by Elena Bezzubov (Russia)
Dedicated to one year in the ICNY
Many members at the International Center ask me how I learned English quickly and effectively as well. Although I am still improving my English skills, I would say that it was not as easy as it seems. There are two things that built the foundation for me in learning English.
First of all, I always wanted to learn a few languages to have an ability to communicate with people from all over the world. And English was my first choice and one of the hardest languages to learn. To be able to study MBA program and work in a competitive business market in English, I must get really good at English. That was the case for me and served as a big motivator. So I started improving English with enthusiasm.
Secondly, the best way to practice a language is to focus on all aspects of the language: grammar, vocabulary, oral and written English. When I moved to New York from Russia two years ago, I had some background in studying English. However, I started from the beginning and focused on improving my listening and reading skills. I got used to watching English movies and television, business news and sitcoms, listening to English language radio broadcasts and music, reading English books and professional articles, and taking notes in English. I did use many exercise books which helped me to practice grammar and broaden my vocabulary.
But the biggest problem I faced in learning English was my own fear. I worried that I could not say things correctly, or that I could look stupid, so I was too shy to speak at all. And this was a moment to act and push myself to go further. I started to attend free ESL classes at Hunter College and BMCC a year ago. Through word of mouth I found the International Center and then with inspiration of the teachers and communication with other members I improved my English a lot. I think we need to have such place as the International Center where newcomers can find support and opportunity to learn the language so that they can live an independent life and get educated or get a job in an English speaking country.
There are many different ways to improve English, but I must admit that I like written English the most. To practice new words I write essays which include new interesting vocabulary. The Internet is a fantastic resource for the language learners as well. I use Google to check the whole phrases, search for metaphors or idioms to make sure that I am going to write them right. Even though I study English at a language school, I also learn it outside of a class. I love to walk out, meet and talk to new people, and explore new places of New York. As a result, my vocabulary is widening and my English is getting much better. Nothing teaches me more than real life situations and small talks with some Gothamites.
Being a Russian native speaker, I always followed the grammar rules, but English is all about the context. Of course, you have to know the grammar rules first. But I believe that the most natural way to practice English is to get a feel for the language, speaking English whenever it is possible and trying to understand people without a dictionary, learning cultural traditions and historical background of the country, and expressing your thoughts and emotions in English. It may sound strange, but, after a few months of being in a completely English environment, your attitude will change. Once you have got that, your linguistic intuition for that language will be sharper.
So I’m encouraging you to take your time, come over to the ICNY and really enjoy the experience of learning English.