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Why do some people seem to learn English so easily?

Question: Hi Teacher Joe. I hope you can help me. My friend seems to learn English so fast. He remembers so much better than me. What can I do? From Lily in Shanghai.

Answer: Hello Lily. Thanks for your question. Everyone has different styles of learning. Some people seem to learn faster at first, because they enjoy speaking to other people. Such students can be called "Externalizers". ("External" means "outside".) They use the words they've learned, so they remember them better. Other people are not so outgoing, and prefer to learn by listening and reading. These students can be called "Internalizers". They might seem to be learning more slowly, because they don't speak so much at first. This may not be true, though. In my experience, students who listen and read often actually learn more over time.

So my first suggestion is to be patient. Maybe you are an "Internalizer" who is learning many, many things, but you won't know it until some point in the future. This is what happened to me when I learned French. I am an "Internalizer" too, so when I first learned French, I read as much as I could and listened to many cassette tapes. When I tried to speak, I felt so uncomfortable and it seemed as though I wasn't learning much at all. However, all the words and sentences I had been reading and listening to finally started to come out naturally, and I became a very successful student of French.

Another suggestion is to try to find or even adapt your style. Try speaking out more, even if you aren't very comfortable with it at first. You might find, as you speak out more and make many mistakes, that you start to enjoy it. Then you will learn from your mistakes as your friend does. In the same way, instead of just reading, you could do some writing to help you remember. As an "Internalizer", I find that writing does NOT help me remember words. For example, I am trying to learn to read Chinese now, but even if I write a word 100 times, I can't remember it! However, I find that when I write just a little Chinese every day, my reading improves. Writing doesn't help me remember, but it helps me to see Chinese writing more clearly. This is a way of studying that helps me learn better. Now you have to find different ways to help yourself. In other words, find your own style. Good luck, Lily!

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