How I learned English (2) -Listening worked!!-

24 Sep

Sorry, it took me some time to write up a continued post from How I learned English (1). In the previous post, I explained how different the language is between English and Japanese and hence I had a hard time learning English for the first time when I was 13. I still have to conclude that our English education was very unnatural, although it a language that people are using everyday for communication, which must be done from different approach from a subject such as math or physics.

I wonder why we were not allowed to learn it naturally, just like we naturally learned Japanese. At school, we learned English like we would learn a formula or something. I’ll give you an example.

“I am too tired to do homework today.”

Do you know how we learn this “formula”?
We learned it as “Too -To koubun”.
“amarini XX nanode ~~dekinai”
XX= after “too”
~~= after “to”

We memorized it in that way, so we can insert whichever word (adjective) into XX and (verb + object and ect.) into ~~.
I think such way was basically confusing to me. Well, I basically dislike formulas. πŸ™„
It just made me confused to sincerely follow our education system to learn English. I was saved by a radio English education program, because by listening to the language, I was able to learn it naturally. It needs no formulas, it’s simply spoken and understood as it is.

Since my English grade was so terrible at first, my mom was worried so much that I might not be able to go to high school. (lol) She kind of watched me studying with the radio program in the morning before I went to school and in the afternoon after I came back from school. She also started to record the program so I can even listen to it while I was wearing my school uniform. I was a drowning girl who needed to clutch at a straw, because I wanted to go to high school. (lol) I was serious. I didn’t want to screw up the high school entrance exam with my poor English, while my Japanese grade was very good.

While I kept listening to the radio program, I noticed the radio program is more progressive than our English classes. I started to learn things that I had not learned at school. So what happened next? My knowledge advanced. I had already known what I learned at English class for the first time. Then my English score soared! Before I knew, English grade had become even better than my Japanese! What a surprise! People didn’t believe that I didn’t even notice the difference of Be-type of verb and all the others! I think listening worked out. It was more natural and easier to me than memorizing formulas and SVO, SVOC, SVOO…whatever.

Another example.
“Do you mind opening a window?”
At school, we memorize it as “mind + ~ing”, “mind + ~ing”, “mind does not take ‘to do'”
Listening to the radio program, my ears simply remember the whole sentence as it is. This is the way I like!

Through this experience, I noticed that I like to learn a foreign language by listening to how it’s spoken naturally, I kept listening to English after I happily entered high school. 2 weeks before the exam, I used to ask my English teacher to lend me the audio material that was made along with our English text. (Usually it was a cassette tape or a CD with the English text being read out and recorded, and our English teacher usually had it. ) I only listened to it until the English exam date instead of music all the time. Then I could even memorize it just like I memorize a song. At the exam, I had to fill out prepositions and some new words in parentheses, which was the easiest task to me! Most of the classmates suffered from the exam and asked me the secret to mark the highest score in the class. It was so simple. I listened to the tape or CD for 2 weeks and memorized everything very naturally. I shared with them this way but nobody actually tried to do the same thing and just kept asking me the same question next semester.

Before I graduated from high school, it crossed my mind that I want to be able to speak English good enough to have smooth communication with foreign people. Yes, as you see our English education totally lacked or disregarded our improving speaking skills! There was no speaking test at all! Never!!

I chose to go to a Japanese university that has an exchange student program between a collage college in the U.S. I decided to improve my English-speaking skills in the U.S. This post is to be continued to How I learned English (3) where I will share my hardships and struggles in the U.S. Stay tuned!! πŸ˜€


16 Responses to “How I learned English (2) -Listening worked!!-”

  1. XavierB September 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    The funny thing is I do understand the mechanical approach of teaching English in the Japanese school system: You have a language that doesn't relate to Japanese grammar in any form, you have limited exposure to it in real life (with exception of the word "sale" πŸ™‚ ), but, yet, you have to start at some point.

    So they give all these grammar and syntax formula to the students to let them brake down English sentences into their elements, hoping it helps them to construct new ones, too. Looking at computer translation system it's obvious that this system is not perfect. πŸ˜‰

    Luckily you figured out by yourself a solution. I equally consider exposure and learning phrases and complete sentences as very important. Let the subconscious do the work! It's my approach with Japanese particles. My teacher draw me a very elaborate explanation of the particles. Unfortunately my German and Portuguese grammar were interfering with it the whole time, making it more confusing than helpful. So I went back repeating sentences over and over again. After a while it makes all sense… πŸ˜€

    On the other hand wouldn't it be more important for Japanese students to learn Chinese (Mandarin) or Korean in school, the language of their neighbours, instead of English? Why not learning English as extracurricular activity or at University when it would be more useful and accessible?

