A lot of people have been asking about How to Learn English recently, so I would like to summarize my experience a little bit.
How to Learn English First Lesson
English learning for technicians, my experience is that first of all, you must learn English specifically, and then you can read technical books and documents in English. Technical books are generally much less difficult than literary works such as novels, because they have to cater to non-English speaking people, and they are all simple words and grammar.
Many people (including me) have no problem reading technical materials in English, but reading novels is generally a bit slow. Novels often have all kinds of fancy grammar and words that technical books don’t have, so reading the novel first may kill the chicken.
Learn English Lesson No.2
If you think technical books are too hard for you, maybe try Don Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things”. This book about design concepts has no technical difficulties, but the English are easy to understand. You can use it to learn English and learn design at the same time.
I usually read silently. If you feel compelled to speak out, your reading skills are not well developed. Silent reading is a direct “light => visual system => language system => semantics” transformation. If you speak out, or “recite out loud” in your head, then you have a few more steps: “light => visual system => auditory system => language system => semantics”.
When you need to communicate with foreigners, you must be able to speak, read, and write. But “speaking” can be practiced separately, and you don’t need to speak aloud while reading.
Listening, speaking, reading, and understanding grammar are important in any language. But note: “understanding grammar” does not mean reading grammar books and memorizing grammar rules by rote. As I have said in “Solving English Grammar”, most English grammar books are unpractical dogma, or even simply wrong. You only need to master the most essential and practical parts.
English, or any other natural language, at its best, is very much like a programming language. Sentences are the most critical structure. Each sentence is a “function call”. The verb (predicate) is the function name, and everything else (subject, object, etc.) is the parameter. Each part can in turn have modifiers, just like an object’s property. Understanding this can help you analyze sentence structure quickly, rather than literally.
If you understand that a sentence is a function call, then you know when to use a period. Many Hindi people do not have clear concepts and boundaries for sentences. They put commas where there should be periods, so you don’t know where his sentence ends. If you can’t distinguish sentences clearly, then you can’t understand the logic well.
Learning English Information Lesson No.2
The human brain has an implicit “parse” process for processing languages, just like the parser of a programming language. You need to train your own parse ability. Using the above understanding of sentence structure, you can quickly analyze the most critical “skeleton” in the sentence and then fill in the modification part. This way you can understand long sentences.
It’s a good idea to devote some time to practicing this parsing ability. Repeat reading some technical documents in English that interest you. It can be a book or a blog on the Internet. For example, you can take two paragraphs to practice, decompose each sentence according to the “function call” structure I proposed, draw the function name, parameters, and modifiers, and construct a “syntax tree”. Think about the structure of the syntax tree over and over again, and then go back and read these two paragraphs until you can quickly see the “syntax tree” of each sentence.
How to Learn English Lesson No.3
Many people practice English reading and like to read long articles, but the effect is not very good. Because each sentence was passed without being analyzed clearly, the result was that the parsing ability was not improved at the end of the reading.
Read the same passage over and over again, carefully analyze the reasons for your mistakes, and correct the repeated mistakes. Just like deep learning, backpropagation is performed to train the neural network parser in the mind to improve the parsing accuracy.
I don’t say that you have to keep such an eye on syntax trees. After the parser in your mind is trained to the point of being proficient, you don’t need to think about it deliberately. The English parser has been quietly working. You think it doesn’t exist, but in fact, it’s just skilled and automated.
Learning English Lesson No. 4
Grammar and sentence structure are key, followed by vocabulary. If you have enough vocabulary to read technical documentation, it’s time to start reading. Occasionally there are words that you don’t know, check the dictionary temporarily and write them down in a small notebook (don’t use your mobile phone).
The next time you encounter the same word and you don’t know it yet, just look at your notebook. I remember it many times.
If you really can’t remember, you can draw a stick figure next to the word to express the meaning of the word. Draw a little exaggerated and use your creativity. The painting doesn’t need to be perfect, just work hard to paint. The content of the drawing does not need to be logical, you can even break the words into several words that are unrelated, or just look a bit like them and draw them. Don’t use someone else’s “mnemonic”, because if you take someone else’s, you won’t work hard.
