Let's get off the beaten path...

Let's get off the beaten path, I want to see something new!

No, I'm not pretending to be a rebellious Dorothy and leave the yellow brick road (for those of you who haven't seen The Wizard of Oz, shame on you, go watch it now, in English!), this is actually an awesome expression that means:


Let's explore something we don't know.

Let's visit a non-touristic place.

Let's travel a bit outside the box.


This is a very typical phrase to hear or say when you are travelling, but today we're going to apply it to learning a language as well. Let me give you two examples:

  1. Imagine yourself on holiday in a foreign country, perhaps somewhere very far away and very different from your own culture. Imagine the people, the architecture, the smells and sounds, the food and whatever else you can think of. Imagine interacting with the native people, trying their cuisine, really experiencing their lifestyle. Sounds like a great way to travel, right?

  2. Now imagine yourself in the same foreign country, but in a very touristic spot where the natives are just trying to sell you things because you're a tourist, the restaurants are anything but authentic and the only interacting you are doing is with other tourists when you say, "excuse me, sorry, excuse me, sorry" because there are too many people crowded together trying to get a glimpse at some famous monument, or trying to buy typical souvenirs to take home with them, etc. etc.

Which of the two scenarios do you think will leave you feeling more satisfied with your experience? Which of the two scenarios do you think is the more authentic way to learn about a new country? Now, I hope you're thinking option 1, not because there is anything wrong with visiting the typical tourist spots, but because this same scenario can be used to compare different ways of learning a language, which is the focus of today's post.

 

In the same way that you can be more or less satisfied with a trip, you can be more or less satisfied with your language learning experience. So let me give you two more examples to show you what I mean:

  1. You take an English lesson once a week, or study English on your own for an hour or so a week, and sometimes do some extra homework to follow up with what you did in your lesson. You speak mostly (or only) with your teacher, and don't do anything that's really "fun" for you in English. You're happy with your lessons but feel like you still aren't prepared for real interaction in English.

  2. You take an English lesson once a week, or study English on your own for an hour or more a week, and (almost) always do some extra homework to follow up with what you did in your lesson. You try to find other people to talk to in English, and maybe even participate in Conversation Club! You enjoy watching series in English (with subtitles, of course!), and your favorite YouTuber is an American who reacts to songs and music videos (you love music in general). You've noticed that the more you do outside your English studies, the more you feel like you're improving, and most importantly, the more you enjoy it!

So what I mean when I say, get off the beaten path with your language learning is this: stop thinking about English as just a lesson and some homework, and start thinking about it as a way to pursue your other interests - do you like cooking, travelling, doing sports, etc.? Find a YouTube channel to follow, join a Facebook group, follow some new Instagram accounts, but not about English grammar, about your interests, but in English. I just want to leave you with one more thing before you go...the other day, one of my teenage students (who speaks very well), said to me:

Sometimes I feel like I don't write well in Italian because my whole life is in English - I mostly watch series and movies in English, all my social media is in English and I even prefer reading in English!

"My whole life is in English". Not because she's obligated. But because the things she's interested in she does in English. So, on that note, my advice for you today is this: find the teenager inside of you and ask yourself how not all, but more of your life could be in English!

 

Glossary

  • awesome: something really great

  • get a glimpse: to (try to) see or observe something, even if only for a very short time.




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