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Why Learn Real English?

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My students always ask me, “Why should I learn real English?”

And here’s what I always tell them:

Pretend you’re a tourist in Manhattan. As you stare at the billboards in Times Square, a young man approaches you, “Hey, mister…Whachya gonna getchyer friends fer the holiday?”

Times Square

Did you understand his question? Any native speaker of English would understand what he said, but for students of English, this phrase “Whachya gonna getchyer friends?” is probably very difficult (especially if only spoken, and not written!) And here’s why: That phrase is real English (what’s also known as Fluent English), and it’s very different from the standard, textbook English you’ve probably been learning. (Often called Learner’s English.)

In many ways, real English is a different language than Standard English. It has different words, different spelling, very different pronunciation at times….even different grammar.

So why learn it? Why learn real English?

Because this is how people actually speak.

No one in America speaks the way you’ve been taught. No one. Standard English is only spoken in TOEFL classrooms, and on old CD’s and cassettes in school textbooks.

If you only study Learner’s English, you’ll never be able to understand fluent speech, and you’ll never be able to have a real conversation. Yes, native speakers can talk slowly and simply for you. We…..can……..eve-ry…..word……..clear-ly…..

…but is that what you want? Don’t you want to understand American films and television? Wouldn’t it be useful to actually understand the speech you’re going to hear when you have conversations with native speakers?

I’m not saying that what you’ve been learning is bad, or a waste of time. Standard English is great if you like to read and write English. But if you ever hope to interact with Americans — to work with them, to do business with them, to make friendships and relationships — you have to learn real English.

So, when investing in an English course, ask them if they teach real, Fluent, spoken English. (Most courses do not.) If all they teach is Standard English, that’s not going to help you very much. And if a course claims to teach real English, ask them how they teach it. A good course on real English should be taught using a variety of methods, especially these two:

* the Bridge Technique. This is a method a taking you gradually from Standard pronunciation, to fluent pronunciation.

* Multiple native speakers (at least five) You need to hear various native speakers pronouncing the same vocabulary. This lets your brain find an “average” pronunciation.

That man in Times Square is talking to you again. “Come on, mister. Don’chya wanna get ‘em one o’ these?”

Learn real English and you’ll understand everything he says!

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About the author

Mark Thomson is an expert in both learning and teaching language. Among the courses he has created are: Master Fluent English, Speak Fluent English, and the English Mastery Method series.

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