How To Help Someone Learn English

Do you know someone who wants to speak English? Here are some easy ways to help him or her learn.

Studying a foreign language can be fun and frustrating at the same time. Most of us don't mind learning to speak another language when we are motivated to do so by a good reason, such as necessity, travel, or someone we know.

People born in another country who want to learn English generally have good reasons for wanting to do so. Some of them plan to move here or have immigrated already, while others know that English is the primary language of international business.

If you want to help a non-native person learn to speak English, here are some easy ways to help him or her:

1. Practice informal conversation skills. Most people who are trying to learn English are eager to speak the language with a native. They will try out a few words or an expression, hoping to make a good impression and draw you into conversation so they can learn more. If that happens, speak naturally but distinctly so that the person can understand to the best of his or her ability. Use basic conversational words while avoiding slang or regional expressions, which the non-native may not know.

2. Offer help with grammar drills. If the non-native person is not already in an English class, you may want to write out a few basic grammar drills. For example, write a verb at the top of a page, and below it, conjugate the verb's usage with all the singular and plural persons of speech:

To Talk:

I talk

you talk

he or she talks

it talks

we talk

they talk

Repeat each expression, encouraging the other person to say it after you.

3. Suggest television viewing. Thirty-minute weekly television programs are helpful because they set up a situation that is ongoing and easy for the viewer to follow in terms of understanding context and learning names. If possible, watch the show together and point out characters' names, along with basic traits or actions in simple terms the non-native speaker can follow. Try to discuss the show afterward, beginning with easy phrases or comments:

"Funny, wasn't it?"

"Did you like it?"

4. Pass along newspapers and magazines to read.

Even if the person has limited English skills, becoming familiar with the shape of English letters and print of common words will help the non-native begin to identify them. If you have time, point to a word or sentence and pronounce it, encouraging your friend to say it after you.

5. Visit public places. Go shopping, see a museum, stop by the park, or take the bus in order to experience new sites together. Use simple expressions to name or describe each location or main features. Your friend will begin to learn these as you say them, and the time spent together will hopefully prove mutually enjoyable.

In addition, you can recommend that your friend look up English grammar skills on the Internet, or pick up a grammar guide at the bookstore. Many of these are geared to people from other cultures. Remember to be patient, and consider referring your friend to the local International Institute or other agency that provides free or inexpensive English classes or tutoring.

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