How I mastered English

Published on June 08, 2018

How I mastered English

Hello. I am an IT person "for 30", and I love English. It so happened that for many years, English did not want to love me. Before you is a living example of a person with “bad memory”, “inability to languages”, a rich experience of unsuccessful learning of English both in courses and independently, lost opportunities due to lack of knowledge of the language, chances and arising on this basis complexes. Everything that could be done in the study of a foreign language is bad, I tried to make it worse. Despite all this, you have a happy ending story, which, I believe, will help someone avoid stupid mistakes, save time, get rid of illusions and prejudices about learning a new language from near zero.


It all started at school from the 7th grade, when instead of the 2 lessons per week, the teacher of English appeared no more than once a month, cultivating children's minds with children who were hungry for knowledge, we had a fiery indifference to foreign languages. Those rare lessons, which nevertheless were, consisted in the study of the alphabet and vocabulary. My parents made an attempt to correct the situation by signing me up for some correspondence courses, where there was a lot of grammar and vocabulary, and my homework had to be sent by mail once a month. Tutors at that time and in that place almost did not exist, and those that existed were worth decent money, because the choice fell on such not very convenient courses. However, even in that form, they gave more than a school - I finally learned the alphabet, Present, Past and Future Simple, the days of the week and the names of the months of the year. And even despite the fact that parental control was almost absent. As a result, in the school certificate in English stood the prayed "4".

Then there was a no less productive university with two ever-maternity teachers, canceled pairs, free tests and boring grammar all 5 years. It was then that I first encountered foreign students, and was surprised to find that many peers speak English fluently. But peers were surprised to find that I (Olympiad in Physics, Mathematics, Labor and Literature) do not speak at all. It was so annoying that I stopped missing pairs of English and started doing all my homework. Independently I came to the need to change the phone interface to English and update the installation of games to the original ones. As a result, it did not go further than a small expansion of vocabulary and knowledge of the table of times.

A breakthrough happened with the advent of the first stable work. Freelance team specializing in the foreign market, communicating directly with customers. Lots and lots of correspondence in primitive English with 2 times in order-relevant topics. Visiting customers, with whom he corresponded daily for hours, he barely heard by hearing. Fortunately, there were enough guys in the team who knew English at a level sufficient for communication.

At the same time, the first serious attempts were made to change the situation with the knowledge of the language. It began with group English courses 2 times a week. Level determined by written test - A1. The courses were interesting, literacy increased markedly. I was able to write good letters to customers and began looking at the series in the original with subtitles (of course, not understanding anything). What could not, so it speak. At all. It also turned out that I probably have a bad memory. Six months after the forced graduation of courses, I noticed that I forgot half of the learned vocabulary. What I constantly taught was forgotten as soon as I stopped (or did not even begin) to use. For most fellow students, progress was noticeably better. In six months the guys could clearly tell about themselves and answer questions of stray foreigners on the street. Unlike me. Why it happened - I do not know. My desire to learn was no less than the rest. Discipline? I studied quite intensivelymassacre contact sports, went to competitions, coaching others - with the education of discipline and tenacity was clearly in order. I did my homework on time myself, sometimes even more than necessary. And he continued to be one of the worst in academic performance. It was very beat on self-esteem, and over time I began to unconsciously avoid speaking days in courses, and then I abandoned them altogether. The idea that I was not able to learn languages ​​and was too late to learn at my age was already annoying, but inborn obstinacy did not allow me to simply give up.

I decided to study independently and discovered “Lingual Leo” and other applications and websites for English “15 minutes a day”. I do not want to say anything against “Lingual Leo” - a very decent service. For the year of intensive self-education on this resource, my vocabulary has expanded, by the most modest calculations, by a couple of thousand words. And so that they would not be forgotten, I started interval repetition - the Anki application became my best friend. I imported all my vocabulary from “Leo” to “Anki” and strenuously studied it every day several times, periodically adding new cards. For two years, about 3,000 newly studied and about 1,000 unexplored words have accumulated there. For the first time I began to memorize words for a long time. And for the first time I realized that only a dictionary is not enough. Like grammar. I passed most of the Intermediate tests, but he could neither speak nor read texts other than customers' letters and messages on Skype. It is thanks to “Lingual Leo” that the realization came that vocabulary and grammar are not close to knowledge of English.

I decided to read a lot in English, because simple vocabulary did not affect the understanding of the text and speech. Intuition suggested that understanding the text was the same skill as everyone else, which should be trained separately. It's all like in sport - if you want to squat more, then train squats. If you want to run faster - train running.

