I think anyone going into such a program and flying halfway across the world is already doing something pretty impressive, but the most inspiring thing about these folks was their language skills - they all spoke a pretty good amount of Georgian, in addition to a few other foreign languages each! Now, for Europeans this might not seem pretty impressive, but I can count the amount of Americans I know personally who are fluent in a foreign language on two hands - one if you’re not counting Spanish! Needless to say, I was impressed.
You see, I hear people talk about learning a language all the time - not just my students who want to know English, but Americans who have a burning desire to become bilingual in at least one other language besides English. Hell, I remember being the same way ten years ago. But why do so many people fail in these goals? Lots of people have theories, and of course I have my own - looking at these three English teachers living here in Georgia, one thing immediately jumped out at me - they enjoyed the learning process.
One of them pulled out a folded-up bunch of papers which turned out to be a chapter from a Georgian textbook she printed out and carried around so that she can study wherever. Another insisted on speaking Georgian to every person we encountered in the restaurants and cafes we visited together. They all wrote words down, asked strangers the meanings of phrases, and generally took to learning with great enthusiasm.
Where there is a will, there is a way
I get many students who have varying degrees of English ability and want to get better, but they hate the learning process itself. Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had students who won’t take three minutes every morning to look at a list of ten words in order to help remember them. Three minutes a day! That’s nothing really, but some people just hate getting that list out and doing actual “studying.” I have other students who have awful difficulties remembering stuff, but they refuse to write down words they don’t know or can’t remember for review later. I have to physically put a pen and paper into their hands, but they won’t use them in class and the next lesson they will have forgotten nearly all the new vocabulary they (should have) learned in the previous lesson.
There are also students who hate studying grammar - they studied it for years in school, didn’t learn it, and now refuse to address their own grammatical mistakes. They ask me to correct their errors, but will not sit down and ask themselves *why* something is wrong. So they keep making the same mistake, over and over forever.
Side note: Allow me to give you some golden advice - if you know you have a problem with a specific part of English grammar (conditionals, present perfect tense, recorded speech, whatever) - you do not need a teacher to explain these things to you. Go into google or youtube and type that specific topic into the search field and you will find an endless supply of high quality explanations of that grammar point, with beautiful pictures, graphs, examples - literally everything you need. You can even type your search in your native language and you will inevitably find a good, accurate explanation of that subject in words you can understand!
However, many people don’t do this because they are very passive with their method of learning English. Even if you hate academic-style studying (vocab lists and grammar textbooks), you still need to take an active approach if you want to improve. You have to speak, make silly mistakes, and then analyze and consciously practice the right way in order to gain fluency. It’s just a fact of learning.
Language hacks and secret methods
Except he wasn’t studying Russian. He was studying how to study Russian - in English. Infinitely more easier, and equally less useful. :) One month of burning through language blogs and he knew all the methods of studying foreign languages, but never used them. The guy didn’t even learn the Cyrillic alphabet - something which I’ve seen normal, dedicated people do in a single day because they can sit down and just do the boring memorization work.
No amount of expensive lessons, deluxe courses, fancy textbooks or secret learning hacks will do you any good if you don’t actually do the dirty work of learning a language. Make mistakes. Study vocabulary. If you don’t understand a grammar point, look it up - search for examples, ask questions, and just practice.