It was about 15 years ago when I gave my first ESL class in Thailand at my house on my outside patio in my village on a bright Saturday morning. It was an effort to get up early due to the festive nature of my neighbors who too often (in those days) persuaded me to partake of the local village rice whiskey. It is customary, and I had to be polite!
Nevertheless, without a shadow of a doubt, I arose eager to teach the village kids who themselves had gotten up early, to have an English lesson with me instead of watching cartoons on television. I am sure their mothers provided some persuasion too, however. No sooner had I poured my coffee, when I opened the front door to the patio area to see about 20 kids sitting patiently for their teacher; me.
“Well, o.k.”, I thought, “Let’s get down to business kids!
Smiling, I said hello, good morning and other greetings to in an effort to warm up and smooth over any apprehensions they had. In English we say “break the ice”.
Next, I wanted to introduce myself. I said “My name is Terryl… T…e…r…r…y…l, Terryl.”
I know, it’s difficult for many people to say (it rhymes with Carol, or barrel). I repeated it over and over. “Watch my lips and tongue and teeth” I said. “Terryl”.
The kids continued to try to say it again and again “T-e-r-r-y-l. Many seemed to get it o.k. I was impressed. However, there was one little girl who was trying so hard to say Terryl, but she just couldn’t get it. Her tongue, lips, and teeth just couldn’t synchronize to pronounce it correctly.
Suddenly she jumped up in front of the class, stood facing me, put her hands on her hips, and interrupting me said…”No no no, you name Sky!”
“Sky?” I asked, raising my eyebrows and making an inquisitive face of astonishment.
“You, you name Sky! You blue eyes, same same Sky” she exclaimed, pointing up to the bright blue sky.
Apparently I was the only individual in the entire area that had blue eyes, and none of the kids had ever seen anyone with blue eyes before.
Well, there was nothing I could say about that really. I raised an eyebrow, cocked my head, kind of nodded it back and forth, and with a smile said “ Well, that’s pretty good English! I can’t say no to that”!
And so, ever since then, all my ESL students and friends in Asia have called me “Sky”.
But now these days, the kids say “Teacher Sky” because it’s more polite – and because I’m their teacher with blue eyes!
Well, at least I had a name now, and got the introduction to the children accomplished.
The next item on my school agenda was saying the abc’s, numbers, and other easy English pronunciation activities. I quickly discovered that all the Thai children were shy. It was a real effort to get them to repeat the letters and numbers. They weren’t cooperating like I expected.
Why, I wondered. Then after additional attempts to get them to talk, it hit me.
In Thailand, especially in front of their parents perhaps, the children were afraid to make mistakes. They didn’t want to lose face in front of me their parents, or their friends. By not speaking or saying anything, they wouldn’t make a mistake and be embarrassed.
What was the solution? Well, I came up with a motto and said “Don’t be shy try, try, try!”.
I told them that by making mistakes, you are learning. If you don’t try, you won’t make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t learn. So with that I successfully enticed them to try saying the abc’s, numbers, “th” words, colors, and other vocabulary.. And guess what? They tried, they made mistakes, they laughed about the mistakes, they had fun, and… they learned!
That first class in Thailand was classic. It was not only fun and educational, it demonstrated that students should “just go for it”; they shouldn’t worry about making mistakes and being perfect, nor worry about what their friends and parents might think. Just do it! Practice your English, and make mistakes! Of course, the next step is to correct the mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t learning, so… make mistakes!
Don’t be shy, try try try!
Let’s learn English!!!
Well, now that you know my name (and why), and know that we shouldn’t be shy nor afraid to make mistakes, let’s “step on the gas”, get in gear, and really learn some English, o.k.?
How do we do that? Well, there are many techniques. In addition to being an ESL teacher for many, many years, I also enjoy studying and learning languages. Of course, I am a native English speaker from Alaska, U.S.A. However, since I was eleven years old I had an interest in learning other languages, starting with French. When I moved to Switzerland I began learning German, and then Turkish. Later on in Alaska, I studied Yup’ik Eskimo at the University of Alaska; in addition I wrote 2 small English-Eskimo language books. In Thailand I study and speak Thai (not easy!). As well, whenever I go to another country, I immediately start to learn that language (Chinese, Japanese, etc.) – even if it’s just a bit.
