How to learn English as an adult

“The heroine of today’s issue has been teaching English using her own method for over 10 years, and recently released a book called “I explain in English”. If you, like me, have tried countless times to learn English, then read about the method of Anna Strekalovskaya. You can listen to the full version on the Valuable Info podcast or read the finished text from our broadcast here. We will answer the question: how can an adult learn English.

The author of the Valuable Info podcast, Andrey Baikalov, invited me to the air to learn how an adult can learn English. (iOS, Android). Here is an interview he prepared based on our conversation:

“Let me ask you a sharp question. But what if there is no talent for learning languages?

Who said you don’t have talent? Did you decide it yourself? I know for myself that many teachers like to put pressure on their students with authority. How does it manifest itself? They say – do it this way, because it is necessary.

For example, everyone’s unloved exercise for opening brackets. Yes, even people with a good knowledge of English can hardly do it, do you want a beginner to immediately perform such exercises? As a result, the student loses interest, and hence the myths about the inability to learn a foreign language appear.

What are bracket opening exercises? I’m actually hearing about this for the first time.

– There are exercises in which the verb is in brackets, and you need to open it at the right time, that is, put it in the correct form of the verb. I am against this approach to learning English verbs.

– Why do you need to learn English?

— The first step is to understand how English-speaking people think. And only then move on to regular and irregular verbs, as well as to English tenses, which everyone stumbles over.

– Could you tell us more about your method?

– In my methodology, we replace “grammar” with “logic”. What does it look like? Here we have verbs do And does. These are not just “auxiliary verbs” that need to be remembered and inserted into sentences. For some reason, the British invented them, but we mechanically copy them, not understanding why they are needed.

And the essence of the following, I will explain with an example from life. One day my English teacher asked me: “Do you know that the phrase I love you can you say how I do love you?

I was very surprised. Why is a verb needed here? do? It turned out that the phrase I do love you means “I really love you.” And I always thought that do needed only for don’t and for interrogative sentences.

And then crystal clarity arose in my head – I understood why the English need auxiliary verbs. They are not auxiliary, they have a real meaning, they can be translated.

Here is an important point! We are talking about the logic of language, not about grammar. This is the essence of the thinking of English-speaking people. Once we understand the pattern in their head, English becomes an easy language.

For example, the phrase I do work. It translates as “I’m working.” But let’s translate this phrase as English. In his head, the phrase sounds like this: “I am doing a job” or “I am really working” (and not doing something else).

Foreigner: I do talk to you – I’m talking to you

Englishman: “I’m making a conversation” or “I’m really talking”

Foreigner: I do dance – I dance

Englishman: “I’m doing a dance” or “I’m really dancing”

And so you can work with any auxiliary word that was not clear to us before at school: to be / have / has and so on.

What does this approach give us? So complex grammatical constructions of the form do, does, did, to be, have, has turn into words that are understandable to a Russian person, with which we express actions, feelings – in other words, we communicate, and do not try to assemble a “grammatical lego” while formulating a thought.

An example of the most confusing table of English tenses.

An example of the most confusing table of English tenses.

— What about those terrible English times? In your system, how do you explain them?

For everyday communication, 4-5 times is enough. 96% of the English language uses only four tenses. Having learned four times, you can then get the remaining seven, but not necessarily.

When I was in my third year of university in the US on a student exchange program, I worked as a manager in a store that required a good level of language proficiency. And suddenly it turned out that the whole speech of Americans is built around 4-5 times. Where is the complexity that is taught in Russian schools and institutes? She is not.

Therefore, my system is precisely based on the fact that we understand the logic of these five tenses.

– And what are these times?

– Past Simple, Present Simple, Future Simple, Present Continuous and Present Perfect for beauty, optional.

“So you only have to learn four tenses?”

Yes, you can get out four times, and you will be perfectly understood. During a trip to the USA, I became convinced that we need a simple, understandable, pure language without admixtures of complex constructions, without an admixture of passive voice. Active voice, sentences of three words, you will be understood and everything will be fine, you will not sound primitive.

Let’s take the Present Continuous as an example. If my mother cooks belyashi, she is cooking belyashi, this is very important for us, because we know that we will eat them now. And this proposal is very different from She cooks belyashi sometimes – She cooks belyashi sometimes. It’s just a fact about my mom’s skills. The semantic difference is fundamental.

The action they are doing right now is fundamentally different from a hobby or something they do from time to time. But in the past, this difference disappears. These two sentences are interchangeable: My mom was cooking belyashi or my mom cooked belyashi It doesn’t matter, they’ve already been eaten.

In the book, I also tell you how to replace Present Perfect with Past Simple, that is, even the fifth tense that I named is not necessary for communication.

Is your book more of a textbook or more of a set of essays about the English language?

— The book has a system. She tells step by step where we start, where we end. This is an informal textbook. According to my book, you can definitely understand what you need to study, what you need to concentrate on, what you don’t need. You can understand how English-speaking people think and see a lot of different examples.

— What vocabulary do you have, and what vocabulary is needed for communication by an ordinary adult who is learning English?

— My vocabulary is about 8-12 thousand words. For a conversational level, 1000 words are enough. 4000 words is already an advanced level.

How long can you learn 1000 words?

– For the first 80 hours with English, you can take this amount in reserve for yourself.

– That is, in fact, in 80 hours there will already be a dictionary base of 1000 words, and then you can already read and understand?

– And talk. The first 10 hours according to my system, we study the logic of the English language, we understand what the meaning of the forms is to be, articles, do And does, did, have/hashow to build sentences. For the remaining 70 hours, we analyze grammar using examples from your life.

“Something is happening so fast. Do you know such a translator as Leonid Volodarsky?

– I heard, but I can not say anything more.

– This is one of the most famous translators of the USSR. So he said that the most important skill for successfully learning a foreign language is to have an iron ass.

Yes, that’s not far from the truth. When I give assignments to write subtitles for a movie, the students sit for several hours a day doing the assignment. Perseverance is needed.

Leonid Volodarsky.  Every (well, almost) boy in the USSR knew his voice on videotapes

Leonid Volodarsky. Every (well, almost) boy in the USSR knew his voice on videotapes

– And here’s another one from Volodarsky. “I think that with students, the tougher the better. Only toughness. Students do not understand that this is good for them. But if they do not understand this, I most often will not be able to convince them. Life will teach them. What do you think about the rigidity in learning a foreign language?

– Rigidity comes to the teacher if he deals with children. For example, the boys in the classroom: “Wait a minute, I’ll answer my friends in Minecraft.” And either you turn on the hardness, or we sit in Minecraft for the whole lesson.

But with adults, rigidity is not needed. 90% of students become my friends. If a person came to one lesson, and then disappeared, then what kind of rigidity is there? Obviously, a person does not need English.

What do you think about the motivation to learn a foreign language? I have a certain prejudice to this word, it often hides banal laziness, but you may have a different opinion.

– I agree with you that motivation as such is not necessary. You need to understand what you are doing and why.

– And at the end of the issue, your three to five tips for learning English?

Don’t be fooled by smartphone apps or methods that promise to learn English in your sleep. Learning English is work.

In less than 80 hours of hard work, you will not acquire basic knowledge in any way. And then it depends on the needs of the person. If you want to grow further, go to someone who has grown and who can guide you along this path.

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