“My English is Worse than I Thought”


When you can communicate in most situations and then run into a problem you can’t solve, and find out your English is worse than you thought, what should you do? You might want to sulk for an evening, but what are you going to do next? Here are some ideas.

I study Japanese and these tips work for me. Sometimes I feel really good about my Japanese ability, especially when I watch television and I understand everything or when I help colleagues at work by doing a bit of translation. However, there are times that I have problems: trying to read very unfamiliar technical language is one, and understanding older people’s Japanese, sometimes including regional dialects from outside Tokyo, makes me realise I still have a lot to learn. Sometimes I don’t feel good about studying, and in fact I hate it for a while. After a scream and some junk food, here are some things that help me.

Learn more vocabulary

As I wrote earlier about not understanding when listening, you might need to learn more vocabulary. This isn’t as bad as you think. Grab a book about the subject you have problems with, grab your (monolingual) dictionary and study. This isn’t a one-day solution, you need to practise a lot.

Practise speaking and find your mistakes

You can do this by booking a lesson with me or talking to a friend. Get the person you are talking with to talk about the same topic you had trouble with and to tell you when they don’t understand what you are saying, or when they don’t understand you clearly. If you have a friend help you, maybe buy them a drink or something nice.

Take a rest

You might just be too serious about your English study. Listen to some music, read a comic strip, or even do nothing. Remember that learning a language should be fun so that you want to continue.