Language is the heart of a people’s culture. So, I don’t learn languages just to know how to say hello to a girl, or how to order a beer in a restaurant, I also enjoy learning language to explore and learn about a particular culture, and their way of communicating, (in addition to being able to say hello to a girl!). The language of a country, is the heart and soul of it’s culture.
So what do I recommend for learning English? Here are some suggestions for you to consider.
- Remember, that everyone is different and the various available learning methods that are many.
- Use learning techniques that you enjoy, ones that help you learn, and that you feel are best for you.
Take an English class at school. Take advantage of having a live teacher in front of you with students and friends that are also learning English, and learn absorb as much as you can. Ask the teacher questions in class or privately about problems or things you can’t understand.
Enroll in Tutlo.com! It is a convenient and economic way to expand your exposure to English with a native speaker. With Tutlo you can use an establish lesson platform, AND/OR enjoy an English conversation about the topic of your choice (so you can learn English that you are interested in; English that you can use and apply. This method is very efficient in my opinion – and fun! Also with Tutlo, you can have lessons at your convenience, most anytime of day. And with me, as I’m a tutor at Tutlo 🙂
Watch English language movies. If the movies are in English AND have subtitles so that you can read what is being spoken at the same time, that’s even better! It’s a fun way to practice – and you can take that girl on a date!
Look at Youtube videos. There are lots of English lessons there, and of course short videos in English to look at enjoy… like cartoons! There are many enjoy Tutlo.com videos on Youtube that you can enjoy view for quick and easy English tips, phrases, grammar, and many other things.
Read English newspapers and magazines. Even if you can’t understand all of the articles content, you can probably understand the headlines, and then look up other words in your dictionary.
Start to read an English language book. Pick a book that you are interested in and not too difficult. Read a little at a time; make a list of new words that you don’t understand and underline it in the book so you will know that you are trying to learn it and record it on your vocabulary list. At your convenience you can review these words to help memorize them. A great English book to read out loud over and over is The Little Prince by St. Expiry. A wonderful and easy book to learn, and review. I had a foreign girlfriend who loved it when I read it to her as she went to sleep 😉
Find a new friend on Skype that you can communicate with in English. You can help each other learn each others language and practice too! It’s great making new friends of course!
Do you enjoy music? Listen to your favorite music in English. Online you can select, save, and print out the lyrics. As you listen to songs, read and sing along. This is lots of fun, especially if you are bored with other study methods!
Do you like to write poetry or short stories? Write a poem or short story. This makes you think and be creative and use the English you have learned. Of course, you can learn new words that will help you describe and convey what want to write about.
When you go to sleep, turn on an English CD lesson, or an easy English story on CD. As you drift off to sleep, your mind is actually still hearing this!
Find an English speaking girlfriend or boyfriend… This is a very, very fast way to learn and practice English, I guarantee it! It’s very fun too!
Attend a session at Angloville. It is extremely helpful when you can be in an environment that communicates only in English. It’s called English immersion. That means you need to use the English you learn too. It means you must think in English, and apply your English. This technique is highly effective. And you can meet me there!
When you see a foreigner on the street, or in a coffee shop, or anywhere, say hello! Welcome to them to Poland… is there any way that you can be of assistance? Are they lost? Can you help them find a location? You can practice your English, and maybe make a friend at the same time.
Find an exchange student. Often there are exchange students that come to different countries when their family moves because of the father’s job. They can feel very alone and homesick. This is a good opportunity for you to make a friend, make them feel good and welcome in their new home, and of course… practice your English (if they are from an English speaking country). I did this when I was 12, and it started my lifelong interest in French! I did it again when I was 12 with a Jordanian refugee boy. I didn’t learn Arabic, but this boy is a good friend to this day – 48 years later!
As I mentioned, I am learning foreign languages like you. Over the years I have created and used simple systems that seems to work very well for me. Let me share it with you.
