Learner Tip – Forgetting about your level

When I talk to English learners about what they want to learn, the answer is often ‘I need to know all the tenses’ or ‘I need to understand lots of vocabulary’ or sometimes ‘I need to reach advanced level’. It is as though they see the English language as a mountain to be climbed. They believe they are somewhere near the bottom or half-way up grabbing the relevant tenses and vocabulary on the way to the top, where advanced level can be found along with the ‘advanced flag’.

I think this is totally understandable because it’s the way we are taught languages at school normally. And, of course, if you are taking a test in English, then that approach might be the only option.

But if you are learning English for reasons other than a test, then maybe it’s better to think about this question instead:

What exactly do you need to learn for the type of communication you’re going to have?

If you are a grandparent visiting your grandchild in England, then maybe you’d like to know a few small talk phrases to use with the English relatives you meet. Maybe some language to use when you check into the hotel or buy food at the corner shop would be useful.

If you are planning to go travelling in America, then perhaps some phrases to use on public transport would be the best place to start and some nice vocabulary for describing the places you have visited.

If you have moved to Australia recently, you might like some useful vocabulary for setting up a bank account and joining the local gym. Or some phrases to use when you’re ordering food in a restaurant.

Can you see what I mean? If you follow this approach, it doesn’t matter what your level is now and you aren’t climbing the mountain to ‘advanced’.
You just think about what situations you might face and you learn the language and phrases connected to those situations.

Forget about your level, forget about learning all the tenses and all the vocabulary, forget about the mountain!

bottom of mountain

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Nicki is a Cambridge qualified, experienced English teacher for foreign learners. She loves helping English learners to learn real English and communicate with confidence!

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