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Why Can't I Speak English?

why-scaled.jpgMany students of English feel frustrated. They study grammar for many years. But they still ask:

“Why can’t I speak English?”

They feel frustrated because they know even a five-year-old native English child can speak better English. How can someone understand English grammar but not be able to use English?

Is Grammar Necessary?

Don't make learning grammar your only focus.

Learning grammar is important, but don’t make that your only focus. Many students memorize all kinds of grammar rules. Maybe they get a 650 on TOEFL PBT. Maybe they know grammar better than some native English speakers! But they can’t use English to tell a taxi driver where they want to go. They can’t use English to call a school and register for classes. They can’t use English to talk about their favorite movie or book. Why can’t they handle these common situations?

A Game is More than Rules

Think about playing a game. Any game has rules. Rules are important. Rules make the game easier. They make it less confusing for all the players. Rules make the game possible. If there were no rules, the game would quickly become chaotic. Anyone who knows how to play the game also knows the rules.

Rules are only part of a game, and not the game itself.

But rules are only a part of the game. They are not the game itself. Knowing the rules doesn’t mean you know how to play the game. For example, maybe you have studied chess. You know how to set up the board. You know all the names of the chess pieces. You know how each piece can be moved. Maybe you even know some basic strategy.

Does that mean you know how to play chess? No. There is much more to chess than knowing how to move the pieces. Playing chess involves many skills. You need to learn different opening moves. You also need to learn various strategies. You need to be able to think several moves in advance. Learning these skills takes time and dedication. Many times, it takes learning from chess masters by studying their famous games. It also takes practice.

Knowing English: More than Knowing Grammar

Learning English is very similar. You may know all the grammar. You may know the parts of speech and where they usually go in a sentence. You may even be familiar with some basic phrases and are comfortable enough in using them. But do you know English? Can you really play the language game?

Knowing English is more than memorizing rules - it is being able to use English in everyday situations.

Knowing English is a lot more than just memorizing grammar rules. It is being able to use English in a lot of different, everyday situations. Knowing English takes dedication. It takes learning from those who already know English. It takes studying from those who know English. It takes studying the speaking and writing of those who know English. And it takes practice.

English: Use It or Lose It!

So, let me encourage you to dedicate yourself to English. Learn the necessary skills to use English comfortably.

  1. Listen to as much English as you can. You can use the radio, podcasts, audio books, and TV. Listen to the same thing several times. The more you listen to the same thing over and over again, the more you will understand what is being said. Then you will feel more and more comfortable understanding what you’ve just heard. You’ll train your ears to the sounds of spoken English. You’ll begin to hear the various words more clearly – even words you haven’t learned yet.
  2. Read as much English as you can. There are many things you can read. Read a variety of things: advertisements, news articles, children’s books, blog posts, comics, internet forums, book reviews on Amazon. Why are these good things to read? Many of these things are not too long, and the vocabulary is everyday language. You’ll be exposed to “real” English. You’ll see how English is used by native speakers.
  3. Practice speaking English at every chance you get. If you want to get comfortable in using English, you have to practice using English! You don’t have to have a conversation partner. Even talking to yourself will give you good practice, and help you to become more comfortable with English. For example, you can talk to yourself throughout the day: “My alarm just went off. I guess it’s time to get up. I have to get ready for work/school. First I will take a shower. Then I will eat breakfast. I need to catch the 8:10 bus to get to work/school on time. It’s always crowded on the bus, but it’s easier than driving.”
  4. Write a diary in English. This will also help you get more comfortable in using English to express yourself. I give some more reasons why this is a good idea in this post.

Best wishes in learning English!! If you have any questions, please contact me!

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