I get a special notebook that I will use only for the language I am learning (ESL for you).
I have a separate page for a certain category of words I want to learn. For example:
- Common, Everyday, Useful Words
- Nouns and Pronouns
- Special Grammar Rules and Notes
- Idiomatic Phrases and Slang
- Countries, People, Languages
- Travel Words and Phrases
- Work Related Words
You can start a category for whatever you want, and what is of interest and useful for you!
Here is an example of what a page looks like:
On the left page I divide the page up into 3 sections:
For verbs, you can list the verb’s present conjugation in the space on the right side, or if you already know the conjugation, write the verb’s other popular tenses like future, past, present continuous, etc.
Review the vocabulary words and sentences that you wrote regularly; VERY regularly. The more the better!
However, I suggest reviewing and studying them in two special ways:
- If possible, sit down and write the word in English. Then write it in Polish (or your language).
- As you are writing, say the word in English, and Polish.
Do this for every word; write, read, and say.
I believe that this helps you retain and remember the meaning of the word, by reading, writing, and saying. I believe it is a very, very efficient way to learn a language (or anything). This not only engages the practice of “repetition”, but it permanently records and stores the information in your subconscious mind. Read on…
ESL Memory Retention Suggestions & The Subconscious Mind
What is the subconscious mind?
The subconscious mind is 66% of your brain. Your conscious mind is 33%. Please don’t ask where the other 1% is! I don’t know!
The conscious mind is what you perceive using your five senses; seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. It’s what you are directly aware of. It’s what you are conscious of.
The subconscious mind (most of your mind) is like a huge computer memory bank in your head. Think of your conscious mind as a gardner planting seeds in a garden – your subconscious mind – in which the seeds germinate and grow. Your conscious mind commands and directs, and your subconscious mind obeys.
This topic – the subconscious mind – can be rather involved and technical, so let’s keep it easy for now. I suggest that you research the subconscious mind articles on the internet so that you can read and learn about this amazing thing more extensively.
So, how can you use the subconscious mind to help you learn ESL? Well, as mentioned earlier, reading, writing, saying and hearing English, helps put this information into your subconscious mind.
Begin to regularly apply this technique.
Another technique is to listen a recording (CD or other) as you go to sleep. As you begin to drift off into sleep, your brain waves change, and are especially open to receiving “suggestions” or “data” – and retaining those “suggestions” or “data”.
You can do a search on “super learning” on the internet for a variety of links. In short, you can relax and listen to certain music (like jazz or baroque), and also listen or read your ESL vocabulary, or phrases, etc. Supposedly, this helps you retain the knowledge in your subconscious mind – and learn better and quicker. I think there is some significant truth to this method. I suggest you learn about and apply this technique on your own; it is too extensive to explain in detail in this essay.
What I can say in brief, though, is that this method really works, both standalone and as a supplement to other approaches mentioned above. Mix & match methods as you please, all that matters is your satisfaction and results, after all.
Summary and Conclusion
English is, without question, a necessary and important language to learn for personal reasons like travel and social life, but more importantly, education, work, and business. It is the most spoken language in the world. Approximately 330 to 360 million people speak English as their first language. Estimates of second language English speakers vary from 470 million to more than 1 billion.
There are many methods and techniques that can assist and benefit you in your quest to learn English as a second language (ESL). Variables that help determine which learning techniques that are best include available learning time, educational cost, location, efficiency, and convenience. In my opinion as an ESL educator, I believe that Tutlo facilitates these factors in a cost effective, fun, and practical manner that enhances the ESL learning process. By using Tutlo with other learning techniques that you find helpful, you WILL learn English! I hope to see you at Tutlo soon!
Meanwhile, get your English vocabulary list NOW and learn some more words! If you learn 5 new English words a day, you will know 150 new words a month, and 1,800 a year (wow!), so do it!
I hope to see you in Angloville sometime – or at Tutlo.com!
Terryl Miller Sky
Tutlo ESL Instructor/Tutor from Alaska, U.S.A.