The teacher about the student
Ilshat came to us with language learning experience and without a language barrier, but his speech was chaotic and illiterate. He had a fairly good grasp of grammar and could excel in exercises or explain rules, but he couldn't use it all. Despite all the passive knowledge accumulated in his mind, we had to start almost from scratch to teach him how to apply this knowledge.
Ilshat's current level
The level of Ilshat at the time of the entrance testing and interview
took us, Ilshat and me, to achieve C1
My active vocabulary had expanded, and my fear of speaking to foreigners was gradually diminishing. Most importantly, I realized that making mistakes was not shameful, and everyone makes them.
Why did you start learning English?
I've been learning English for almost my entire conscious life. The main motivators for me are the opportunities that English language skills provide, including the ability to get a better job, communicate freely with foreigners when needed, consume content in English, and, of course, the possibility of relocating to another country. Plus, I simply enjoy learning languages, and I think I'm reasonably good at it.
I began taking learning English seriously around the 7th or 8th grade, but I still ignored grammar, just as before. I incorporated English into every aspect of my life where it was possible and tried to read English articles and programming guides because I also started programming around that age. As a result, I hardly knew any grammar, and what I did know was not structured at all.
My active vocabulary was limited to basic words, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to make myself understood, let alone have a conversation, in English. I could understand what people were saying to me, though, and express my thoughts incredibly clumsily.
How did you feel at the beginning of your studies?
By the beginning of my studies, I had already improved my skills to some extent. My active vocabulary had expanded, and my fear of speaking to foreigners was gradually diminishing. Most importantly, I realized that making mistakes was not shameful, and everyone makes them. Anyway, I still understood that my knowledge of grammar was severely lacking, and this was my number one problem in advancing to higher levels of English. In school, grammar was explained simply based on the textbook, and I found it too boring to learn. However, I now understood that I couldn't do without it, and I would have to take that daunting task on.
How do you feel at the current stage in comparison to the starting point?
I feel much more confident in using English now because we've filled the gaps in my grammar, structured it, expanded my active vocabulary, and worked on my accent. If someone texted me a year ago, "Ilshat, the product owner wants to clarify some details about certain tasks. Could you please join the meeting in 10 minutes?" I would have had a mini-meltdown because the fear of communication was still there. Now, however, I confidently reply with "OK," make a cup of tea, and join the meeting, where I calmly listen, respond, and ask questions.
It turns out you can learn a language without the pain in the rear, it's interesting, and very understandable
How do you organize your work with study materials outside of lessons?
I get back to the study materials either when I'm doing homework, or when I want to refresh my knowledge on a specific topic to be 100% sure, or when I forget some vocabulary. However, compared to all my friends, acquaintances, and family, I seem to be the only one who only needs lessons to master new information and then uses homework to consolidate it. It's a different story to make the acquired information easily reproducible and use it at any time and in any situation. This takes some doing. I attempt to recycle all the new words and grammar I’ve learned during lessons and when interacting with colleagues. I also read articles in English quite often, communicate with colleagues, watch videos in English, and I guess you could call this learning as well.
Dealing with vocabulary takes a bit longer than with grammar (ironically, it used to be the other way around) because you can understand grammar and learn it in a certain way, but it doesn't work that way with vocabulary. It's either rote memorization or making associations. So, I try to use the vocabulary from the lesson, create associations, write something with new words, or even just think about things in English.
What do you do besides studying?
I watch and read whatever I like and communicate with colleagues. Most of my reading is in English; the majority of current programming information is in English, and information on topics that interest me is also more extensive in English. Even the books I use to learn Japanese are in English.
But recently, I haven't been very interested in watching movies and TV series. For some reason, I don’t want to waste my time on them anymore. The only exception is "The Mandalorian." I'm willing to spend time watching it in the original language.
What advice would you give to someone who’s learning or thinking of learning English?
The only advice I have is to learn English through your interests. I mean, if you have a hobby, say drawing, you can search for information about it in English. It could be videos or articles. Reading will help expand your vocabulary, improve your grammar, and enhance your style. Videos provide two additional benefits: listening practice and an understanding of how native speakers use the language, including their gestures and expressions.
Find a good teacher who you feel comfortable working with. Don't hesitate to end your collaboration with a teacher if you're not comfortable. You're paying for results. If you don't see the expected results, leave. But, again, this is about having realistic and achievable expectations, not about saying, "Hello, I'm currently at level A2, but I need to score 6 on the IELTS in six months." Be honest with yourself and with others.
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