Learn things your American co-workers and neighbors won’t tell you
“No one ever explained that to me about English before.” I hear this from my students a lot when I correct their grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary for the TOEFL iBT’s speaking or writing sections.
A lot of my students live in America – many of them have been living there for years, going to school or working. Some of them are even married to Americans and usually their English is good, but they all still learn something from me in our lessons.
Why is this? I mean, if they’re always talking with their partner, or colleagues, or school friends, how could they possibly keep making mistakes with English?
Because no one corrects them. If you’re talking with a waiter in a restaurant and you make a mistake, he understands you, so he’s not going to correct you. And if you are talking with your romantic partner or colleague, they are probably not going to correct you either – especially if they can understand what you’re trying to say.
Some people even think that your mistakes are sweet.
Who doesn’t think your mistakes are sweet? TOEFL graders.
Who’s going to correct you? An English teacher who can gently help you learn what’s right!
How can people stop making English mistakes?
Usually my students have a lesson with me and I give them a list of 10-15 words that they need to practice with. They know the concepts, but they’re making mistakes – they say things like, “My friend angered to me” or “She isn’t agree the idea.”
Can you correct these mistakes? Why are those sentences wrong?
“My friend angered to me” should be “My friend was angry at me.”
“She isn’t agree the idea” should be “She doesn’t agree with the idea.”
So for homework, I give my student a vocabulary list with “be angry (adjective) at someone” and “agree (verb) with someone.” My student makes flashcards and studies these phrases, and then writes new sentences for me.
“My friend was angry at me.” “I will be angry at you if you don’t listen to me!” “She doesn’t agree with the idea.” “I didn’t agree with him.” Things like that.
This is just one way that I help my students improve their English so that when they speak at TOEFL, they sound awesome. Your American friends, your American colleagues, your neighbors – and certainly the lady at the grocery store — they will probably never correct you.
Jaime’s Personal (True!) Story
When I learned Turkish, I studied alone a lot. I used grammar books, and I wrote down everything, and I tried my best. After a few months in Turkey, I decided that I needed to learn “future / will” grammar. I started using “will” in my conversations with the Turkish secretaries at my language school. After about 3 months of talking with them, someone finally told me that I was making a mistake with “will/future.” I was shocked.
“What do you mean I’m making a mistake?!” I cried.
“Yeah – you’re making a mistake. You’re wrong when you say it.”
“Am I always wrong?!” I asked.
“Yeah…” said the secretary.
I went home and cried. 🙂 Now it’s funny, but at the time, I was so frustrated because I trusted that all Turkish people would help me learn Turkish. Oh! How naive I was!
Normal people don’t have time to teach you English. They’re too busy communicating with you – you’re too busy speaking. Especially if they can understand what you’re trying to say, they won’t correct your mistakes.
It takes weeks to un-learn a mistake and re-learn the correct grammar. Be patient and loving with yourself. 🙂
Study TOEFL with a teacher who gives you the tools you need to really improve your English.