The Challenges of Learning English

There are many challenges that Mozambican professionals face, in their endeavor to learn English as a second language. One of the challenges that they face is thinking in their native language, Portuguese. According to Benny Lewis, a renowned language researcher, thinking in the native language results in learning the language slower. As a result, this delays your fluency. However, beginners have not always found it easy not to think in their native language. Most of them prefer to find a word for a word and a sentence for a sentence.

After having taught English for more than ten years, I tend to discourage this way of learning. I encourage conceptualizing material in the language the students are learning. The reasons being:

  • Research has proved that by thinking in English, students do not have to translate, which will help them to become more fluent.
  • When students think in English, it helps them to internalize the language and they do not need to remember rules. That is, they just speak it.

My own ways of dealing with the challenge have been:

  • In the classroom, I give simple activities of single English words that lead them to think in English. I do this when they are relaxed. This is also accompanied by the actions that I show the students which include gestures.
  • Sometimes I introduce very simple dialogues with a few more words. For example: At the bus stop:
    • A: What’s your name?
    • B: Answer.
    • A: Where are you going?
  • As homework, I encourage students to use their phones as reminders to think in English.
  • To motivate themselves, students give themselves points as a game if they remember to think in English.
  • Encouraging them to use English to English dictionaries because they have explanations and definitions that are in English.

I have used the above tried and tested techniques to deal with the challenge and succeeded. Enjoy learning English!

Peter Tafara (Senior Lecturer at International English College)

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