What coursebooks won’t teach you

There are a lot of people who, even after many years of learning a foreign language, are not able to communicate normally and fluently in this language. But why is this happening? What are we doing wrong?

Maybe we’re trying to learn too hard or learning the wrong way. What we learn at school isn’t the real, live language, the one we would actually speak and use outside the classroom. The stress is on grammar mostly, the correct use of tenses, for instance. But how are you going to really learn it, so that you’ll know which tense to use at which situation? And how do the native speakers know? Certainly not because they memorised a number of rules and try to apply them to every sentence they want to say.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that grammar is not important. Of course it is. We need it in order to express anything, starting from quantity, tenses, conditionals… On the other hand, knowing all these grammatical rules doesn’t prove that we know the real language. That we are able to communicate, no matter what. It is surprising (maybe even shocking) that there are so many language learners who, after many years spent in a classroom trying to fathom the rules of a language, are not able to say a few things about themselves! What these learners need is to speak, to be able to find accommodation, order food, find their hotel, maybe have a chat with some local people over a drink. Instead of doing grammar exercises we should speak about different topics, learn vocabulary in context, read interesting articles, play speaking games, role-plays, make stories. And this is something you won’t be able to find in a coursebook, believe me! Knowing all grammatical rules by heart does not prove that we know the real language. That we are able to communicate, no matter what.

And what’s your opinion on this topic? Are you a firm believer in coursebooks or do you see them as a barrier between the learner and the real language?

PS: If you happened to be around my hometown, Brno, you could check out Nina’s language courses who teaches English without coursebooks!


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