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I didn’t know English

There was a time I used to hate English. I didn’t know basic grammar. My vocabulary was poor. I believed that English is not my cup of tea. I did most part of my schooling in a Malayalam medium convent school in Kochi. I was born and brought up there in Kochi. I went to the same school where my mother and aunts went. Though I was admitted to KG in the English section, I couldn’t continue it there. Later I got admitted to the Malayalam medium section. I used to love my mother tongue. Even now, I am a great fan of Malayalam. I used to score excellent marks in Malayalam. Malayalam teachers used to love me, and vice versa.

sticky notes on wall

I read a lot in Malayalam, wrote poems and articles, and continued growing my hatred towards the English language. Then we happened to move to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When we moved, there was only one school for Indians over there. It was the Embassy of India school, following the CBSE curriculum. The challenge began there. There we had students and teachers from all parts of India.  It was difficult for me to speak a single sentence in English. I could write because I used to mug up the answers. I worked day and night to improve. I used to sit with a dictionary till late at night while I was studying. Since I was obsessed with studies, I never found it challenging. I was always a hard-working student. I could improve slowly and passed all exams with satisfactory grades, which was an unexpected thing for a student coming from a different instruction medium. I believe it was my hard work and the passion to learn that paid off. 

I started with my first job as a teacher soon after I completed my 12th grade. I still remember my first interview day, I was asked to write an application for the job. Of course, I knew how to write a job application, but to write it in English was a challenge. I wrote with whatever English I knew. I am sure I had made a lot of mistakes in it. But luckily, I got the job because the vacancy was for a Malayalam teacher. That was a cool offer for a Malayalam lover. The first year at work happens to be tough for anyone, and so was it for me. The Malayalam teacher of that primary school had to teach other subjects later, and I started speaking with more confidence. I learned to speak English while I was teaching.

Teaching is the best teacher. Yes, you read it right.  If you want to learn something correctly, you go and teach that to someone. Teaching is the best way to learn anything. Starting out from a small private school in Jeddah, we moved to set up our own school, where I worked as a teacher cum admission officer in the initial years and then the Chief Administrator. The journey was exciting and satisfying. My language improved much more since I was practising more in speaking and writing. I had to communicate with parents, teachers, and students, all in English. I had to write messages to the parents, letters and reports to my superiors, all in English. This is the way I improved. I know my English is not perfect even now, but I put in regular efforts to improve. Many people around me are facing a problem with their spoken English. They can read, write and understand English, but when it comes to speaking, they fail. Here I am trying to put in some tips that could help those looking to improve their language skills. 

Practice makes perfect – It is rightly said, the journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. It’s crucial to set your targets right and make the steps right. Each and every step towards your goal counts. There is no magic pill for success. It takes dedication and hard work. We come across many tempting captions like ‘be an expert in 7 days or 7 weeks’. It’s not true. No one can become an expert through shortcuts. Malcolm Gladwell, the famous author and journalist, says, “ to become an expert, you need to practice for 10,000 hrs.” That’s the first tip to success. You need to practice consistently. 

brown wooden cross on white surface
Practice makes perfect

Find your motivation – Motivation is necessary to move forward with any task. What’s your reason for learning? Is it that you need to speak like so and so, or need to teach, or interact or travel outside your language barrier. My inspiration was that I had to interact with Non-Malayalam speaking people. I didn’t want to make mistakes while talking. I didn’t want to be embarrassed. You need to find your motivation. If you don’t have an English speaking friend, find one and start interacting. This will give you a push to speak. You can also find fellow learners. There will be many out there who have a similar issue. Look out for them and create a speaking practice platform. Don’t be ashamed to make mistakes. When you start speaking, it is evident that you could make a lot of errors. But be ready to accept the mistakes. Don’t bother about what people say or think.

Language is for communication. If you can communicate right, you are good to go. You will have a mental block that you need to break. Once it is broken, it’s easy to move forward. Initially focus on communication and basic grammar. Grammar is the foundation of a language. Your vocabulary and language skills will improve as you practice more. You need to dedicate daily time for practice. The practice is the success mantra when it comes to communication skills. If you are really serious about improving your language skills, maintain a notebook where you can log in to new words with examples. Moreover, writing helps in developing the language. 

You can make your English learning a fun time. Thinking in English is the first lesson most of the trainers advise. Start thinking in English. When you are alone, talk to yourself in English. You can talk to yourself in English while cooking, cleaning, or doing any other work. Plan an English only evening where you and your family members speak only in English. If you can join your family members in your efforts to learn, it will become more enjoyable. Think of converting the small activities you do daily to English. While cooking, speak out the names of the ingredients in English and narrate cooking in English. You can even write down your recipes in English. 

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Start reading English books and articles. These days you don’t even have to spend on books to read. The Internet is full of materials that you can make use of. Make a habit of reading at least one page a day, and you can increase the number of pages slowly when your speed and understanding grows. You can watch English movies, videos, and news channels. It’s a great way to improve your language skills. You can even write down your daily activities in a notebook if you don’t have anything else to write. This will create good memories for you when you look back years later. If possible, you can join an English speakers club. A plethora of options is available for those who have a spark to learn. The Internet is full of learning materials for those who are seeking to improve. You can subscribe to any free learning YouTube channels or groups. 

The most important thing is your mindset. If you have a keen desire to learn and improve you, need to dedicate time to it. You need to look for ways through which you can improve. If you find your way, set your goals and milestones. Each move matters. So hold on to your goals and keep moving. I have written this because I want to inspire you by narrating my story. I never thought I would have my own blog, and I would be able to reach out to you in this way.  You have read until here because you have a desire to improve your language skills. If you have decided to work on it after reading this article, let me know your plans in the comment box below. 

woman in striped shirt sitting on bed while writing
If there is a will there is a way!

9 thoughts on “I didn’t know English”

  1. Thank u so much mam…for an inspirational write up…it will surely help us to improve for a.beginer like me…thank u so muchhhh..

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