The first book was some kind of anti-scientific nonsense about the types of people, I don’t remember the name. I mastered about half of the dictionary. The book was terribly uninteresting and was sent to the basket, and the desire to read for a long time disappeared. Then in my library there was some kind of fiction about the American Civil War, which I bought in transition. Not mastered and half. Abandoned reading for another month. Next was Kahneman with his masterpiece “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. I decided that I would read it to the end, no matter what it cost. Translated the first pages almost verbatim. After a week and 5 translated pages, the nerves passed, and I began to simply read, trying to understand the meaning of certain known words, occasionally looking into the dictionary. It looked like this: I read the sentence, tried to understand what it was about, and if I didn’t understand it, I read it again, I began to translate certain words. Took pressure! A month later, things went faster - I was able to move up to the 20th page. Approximately by the middle of the book I read without any translator at all, at the same time capturing the essence of the text. The second and third books were read even easier. While reading, an understanding of the meaning of many words came from the context. Then reading books in English has become a regular activity. Even then I noticed that many popular science English texts seem to me more understandable than their Russian translations. The acquisition of Kindle, which has the coolest feature, helped a lot - you can single out the word and read its interpretation in the Oxford dictionary and even translate it into any language. After some time, it allowed to abandon the online translator. After the first ten books, the English text was read and perceived almost faster than Russian, which greatly added optimism. Unfortunately, With the perception of speech by ear, almost nothing has changed. That is, I perceived it, and even began to watch films in the original, but it was more about a general understanding of the meaning of what was said, distorted by the lack of knowledge of certain words and a lack of understanding of the real meaning of the phrases. The dictionary was not forgotten, but I could not “extract” anything from there. The funny thing is that he easily recalled the translation of the word when he saw him at Anki, but could not at all remember when he heard or met in the book. Understanding the general meaning of the books did not give an understanding of the specifics, which was hidden behind the ornate turns of speech. Communication in trips in English was given with great difficulty. English is very lacking in the new work. distorted by ignorance of individual words and lack of understanding of the real meaning of phrases. The dictionary was not forgotten, but I could not “extract” anything from there. The funny thing is that he easily recalled the translation of the word when he saw him at Anki, but could not at all remember when he heard or met in the book. Understanding the general meaning of the books did not give an understanding of the specifics, which was hidden behind the ornate turns of speech. Communication in trips in English was given with great difficulty. English is very lacking in the new work. distorted by ignorance of individual words and lack of understanding of the real meaning of phrases. The dictionary was not forgotten, but I could not “extract” anything from there. The funny thing is that he easily recalled the translation of the word when he saw him at Anki, but could not at all remember when he heard or met in the book. Understanding the general meaning of the books did not give an understanding of the specifics, which was hidden behind the ornate turns of speech. Communication in trips in English was given with great difficulty. English is very lacking in the new work. which was hidden behind ornate speech turns. Communication in trips in English was given with great difficulty. English is very lacking in the new work. which was hidden behind ornate speech turns. Communication in trips in English was given with great difficulty. English is very lacking in the new work.

I do not know when the idea arose to read English-language literature about learning languages. It was then that I caught the eye of “Learn English: 300% Faster - 69 English Tips to Speak English Like a Native English Speaker!”. Despite the screaming title, more like a cheap advertising slogan, this book thoroughly turned my understanding of the principles of language learning. In short, the basic idea is that the natural and natural way to learn a language is to listen and speak. How children learn the language - they listen to their parents, try to repeat, parents correct, children again try to repeat. Children grow up, communicate, overgrow vocabulary, go to school. And only then begin to learn grammar. Therefore, the author advises to start with individual classes with a carrier who has the appropriate education, which will force you to speak a lot (and, at first, incorrectly), gradually correcting your mistakes. And then, when you learn to talk and listen, the rest of your studies will begin - to talk more, listen a lot and understand the nuances of grammar. I liked the idea that it was silly to go to English courses in London. It is better to go to dance or cooking classes - there will be many times more benefits for learning a language. Everything looked simple and logical. Why not try?

I reread this book several times, thought a lot and doubted. It was difficult to admit to myself that all the years were wasting time not on what was needed. On the other hand, many of my friends and acquaintances were able to learn a good language in school and courses, so why didn’t I master it? In the end, he decided once again to try his luck. This time he excluded conversational groups, group courses and private lessons with local teachers. Having overcome fear and doubt, he decided to search for a teacher-carrier for Skype classes. Googling and reading reviews about a dozen resources where you can learn English, settled on one fairly well-known. For about a couple of evenings I carefully looked through the tutors, I chose one whose techniques in the description seemed to me very similar to those in the above book. Ordered a trial lesson.

