Why major in English as a foreign language, if you're not going to be a language teacher?

The English major on its own is insufficient for many jobs other than English teacher. Also, many other majors graduate with a decent amount of English. However, you are not wasting your time doing English. I can tell you that 10% of my students studying English majors already have majored in other subjects and are studying an English major as a second degree as it is a statement of a high proficiency that can differentiate them in a crowded job market. Having both and English major and some other specialization is the double-edged sword that will lead to a successful career.

How do native speakers learn English grammar? Do they specially recite it?

How did you learn your native Chinese grammar? The answer is that we don't really think about it much. We learn it instinctively as a baby and a child, by listening to the people around us talking, which we then mimic.

I once asked a class of Chinese university students to explain to me the differences between English grammar and Chinese grammar. In student put up their hand and says, "But sir, Chinese doesn't have grammar. We only need grammar for learning English."

How can I improve my English if I have no native speaker to practice with?

Language is not used in a vacuum. Your not standing talking to a brick wall. The is another person who you are talking to or who is reading what you wrote. That is your hoop. Does the other person understand what you were trying to say? If not, you missed the hoop so try again. Maybe, they understand but spot an error or two, you got a near miss. If you talk and they understand perfectly, then that's your dunk shot.

Do native English speakers recite articles to improve their writing skills?

Did you learn Chinese by reciting Chinese articles? When working in your native language, you learn to listen and then speak first. Later you learn to read and write. At kindergarten, you might recite some nursery rhythms, later maybe some poems and in high school you'll recite Shakespeare. However, the reciting is not for improving writing, it is for improving your reading and your depth of language.

I know many English words but can't think how to use them

You have the process backwards. We don't choose a word the try to use to say something. Rather we think what information we wish to convey, and select words that best match. Practice is the key to everything in language. Reading more grammar books and learning more vocabulary won't increase your English ability. You need to speak and write and take in the feedback. Even if you get the grammar wrong and only use simple words, that is fine. As you practice more, you will get more fluent and more confident using the language.

How do I learn English idioms without an English environment?

Many idioms have a basis in literature. If you are well read, you will understand the reference in the idiom and thus the meaning. In particular, Shakespeare, Mark Twain and the King James version of the Bible are rich sources.

Other idioms are quotation from famous people. The internet is full of quotation websites where you can read these quote. Reading biographies of famous people such as Churchill and Gandhi will give you the background to many idioms that they coined.

Do some native English speakers recite English words in order to learn them?

For learning new words or for pronunciation - no. Reciting words is a method used to learn a second language when outside of that language's environment.

When within the language environment, new words are learned through frequent encounters with them in context. Meanings are not usually check in dictionaries but rather inferred through context.

Foreign language learners are deprived of the frequent use of the language and have little context to observe the words and meanings - thus dictionaries and repetitive recital of the worlds can aid learning.


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