img 27/09/2023

Tasting the language step by step

Hello! My name is Lera, and I am the founder of the English-Up school.

Many of you know me, studied with me, underwent testing, worked together with me, took advanced courses, or contacted me with various other questions.

But if you've landed on our pages for the first time, let me tell you a bit about myself. I've been teaching for 20 years now, to be exact, 21. Starting at 18, I taught offline in several educational centers, schools, and had many private students. In 2010, I entered the world of online teaching for the first time, and since then, I've had my school and its first website. My school is not mainstream, as they say nowadays; it's a boutique school.

For me, it has always been a priority to derive satisfaction from my work and help people, rather than just making as much money as possible.

I love sharing my knowledge and experience with others. That's what my job is all about. And that's what I'll be doing in this blog.

Today, I want to talk about my personal experience of learning English. In school, I had average knowledge. I was better than many, but only because others' knowledge was really weak. In class, we did nothing but translate or retell texts. I also attended a tutor from 5th to 9th grade. But our sessions didn't really impact my knowledge much. Most of the time, I simply copied rules, examples, and tables into my notebook. I could handle tasks at the elementary level, but no more. That's how it was until the 10th grade.

Then my mom sent me to language school courses. It was an intensive course: two lessons a week with a teacher who wasn't a native speaker, and once a week, 1.5 hours with a British teacher. At first, having practice with a native speaker, I only responded with "yes," "no," "I don't know." But it took me just a month to start speaking a bit. And only these courses gave me the push I hadn't received anywhere else, especially regarding spoken English.

I reached a confident Pre-Intermediate+ level by the end of the school year. Because the learning wasn't focused solely on grammar, we spoke a lot, listened, watched English-language shows, and played games. By the way, it was after classes at this school that I realized that teaching English was my future career.

At this stage, I already significantly surpassed my classmates in knowledge, so everyone periodically asked me for help. After that, six months before entering university, my mom enrolled me in preparatory courses, which gave me excellent practice in test-taking and exam tasks. We didn't practice spoken English; it was purely enhancing all the skills necessary for the exam. This brought me to the required theoretical level to successfully pass the school exam first and then the entrance test.

From the second year, I started getting my first students.

Reflecting on those early years now, it's a bit amusing to me. Because, of course, I didn't know everything that a teacher should know (at least in my opinion now) to be able to answer any student's questions, speak only English. But at the beginning, my students were children who needed to be taught the alphabet, reading, basic vocabulary, songs, and help with homework. I guess all teachers go through this period, especially while still students themselves.

But as the students' level became more challenging, and their age grew older, it was entirely different topics for study and conversation.

And here is where what you're not prepared for in university begins.

I never allowed myself to be unprepared in class. Before the lesson, I had to be confident that I knew every word, phrase that would come up in the lesson, anticipate in advance what else I might need from the vocabulary in this lesson, what the student might ask me. I can boast of excellent memory, and at 20, it was even better; I didn't even need to write down words, just look at the translation in the dictionary once.

I needed to listen to all the audio and watch all the videos for each lesson to be sure I understood every word. And if something was unclear to me, I listened (just like all the students) a hundred times, opened the script, then listened again without the text. Imagine how much information I had to process, even for just one lesson a day, and if there were 5-7 of them? But there are obvious advantages. Anyway, when you've had a lesson with a new plan with one student, you'll then conduct it with other students at the same level, thus reinforcing all the words and everything new each time. This is the natural process of memorizing information, sending it to long-term memory.

Another advantage - I love learning. So, for me, learning and work were one integrated process. I learned and immediately reinforced what I learned, sharing my new knowledge with students.

Every day, I had to (and wanted to) find and read something new, some new interesting phrases that would definitely be useful for me in class.

But despite this, I was afraid to speak in real conversational situations, for example, at meetings with foreigners, abroad. Simply because I didn't have that habit.

But as soon as I started hiring native speakers, there was no longer a problem with this.

I had enough speaking practice now, because when hiring native language teachers, I conducted interviews with them, introductory trainings, and was constantly in touch with them, discussing students' progress.

Of course, the first meeting was very stressful; I still remember it. It was a very young American guy who answered everything with "absolutely." After that, I stopped worrying. And instead, I perceived everything as free practice. And I was grateful for every such meeting as valuable experience. I wasn't shy about asking questions, asking if I was speaking correctly, if I could use a certain word here, if my pronunciation was correct, and so on.

At some point, I also started taking lessons with a native speaker - an American. It was both a lesson and entertainment because my teacher was my friend's husband. I went for an individual hour lesson every Saturday, and then two more girls joined us immediately, and we had a group lesson to prepare for the international exam. After that, we ordered pizza and spent several more hours together, of course, speaking only English. That's how my Saturday intensive went on every week for a long time. There wasn't a single day that I didn't read or watch something in English. And at 25, it was hard for me.

Yes, in class, I knew all the words, all the grammar, every word in the audio, but when it came to movies, I understood only half of the words. But what did I do? I just continued.

At some point, you just start to understand that you don't hear the difference anymore; your brain doesn't perceive English as a foreign language. You understand it just like your native language. Now, I don't need to listen or watch anything in advance (for the lesson), fearing that I won't understand something. I do it because I need to know exactly what to talk about with the student, what questions to ask him, which words to stress, and so on. And in other respects, it's the same - I read a lot in English. Well, as for TV series, I won't even mention it.

Do you do the same? Is English present in your life to the extent that it becomes next to your native language?

The conclusion of all this is: if you have no knowledge of English at all, or you don't know it well enough to speak fluently, it's not a problem at all when you have the desire or need to use it. Not only to learn but also to actively use it in your life. Because everyone who wants to learn any language must understand a simple truth.

Learning a language is not just lessons, textbooks, and homework. It's about being open to challenges, misunderstanding, even discomfort (when, for example, you watch a movie not dubbed, but in the original with subtitles). By overcoming these difficulties, you will be rewarded with knowledge that no teacher can give you.

And here's the conclusion: from 18 to 25, I constantly evolved and transformed: from an inexperienced teacher to a more experienced one, from a more experienced one to a teacher with rich experience and a manager. From a person who didn't understand a single word in a movie in English to a person who thinks in English. And so can everyone.

You don't need to reinvent the wheel.

If you want to speak - just speak!

And I'm always happy to help with advice, share my experience with anyone who has just started this path, as a student or teacher. If you need a teacher or mentor to guide you and support you - send an application!