The Top Five Mistakes of English Learners
Teacher Joe has been teaching English for almost 20 years. Here are the biggest problems
he sees in students' study methods. If you can avoid these mistakes, you can learn English
much more efficiently.
1. Students practice their mistakes. Sometimes it's helpful to practice fluency and make
lots of mistakes. Other times, however, it's necessary to practice carefully and accurately, so
that you develop good habits in speaking and writing. Many students recite sentences
and memorize words and phrases with poor pronunciation or incorrect grammar. When
repeating incorrect language over and over again, the mistakes actually become stronger. The
lesson is: Be careful how you practice!
2. Students memorize lists of words. The best way to learn vocabulary is to
read, and read a
LOT! The human brain learns by making connections. The context provided
by a book or story in a magazine or newspaper gives your brain what it needs to
remember better. Word lists lead only to more and more forgetting!
3. Students worry too much about grammar details. It would be better to
learn the most important sentence patterns
rather than try to learn every detail about English grammar. It is much easier,
much faster, and much more effective to focus on key sentences. After you master
the most important sentences in English, you can spend more time on fluency
4. Students don't listen to English spoken at normal speed. It's extremely difficult
to successfully listen to fast English, but it can help you make big improvements
in your English. At first, you don't need to understand 100%. In fact, you don't
need to understand much at all! You just need to keep on trying and understand
a little more each time you listen. This is what I am now doing in my study of
Chinese and it's helping me so much.
5. Students don't read in English. Reading real English (newspapers, magazines,
books, stories) can be as difficult as listening to English at normal speed. Real
English is very rich and complex, but it is this richness and complexity that can help
students learn much more than any textbook can teach. It is not necessary to understand
everything you read. The more you read, the easier it will become. Then, one day,
you'll realize that you have the skill to read easily. And it will be enjoyable. From that
time forward, your English will really "take off"!
Good luck with your studies!
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