Back with some further thoughts for you.

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Perhaps, the most important use of English today is international communication with business colleagues. Writing seems to be declining rapidly in importance, along with spelling, punctuation and grammar, but understanding the spoken language and pronouncing it clearly remain vital.

Listening and speaking have to go hand in hand, but trying to speak with no understanding, no vocabulary, seems a pointless putting of a cart before a horse. If you have to speak English, you should learn enough (spoken) vocabulary before you try to do so.

And if you need to improve quickly, it is still essential to get a human teacher who can handle a standard accent, preferably on a one-to-one basis. You are just not likely to improve quickly unless you get down to some serious study. But you don’t have to spend loads of time in an English-speaking country if you want to speak the language well.

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Do not fall into deep water!

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Life is always to be changed for the better, but any attempt at self-improvement that lacks a firm foundation will lead only to muddle, frustration and depression.

Truly effective speech and action depend on clear thinking, and clear thinking depends on careful looking and listening. Just seeing is not looking; just hearing is not listening. Seeing and hearing are merely browsing the (possibly fake) news all around us. Neither is looking the same as gazing obsessively at anything; nor listening, attending fanatically to anyone.

Looking and listening require recollection in tranquillity; they are not the work of a moment. Stop, listen and learn! Look before you leap!

The Use of Language

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Listening for detailed information is hard work and rarely practised in the real world outside examination halls, except by university students taking notes in lectures (Nick Kenny, talking to the Cambridge English Language Teachers’ Association in 1999).

Language is not so much a means of transmitting information as a means of lubricating (facilitating) the operations of human teams (Dogme, 2014).

Speech is only very seldom an informational transaction. It is normally an exercise in phatic communion. (David Crystal, talking to the directors of studies of the Association of Recognised English Language Schools in 1994).

”The use of language… is social; it depends for its success on doing something… in such a way as will fit in with what other people like.” (Randolph Quirk, “The Use of English”, Longman, 1968.)

Who can you trust?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

How far would you trust a map-maker who knew hardly any geography?

Or a doctor who had no belief in science?

Or a journalist who had no interest in history?

Or an accountant who was plain bad at maths?

Or an entrepreneur who showed no idea of economics?

Or an unqualified, untrained, amateur, legal advisor?

Or a language-teacher whose sole qualification was being a native-speaker?

Spotting Differences

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Languages are fundamentally sound-systems used for human-to-human communication; they are based on sounds. They begin with noises that are only incidentally communicative (e.g. sighs and yawns). Later, come noises which sound designed to communicate (e.g. laughs, screams, sobs and moans). Finally, there emerge commonly repeated patterns of noises (set phrases).

Language (sentences, grammar and writing) has another story altogether.

Languages start as intimate, local phenomena, used between family, friends and neighbours. Standard languages are the initial languages of the few, hard-learnt (and often resented) by the many, but they have one very strong point: they can be immediately effective with a wide range of new contacts, where they are well-taught, and correctly pronounced.

To understand something in a standard language, you need to be able to…

1. identify which standard it is.

2. notice and correctly interpret any unusual intonations used.

3. not mis-hear and not mis-interpret the phrases used (e.g. “today’s word’s ‘keyed’”/“today’s word’s ‘kid’”/“today’s word’s ‘cooed’”/“today’s word’s ‘cud’”/“today’s word’s ‘card’”/“today’s word’s ‘could’”; in Southern-British Standard English).

This is never easy to do.

Would it help you if a proficient English-speaker corrected you?

 

Learning, Languages, and Literatures.

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Intelligence is mathematics; these words are synonymous.

Mathematics are the knowledge of numbers, of their possible and necessary interrelations, and their configuration, by which may result, in art, this transcendental pleasure called beauty, and, in engineering, tools, from which may result useful instruments or machines.

Neither languages nor literatures are intelligence.

Languages are tools for speaking; literatures, stories for enjoyment.