The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

'At home, I thought I knew English': an immigrant spoke about the difficulties after moving to the USA

'27.09.2020'

A source: Yandex Zen

Why is your good mark in school and college for English not a guarantee that you are really good at the language - says the author of the blog “Cute linguist”On Yandex.Zen.

Photo: Shutterstock

I studied at an English school in a small town where English lessons were scheduled every day from grades 2-11. In 10 years we could leave school with a perfect command of the language and go to study further at Cambridge University. But this did not happen - and only a few spoke in English. Why is that?

First, we were hardly taught to speak. The teachers walked strictly according to the textbook and if they came across tasks to make a dialogue with a partner, then we were divided into pairs not according to the level, but left with those with whom they sat at the desk. The dialogues were based on very abstract topics and the children could not understand the practical value of such tasks. The predominant person in the conversation was the one with a higher level of knowledge.

Secondly, the lessons were based on the principles of grammar and translation techniques. The rules were written on the blackboard and explained by the teacher, we carefully copied everything into a notebook and successfully forgot. Well, the traditional “read and translate”, which in addition reduced interest and motivation. The lessons were monotonous.

Tests, tests and more tests. “We take double sheets of paper, write down today's date ...”. During the lesson, I managed to solve my own version and that of my deskmate. Sometimes the teacher had to give me an extra assignment. I always had fives, but the feeling remained that I was not progressing.

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The Unified State Exam became the cherry on the cake, in which at the time of delivery there was no part of speaking. During those two years of preparation for this exam, I think I have completely forgotten how to speak. I still don't understand how it was possible to remove the most important aspect in the study of a foreign language from the exam.

I decided to restore my English from the ashes by enrolling in a linguist. The situation at the university was better, but there was still very little language practice. I decided to take control of the situation and look for ways to go to study or work abroad, preferably where English is official.

The choice fell on the summer program "Work & Travel" - the most popular and affordable student exchange program. I thought it would be great to have a good summer, improve my English and return to class without missing anything.

When I arrived, I immediately noticed the difference in the speed and manner of speech of the speakers. The fact is that in the classroom at school and university, we almost never studied using authentic materials. Authentic materials are materials for language learners that are used in real life in a country. These include newspapers and magazines, transport tickets, theater tickets, letters, advertisements, radio and television programs, announcements, etc.

The first difficulties arose at the airportwhen I needed to phone about my baggage and spell my first and last name, and I had no idea that letters alone were not enough and that the ICAO Phonetic Alphabet existed. In short, this phonetic alphabet is used to send messages over the phone with a bad connection, each letter of the English alphabet is assigned code words, for example, to pronounce my name, I would say: "A as in Alpha, L as in Lima, L as in Lima, A as in Alpha"... We were not taught this at school.

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The second thing I noticed was the accents. It is difficult for me to understand from what part of Russia a person is from, but Americans will immediately say, “Oh, Boston accent,” or “Oh, southerner.” Inhabitants of the northern states even use other words, unlike those from the south. For example, in the south, about carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola will be called "Soda"and in the north "Pop", or they can even generalize and say "Coke".

Since the British version of the English language is mainly taught in educational institutions in Russia, and there are words that are used only in the UK, it is worth considering this. They did not understand me when I said that in Russia I live in flat (apartment), at the Americans flat Is "flat", and an apartment is - apartment.

Now, of course, there are many more opportunities for learning English than when I studied. Do not think that you should definitely go to the country of the target language to learn about such nuances.

Throw away all Soviet textbooks. They are not bad, but their time has passed: the language is alive, it changes and every year more and more words appear, and many of those that remain there are considered obsolete. Watch original TV shows, read articles from American or British newspapers, listen to music, communicate with native speakers and more, and in general - with people with different accents.

If your instructor still says that dinner is - supperthen run away from him.

Do not justify your laziness by the lack of opportunities, believe me, you now have much more!

Original column published on the blog. "Cute linguist”On Yandex.Zen

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