Op Ed

English Learning

This month’s article urges English learners to watch movies with sub-titles in order to learn the English language.

This was one of the four suggestions I presented to seniors recently in a meeting at the Social Science Department of Srinakarinwirot University here in Bangkok.

Here are the four hints to English learning I gave the students:

1 Speak slowly:  this helps enormously in not only helping the listener decipher what you are saying, but it also draws your awareness to how you are using your mouth and tongue to pronounce words.  You are also more aware of the structure of the sentence you are forming.


2 Carry a small notebook around and jot down words you don’t know or are unsure about.  Look those words up as soon as you can, perhaps also looking the words up in your IPod or smart   phone English-Thai dictionary, if you are fortunate enough to own such a phone.

Cognitive research confirms that we learn language much faster when we have a context to draw from. Thus, you will remember the words you are jotting down and reviewing later much faster because you will remember the context in which the new word was used.


3.    Watch videos, movies and TV shows.  This month’s author’s suggests this, he recommends that it is best to watch the movies with subtitles in your native language.  Again, this makes sense in terms of cognitive science research which tells us that the way we learn is by association.  In this case, putting the sound of English with the meaning in your own language.


4 Make friends with English speakers.  This seems so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning, except that many people are too self-conscious or shy to use their English with a foreigner.  This seems especially true here in Thailand.  This is a big mistake of course, since the very best way to learn to speak English is with a native speaker who can encourage you and most importantly, you are learning from the actual context of your dialogue with the native speaker.


5 Some students learn English through music.   They memorize songs and learn the meaning of the words.  This will help, but try the four suggestions above and you will soon be on the road to fluency.  Language learning is all about the snowball effect. Keep the snowball rolling down the hill collecting more and more snow (actually, the metaphor here is more and more English vocabulary) and before you know it, you will start understanding conversations, movies, and songs in English.


Remember, your keys to language learning are grammatical structure and vocabulary.  If you build your vocabulary to 1,500 common words you will understand most conversations. If you learn 2,500 most common words you will be able to communicate effectively.  A native speaker uses about a 3,000 word vocabulary regularly.  So, put your notebook in your pocket and take it out often to jot down new words.  Go to a movie with sub-titles with your new English- speaking friend.  Oh, and don’t forget to speak S-L-O-W-L-Y!

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