Nia M Wardani | A Logbook of Life Discoveries

6 Keys of Learning English

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English book
Photo by Ivan Shilov on Unsplash

Many people have been asking me how I learned English. Many asked how to learn English easily. In this post, I am going to tell you how I acquired this language so I hope this post can help you to learn a new language.

For those of you who don’t know me in person, yes, my mother language is not English. That’s why you might think that some words do not exactly match with the supposed meaning in the sentences. I am happy to write in English, though. Writing in English helps me to keep my English skills stay on board while most of the people in my community do not speak English. Skills are fading when you don’t use it, you know. It also helps me to deliver my ideas to a wider audience, regardless of which language they use and country they come from.

My Experience

I started to be interested in English when I was in elementary school. Harry Potter was so popular at that time. I bought the Indonesian version, finished the first of the series in just one day. At that time, Westlife was also very popular. Although I didn’t know any English words, I kept singing their songs as if I knew it. Then, English lesson came to our classes when I was in fourth grade. The teacher was only given several weeks of training, taught us words and grammar. But I was excited to learn more.

I was lucky to be accepted to one of the best middle schools in my town. The school really supports English language teaching and learning. In middle school I joined many English competitions, from story-telling, speech, quicky macky quiz, spelling bee, etc. But what I think is more awesome from the curriculum is that it focused more on speaking rather than grammar. This is the thing that makes me like English. I can express my ideas without being afraid to make mistakes in grammar. In English class, after every end-of-chapter, the teacher asks us to present different topics in English. It can be about pets, or food, or playing a drama. I like the subject because I enjoyed every presentation from my friend. Don’t think that we had power point presentations like these recent days. We sometimes bring the subject in class. It was so fun.

My luck continued in senior high school. I was admitted to Semesta Bilingual Boarding School in Semarang. At the school, English, Math, and Science subjects are delivered in English. While in middle school my skill was focused on speaking, in high school, my skill was more focused on listening. Listening was my weak point at that time. Plus, some teachers were foreign nationals. They have different accents than Indonesian. This, and that the words used are scientific english terms. High school experience is indeed a next level. It was hard to understand the topic, yes, but in return I learned many vocabulary, especially the ones used in academics and formal speech.

I got a scholarship to Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey for my undergraduate studies. Here, I practiced what I learned in middle school and high school for my study. METU used English as medium of instructions in all majors. Plus, I don’t know Turkish at that time and most of my friends are Turkish or other foreign nationals. So basically I use English everyday, both in academics and daily conversations.

Also during this time I learned Turkish. So I can tell you that the easiest way to learn a language is to be in a society that use that language. It doesn’t take long for me to understand Turkish conversation. Around one month when I began to understand, and around three months later I start to speak Turkish. I didn’t formally take Turkish language certification exam, but by the end of my study in Turkey I was on level C1 for written mock exam.

However, the easiest way to loose a language is to not using it. Like right now, I can say I am loosing maybe 80%-90% of my Turkish because I never use it anymore. Shall I start a blog in Turkish to practice this language?

English book collection
Some of my English book collection

Benefits of Learning English

When I began to learn English, I didn’t know how it will be useful for me in the future. I just loved it. But then I entered graduate school. In graduate school, Bahasa Indonesia is used as medium of instructions. However, when we need to review a scientific paper and discussed it, I immediately feel the benefits of my English learning. Most of the scientific paper used in my research is in English. And I can immediately understand the general content from the paper by reading the abstract. While many of my classmate are struggling to understand, even after using Google Translate, for me reading scientific papers and translating my work to get published in an international journal comes easy.

Many other benefits I can feel today because I learned English. Like many international webinars held these days, I can understand them easily. I also helped my husband understand briefs for international logo design contests. I can learn many things from the internet. I can read the books, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson from the original language (It feels very different, you know, because sometimes the translations cannot deliver some parts/emotions of the texts like when it is directly written by the author). I can watch movies without subtitles and laugh at exactly the point where the conversation is funny. :)

As I am now working as a physics teacher, teaching physics in English, I want to encourage my students to learn English and other different languages. It might be easier for me to teach using Bahasa Indonesia and easier for them now to understand my topics, but the benefits of learning English will be theirs in the future if they keep their motivation up.

6 Keys of Learning English

From my experience, I can summarize several keys to learn English, or other languages.

1. Will power.

If there is a will, there is a way. That’s a proverb I believe is true. Before learning anything, you should find your will power. It can be because you like it. Or because you need it.

2. Start with what you love and easily accessible for you

If you like watching Korean dramas, for example, you can start by using English subtitles. If you love music, you can start by singing an English song. Memorize the lyrics, try to understand it and sing it with expression. If you like cooking, you can browse a recipe in English and try to recook it. If you like reading, read from your favorite English author, but this time in the original language, or join her/his international fanbase.

3. Use tools

There are many tools you can use to learn English. I use tools, too. I often consult Google for the words I couldn’t express in English, also to find the correct collocations, or find the different meaning or two similar words, or use online thesaurus.

4. Be in a community where English is spoken daily

I am very lucky to live in a community that speaks English. But finding this type of community is not hard today. There are so many international communities you can join online. So many places that offer community support like Kampung Inggris. Or to be more radical, find a way to visit an English speaking country, I believe if you live with them and interact actively with them, you can easily use the language within months. If you cannot find it, any foreign country will suffice. It will force you to use English to survive daily life.

5. Grow your confidence

As information spread very easily today thanks to the internet, I notice that now people no longer stick to a very strict rule of English grammar. You don’t need to worry about your grammar, people understand anyway. Grow your confidence. Start communicating with others in English. Or simply, comment on my posts.:) Many people will appreciate your effort.

6. Practice it consistently

This is the most important key in learning a language. If you already master a language but you never practice it, it will slowly fade, like my Turkish. So, be consistent!

Those are how I learn English and the keys of learning English based on my experience. Do you have anything to add? Any other tips that work for you? Please don’t hesitate to share in the comment below.

Nia M Wardani
Hi! Call me Nia. I discovers interesting things in life and I love to share them with all people around the world.

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1 comment

  1. It's hard for me to get community that English is spoken daily in my area, but ya I never give up to practice. Hopely, it will be fluent like you some day


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