4 – Only one way


in The Basics

In the first article we learned that most of our language ability comes from language that we acquire subconsciously (we don’t notice it when it happens), not language that we consciously study, or learn.

If that’s true – and it is! – how do we acquire more English? There is only one way: by reading and listening to understandable English.

Remember how I compared acquiring language to eating a healthy diet? I suggested that English students should treat themselves to a good, healthy diet of English and trust their minds to acquire the elements (parts) of the English language that they need when they are ready for them. If you didn’t see that comparison, it’s in the second article – What comes first?

Let me add a new idea to that comparison. When we eat, we are usually careful to feed our bodies foods they can digest (easily absorb and use). For example, when a baby is born, we first feed them milk and then soft foods. Later, when they are ready, we feed them fruits, vegetables, and meats. In the same way, when we want to acquire more English, we must feed our minds English that they (our minds) can absorb and use.

We only acquire (pick up or absorb) language when we understand what we read or listen to. If we understand what we read or hear, our minds will acquire the elements (parts) of the new language that we are ready for. We don’t have to consciously study them.

Many students believe they have to work hard to acquire new language. They read or listen to things that are too difficult. They stop frequently to look up words they don’t understand. That doesn’t work very well! We only acquire language when we understand the language we read and listen to.

Treat yourself to a digestible diet of English! If you have trouble understanding what you read and listen to, find something easier. Be patient. Slowly increase the difficulty of the things you read and listen to. If you do, your English will steadily (continuously) improve.

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