Learning English is Hard Work Posted by Gary Locke on Jan 9, 2020 in Linguistics, Speaking English
Lots of people begin every new year with a resolve to work out, or lose weight, or even learn a language. We’re looking to improve ourselves. If you are trying to improve your English then I promise you that I will help you. But, you need to know that English is a very difficult language to learn. This isn’t going to be easy.
If you study a language in school for 4 hours each week over a 12-week semester, with 2 semesters every school year, you are putting in 96 hours of study every year. Using standards set by the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, which trains English speakers to learn many different languages, it takes between 575 – 1100 hours of intensive study to achieve basic fluency in a language.1https://effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty/ It depends upon the language, of course, and basic fluency means just a minimum ability to communicate and fulfill standard work requirements. In other words, it’s a long way from having a natural conversation with a native speaker.
There are 8,736 hours in a year. Since we all have to sleep, let’s say that the average American is awake for about 5000 hours every year. That’s 5000 hours every year that the average American is using English. You would think that, by age 25, Americans would be great English speakers. But, the truth is that many of us are not very good at speaking and writing our own language. I have many intelligent friends who make the most basic mistakes with English every day.
As I stated not so long ago, I often make spelling mistakes on words that I use every day. I regularly hear friends use words that aren’t in any dictionary. Punctuation and grammar errors are very common among even the most well educated. The reason that there are so many books and, yes, blogs about basic English is because there is a real need for them.
If you are now losing hope that you will ever be good at English, please cheer up. I am not trying to discourage you. Think of me as your coach, pushing you to be better, but being honest about the work ahead of you. Like many languages and other areas of study, English is a lifetime commitment. And, like any discipline, you need to keep working at it.
But, since you can’t study all the time, there are ways that you can improve your English and have some fun at the same time.
Watch American television and movies
Please, only watch shows and films with subtitles, or better yet watch with the subtitles turned off completely to see how much you understand. You’ll be surprised how much better your skills will improve.
Read comic books
Trust me, comics are a great tool for language learning. You have the words in front of you, with pictures to help you understand what’s being said.
Play Scrabble with a friend
In this classic language game, you get random letters and have to make words from them. I’ve known people in their 90s who played this game! I even knew a Nobel Prize-winning poet who played Scrabble all the time! Anyone can play it and improve their English.
Finally, let me suggest that you look through our blog archive. We have years of subjects and categories for you to look through. There are lots of helpful posts available to offer you guidance and answers to many questions. And if you need help learning English, please let me know. I’m here for you. We’ll do this together.