Friday, March 15, 2013

Personal English-learning materials

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

I’ve always supported learning and practicing set phrases in context. In my opinion vocabulary should be learned and practiced first through input (listening and reading), and then used through output (speaking and writing) on each real life topic. But vocabulary is a broad concept; it includes not only phrases, but also separate words, idioms, proverbs, sayings, etc.

My idea below may be important to you to improve your English materials.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Language Bridge review: Like the multifaceted exposure, the mandated texts not so much

Last week I wrote about Arkady Zilberman's pessimistic evaluation of language learners and what how he thinks that can be overcome. But Arkady hardly stopped at theories; he has made a product based on his take on language learning called Language Bridge.

This is what I'll call a "mini review" of Language Bridge. I'll call it that because I haven't actually purchased the product (it ain't cheap, at $149 a pop) but I think the information available online is enough for me to understand how the product works and to put my two cents forward.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is subconsciously translating from your native language to your target language hindering you? I doubt it

I'll get to that chart in a bit, but first let me relate a little anecdote. A while back a Japanese friend of mine had me give a speech at his wedding. He wanted me to do it both in Japanese and then in English; the vast majority of his guests were Japanese speakers, but there were a handful who only spoke English and I was the only speaker who they'd be able to understand. So I was giving the exact same speech in Japanese and then in English.

My usual method for giving a speech is having a list of points I want to cover and then just making sure I hit them as I speak; the purpose of the list is only to remind me of what I want to say and not to provide me with the actual words. As this speech was going to be in both Japanese and then in English, I was language agnostic when preparing the list and it ended up being a hodgepodge of both languages. Here's a sample:

① same high school, 教科書に載ってない言葉

② invited me to his house

③ vegetarian: 食べれる大盛りのパスタ

Even if you speak Japanese, that will probably only make vague sense to you, but for me it directed me right to what I was going to cover in the speech.

After giving the speech, a few people who spoke both Japanese and English enough to understand what I had said in both came up to me and asked me how I had managed to make the speeches so similar in both languages—nuances, jokes, etc., were all exactly spot on in each language (a wholly separate matter is how some jokes worked better in one language than the other, but I digress). Their assumption was that I had translated it word for word and committed it to memory. In fact, I had used my little list to simply point my memory to a concept and then just expressed that concept however it should be expressed in the appropriate language.

And that gets me to Arkady Zilberman and his concept that "we think in a code language of images and associations".

Friday, March 1, 2013

Methods for mastering English conversation and vocabulary

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

I have developed my own unique suggestions on mastering English conversation and vocabulary. They are based on my experience and knowledge, and my tips and advice may be valuable for all students of English. I hope that they will become a short but indispensable guide for many learners of English. I have thoroughly read on the issue of effective methods and aids for learning English. Those aids include audio, video, websites, study books, etc. I want to share with you that information for English language learners.