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November 08, 2009

Hands-on Language Learning; Writing Your Own Story

For hands-on learners, there is no better way to learn a language than by using it - and using it by writing is probably the best...

... way to get a solid grasp of how a language really works.

Reading is wonderful, but nothing compares to the creative work of expressing yourself and putting your thoughts in a form that others (even complete strangers) can read and perhaps even appreciate.

Even if you can't think of a topic, a fun - and revealing - exercise is to sit down to write for 10-15 minutes without stopping. You might come up with some great ideas even though you might start writing something like "I can't think of anything to write. I don't know what to write about..."

If you get in the habit of doing this every day, you will start coming up with some usable ideas surprisingly quickly.

The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them. — Raymond Chandler

If you are feeling blase and uninspired, check out http://www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/imagination.prompt.html for some writing prompts to get those creative juices flowing.

If you have some writing - either completed or in process - and are looking for a place to send it, take a long look at http://www.placesforwriters.com/. You will find all kinds of anthologies, workshops and seminars and writing opportunities for all kinds of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

If you have English grammar questions - or might be looking for someone to chat with in English, take a look at http://www.englishforums.com/.

If you are a total "word-nerd" (as I am) you will love http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm. Here you can find sources and origins of commonly used words and terms that might baffle you at first. Every phrase has a memorable story.

And, if you are puzzled by some slang in almost any language, check outhttp://www.alternative-dictionaries.net/. This site describe itself as the home of "Slang, profanities, insults and vulgarisms from all the world" - not for the squeamish!

My intention in teaching English is far more than mastery of grammar and vocabulary. I want my students to be equipped to comprehend and make sense of the world around them. Part of comprehending is to understand, but another important part is to make something known and part of one's self.

And of course, there are few experiences more satisfying than fully expressing one's self - especially in a learned language.

It is good to remember that we are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at November 8, 2009 07:51 PM

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