Hello and welcome!
This is my first post to this new blog – My English Lab.
The purpose of the blog is to help people understand, and hopefully to learn to love, or love more, the English language in all its richness as well as in its practicality for social and business communication.
English is my mother tongue, and it took me a long time to gain even a glimpse of how difficult English can be to learn as a second or later language. I had to go to Germany to find out.
As a young teacher I had taught English in Australia to adolescent boys, most of whom had English as their first language. While they might not have always enjoyed my teaching, I doubt that they were fundamentally mystified by the language.
Then I went to teach English in Germany and I started to understand how illogical, mystifying and downright confusing English can seem for people who have not had the opportunity to learn the language at their mother's knee.
In Germany I was a private teacher (Privatlehrer) of English to a well-educated family, most of whom were already quite fluent in English. Why was I there? They wanted – and intended – to understand and speak English as perfectly as if it were their first language. In pursuit of that goal, my employer required me to provide practical illustrations, in the form of complete, typed up sentences, for every word I used which they did not previously know or understand. My recollection is that in the manual of examples I produced over a six month period, there were on average three illustrative sentences for every word.
That was not a trivial task and I've often regretted that I did not carry with me when I left a copy of all that work – manually typed by me in the days before word processors! There was definitely a book in it.
A lesson I learnt in those months, and quite painfully at times, was how uncomfortable it can be to live and work in a place where few people speak your language fluently and some not at all. I can still recall my intense frustration that with some of the local shopkeepers and even with the aid of a pocket dictionary I could not communicate even quite simple matters. One that sticks in my mind is failing to get the barber to understand that I wanted just a light trim, not a full haircut. How I would like to have that option today!
I had studied elementary German at university, but it was just that – elementary – quite inadequate to enable me to deal effectively with a lot of day to day matters, let alone have any profound or meaningful conversations on matters of the intellect – or the heart!
Following that experience, I taught English and History in England for six months. Although there were two or three students from Hong Kong with limited English, the great majority of the boys I was teaching had English as their first language. That was a whole lot easier for me in a way, but also difficult and frustrating. I suspect that the difficulty and frustration may have come in part from the fact that these students thought they 'knew' English and seemed to have little desire to improve their knowledge and skill – unlike my German family, ambitious to understand and speak the language perfectly (whatever that might mean, but that's another topic).
In the intervening years I have done a lot of writing and public speaking for different purposes and different audiences, and have not taught English formally. But old habits die hard, and I have always enjoyed taking advantage of the opportunities that have arisen from time to time to explain and illustrate aspects of English usage to people who do not have English as their first language: this has mainly been over the internet.
Then recently I was introduced to a company, EN101, which provides English language training online and after not many months of being in business is already providing its services in most countries around the world. Having studied the company and the credentials and values of the people behind it I thought, here's a chance for me again to do something I love, share my knowledge of English with people who either have no English or who may know English in its written form but have difficulty speaking it. And this can all be done online. EN101 also offers Spanish language training just now for the benefit of those who already speak English and will be offering other languages progressively. But as I've indicated here, I have a particular interest in helping people learn English or learn to use it more effectively.
And being a blogger, I naturally thought about creating a blog to help me do just that.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that blogging and podcasting are made for this situation.
Hence this blog – My English Lab.
Here are some of the ways I intend to use this blog, as an online resource for people wanting to learn, or become more proficient in, English:
- I will write about words and their usage, giving practical, English as spoken, examples
- I will answer questions, through the commenting facility
- As I find examples of interesting words or phrases I will post articles about them here
- People will be able to search on words or phrases I've written about
- If the words or phrases are not here, people can email me, and then I will post about the words or phrases they are finding bothersome, confusing or just interesting
- With podcasts, I can provide audio examples of how various words and phrases are spoken
- I can provide links to potentially helpful resources and articles, both the ones I know about or find and ones that are suggested to me by readers.
So is this site going to advertise the EN101 product (currently English and Spanish language learning) and/or the business opportunity? Definitely.
Will it be possible to learn from here and get answers to questions without buying the product or connecting with me on the business side? Definitely.
It is my intention that this blog will be fun for me and for readers, as well as being educational (and we all know anyway that it's easier to learn when we are having fun).
It will also be in good taste, especially as I hope families, not just individuals, will be able to benefit. In that regard, I reserve the right to delete any comment or decline to respond to any enquiry that I consider to be inappropriate in content or tone, whether for matters of good taste or consideration for the feelings of others.
So here's to fun with English in this little corner of the Internet and the blogosphere 🙂