It is ridiculous to remember how worried that evening was. It seemed that all my fears and complexes about learning a language decided at the same time to manifest. Local teachers are one thing, they know that you are a complete zero, and quite another is a certified Englishman. I was ashamed to start a lesson without a specific goal, “just to raise the level of English” seemed like a frivolous desire. Imagination drew an upset tutor who, after several fruitless attempts to pull anything out of me, would say: “Sorry, I cannot help here. I’ll ask you to get your money back. ” 10 minutes before the start, I wanted to cancel the lesson. An incredible effort of will forced himself to sit still and wait for the collapse and universal shame.

At the appointed time, the teacher called in Skype. The first lesson was an acquaintance. The tutor is a young Briton, - spoke briefly about himself (profile education - literature) and his teaching methods. To be honest, I did not understand two thirds of what he said, despite the fact that the speech was slow and clear, without these terrible accents. Further, I had to introduce myself, tell about myself and my goals - the desired level of English, whether certificates are necessary, whether I plan to take exams, to enter foreign universities. Then it was necessary to tell about their interests. At that moment, I seem to have forgotten all my vocabulary. It is difficult to describe the pain experienced when trying to squeeze out a primitive text of the level “I like it better”. In total from an hour and a half lesson it took about 40 minutes. The teacher, to my surprise, kept himself well done, did not hesitate, spoke very simple and understandable English, suggested the correct words, asked timely leading questions and tried to smile. At the end of the class, they quickly passed simple tests. It turned out that my reading skill is not so poor. Everything was very bad with speech and the construction of sentences. The teacher explained that I have English at A2 level, but not because I am incompetent or have no abilities, but because I wasn’t normally taught, and group language courses are more often “bulshit”. Even in London. He wondered that I read a lot, I really like English as a language, and my main goal is not to pass some kind of exam, and forget everything a month later, but to study English well as a whole. The teacher promised that if I tried a little, then I will pass any language examinations for foreigners even without special training, they say, his students already have this experience. We agreed on the schedule of classes - a floating schedule of 2-5 hours per week. That evening I was very nervous and slept very badly.


After a couple of classes, I realized how lucky I was with the teacher. He turned out to be a truly talented teacher who accepted my mediocrity with philosophical calm. Each lesson began with a warm-up in the form of some kind of trash, where I talked about how the day went or what I wanted, asked questions on any topic, complained about life, boasted about success. Then the exercises began - always different, always interesting and completely enduring the brain. We invented associations, wrote dictations, drew pictures, imagined, creative. They read excerpts from books, retold, analyzed characters, invented possible continuations of stories. I spoke mostly - very badly, confusing times, meanings of words, unconsciously inserting Russian words in the middle of English sentences. The teacher listened, sometimes corrected, prompted more suitable words, explained the difference. From the second lesson I forbade the use of translators, and the unforgettable Merriam-Webster became my new best friend. The intensity did not seem very high, but after the end of the lesson I usually got up from the wet chair, pulled off my wet T-shirt, fell exhausted on the bed and fell asleep. But still, the bulk of the work on the study was done by yourself in homework, which was never easy.

In one of the classes, the Briton explained that one cannot know a language well without knowing its history. Therefore, we studied the history of England, and then I talked about my country, about what and how influenced the development of my native language. Then there was literature. Then there was psychology. Then medicine. Then again the story. Homework assignments most often consisted in the fact that I had to expose a topic as deeply as I could. No lists of new words to memorize. No grammar. The teacher forbade the use of "Anki". Just search for information in English, browse the wiki and thematic sites, listen to the necessary podcasts, understand, make detailed plans, collect keywords, write simple articles and protect them in class. All tasks were meaningful. I did not learn English myself,

Unfortunately, the circumstances were such that I had to take breaks for 2-3 months. Not wanting to slow down progress, for this time I took great homework and immersed myself in the analysis of complex topics. All this time, the teacher was available and gave free advice. During the breaks, I was surprised to find that not only did I not lose my vocabulary, but I also enriched it noticeably, and by the end of the breaks I did not lose much of my speaking quality. Words and phrases from reading were constantly spinning in my head, the result of long homework during breaks was texts that even I liked liked. In addition, it was nice to become an expert on a particular topic and completely free to argue on it for an hour, without noticing what language you speak. It was at this time that I began to notice how I sometimes think in English.

I liked the lessons related to literature. By the end of the first month of study, we were engaged in analyzing C2 texts. They took a couple of paragraphs, read, interpreted the meanings of unknown words, the context in which they were used, what the author wanted to say, what the character wanted to say, describe the character’s psychological portrait, followed the author’s thoughts, draw lines through the text, train the pronunciation ... Free hours, which the teacher presented for Christmas, I did not hesitate to spend on an extra lesson in literature.

