Just me and English


It’s rather a lot to wade through, I’m afraid but I have put a question at the end, if you ever get there!

Just me and English


Hi, Alan:
Thanks for your questions.
As an english learner i won’t choose to curl up on a sofa or study all in a book by myself. Because i think the most important thing for me is to use english. Without teachers i couldn’t make progress. Even it is i still have much difficulty, some friends say “You have to admit this problem, even those experts who have been very good at english may have the similar difficulty. You have to develop those skills in a very long time because you are non-english speakers.” Well, i just want to say , you can’t learn everything by books , when you are in class you just learn it partly not the all. You must to USE it . To discuss with teachers and classmates will be helpful. Specially those nice english lessons which could give students much space and time to give their questions. That would be very interesting and useful in the 45 minutes! :slight_smile:

ps: i don’t object that one to one teaching, but , anyway, discussion is the most important thing. (online teaching is included)

Hi Teacher Alan,

First of all, I think English is not an easy language. It takes a lot of effort and time and practice to make it. In my view, I favour the first choice. I love learning and practicing English in the classroom seeing as I then can interact with my classmates and my teacher in a lively way and communicate with them exactly well by expressing how I feel and think about what I want to know. Therefore, I like to get involved with English in a realistic situation with people, rather than chat online or curl up on a sofa and learn it all in a book.

However, just learning in the class at all times does not make more progress for me unless one to one or online and the other are included. I believe I need to induldge in all these activities to improve my English language because I’m a non-native speaker!!

Thank you. :smiley:

As ever, I very much enjoyed your witty story, Alan – just what I needed to calm my anger and grief at the chaos (to put it mildly) of the world. Reading is always a therapy for me, but finding the right piece at the right moment is a rare treat (thank you for that). The same goes for music, though I rely on it more for an immediate healing and soothing effect.

Contrary to your fears, your pieces never feel interminable, since they are always packed with goodies for us to feast on.

In answer to your question, I particularly favour one-to-one or individual classes – not least because they usually are, by far, a lot more productive than group tuition or because each student needs a different approach. On the other hand, we should also grab hold of and take advantage of all the available resources and make the most of them, whether it’s books, flesh-and-blood teachers (in Spanish it’s ‘flesh-and-bone’) or sites like this one.


‘The highest art is an absence of any technique(s)‘ (sorry for my poor translation).

The phase was said by the same well-know (and highly skillful) man who once wrote the epitaph:
‘In memory of a once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess.’

I can only add that the worst teachers I ever had in my life were like a talking (and didactic) cookery book. They could give you a good recipe to any your questions without fail, but were unable to make for you more. Because they were ‘slaves’ of rules-and-methods.
And the worst mistakes I made were sticking to ‘special methods’ of learning.

I think, sometimes, if knowing ‘too much rules’, you can’t play good. Even to start – because you would certainly break some of them and it would break your harmonious and well-composed ‘system-of-rules’ - entirely.

I generally prefer to learn (whatever the subject is) - from alive people who are (besides their wise and competency) likable and significant for me, personally. Who are MY people, MY teachers. Even though they are not professional teachers.
And ‘the method’ is not very important when you have a good contact & a way of communication (writing online, speaking one-to-one, ‘training sparring’ with another learner in the teacher presence, or whatever) allows creating an adequate learning environment and ‘space for development’.

About ‘online’ – I think, generally, it’s one of the most safety mode for learners’ ego.
They (we :)) can choose more comfortable time, mood/spirits, people, questions, situations;
the distance (and sometimes, anonymity) makes some ‘lesson-leant’ situations more soft and safety and allows to avoid ‘too much’ pressing or loading (burden?) - informational or any other.
(But this could also be a disadvantage, if a leaner prones to extra-protecting him/her-self and avoids running with full efforts.)

Taking the opportunity, I just want to say: thank you, Alan, for your alive texts. I like reading them!


Hello Alan,

I read your story titled “Just me and English” and it is just brilliant. Very funny and so well written! One word I tried to look up in my dictionaries but to no avail: pukker. Could you please tell me its origin?

Thank you very much!


Glad you enjoyed the piece. I have a confession to make. This must be a misprint. It should read: ‘pukka’. The word comes originally from India and English has taken it on with the meaning; excellent/very correct/ suggesting a description of what is as it should be.

Hope this clarifies.


