In the educational world, too often we adhere to a one-way, top-down model in which the teacher has all the answers, whereas the student is reduced to a passive receptacle. In the case of language learning, this is doubly injurious, for language by its very nature is an exchange, a medium through which we express thoughts back and forth.
Therefore, I always encourage English learners, even if they’re just starting out, to learn by teaching. This may seem like an impossible feat—“How do I teach someone a language I don’t even know yet?”—but the truth is, in the practice of trying to relay what understanding you already do have, you will deepen that understanding, and be forced to think through questions you haven’t addressed and never knew the answers to before.
Here are three examples of how you can “pay it forward” and improve your English proficiency while simultaneously helping another to do so:
1. Teach some words to a child.
Children ask a lot of very funny, inconvenient questions—which is also what you’ll have to do as a language learner; perhaps that’s why children are the best language learners of all. In fact, it’s been estimated that our language acquisition skills peak when we’re just two or three years old! Don’t let this discourage you from your own studies, but keep kids in mind as a resource when it comes to language practice. They’re curious and thus very easy to interest in learning a new language. Plus, you’ll be doing something good for the future of the world.
2. Speak English at home.
We know that the fastest means of language acquisition is to speak the language casually in the home environment. Language is meant to be used in the real world. Classroom conditions, though they encourage diligence and intense focus, are inherently artificial and high-stress. Language will flow better and come to you more easily when it’s practiced in everyday conversation. So if you’re trying to learn English, get your spouse, family, or roommates to participate.
3. Start a study group.
If you have classmates, friends, or neighbors who are also studying English, consider forming a club to practice your English on the side. Even if your class includes a conversational component already, it’s still true that casual, everyday usage is more likely to take you to the next level. When you get together, make sure you continue speaking English as much as possible. Immersion is the idea. Have English-only parties or play games that encourage and reward English proficiency.
Sometimes the best way to help yourself is by helping others. Keep this in mind and you and those around you will be fluent English speakers that much sooner!
Have you ever done any of these? Have you taught English words to a child, spoken English at home for several minutes, or participated in an English study group? Share your story by adding a comment below.
Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning.