Teacher Teacher: How Do I Learn English?

December 10, 2015
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In the process of improving our English, some of us may feel the need to look for a book to guide us. Some people compare it to travelling: without a map, we wouldn’t know where to go.

However, looking for books can be daunting!

Grammar books can be an overload of terms and exercises, and novels, well, there are too many to choose from, some are too bombastic, some are just meh, and sometimes, we would rather wait for another Hollywood film adaptation to be released rather than read through the pages of yet another trilogy.

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So, how can we improve our English if we don’t know what book to start reading?

Well, believe it or not, reading books isn’t the only way to improve our language. Studies have shown that it’s perfectly possible to be able to read a language without having any ability to speak, understand or use the language or use it an actual conversation.

When was the last time we sung along to K-pop songs without understanding a single thing?

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Plus, let’s face the fact: not everybody is inclined to read thick books. The mere mention of the word “book” can actually scare some people, and sometimes even mentioning books would put others to sleep! Speaking of sleep, those books from last year’s sale look like a great way to increase the height of  our pillows.

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However, fret not. There are other ways to learn language. After all, language was originally spoken only and never truly written until much later in history. Most of the sources which could help us improve our language are rather unconventional – we don’t really think of them as a viable way to improve our language, and yet they do have an effect on our language.
So, without further ado, here are some unconventional and unusual sources to learn the English language!

Video games

And all this while, teachers normally tell us to stop playing video games!

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No, we’re not talking about games like Angry Birds, which feature practically no conversation at all, although some may argue that the birds and pigs are technically communicating through all those noises they make (No offense meant to any Angry Birds fans out there! The author himself is actually a big fan of the franchise). Many great role-playing and adventure games (especially those developed by Japanese companies) feature well-written, cinematic storylines and amazing dialogues. The Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid series are great places to start. They feature characters so memorable and inspiring, you may find yourself repeating after their lines, which in turn, influences and improves our language!

Who said it’s all about hacking and slashing zombies non-stop or throwing birds into oblivion?

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Take the EJ Dota 2 English Quiz here!

K-Dramas

Wait a minute! I thought the actors were speaking Korean all along!

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Sure, true enough, they’re speaking Korean. But whoever it is who made the English subtitles (especially the ones for KBS World and One HD), they’re doing a really, really good job. You see, Korean dramas have really intricate, complex plots. After all, when was the last time we lost count of the number of characters and storylines packed in one episode of your typical K-drama?

A complex storyline requires really good language, and the subtitles really convey the depth, complexity and even character relationships incredibly well. And the settings in a K-drama feature both formal and informal situations, so the subtitles help us improve both our formal and conversational English. Now, we can feel less guilty spending time watching those K-dramas!

Song lyrics

Oftentimes, people dismiss music as being a serious form of knowledge because of the kind of stuff that’s on the charts these days. Sure enough, some song lyrics are just cheesy, and some song lyrics are downright provocative. However, there are also many songs out there with lyrics which are deep, relatable, and most importantly, worth learning from in every way, including language. If you’re willing to go beyond mainstream music and the top 10 charts on the radio, you’ll be rewarded with songs which are not only rich musically, but also rich lyrically, which makes for an amazing experience.

After all, not all songs are about foxes or certain species of snakes!

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Artists such as Wilco, Thrice, and even Malaysia’s very own Yuna put a lot into their lyrics. When lyrics are inspiring and powerful, we tend to sing along, and in the process, the language used becomes a part of our own language. I could list down more unconventional sources to learn language, because the truth is that the list is nearly endless.

This goes to show that one of the biggest factors in language learning is our attitude. Learning language (and anything for that matter) doesn’t have to be through formal means. As cliché as it may sound, language is everywhere. With the advent of the internet and smartphones, we have access to all sorts of media. We can search for practically anything at any time.

However, without the right attitude, we would simply be consuming all these forms of entertainment without reaping any form of value in them. Companies and producers can put in all the values in the world in the media they produce, but if you don’t open your heart to take it as a learning opportunity, the learning process just won’t happen.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to see new opportunities to learn language, be it through conventional or unconventional means. Until next time!

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Mr. Nazriq Ahmad is a lecturer who enjoys being mistaken as a student because he believes learning is a lifetime process . He secretly dreams of becoming a rock star and can always be found with a guitar when not lecturing. Follow him (@nazriqahmad) and send him a thank you note!