I remember the task where it was necessary to literally record a podcast. Spent about 10 hours in a few days to disassemble and record the first eight minutes of a fifteen-minute video. It is one thing to listen and understand, but completely different - to hear and literally write down everything said. I repeatedly listened to some phrases for 10-15 minutes. After a couple of such tasks, the English language was perceived completely differently by ear, I began to pick up the nuances of pronunciation and, on the whole, “hear” much more.

Problems with pronunciation? Yes, we will work a lot on pronunciation. But not just repeating the words correctly - we will write the audiobook! And here I sit in the evenings, trying to dictate a paragraph correctly, with intonation, with good diction, after listening to a dozen times as the media says some simple at first glance word. I write down myself, I listen, I swear, I write it down again. The result of several hours of torment is an audio recording of a couple of paragraphs, which does not cause disgust, and a wife with a twitching eye. I send to the teacher and wait for the next lesson, where there will be a detailed analysis and recommendations.

At one of the lessons a Briton complained that he had been doing a lot in the gym, but he could not achieve any noticeable results. During the interviews, it turned out that he was engaged in a crossfit every day, bringing himself to the point of extreme exhaustion. I was horrified by the realization that I could soon lose my dear teacher because of such training, and spent the rest of my life in my first English seminar, where I talked about the principles of strength training, basic exercises, cycling loads, the importance of rest and proper nutrition. The teacher was very grateful and gave a free lesson. Now almost every lesson boasts progress.


Now, after a few dozen hours of classes, I can, without preparation, speak on almost any topic, write quite literate texts, take speech and books at a completely different level, and sometimes even begin to think in English. In the internal dialogue, English turns and metaphors are increasingly skipping. A pleasant surprise was the fact that on trips I began to communicate with foreigners without effort and even joke. Of course, there is still a long way to perfection, but the current interim results are already several times better than those I had hoped for when I entered English courses a long time ago. At the moment, the teacher assesses my current level as Almost C1. For some, it may seem like a weak result over such a period, but for me this is a significant success, especially considering my age and starting level. Anyway, this is the level on which I have never been, and which continues to grow slowly and confidently. By the end of the summer we will try to pass language exams.

What would I recommend to those “incapable of languages,” like me? First, find a teacher who is a native speaker. I will not advise specific resources and specific tutors - this confession is not for the purpose of advertising. Just look for carriers, try, rate, how much you like. It is possible that both courses and local tutors are suitable for a completely beginner level. But perhaps you should not waste time and money, but you should immediately start with serious training with carriers who have a certificate for teaching. Do not think about the cost. As my teacher says, these are not costs - these are investments.

Keep track of exactly how you are taught. I am constantly loaded, after classes I am completely squeezed out. Homework is never easy. Accept the fact that if you are not capable of languages, you will have to work long and hard, cultivate discipline and sacrifice valuable time. Only this should be done correctly, otherwise you will burn out without achieving a result. If the goal is pronunciation, then the teacher sets me a task more than just a repetition of words. I already wrote above about the audiobook. If you need vocabulary, it is not easy to find new words and remember. This tormentor makes it natural to conduct a study, re-read a mountain of literature and write an article. If the task is to train perception by ear, then wait for tasks about recording verbatim podcasts, where two crazy scientists with terrible accents argue on some kind of historical theme. Each task makes you tense up and out of your comfort zone. At first, I was very nervous and afraid of difficult tasks, but then I quickly found analogies with sports, I understood the idea, and my classes became much more productive.

And the most important principle that my teacher likes to repeat is that you learn not English, you learn to learn the world with the help of English.


Thank you very much for the positive welcome!
In the PM and comments, many wondered if I could give the contacts of the teacher. I can't, I have to ask permission. Be sure to answer all!


Thanks again for the warm reviews and constructive criticism!
I am very glad that my story inspired many masters to learn this beautiful language.

In order to avoid a habr effect on a teacher, I still stop sharing his contacts. He is a very busy person with really interesting and big language projects that take time and effort. Anyone who has unsubscribed in a personal - sorry, if you have not answered yet, I will try to do it during the weekend.

About the resource I mentioned.
Do not become attached to the specific. And, perhaps, you should not wait for my answer, but it's easier to google “learn + english + skype” right away. The first ten references contain both the project on which I started, and other equally interesting and easy-to-find tutor sites. If you really want to learn English with a tutor-carrier, then you will not be difficult to go through the links, view descriptions, run through the list of teachers, read reviews, choose a convenient time and cost of classes. I repeat - my confession here is not for the sake of advertising any specific services or teachers. I will consider my mission successful if, after reading this story, you decide what exactly you want from English, choose your resource and teacher and take the first step. Even if it is a local tutor - great.