Natural vs. Academic Learning
- Academic learning is one way to learn a second language--in other words, in a classroom, using a textbook and with an instructor. This is often a very effective way of picking up the syntax, grammar and vocabulary of English and assures a constant feedback of your progress. Often, though, a quicker way to learn English is through "natural osmosis"--in a live environment. Though academic learning will gradually introduce you to new material based on the instructor's assessment of your progress, natural learning will surround you with real-world conversation, text and situations. While this environment will certainly seem overwhelming at first, it does have the advantage of providing you with multiple stimuli at the same time--you can see what someone is talking about, hear how she says it and read about the same item through available text. So use textbooks and classes when available, but never turn down the opportunity to place yourself in a natural environment to see how English is really spoken, written and heard.
- Today's electronic world provides you with innumerable ways to learn English without even leaving your home. Online, you can seek out text from news sources and magazines that interest you. These texts will demonstrate standard English with proper syntax, grammar and vocabulary while often providing photographs for better comprehension. Or, try seeking out discussion or message boards where you can exchange text messages with other learners or natives. This will allow you to practice your writing skills with those who can constructively correct errors. Similarly, millions of videos are posted online which will let you to listen to native English speakers address countless topics. While watching the videos, listen to the conversation but notice visual cues and even body language to help you understand the conversation in context. Another format, DVDs, will assist you in similar ways. You can easily find instructional DVDs through your local library or college, and numerous online resources offer them, as well.
- Ultimately, though, your goal in learning English is to interact with native speakers and texts in a real-world setting. Whether it be for school, business or socializing, seek out comfortable settings where you can carry on a conversation. This will help you to gather clues (voice inflection, body language and context) to help you understand what is being said and to respond in your own developing English. Ask your companion to provide helpful commentary on your progress and strengths. As you discover more personal conversation opportunities, you will develop confidence and proficiency in your new language.