also Netflix in English,” he said.
The truth is, if you really want to learn the language –be it academic, business or general English— you can do it anywhere, as long you have resources. It could be your weekly conversations with a teacher, English-learning websites, TV or movies, or attending language-exchange gatherings
2.You can be fluent in English in a certain amount of time.
Teachers are often asked this question, ¨How long does it take to be at a good level of English?” The reality is, there is really no way to tell; it really depends on your willingness to boost your skills, and how often and how long you practice. “Imagine you are taking classes 1.5 hours a day, twice a week,” Graham Louis, an English teacher, relates. “That would be 144 hours a year. That’s too short.”
3.Translation is a valid way of doing things.
Anyone studying another language knows it’s not easy to set your brain in a second language for the first time. Many English students force themselves into “thinking in English” but end up translating, sometimes even word by word. Truth be told, this is not the best way to go. Enrique Burgos, an English student in Chile, shares this amazing tip: “When I started learning English, I always translated the word but I didn’t focus on understanding the meaning of the word. Just understand the meaning. For me, this is the key.”
4.Pronunciation is not important.
English pronunciation is full of vowels, consonants, diphthongs, exceptions to pronunciation rules, and still more exceptions. At first it is baffling, but it is also very important. For example, in class, we have amusing moments once in a while wherein one student says “wind” and we understand it as “wine,” or “choose” instead of “shoes.” The way you pronounce those “ed,” “ch,” “au,” and other sounds does, in fact, matter, and it can make the difference in being understood in English or not!
5.Grammar is the most difficult part.
We spend hours and hours discussing present perfect and other tenses, conditionals, and all those seemingly complex structures, and still learners are petrified to use them in speech. But grammar really shouldn’t be a barrier to language improvement. “Students at times get too focused on that and forget the bigger picture of communication,” says English teacher Jenny Perron. So, is there any way to overcome this? Another student, Alvaro Villaroel, thinks there is. “Practice something until you feel comfortable with it,” he says, adding, “you have try to use it until you feel that your almost learned it by heart.”
Click here to learn more about General, Academic, or Business English classes at BridgeEnglish, and start shattering some myths of your own!