Hi Alan

Many musings as ever.

Personally like Conchita I prefer one-to-one lessons for my German learning.

However I think with the right group (one that communicates and is proactive, class mate supportive in their learning) learning can be very productive. As language is after all about communication. Even though these groups are rare. At present only have one that can stake a claim to this title.

What do the forum users think about group dynamic, should trainers be trained on it and should students be made aware of it?

Is it fair for a fee paying client to ask them to make sacrifices for the group dynamic?

Also are groups or one-on-one lessons harder for the trainer/teacher and the student/client? Should renumeration for the trainer be adjusted accordingly?

My own language learning comes mainly from “trial and error”. I am a great believer in learning from your mistakes. However this requires awareness of them in the first place and a support/ monitoring system, as well as constructively critical friends.

I read your essay to the end, really. I couldn’t help but read, it is very intelligently written, if I can say so :slight_smile:
I write similar stuff for my college magazine and my sister terms it “musings of my idle mind”, however I’m quite sure it doesn’t apply in your case!

Now for the question. I think one-to-one lessons are better in any class whether it be of a language or some technical training course. The reason is that students learn better in an interactive environment and their questions can be answered through a discussion by involving other students, which I think is only possible in a one-to-one lecture. Moreover the presence of a teacher and his/her response and gestures are what make the class really one in the real sense.

Online learning is very informal and though some may prefer it, I personally consider it inferior to the one-to-one method.

Ufff, I read it. But I have to come back with my dictionary to check a lot , a lot of words. As you wrote, the beginning of learning English can be taken as a easy process. I was in this stage of thinking till I realized that my level of English, which is good enough to work and do simple conversations in my work place, is not good enough if I try to express myself in this language or try to make more serious conversation on more serious topics. And in this point I started to look in the internet for website, which can help me improve my English without coming back to classroom, for what I have no time, money and I don’t feel like ready to go. So, for me, internet, books- are the best English friends.

Hi Allan

Just me and English – what I would like best were being transferred to a place of my joyce in an English speaking environment whenever I had time for it. For an hour, two hours…You know, like the crew of the Enterprise “beaming” themselves to other planets…
On an rainy dark evening like today I would like to sit in front of a crackling fireplace in a small cottage overlooking a beautiful landscape – let’s say in Australia. I would talk there to a kind elderly woman with a philantropic heart and a lot of spare time, and now and then her husband would join us for a few words, which she would be so kind as to explain to me after him leaving the room again.
But let’s face reality – that is not what I experienced yet so I cannot tell how it would really be. Who knows what sort of people they really were, maybe really old, wicked, grumbling… not what I had expected after all!
But what I DID experience two years ago for the first time in my live was a three weeks stay in London in a good English School for Adults. People from Asia, East Europe, Russia and so forth were gathered together in levelled classes.
First thing in the morning was allways a little contest of words and expressions in groups, then we would speak to one another on a new topic or discuss something in class, and we were allways very kindly corrected by our teachers. Before lunch time we would eventually get some homework, e.g. writing an essay, reading a difficult text and the like.
In the afternoons there was time to roam the city in small groups and chat along up and down the Thames. In the evening we met again somewhere in a small restaurant in SOHO… I really enjoyed that time very much!
I found out that it was not so easy to get in touch with native London speakers, except our landlord and other students at the same house. For one thing, it was rather difficult for me to understand Londoners in a pub for instance, because of the slang they used and the noise at such places. For the other, people normally have something to do or have something in mind, and that is not allways speaking to foreigners who just happen to know some simple words and try to put them togehter in a half decent sentence…
But you can’t just go on vacation all the time, can you? So it was “just me and English” again. Reading books and listening to audio-books borrowed from our library, watching films on DVD from time to time, and last but not least, going online on your forum! I first hesitated to join the member section, because I’m very cautious when it comes to chat-sites, but I’m miles away from regretting it, thanks a lot to you all!

I think internet helps well. But you need to practise with teacher and mabe If you have not got so many time to sit on the computer or eselly you dont have internet you should use what you have(Books). For me internet helps me so much with it. A lot of free books and free sites for chat. Technology))

Happy Teacher`s day Dear Team!!!

I am glad this post got bumped to the top as I enjoyed reading your excellent essay. I too feel that I have learned much more attempting to teach others than I ever learned taking English classes myself.