Are we learning English as a language?

We have understood the fact in previous chapter that we are unable to produce English language fluently even after spending lots of time.

Do you know how much time has been spent by a student who has cleared higher secondary education?

It’s almost 1000 hours { 230 days in  schools, each day one lecture of English of 30 minutes summed up to 115 hours multiply by 8 years reached to almost 1000 hours.  }.We have not calculated the hours of homework, tuition and other work done by the students.

Now, have you ever given any consideration why there is still a dream for most of the students to speak fluently in English?

People are working so hard for achieving fluency in English. First they learn it in schools then they join tuition classes, after finishing 12th, they join any spoken English class, buy some books of spoken English, ask other people what to do to improve  English, give lots of efforts and work hard to learn English. Still people are not getting the result they want.

What could possibly be the reason for not getting the results?

Well, working hard on something is important but not enough. We live in the era of smart world so it is more important that you work smartly. It is important that you work on a right track. We may be working hard but, the path which we have chosen might have been wrong.

Let’s take an example, suppose you are a very handy driver of a car and you have a very efficient car and you have been asked to go to America by driving that car.

Would you be able to do that? No, the answer is simply no. why?

You are a handy driver and the car is good then why is it not possible for you to go to America? Because, the vehicle which you have chosen is wrong. To get to America you have to change your vehicle. Similarly, you are hard worker, you are intelligent, you are ready to put lot’s of efforts, but the vehicle which you have chosen to learn English might be wrong.

Till date, we have tried to learn English the way we learn other subjects. But we could never differentiate that English is a language and not a subject and a language is also a science. There are principles of the languages which should be understood first to learn it.

Once, we understand these principles half of the battle is over, rest you just have to apply those principles and act according to that. In this book, I have shown these principles which can be applied to learn English language. Anyone can become fluent by consistent efforts of few months in learning and applying these principles.

See, as far as learning is concerned, honest and consistent effort is required. In learning, too, nothing succeeds like success. In learning English language, you need to be consistent, always make a schedule and stick to it.

I am not going to ask you to do hard work because that is all not necessary, I am asking you to put decent, honest and consistent efforts , that is, If you are planning to give an hour to English every day. Then, make it your habit to give one hour every day to it. Be consistent if you are giving more than an hour. First principle in learning anything is to be consistent.

Now, before, we actually start with the principles. I would like to ask you a question which I frequently ask to my students and in every seminar.

What is English? Is it a subject, a course or a language? If you ask this question to any school going student, he would reply that English is a subject.

If you ask the same question to some college going students or other English aspirants who are trying to learn this language, you may find the answer that English is a course. Very few people would reply that English is a language.

Now, if you agree with me that English is a language my second question is,

Are we learning English as a language? The answer would probably be no, because we have never got the opportunity to learn English as a language, first, we have learnt English in schools and colleges as a subject and then in different classes as a course.

Now, let’s see which techniques are adopted by different schools, colleges, classes and books. I have outlined the main points here.

In the first place, when a child enters in school, he starts learning English at about age of 10 when he is in 5th standard in most vernacular medium schools. When he starts learning English as a subject, He would never realize that the subject which he is studying is actually a language, so he would never be able to learn English as a language.

He always thinks that English is a subject and he has to crame whatever he comes across and gets good marks. Same approach is taken by teachers and schools. They train the students to get good marks in exam but never emphasize that English is a language. First and prime mistake, people are making is to teach English as a subject and not as a language.

In these kind of classes where English is taught as a subject. The approach of the teachers is to finish their course and not to see the improvement of the language of the students. They never emphasize on the importance of learning languages. They never ask the students to speak in English, or to read different English novels, magazines or books.

Normally, teachers enter in the class, read the pages of the topic and translate them in front of the students. We could imagine what happens when the teacher does the entire thing from reading the chapters to translating it.

At the end of the day who would learn? Students? No, definitely not. How would they learn if they are not given the opportunity to translate the topic themselves? Students would only be able to learn when they would be given the opportunity to translate. After finishing any chapter, students are given the task to write down the answers of the questions which they merely copy from guides and other materials. Next day, teachers would check the exercise.

But they never ask the students how had they done the exercise?

Traditionally, students are put in cramming lot’s of structures, words and vague rules of grammar. In doing so, they are forced to write down words, structures and rules several times.

For example, if they are taught “will”. They are never explained where to use “will”. In other words “Will” is not taught on the basis of situation.

First, the teachers give some weird explanation of “WILL”. Then after, students would write down the structure. Basically, there are four types of sentences of a structure. So in total, the students have to cram 4 types of sentences for one structure.

Suppose, if a student has learnt 50 structures in the school time in eight years. It would ultimately be 200 sentence patterns which the students have crammed. In this way, Most of the time is wasted in remembering and cramming these structures. However, they are never taught where to use them.

