English Language Learner Cheatsheet Part 3

 In Grammar

In the first two ESL Cheatsheet blogs here and here, we talked about common problems that ESL learners face such as the tendency to translate from your native language, not practicing your English with native speakers, etc.

Let’s explore five other experiences that ESL learners encounter when learning English.

Obstacles commonly faced by English language learners

Cultural Differences and Colloquialisms

English, well, American English anyway, uses a lot of slang, and colloquialisms.

Even if you have an AMAZING English vocabulary, chances are you won’t know the slang or local speak.  My friend in North Carolina is always telling me how this person or that party “was a hoot”.  (I had to have her translate for me the first time.)

In Boston spaghetti sauce is “gravy”.

“Hi Due” is a greeting in Atlanta.

“Chanks” are flip-flops if you’re in Miami.

There’s regular American slang, AND as a bonus, local slang.  You don’t need to learn the ‘slanguage’ but adding a few words to your speech will help you sound less formal

Date, Time, Temperature, and Measurement Expressions & Formats

Time in America is expressed in a 12-hour format, hour first then minutes.  3:30 in the early hours of the morning is three thirty AM.  3:30 in the late afternoon is three thirty PM.  Temperature is on the Fahrenheit scale.  The date, in most cases, is expressed month/ date/ year.  And yes, shocking as it is, the US (along with Myanmar, and Liberia) STILL uses the archaic Imperial Scale of weights, and measures…inch, foot, yard, mile, ounce, pound, ton.

Neglecting your Written Skills

Learning to speak English is difficult enough, but to truly become fluent you’ll need to keep up with your written skills.  Classroom assignments will be, by and large, written so you may not need further encouragement.

One great side benefit to staying on top of your written English is that your SPOKEN English will improve much faster, as will your understanding of individual words, phrases, and English language sentence structure.

Not Utilizing Multiple Methods of Study 

It’s easy to get into a rut or convince yourself that the way you’re most comfortable learning is the ONLY or BEST way for you to learn.

There are so many different methods of study available to you now, what with being able to “live chat” with native speakers on Skype (or similar platforms), learning apps, and games, even the New York Times has a fantastic feature for ESL students.  Read the Times online, NYTimes.com, and use the “look up” function to get instant access to the definition of a word you don’t know from an article by double-clicking on it, then click the question mark that appears next to the word!  Other functions of the NY Times English language learning mode let you play games, make up your own articles based on archived photos, and direct you to links, and exercises.

Committing to Learning 

It sounds great to be studying a new language.  You feel smarter just thinking about how fluent you’ll become.  So, COMMIT TO IT!  Don’t be too busy, bored, tired or any other excuse.  As I mentioned in #9, there are multiple ways to learn.  Find what works for you, and keeps you excited about learning, speaking, and writing English.  Take up Karaoke for goodness sake, if that’s what it takes.  Singing along with your favorite songs can be a super fun way to pick up words from context.

Many ESL students face these challenges when they begin to learn English, but keep the promise you made to yourself when you first decided to become an ESL student, it will be worth it to you in ways you can’t imagine.



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