Start from what you enjoy

4 steps of my English language learning experience

I thought a lot about the topic and I decided to share my experience of learning English. It may not be fun but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

I’m not a teacher or psychiatrist so I can’t explain my experience logically. I just want to share it as an ordinary person. What I want to say is :

“Start from what you enjoy.”

I’m not saying this as a person who is done with learning English. I’m still running a marathon. I stand here, however, to tell to everyone, who thinks they have a week mind like I did, about how to overcome that frustration or loss of self-confidence. And I hope that this might help you to not give up and keep it up. I will tell you why this is important later.

So, let’s talk about language. There are four features to a language: Listening, reading, writing, and speaking. And I’m going to talk about the four steps of my English language learning experience.

Step 1. Finding what I enjoy

Mostly, there were two types of test that I took in school. Listening and reading. What I realized is I like listening more than reading. And I am quite good at. I’m not saying that I am better than any others in my class. There are tons of people who are better than me, obviously. It doesn’t matter what others do well. It’s just about me. Everyone knows that is endless to compare yourself to others. Don’t do that, just look at yourself. When I looked at myself, I realized I enjoy listening. The results of tests showed me that. Most of the time, I got more grades than average in listening. And I didn’t hate to take a listening test.

But I’m terribly bad at reading. I was slow and so confused; I just didn’t want to do it. I hated it. I hated those grammar tests and reading tests but worst was writing. Another thing is, mostly, if the content was the same, I understood better when I heard the audio or watched the video than just reading it. For that reason, I realized I like listening.

Step 2. Enjoy what you like

I want to be good at English but I don’t want to study boring stuff. I just want to enjoy it. When I was student, I HAD TO completed the tasks that the teachers gave me; I had to study for tests. That was horrible. I wasn’t a smart student. I wasn’t patient enough to do that.

But after I graduated school, I was free! I was free to study what I wanted to study. So last year, I started to listen. I didn’t listen to CNN or BBC. I’d tried but it was too difficult. I had no idea what they are saying. Those were not ‘listening’ for me.

Also, I didn’t do listening something in English super seriously, for example, doing dictation. I didn’t do it because that is not just ‘listening’. I have to think about spelling and grammar while I’m doing it so that’s listening and writing, which I hate.

I just focus on what I like. I like listening to pop-songs and watching Disney and Hollywood movies. So, I just enjoyed those more seriously than before. I tried to imitate them. I tried to open my ears and concentrated to understand. Sometimes I listened to some radio programs for people who are learning English. Usually, I used my spare time, like when I was using public transport, for example. This may not have been good for improving my English as fast as I wanted, but I didn’t get bored of this. This kept me exposed to the language. I could keep going for long time.

And this helped me in 3 ways.
a. Improved my pronunciation.
b. I learned words or phrases naturally. Although I don’t know the spelling of the words, but I understand when I listen to them, and I can use them in conversations.
c. I got little bit of a sense of English. After I started to concentrate on my ears, not on subtitles, while I watched movies, I started to accept English as English. Also, I didn’t have to look up vocabulary in a dictionary every time cause there are subtitles! This is really good for people like me who are lazy to do that.

Step 3. Take advantage of desire to learn

After I practice listening, I want to speak. I developed a desire to speak English, and made that feeling my motivation and acted on it. Therefore, I joined a telephone English program at university around the second half of last year. They gave me a certain dialogue, and I talked with native speaking English professors for 10–15 minutes, twice in a week. I did that for 2 months, which is 4 hours of phone calls.

I was always nervous and sometimes I got frustrated but they encouraged me a lot. It was good to try because I got two things. One is courage. The courage from professors. The other one is needs. The knowledge that I need to input more words! I realized I had only few words to speak. Introducing myself was almost all I knew how to do in English. I needed input. I needed more words to do better in conversations. If I had some interest in the topic, it wasn’t bad. But when I got a topic that I had no interest in, that goes worse. I reached my limit so easily and quickly in the conversation. Those two things was important. Important because it comes from myself, from my mind, from my heart.

Step 4, Expend your zone of activity.

I pushed myself to do some reading because I needed to improve. Therefore, I can expand my zone of activity. At that moment, I met LingQ. LingQ was the perfect tool that I was looking for. Reading something in English had always been boring and tough for me. I had already been exhausted by having to read stuff at school that I wasn’t interested in at all. Even though I found some interesting books, I didn’t try to read them. I couldn’t dare to do it because I was too lazy to look up all those words that I didn’t know or make my own flashcards. It was just too much to do everything every time. But LingQ solved those problems. It was the right tool to use for my needs.

To be honest, I still feel fear when I spoke and sometimes I got frustrated but much less than before, for sure. Because now I have more words and phrases to use. I input those materials from studying on LingQ a lot. LingQ helped me to read not just short articles but books and I really enjoy it. LingQ changed my thoughts about reading. I stepped forward, I expanded my comfort zone of activity, listening to speaking, and to reading.

And I still need to expand more. Expand to the next step, ‘scary writing’. After I wrote in English on my SNS channel a few times, I want to write well to communicate with a variety of people online. As you already know, we are living in a world that connected by the Internet. I’m lucky to have been born in this generation and have a chance to benefit from this. But I had always tried to avoid writing, because I know that I’m bad at. I’ve always gotten lots of answers wrong in English tests at school, and that makes me so depressed. Writing is 10 times harder than reading for me. But I caught my little hope about writing from somewhere deep in my heart. This time writing is something that I want to do, not what I have to do. And LingQ Exchange has encouraged me. I can get a writing correction from native speakers. Still I have lots of problems but I don’t get depressed now, because I know that I have learned a lot and I’m getting better. It’s not just about the result, it’s also about my effort.

The good things about writing are:
a. I don’t need to talk to. Speaking is more interesting and fun for me but I always need someone to talk to. But writing is different. Even though I write something wrong, still I can write. And it’s better if there’s someone who can help me.
b. No time and space restraints.
c. I can see myself more clearly and objectively. When I speak, words are just gone. But when I write, it leaves a trace.
d. It’s easier to get help from others.

Through these 4 steps, I did listening, speaking, reading, and writing by myself. I studied these things because I wanted to. This may not be a short term study idea but actually help you learn in a happier way, in my experience. I am the main character of this play. To be honest, I’ve taken more than 10 years of school classes. The most important this is I can enjoy English. Slowly but gradually.

I’ll tell you why I think focusing on enjoyment is important. I can be more positive, encouraged, be far from the word ‘giving up’. Especially, as we are living in a world where it is easy to compare yourself to others, it’s important to focus on yourself and know how to love yourself. I found that it’s easier to focus on myself when I started from what I liked. And those kinds of thoughts affect better results.