Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dead Language

by AJ

I understand why so many students hate English (or foreign languages in general). How could they not? Traditional foreign language education is horrible-- an almost total failure.

Traditional school is where inherently fascinating subjects have all the magic and wonder sucked out of them. Its where the miraculous wonders of life become the boring & seemingly pointless subject of "biology".

Likewise, school is where the incredibly interesting & lively subject of language and culture becomes "English 101". Students minds are dulled by a relentless & obsessive focus on obscure "grammatical" rules, error correction, tests, and grades. For many students, English class is an exercise in humiliation. My students tell me horror stories.. of being humiliated in front of the class for making a grammar mistake. While there are certainly kind and generous teachers, the traditional school system is, at heart, a sadistic one of regimentation and control.

My experiences with traditional education were less traumatic than my students, but no less pointless. I loathed Spanish class. I remember feeling overwhelmed and clueless... and bored out of my skull. Each day we went through meaningless textbook exercises. Each week, I memorized the vocabulary list at the end of the chapter, and the grammar rules too. Each week I got high grades on the test... then promptly forgot everything. Spanish seemed like a completely pointless class... for I never understood how all that BS had significance for me or my life.

Self-study (with or without the aid of a tutor/coach) is the way to go. What a difference this makes.

This time, studying Spanish on my own, I am filled with excitement and fascination. Im having a great time with the language-- especially as I learn more about the cultures of various Spanish speaking countries. As I do so, my imagination is fired and Im seized by the desire to visit these places. This time, Spanish is not some obscure academic subject... its a living language spoken in a variety of interesting places I want to visit.

Traditional school divorces language from culture, from travel, from real people, from ideas, from philosophy, from literature, from history. Its a dead subject.

With self-study, this does not have to be the case. You can choose content that fascinates you. You can save money and actually go to a country where the language is spoken. You can eat their food, listen to their music.

Those activities bring the language to life... and power your motivation far more than textbooks & grammar tomes.

So put away the textbooks and fire your teacher. Dare to engage the living language directly!

San Francisco, CA