My love for the language and How I improved?
Teacher – “ When did you join?”
Me – “ I joined next Wednesday.”
That was a nervous me in 7th grade, new joinee to the class answering a simple question with error.
My English teacher was taking the attendance. That’s when she noticed my name in the register and asked the above question. At that age, I didn’t know the word ‘last’ which is used to denote something that has happened in the past. Instead I mistakenly blurted out “I joined ‘next’ Wednesday.”
The humiliation did not come from my classmates laughing at my honest mistake but from the realisation of my lack of knowledge of a language which I am so fond of. A language taught to us since we begin school.
The teacher was kind enough to correct my mistake. She politely explained the correct answer. Ever so grateful to her.
Unlike today, where kids are born into an English speaking environment, we were not acquainted with it until we joined school. And even then, it was not mandatory to converse with your fellow classmates, friends or even teachers in English, apart from the English hour.
The language was taught as a means of communication but it was rarely used in that way, native language of the region was preferred and prevalent which did not bother me, until that very moment.
Humiliated at my own shortcoming, I was determined to excel in learning the English language. Thus, started my quest of learning which today I must say is an integral part of me and my identity. It has shaped me in more ways than one.
How did I start?
1. Watching a lot of shows.
For a 12 year old, the first obvious and most practical step was to watch a lot of English television. And I was quite diligent in doing so, watching all possible shows that aired in that era. I was introduced to a whole new world.
It not only taught me the language, the hundred possible accents and it’s small nuances but also made me aware of their culture and traditions on a deeper level. I never missed episodes of The Oprah Show and Full House. Favourites at the time.
2. Invest in Reading.
Next on my list was reading, library hour was used judiciously to scour through the books and find a suitable one for the week to read. Although the inventory was limited I managed to chance upon The Babysitter’s Club and read all the editions. I loved all of them. Even fantasised about having my own secret club one day. A vain fantasy of everyone my age.
To improve my vocabulary, I listened to my English teacher’s advice of reading newspapers, especially the Editorial columns, which at that time didn’t feel like a legible language. Each word required the use of a dictionary, which my dad lovingly lent me. After a few failed attempts at understanding the words, I gave up.
My cousin who was five years older, was a big Stephen King fan and would devour all his novels. I tried making sense of it but it didn’t sit well either, with my puny mind at the time.
I stuck to reading novels and short stories which were age appropriate, turned out to be fruitful eventually. Harry Potter came into being only 3 years later when I reached the 10th grade. Rest is history. It changed my teenage mind and opened up a whole new level of fantasy fiction which was unheard and unimagined, atleast till that point.
Meanwhile, writing was something I was already good at but to further improve I started a diary, aka journalling these days. It was not so evident at that age but writing down my feelings had a huge positive impact on me. It instilled a certain amount of confidence in me and my skills which otherwise would have been lost. I could assess myself from time to time and see where I need improvement.
4. Talk to the mirror
It was not easy to find someone with whom I could converse in English, atleast then, often times I will be ridiculed for trying. So I stopped trying and made friends with my mirror. I will stand in front of it and speak endlessly. And it was effortless too. Try it.
Check your diction. Listen to other people speak, see how they speak. Emulate them if you like it.
5. Process your thoughts in English
Another tip that I have gathered over the years is to think in the language. This is applicable for any language that you are persuading. If you want to excel in all aspects of it, process your thoughts in the same language. This has helped me to this day. It enables you at a sub-conscious level to be good at it.
Once you start thinking in that language, its easier to speak and write in that too.
Even though it was a humiliation which brought in the spirit to learn and better it. I loved the process as much as I love the language. The quest to learning has still not stopped. Each passing day helps me improve a bit more and learn new things.
To anyone finding it hard to overcome the language barrier I would suggest to follow these basic steps to improve your skills.
Lastly, this is not a race and there are no winners here. You can’t juice up the dictionary and drink it in a day. It requires patience and consistency to learn any skill. These are only basic steps which helped me improve my English.
Let me know what methods you use to improve your English skills. If you want me to write more on such topics. Comment below. I will be happy to indulge.