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Learning English the Natural Way

January 3rd, 2009

If you’re feeling frustrated by all the complex rules of the English language or the mountains of vocabulary words you think you’re supposed to understand, don’t worry.  The truth is that most native English speakers couldn’t explain all those rules to you if they tried, and most of the advanced grammar they learned went out the window after finishing the SAT, ACT or other high school exam.  When you’re trying to learn English, stop worrying so much about the rules and focus on learning the natural way.

What do I mean by the natural way?  Well, think about the way that a small child learns a language.  They don’t sit down with an English language dictionary and start memorizing flash cards as soon as they’re able to speak – instead, they learn naturally through the process of immersion.  The process of immersion involves surrounding yourself completely with the new language until you start to pick up the bits and pieces that will eventually form your comprehension of the language.

There are several benefits to learning by immersion.  Your sentence structure and pronunciations won’t be as stiff and forced as the people who learn English using traditional home study guides, since you’ll be picking up these elements from real native speakers.  In addition, you won’t experience the frustration that many English language students feel trying to work out the language on their own.  Consequently, you’ll be less likely to give up, and more likely to reap the benefits of speaking English.

But how do you begin to study language naturally?  You don’t need to pack up and go live with a host family like so many college kids do.  Instead, all you need to do is to spend time in public places where people speak English.  Consider the following locations:

Grocery Store – As you do your weekly grocery shopping, try to listen to the conversations going on around you.  In addition to getting a feel for how the language is spoken, you’ll also pick up many helpful words for food and beverage items.
Hair Salon/Barbershop – For some reason, Americans love to talk to the people trimming their hair, so going in for your own haircut can be an educational experience in the number of conversations you’ll hear.
Church/Fitness Centers/Golf Courses – Any of these locations that encourage groups of people to get together can provide you with many opportunities to listen to and participate in conversations on things you already enjoy.  Check online or in your local phonebook for places that interest you.

If you aren’t yet comfortable conversing with groups of native English speakers, you can also immerse yourself in English language books and magazines.  If you have a favorite book in your native language, pick up an English copy and compare the two.  Read everything you can get your hands on and take notes on words or phrases you don’t understand.  As you look them up, practice speaking them out loud and try to form sentences using the new words.  With time, the process of immersion will improve your comprehension and speaking ability, until you feel fully fluent in the English language.