The Art of English

The Art of English
by: Teacher Dave Garrison

Before you begin studying English, you should ask yourself a few questions.
• Why do I want to study English?
• What are my objectives in life?
• What do I hope to achieve by improving my English communication skills?

There could be many reasons why people choose to improve their English language skills. Is it because you want to improve your scores at school? Maybe you just want to improve your speech to make your holidays abroad more enjoyable. Or better yet, it could be because you want to improve your communication skills at work with your foreign colleagues or customers. Maybe your parents are pressuring you to study English.

Many students try to study English as if it were a science subject like mathematics or biology. In my view, they are making a big mistake. English is an art. As such, it needs to be practiced. Doctors practice medicine. Lawyers practice law. They are always practicing to improve their skills. That’s why, at CELI, classes are focused on giving students the maximum opportunity to practice using their skills in individual and small group settings. Studying grammar will give you the basic rules of how to express yourself in any language, but only practice will give you the vocabulary and confidence to improve how you use it to communicate.

Like every decision in life, practicing English must be something you want to do. If you don’t make a strong commitment to constantly practice your English then it just won’t happen.

After you have made up your mind that practicing English is something you really want to do then setting goals is easy. As an example, maybe you want to travel to an English-speaking country to study in a university. That would be great right? To achieve your goal, you should list all of the steps you need to reach your goal. The steps should be progressive from the easiest to the most difficult. Keep a record of your goals and which ones you have already achieved. For example, all students know that if you want to study at a university in America, you will need to take a TOEIC or TOEFL test and also pass an oral interview at the embassy to get your student visa. All three of these tests combine the four basic language skills including listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students have so much stress about these tests.

To best achieve your long term goal, I recommend you practice English the natural way. The natural way would be to focus on listening, speaking, reading and writing in exactly that sequence. That is the natural way people have learnt their own native language. If you can remember back to your childhood, you will know you learnt to listen before you could speak. As a small baby, you always looked up at your mother and wondered why she was making all those strange noises. Then, when you were about 1 year old, you suddenly realized some of those sounds your mother was making actually meant something. So, you began to listen more intently to determine which sounds were related to the things you wanted until you could eventually copy those sounds and make your mother understand what you wanted.

Unfortunately, many school systems in Asia adopt a different point of view because they prefer the native language of the student to be firmly in place before teaching the child a new language.