Publicado por Iliana el 22 de agosto
This morning while drinking beloved black coffee and doing everything I could to be late for work – yet again -, I found an online test of rare capital cities all over the world and decided to (1) try my hand at it. Some of them I knew, some I guessed, but when I got to Nairobi it stroke me. Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya, of course, but the important part here is how I knew it. And I knew it not because I studied the capital cities of all the countries of the world – which I did, but ultimately forgot, as we all do – but because I had to learn an English lesson about a radio quiz (2) by heart when I was twelve. There! I read Nairobi and heard “Where is Nairobi? Nairobi is in Kenya. Four points for Mr. Miller” in my head.
My point is, learning fragments by heart is not a terribly bad idea. It doesn’t have to be an entire text or poem but maybe a fragment, a sentence or just an expression. Idioms can make you look – and therefore feel – more fluent, but here I’m talking about everyday expressions like “you’re up” (Te toca, es tu turno; also estás despierto), “make yourself at home” (siéntete como en casa), “please, hold on for a second” (espera un segundo, while talking on the phone), “I’ll let him know” (se lo diré, se lo haré saber), etc.
Collecting different molds (moldes) would be an even better idea since molds not only make us speak faster but they also help us form similar sentences and express similar ideas. For example, if you remember the sentence “I hate going to the cinema” you’ll know how to express any other activities that you hate doing. This way you will never ask yourself again if it’s “hate going” or “hate to go”.
And finally, a word of advice: it is always better to learn a language by reading books than by learning its grammar and trying to translate everything you want to say from your own language. It is important to remember that there isn’t always an equivalent of a word or expression in the foreign language and if we translate directly we might say something that doesn’t make any sense to a native speaker. More importantly, even though you find a way to express yourself by translating from your mother tongue, your speech might often sound strange, stiff and even a little funny.
So learn the basics and then grab a book in English and try to learn by translating it into your own language. This way you’ll expand your vocabulary, of course, but you’ll also understand how natives say it and this is how you become fluent in English.
(1) MACMILLIAN DICTIONARY:
Try your hand at something = to do an activity for the first time in order to find out whether you like it or are good at it.
EXAMPLE: I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing novels. Note: At writing, we use the –ing form of the verb because it comes after a preposition.
(2) THE FREE DICTIONARY by FARLEX:
Learn [something] by heart = to learn something so well that it can be written or recited without thinking; to memorize something.
EXAMPLE: The director told me to learn my speech by heart. I had to go over it many times before I learned it by heart.