Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Stop Memorizing! English Is Not a Math Equation

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 @ 08:22 AM

English is not like MathDo you think that English is just like math?

Did you learn the grammar rules in school as if they were math equations?

Did you score a perfect score on the TOEFL because you memorized the rules and test strategy?

If you used these strategies then you are probably struggling right about now because you have realized that "math equations" do not help when it comes time to interact with real English speakers in everyday life.

You are still thinking in your native language and translating into English.

So how does this feel in your daily life? The professor asks you a questions in your grad school classes here in the US and you freeze. You sink into your chair. There is not enough time to sort out the grammar rules in your head.

In other words, you might be a grammar expert, but when it comes to speaking, YOU ARE PARALYZED!

In today's lesson I will show how you to move in the other direction and start thinking about English as an art; the art of communicating and connecting with people. It's not black and white. it's colorful and unpredictable. Embrace it! Here's how:




#1) Throw away your dictionary


dictionaryDo you sit at home and memorize words in the dictionary?

Do you go out and try to use those words that you found in the dictionary and then wonder why people don't understand you or look at you in a strange way?

American English speakers don't speak like dictionaries- so don't use the dictionary when you prepare to speak with them.

Instead, start watching TV, listening to music, and speaking with people every time you get the chance.

Read more here.





#2) Don't memorize rules, learn phrases


English phrasesDo you struggle with remembering which preposition to put after an adjective?

You might wonder if you should say "I am interested in" or "I am interested about".

Well, instead of learning the adjective and then learning the preposition that comes after it, you should learn them together and then immediately start using those phrases every day in conversation.







#3) DO NOT seek perfection


dartboardPerfection will paralyze you.

Who cares if you make a grammar mistake?

Native speakers do it all of the time.

It's better to be out there speaking and making mistakes than it is to be in your home memorizing a dictionary and never really learning how to use the language.

Read more about the problem with perfectionism here.






#4) Speak as much as possible


speak English as much as possibleGet a language exchange partner, volunteer, get a part-time job, join meetups, or visit a nursing home every weekend.

Do whatever you have to do to get more daily speaking practice.

Once you get away from your textbooks and out into the real world you will see that this kind of learning is much more fun anyways.




The fastest route to English fluency is to change the way you study English. Are you still thinking in your native language and trying to translate into English?

Are you still thinking about English as a math equation? There's not enough time for that in daily conversations!

Think of English as an art. Get out there and speak with people,  and you will see fast improvement.



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 Photo credits: Speaking Latino, katerha, 7bits of truth, marklittlewood, crdotx

Topics: Advice for English Students, How to Learn English

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