What should we do now?
A lot of Turkish people, maybe hundreds of thousands of them, know English pretty well. They read in English, listen in English, and watch movies in English every day. But when it comes to talk with someone from another country, who doesn’t know Turkish, and tries to communicate in English; it suddenly appears to be a very big issue to talk in English.
And I don’t think it is limited to Turkish people. At a certain stage of English learning, you just reach to a point that you know all grammar principles, and lots of vocabulary. For a moment, it seems like you have finished learning English, and you say to yourself “That’s it. I know English”. Well, that’s obviously a mistake.
You may be considered right for the first assumption: Yes, you have learned English. You have a reasonable knowledge to say the least. But, if you think you have finished learning it, you are wrong. Like a martial arts practitioner, your learning period will be lifelong.
Let me give you an example of myself. As a blogger, I read lots of English posts from all over the internet everyday. My Google Reader account is full of English blog posts, and I have to read them, because we have a habit of translating good posts in to Turkish and publish them on Opereysin.com.
I also watch lots of videos, documentaries etc. on internet everyday. And most of them are in English.
So as a result of these things, my listening and reading abilities in English are fine.
But I really didn’t need to write in English much in the past, maybe just for a few times. And you can count how many times I got in to a situation where I needed to talk in English: Not more than a dozen.
Sure, in my English learning process, I have practiced writing and speaking a lot too. But a sudden need to talk in English on a matter that you are not prepared for, is very different.
When we are describing one’s English language abilities, we often talk about 4 different skills: “Reading – Writing – Listening – Speaking”.
If your English language degree is “Upper-Intermediate”, It’s considered that your all 4 skills are at that point.
But if you are living in an environment where people talk in your native language, it is hard to keep your “Speaking” and “Writing” skills sharp.
I know it, because whenever I need to talk to someone in English, I find it difficult. And It’s not because of my lack of vocabulary knowledge, because I can easily understand what they say, and I can come up with an answer, unfortunately in Turkish.
And I think lots of English language learners all around the world has that problem.
So what can I do? What can we do?
As I said earlier, learning a language is a lifetime experience. We have to force ourselves to talk in English to improve our skills. As the saying goes: “Practice makes perfect”. So we have to practice.
But finding people who can talk in English fluently, and having conversations with them is not easy. In fact, if we could find this opportunity, we probably would talk.
So we have to provide opportunity to ourselves. We can find a friend who has this problem, and practice conversations with him/her. We can practice on a single subject, like cinema, news, history, health; or we can talk without a subject restriction.
We will probably have difficulties to speak in English for a few conversations, but after that, we will realise that it just gets better.
And that’s just the beginning.