Thus, when students complete such learning, they find themselves in a position where they know each and every structure by heart but don’t know where to use them. What they know is just the name of some of the weird technical phrases. Like past form, simple present tense, pronouns, first person singular and some more.

In natural speech, nobody would ever want you to speak these words. They would want to have a conversation with you. And real conversation doesn’t depend on these kinds of technical words.

Have you ever remembered these kinds of words in your mother tongue while speaking it?

Do you recall anything like, this is a first person, and this is a verb, and this is pronoun and this is such and such tenses when you speak your mother tongue?

Don’t you think that these are the most ridiculous methods which most traditional classes are following to teach English?

Don’t you think that “I” means ‘હું’ {in case of Guajarati} is far easier to remember than first person singular? Then, why should we remember these kinds of weird technical words which are anachronic and boring?

In this book also, you are going to learn each and every structure of English language. But in a situational, natural, exciting way and not in a boring traditional way.

In the second place, As far as the traditional methods are concerned, this same process is repeated in every standard over and over. In following this pattern, a child would never learn the language the way he should learn. He only learns the crammed questions, words and vague rules of grammar.

So the result is in front of us, very few students who passed the exam of 12th standard are fluent in English. It is equally true for graduate and post graduate students, and for most English aspirants. They are neither fluent in English nor can comprehend the standard books of average difficulty in English.

If a student has been taught a language for eight years than he should be able to comprehend most books, novels, newspapers and magazines in that language. However, this is not true for most students.The students who are able to comprehend their course Book fail to comprehend any other standard book which is not a part of their school books.If they can comprehend their course books then they must be able to comprehend other books too.This shows that, the comprehension they have, has been achieved by mere cramming.

Let’s compare it with our mother tongue. We understand our mother tongue that is why we understand it in each type of reading. If a child is asked to comprehend his course book of Gujarati, he is able to do that. He is also able to comprehend Gujarati newspapers, magazines and books. Therefore, we can say he understands the language. If we compare, this does not happen In English. The child, who is fluent in comprehending his course book, fails to comprehend other magazines or books.

In the third place, in traditional way of learning English, writing is given more emphasis than speech because the teachers think that writing is more fundamental than speech and not the other way round which means, if you can write well you can speak well. But in reality, this is not true.Think about our own mother tongue, there may be lots of people who live in villages and have never gone to any school or college. Yet, they are speaking quite fluently.

They cannot write anything but they can speak the same language without any hesitation.This shows that speech is more fundamental, that is, if you know how to speak a particular language then you could also learn to write that language. We have already started to speak our mother tongue long before we went to school. Doesn’t this show that speech is more fundamental?

Moreover, some people use the method of translation in learning English. There are some benefits of this system as far as the beginners are concerned. If you are a beginner then you can rely on this method for some time but when you become advanced translation blocks your fluency.

See, translator follows a very vague pattern of speaking English. He thinks about the sentence in his mind and then speaks. Before speaking the next sentence he again thinks about it and in doing so, fluency is greatly compromised. It would require more than enough time to produce language. So translator speakers are hesitant speakers. They dawdle; they stumble, wherever they make mistakes.

In addition to this, every language has its own structures and expressions. Only a part of it could be translated to other languages. So when we think about a particular sentence to translate it would sometime put us in a very awkward situation. For example, if you ask someone who is totally relied on translation the meaning of “what’s up”; he would probably translate it in “ઉપર શું છે?”

However, “what’s up” is a common expression for greeting. Think about translating these kinds of sentences and you would put yourself in the most awkward, embarrassing situation. Think about our mother tongue, we have not learnt our mother tongue by translation. We have got the feeling of speaking it due to the vast experience of listening, reading and environment.

It is possible that you can give one or two sentence response by relying on translation. You speak with great hesitation; compromise a lot and speak in a sense that can be considered broken English. But if you want to speak with ease and comfort, with tremendous flow in your speech, then, you have to understand that by translation it is not possible.

In some of the classes and books a new method is taken as a means of teaching where the students are given lots of sentences in different situation for cramming. The perception is that if someone can cram 2000 to 3000 sentences he could speak in every situation,

However, this is not possible, because, we can never predict what kind of a situation would arise when you speak in your day to day conversation. Secondly, it is impossible for anyone to remember and cram these sentences. It is not possible for even native speaker of English language.

So, this happens everywhere whether it is schools, colleges, classes or so called fluency building books. So the reason for not having command over English language is whatever methods have been adopted so far, are lacking somewhere. And we can see the results. I don’t want to make the point unduly but numerous students of schools,colleges and universities are not able to introduce themselves or give the presentation of 10 minutes in fluent way.

Or, are they?

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Oxygen for English