The “effort” of handwriting words can train your brain to “engrave” words into your memory. The so-called “easy” method of remembering words may not work very well, because the effort is an important reason for memory. Just as hard work is what builds muscle, you can’t just lay there and build muscle.
One of the reasons for not using your phone to memorize words is that your phone is not always accessible. It’s probably locked, and you have to take several steps to get to your word list, which is slow. Messages pop up from time to time on the phone, very distracting. Take a small notebook and put it next to you to read it immediately.
In addition, the choice of the dictionary is also very particular. My strongest suggestion for this is: to be sure to use an English-English dictionary, not an English-Hindi dictionary. Countless experiences have taught me that even using the best English-Hindi dictionary will seriously delay or even mislead the understanding of English words.
The definition of the English-Hindi dictionary is generally several Hindi words with similar meanings. Many people think it looks easy and thinks they can understand after reading those Hindi words. This is why many people have been using English-Hindi dictionaries and cannot really understand English words. They did not understand the truth, only English can accurately interpret English.
The definition in the English-English dictionary is generally a sentence, plus a lot of contextual information, not just a few synonyms. In this way, the meaning of the word can be accurately described.
There is a huge gap between English and Hindi. Many meanings in English are not at all in Hindi. Therefore, no matter how good the English-Hindi dictionary is, the definition cannot be very accurate.
Hindi doesn’t have that meaning at all, so how to explain it? Only similar words can be used, but in this way, the deviation of the meaning of the words will be very large. Therefore, using an English-Hindi dictionary can only barely know what it means, but cannot really understand English words.
Learn English Lesson No. 5
Many people worry that the English-English dictionary cannot be understood. In fact, the English-English dictionary is explained with the most basic vocabulary, so there is no need to worry about it. As long as you know a small the basic words, you should start using an English-English dictionary.
The dictionary I recommend is the Oxford English-English Dictionary. Many people worship the United States because the United States is very developed, so they feel that learning English must learn American English, using Webster’s dictionary compiled by Americans.
But experience tells me that Webster’s dictionary is much worse than Oxford’s. Not only is the definition not as accurate as of the Oxford dictionary, and it is not easy to understand, but some words may have the wrong part of speech. The example sentences in Webster’s dictionary are basically fragments, not complete sentences. The number of examples is relatively small and the quality is not high. The typography also doesn’t have the aesthetics of Oxford.
Although the United States has developed its economy and technology, the most authentic and beautiful English is still British.
I saw some people in the comments say that reading technical materials, in fact, Hindi is enough, but I think Hindi materials are very difficult to understand and easy to be misled. A lot of Hindi content is translated, and the author himself does not understand much, so the translation is often not in place.
Hindi has an inherent weakness for describing technical details. Many terms are written in Hindi and are caught in a paragraph of text, which is not easy to distinguish. Because there is no space between Hindi characters, Hindi terms look similar to ordinary words, so it is difficult for the eyes to see which are terms and which are ordinary words.
That’s why when I write technical articles in Hindi, I like to put “terms” in quotation marks. Later, I felt that the quotation marks were a bit inconspicuous, and it was easy to be confused with the quotation marks of speech, so I began to add right-angle quotation marks to the “term”.
But few Hindi technical documents are written like this, so it seems like a lot of hard work. I don’t like to write some English terms into Hindi, which is also the reason. For example, if you write hygienic macros, I would have a hard time understanding them. When you write a hygienic macro, it’s obvious that’s a term.
I think the Japanese are very smart, they have two kinds of writing, Hiragana and Katakana. Hiragana is used to write common words, and katakana is used to express foreign words. This is very reasonable. I think writing Hindi technical documents can also learn from this practice, and simply use the original English to express the terms.
Going far… I was going to speak English to learn, but this will also help you to write good Hindi.
Moreover, the quality and quantity of technical materials in English are much higher than those in Hindi, and there are many valuable videos on the Internet, so it is very important to learn English well. I hope everyone can improve their English and read more English literature.
Extra Note :
How to Learn English, If You Think You can’t then maybe you can’t because nothing is impossible when you focus on learning and do some hard work reading books, blogs,s and articles it will help you to understand the sentences and words more effectively.