    • kirin September 25, 2011 at 1:56 am #

      I think Korean and Mandarin are popular as second important language, and they can be taught in university. English is still the most important foreign language because it's a global language.

  2. Inuvotu September 25, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    I´m very happy for you!

    • kirin September 25, 2011 at 1:56 am #

      Thank you. ^ ^;;;

  3. Salma September 25, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    That's great, Kirin.

    Even when grammatical rules are given while teaching a language, practising and answering many exercises help a lot in memorizing such rules.

    Also, I liked the fact that you improved your English language skills by listening. This improves one's not only linguistic competence (the innate ability to use language and its rules successfully, according to the very famous linguist Naom Chomsky), but also your communicative competence (the ability to communicate by choosing linguistic words, phrases, expressions, etc. according to circumstances and contexts that suit the linguistic expressions you choose).

    • kirin September 26, 2011 at 9:33 am #

      Wow, I don't even know the linguist but I'm happy to know that what I did without knowing was good in terms of linguistics as a consequence! ^ ^

      Thank you for this information, Salma!

  4. Lore September 26, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    It looks like a very dificult way to study English, with formulas like in maths!!! there're some things wich you have to memorize to study for example the irregular verbs but for the rest the solution is the practise.
    You are very good now, and since I use to comment and read a lot of English text I feel like I have improved my English too

    • kirin September 26, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      Thank you. ^ ^;; Because I liked this way, I try to listen and read Spanish as often as possible in a natural way such as watching telenovela and exchanging emails. ^ ^ When I continue that, I feel it easier to understand Spanish more. But I know once I stay away from it, I would find it very exhausting to read even some short messages in Spanish. ^ ^;;

  5. Meichan September 27, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    So listening do really helps.
    I'm currently studying japanese language & i find it difficult for me too.
    Many different kind of forms etc.. & i'm still doing my best.

    English seems a difficult language for the japanese.
    Am really happy for you that you managed to succeed.
    Congratulations!~ (^_^)

    • kirin September 27, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      Thank you!! ^ ^
      It's my way of thinking but if you accept how it's spoken as it is, not too much thinking about the system (grammar or constructions) it's easier. But of course I wouldn't say that we can totally ignore them. Ganbattene!! ^ ^
      I'll try to make some more Japanese videos later.

  6. sam September 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    err…you misspelled "college". You wrote "collage". Don't be offended, ok? Not meaning anything like that.

    • kirin September 28, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      Oh, Thank you for letting me know the typo! ^_^;;; I appreciate your kindness. I know it's from your pure kindness, nothing mean. I know. Thank you!!!

  7. dwayne2d3d September 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    sweeeeeeeet another article on how you learned English….
    People's learning process fascinate me, thats why i love these articles you write so much….
    I can see how the rules can confuse you, but for me learning the rules saved me from going mad, especially when i was learning the particles….
    e.g. 名詞+から=fromγ€€ε‹•θ©ž+から=since/because
    As for listening to Japanese the only thing that drives me crazy is the speed of the speech, when i watch Japanese shows in my mind i am always saying uuughhh!! can you puullleeeazzzzze speak slower (haha!!)

    And please ιΊ’ιΊŸ don't say sorry for the time it takes you to write each post, cause i think that the longer you take the better each post is gonna be =)…..
    Well take care…..

    • kirin September 29, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Thank you for another sweet comment. ^ ^
      Haha, I find it so interesting that you learned "noun + kara = from" and "verb + kara = since/because". As you can imagine, as a native Japanese speaker, I never thought that way. ^ ^

  8. dwayne2d3d September 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    You're welcome Kirin,
    this is the kool part about how people learn your language they reveal things to you that you never knew. Hearing how you learn English reveal to me things i never knew about English also..
    As always take care Kirin, and stay cool like the other side of the pillow…..=)

    • kirin September 30, 2011 at 11:36 am #

      Thank you! "other side of the pillow"…interesting expression. ^ ^

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