Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Two Hours a Day

by AJ

From The Linguist:

"It really does not matter why you want to improve your English. The important thing for you to know is that you can improve. You can actually improve quite quickly. You just have to do it the right way. Most people study languages the wrong way. They study from text books or traditional learning systems with uninteresting content, but lots of pictures, plenty of grammar explanation and quizzes. This kind of instruction looks like it should work, but for most people it does not. It is uninteresting and inefficient. Most people do not progress rapidly and are not satisfied with their language studies. They lose interest and will only study if forced to because of exams. I can understand this. It is hard to keep working at something if you do not succeed.

You need to understand how to learn a language. When you learn a new language your brain starts to change. The brain begins to build networks of neurons that will enable you to operate in a new language like English. You will not become fluent because you understand grammar rules. You become fluent as your brain naturally develops the ability to understand English. You become fluent when you can put thoughts together correctly in English without having to try to remember grammar rules.

So how can you most quickly build these new networks for English? It depends on three things: your attitude towards studying English, the amount of time you spend on English, and how efficient your study method is. It does not depend on teachers or tests. You have to realize that your thoughts and actions are what will most influence the development of these new networks in your brain. How well and how quickly you learn is up to you"

Im really quite fond of The Linguist. That fondness comes from a student's perspective, rather than a teacher's. As I continue to try to learn Spanish, I find continued inspiration from The Linguist.

Success "does not depend on teachers or tests". Quite obviously. What the research shows is that success depends on a massive amount of comprehensible input. Authentic. Interesting. Understandable.

But just what does "massive" mean. According to The Linguist, it means about two hours a day of language input. For those wanting to learn English, they recommend listening to and/or reading (understandable) English two hours EVERT SINGLE DAY.

This is far more than Ive been doing for Spanish. I was averaging maybe 30 minutes of Spanish a day... till I stopped altogether 6 weeks ago (I stopped in order to brush up on survival Japanese-- in preparation for my trip to Japan).

Now Im ready to go after Spanish again. At first, two hours seemed daunting. Too much. But its not very hard to do, really. In the morning, I listen to a book on CD for 30 minutes. During the day I can listen to an MP3 player while I walk, take the train, or do errands. I can also read when commuting on the train. At night I listen or read for another 30 minutes.. before going to bed.

Split up in this way, two hours a day is not too difficult to achieve. Especially because these activities are pleasant. Im not trying to memorize grammar rules. Im listening to stories and reading stories. The time goes quickly.

I recommend this same approach to my students. Split up your English time. Listen for 30 minutes every morning. Read on the bus or train... or at lunch time. Listen to a movie or book every night before bed. Invest in a cheap MP3 player... and download English books on CD. Or download conversations from English Conversations.

Spread out in this way... two hours a day is not difficult.