A Little about myself
My name is Nickolay (or short — Nick), I’m 28 year old. I was born in Hungary, but almost my whole life I live in Ukraine, in city Nikolaev (near to Odessa). I have never got good marks for English, even more: studying English for me was like cosmos. In other words I thought I’m not able for studying any foreign languages. I thought only small part of people can get skills for studying foreign languages, and I was not belonging for that small group. But I had a strong wish to learn something new and useful and learning English perfect fits for my dream. So one fine day I decided to trust my heart and start learning the language.
Sooner or later almost every civilized individual decides to start studying foreign language. Perhaps you would be made to studying English by a vital necessity (for example, to get a new more gainful job). Perhaps you would just want to prove himself that you can do it. In any case, your desire is a key factor for a complete success. So you have to find a reason to study English, without it your attempt to learn English would almost certainly be a failure.
Because English is broadly spoken, it has often been called as a “world language”. Wikipedia says about 375 million people speak English as their first language and from 470 million to over an one billion people speak as their second language. India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Ireland, Great Britain – in all these countries English is an official language. And the list is certainly far from being exhaustive.
In consideration of the popularity of English in the world and my experience of learning English in high school, I decided to try my ability to study foreign language with English. Let me to emphasize that I was not forced for learning English by vital necessity. It was my intention to prove himself that I can do it. I have an ability to study foreign language. Before I also tried to learn English, but all the time it was a failure, because I did not have proper study material and did not know from what to start my studying. About three years ago I read a discussion on a russian message board for language learners. Topic of the discussion was about “What Is The Easiest Language To Learn?” and I took note of one answer that went something like: “The more study material (e.g. textbook, PC courses) you has for a particular language, the more easiest the language to learn”. And I completely agree with that user. Because wide choice of study materials means you will get more chance to find something tailored to your individual needs.
So I decided to learn English. But from what have I to start my studying? Firstly, in my opinion, all PC courses (aka CALL) are shit. Perhaps I am wrong. But I think any Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) Software should be used only as a secondary material for any main language learning course. For example, Oxford Deluxe is very useful when it comes for learning new words, but everything else not so good. Furthermore when I was learning at a computer I was always headed off by internet temptations like popular web-sites or chatting with friends via icq, skype, etc. So I decided to start my learning with paper textbook. At first I chose an Essential Grammar In Use (aka «Red» Murphy). The book is supposed for beginners, but all its parts are written in English. That fact scared me at that time, so I decided to start my self-study English with something more convenient for native Russian. For that purposes I chose Russian two-volume edition textbook “English Step by Step” by Natalya Bonk. The book is very popular among Russian native speakers and it has all its explanations in Russian. So it was convenient for me at that time.
The authors “English Step by Step” offer their learners spend at least 400 hours for each volume. But I was ready to spent only 10 hours per week for my self-study. So in my case self-study would go on for as long as two years. It was crazy long time for me. But “English Step by Step” has a lot English grammar material, phonetic, in addition it has a big vocabulary and audio materials. I asked myself, do I need all that stuff? Important to understand, that all native speakers has 4 main skills: speaking, listening, writing and reading. When you learn your native language, you don’t pay attention for it. Firstly, you developed listening, then step by step you begin understand how to speak to other people. All that skills you get gradually. You were all time surrounded by your native language environment, where each new day you listened new words. But when you study foreign language and live far away from places where it frequently is used, you could not perfectly develop all that 4 skills. In other words, if you want to learn how to read you ought to read, if you want to learn how to write you ought to write and so on and so forth. So you must choose which skills you want to develop more and which less, because if you live far from areas where the language is widespread you most likely would not get all the 4 skills at the same level. In my case I decided to develop my reading skills…
As I said above, I decided to develop my reading skills. So I started spent more time with English grammar rules and less time with phonetic ones. English spelling has a lot exceptions and the same rule in different cases may not have she same power. Therefore you have got to remember pronunciation a lot of words by heart and that process is useless because you can not use these learned words in real life (Of course if you live far from areas where English is widespread). So I asked myself, do I need all that stuff?
I spent a lot of my study time with “English Step by Step”: I diligently worked out each exercises in the textbook, heartily expanded my vocabulary and spent at least 2 hours for self-education 4 times per week. By the way, only due to translate-to/from-English exercises I had quickly learned a lot of new words, without it I probably hardly could get the same results.
After 5 month from start my studying I completely finished first volume of “English Step by Step”: I carried out all its grammar exercises and learnt all new words of its vocabulary. By that time I had read several adapted books, but they were less interested than things written in newspapers, books or on the internet. So I decided to test my reading skills with real English literature. For that purposes I chose a short story The Killers by Ernest Hemingway. The story is short and written by one of the greatest writer of XX century. With first words of that story I thought: wow I am able to understand English and it is so cool. After that story I chose for reading a short story Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving and it was a bit hard, but all the same I had read it very quickly.
So I tested my reading skills, it was far from ideal, but I had seen a big improvement and it gave me additional power for pursuit my goal – learn to read in English. With that power I began a second volume of “English Step by Step”. During that time I also actively read English literature – basically it were series of fantasy novels “The Chronicles of Narnia”. I preferred to start my reading in English with children literature, as it was both small and very easy to understand. After Lewis’ novels I had read “Never Ending Story” and so on and so forth. By now, I have read more than 30 books in English (among them are “Eat, Pray, Love”, “The Firm”, “Green Mile”, “Good night Mister Tom”). So as you can see I have achieved my goal – I learnt how to read in English. But you also can see that my writing skills are awful, and I hope this blog should help me to improve that fault.
P.S. This is most biggest text in English I have ever written. Before I used to write only 1-3 sentenses in English. So I hope you won’t laught about my poor grammar.
By the way, what is your story of learning foreign language? What language skills level do you have? Feel free to drop a comment.