Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Fall Asleep Learning English - Part I

I moved to Los Angeles from Russia in 1996, wide-eyed and excited. Upon arrival I quickly realized how little English I knew. Although I studied English for five years in Russia and took many English courses, I could not handle even a simple conversation in English. I was terribly disappointed.

My first mission after arriving was to enroll in Van Nuys high school- a huge school with a massive campus housing fifteen thousand(!) students. It was surrounded by a 5 meter-high-fence. It looked more like the Guantanamo Bay prisoner camp than a high school. Now I had to enroll into this fine institution.

Van Nuys High School is massive! Highlighted in Red.
Source- Google Maps

Even for somebody born in the US, with excellent English and cultural knowledge, enrolling in high school was no easy task, it was a struggle with a fat bureaucratic behemoth.

The enrollment process involved talking to dozens of people- administrators, councilors, teachers, librarians and students... all without having any practical knowledge of English! The experience was terrifying and made me want to return to my home land.

Luckily, I somehow struggled through the enrollment process and managed to get in. This experience made me realize that I wasn't going to make it in the US unless I could communicate with Americans on equal terms-- freely and confidently. This was a huge motivation to learn English for me.

That same day I armed myself with a dictionary and a number phrase books thinking that it was all that it took to learn English. I checked out all the available English grammar books from the school library.

After spending a month learning English from the books, I realized that I was not making much progress. I was so bored that I often fell asleep while reading. The material was so dry and impractical. Although was getting plenty of sleep, my English was not improving. I felt discouraged and wanted to give up several times. There had to be a better way to learn.

I finally found a way to improve my English to the point where I could converse easily with the Americans. I will share this experience in my next blog post tomorrow.
Meanwhile, check out our project HumanEnglish where you can learn business English by communicating with professional trainers native English speakers from the US and UK.
Thanks much for reading and stay tuned!