I’m 17 years old and I’m currently studying four foreign languages- English, French, German and Japanese. Of all these, English is my favorite, mainly because it’s the one I use the most. But to be honest, I didn’t always like it so much. In the beginning, like most second graders ten years ago, I started learning English at school. As an eight year old child, I was nervous and shy to ask the teacher pretty much anything. I didn’t always understand what she was saying and grammar was kind of a horror. Vocabulary was fun, but I often mixed up words.
I was part of a twenty five kids class, so it was hard for the teacher to make sure everyone comprehended and memorized the lesson. She chose a few of my colleagues who seemed to know what she was talking about and solved exercises with them only, while ignoring the other pupils. I was part of the second group. Because I was so anxious about making a pronunciation or grammar mistake, I always shut up, copied what was written on the board, nodded when we were asked if we understood and never raised my hand to answer. Pretty stupid, huh? I thought I was simply not good at it, that English was not for me. But there was one thing that kept me bewildered: just how were other kids so good at this class? But my parents knew why, so next year they signed me up for some extra English classes at a foreign languages school, called Lexis. Was I excited? Definitely not. Actually, now that I think about it, I even cried. I imagined the same thing happening all over again, that is feeling uneasy and silly. Fortunately, my parents convinced me to go. The first thing I liked was that I was the oldest in my group. The second was that I received new, full color spread page books. The third was that I was enrolled in the A0 class, so I started from scratch. This time everything seemed easier, probably because the first lessons were vaguely familiar or because we were just five or six kids in that group. The teaching method was different as well. Instead of memorizing words, we had to come up with our own examples. We had games for remembering different grammar rules and also many projects that involved creativity and playing.
The teacher paid equal attention to everyone and encouraged us to answer, even if we wrong. We were taught to help each other when needed, only I didn’t need so much help, but I loved to explain to my colleagues what they didn’t comprehend. It made me confident, especially when the teacher nodded in approval for my answers. I still didn’t like grammar, but I knew how to use it.
To shorten the story, I continued studying at Lexis for four years and I came to like English more and more. But I felt that I could reach a higher level on my own and that I was slightly better than the rest of my group. Also, the price for my courses wasn’t exactly low, so, I asked my parents to trust me and to let me quit. They did.
I was kind of scared, to be honest, that I’d forget words, that I’d start to mix up things again, so I desperately clung to my already had knowledge. I paid more attention in class and went over my old notebooks, but it was not enough. I bought a course book and started solving exercises on my own, and, without anyone to check my answers, I only hoped they were right. It was still not good enough.
One day in seventh grade I received a PC (oh, my…) and I believe that was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. I had a friend in my class that recommended me a lot of movies, shows and animes (Japanese cartoons) to watch. I was mostly interested in animes, for they were animated shows –which I still watch religiously- and they were in Japanese. I watched them with English subtitles, hearing a weird and completely new language. For one thing I improved my vocabulary A LOT, but for another, my pronunciation slightly roughened. I also discovered mangas (Japanese comics) and western comics. I felt the need to look up the new words, because I wanted to understand the story I had chosen to follow. I used to write down all the words in a notebook and continuously review them every week, “punishing” myself by writing the ones I would forget fifty times. That’s not such a good method, but at least I bettered my memory a bit. After a while, I got tired of always pausing my reading or film watching for writing down the new words. I discovered context had a huge role in understanding something. It did work. In ninth grade I started reading light novels, and later on, real novels. I bought books because I liked reading. I bought books in English only because I liked reading in English, it was that easy. I haven’t seriously studied grammar in four years now. If something sounds correct to me, it’s 95% of the cases grammatically correct. I learnt colloquial English, which is, in my opinion, the most important.
Throughout these years I attended all sorts of English contest, out of fun mainly. I won first place in 8th grade in last stage of the Olympiad and second in the 9th grade on municipality. I use this language in my daily life. I joke with my friends using it, I read, watch movies in English without any trouble, listen to music, read magazines, follow blogs around the world, read articles on the internet, watch videos, I even sometimes write my own short stories in English. It’s just so much more enjoyable.
I believe we can study through things we like doing. Just because it’s not textbooks I used or grammar rules I applied, it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn English. Actually, what am I saying? I’m still learning. There are five new words at least in every new book I read. I believe kids are discouraged by the teachers’ lack of interest in them, or by their old fashioned methods of teaching. We don’t want to make pupils learn. We want them to want to learn. Only then do they show interest and only then the teacher’s job is already half done.
Could not be more sincere.
This particular post took me 3 hours to write. God, my fingers hurt :))