Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Taking One-on-one Online English Course for 10 Years

How it made all the difference

I can't believe that it has already been TEN YEARS since I started to practice speaking English with one-on-one online class, which helped me a lot more than anything become a better English speaker, and that has made all the difference.

A personal story

Growing up in a rural area with parents who knew nothing about English, I still don’t why I’ve become so enamored with the idea that being able to speak the language fluently is so cool. I kept telling myself some day I wanted to be just like that. However, the problem is that you don’t really have many opportunities to practice your spoken English in such a test-driven setting even though we all started learning English at a very young age. One day, I enrolled in an English institution that specializes in helping adult learners in 2007 but quickly realized that it was not what I wanted because from time to time you had to wait for your turn to speak. Therefore, I started looking for one-on-one online English course and have been steadily improving my speaking skills since then.

Why one on one?

You might be wondering why not study abroad or do language exchange? Well, as a father of two, I just can’t afford to abandon my family for a whole year or two to pursue my personal dreams. As for language exchange, I hate to be that kind of selfish person who approaches foreigners only to practice English. So, I truly believe this is the best way for me even until now.

1. The only way to improve speaking is to speak

Of all the four language skills, there is just this one that you can never get to improve no matter how much time, money or effort you spend on it, including buying books, taking classes, or listening to as many MP3s as you want, that is, speaking. The truth is that you won't be able to speak fluently even when you can always get perfect scores on written tests unless you open your mouth, make some mistakes, and try again and again. If you don't feel like beginning to speak until you're perfect, well, that day may never come.

2. The only affordable way I know

I’ve been constantly asked how I can speak English so fluently, compared with average Taiwanese of course, and I always recommend this online course by Filipino tutors because they’re professional and their pronunciation and intonation is excellent. Then, a typical response will be: Are you sure? Aren’t you worried about their pronunciation? For questions like those, I would immediately suggest registering a trial class and see it for yourself. For the past ten years, I’ve spent quite some money on the course, probably 120 thousand TWD already. However, compared with studying abroad, it is still a very good bargain.

How one-on-one online course helped me with my English

Imagine this. You spent two hours speaking English nonstop with someone twice a week for ten years, and what would that change you?

1. Thinking in English

You virtually have no time to translate your thoughts from Chinese to Egnlish first in your head before you actually speak and express yourself. I could answer a question less than one minute at first, and then gradually I could make my responses longer and longer, even over five or ten minutes. The progress is phenomenal.

2. Applying what I’ve learned

I believe in Input Theory when it comes to acquiring a foreign language, so I spent so much time getting English input as much as I can by reading articles, newspapers and novels. Also, I would be looking forward to talking about what I read with the online tutor at night. For example, I read three Harry Potter chapters in the daytime and discussed the English expressions, plot details and my questions with the teacher who happened to be a big fan.

3. Rehearsing my presentations

As a member of English Advisory Team of Taichung City, I need to share innovative teaching methods at workshops from time to time. I kind of stand out among other famous lecturers because I always make my presentations in English. How do I pull that off? Well, I would send my PPT slides to the tutor, explain what idea I want to spread and encourage them to ask any questions. By doing so, I would learn to internalize my points, put some final touches and practice my presentation skills prior the big event.

What I benefited from it professionally as an English teacher?

I admire Steve Job’s insightful wisdom of “You can only connect the dots looking backwards.” a lot. Learning how to be a more fluent and confident English speaker online has been profoundly making lots of difference to my life.

1. Opening up unexpected opportunities

I fulfilled my dreams of studying abroad by applying and getting accepted into programs that subsidized English teachers to briefly stay in foreign countries like Australia, Korea and America, for seminars and exchange projects. Those programs have one thing common, which is that they need someone who speaks fluently and is able to conduct action plans in the language. I consider myself living evidence of how a good command of English can provide opportunities that you think to yourself: Well, this is for me without a doubt. My hard work has paid off again. 

2. English class, camps, and competitions

First of all, when I speak English in class, it says it all that I’m a very qualified and competent teacher. Then, most teachers hate to teach without textbooks but me. I enjoy my full freedom to design activities and get those students having fun using English without worrying about the schedule and midterms. Most important of all, I can also enjoy using English as a medium of instruction throughout the whole camp. Last but not least, I can really coach students for English speaking contests and Readers’ Theater competitions by giving them very useful advice. When being a judge of these competitions, I will always give a demo and offer my suggestions in English.

3. Sharing my English teaching at workshops 

I usually open my presentations by saying this: “I’m a crazy English learner. I enjoy speaking English very much. I will definitely make some mistakes during my presentation.”. Of course, I know some participants at those workshops might have different opinion about this, or some may also criticize me for showing off. Well, I’m such an introvert and I don’t like being in the center of attention. However, for the love of English, I love being on stage and speaking the language.  

4. Skype Exchange Projects and International School Award

Can I extend this learning experience to my students and help them feel the joy and importance of being able to use the language? With the help of this award, I have been given free rein to do almost anything outside of textbooks as long as it’s about promoting international education here at my school. By conducting and implementing a series of Skype exchange projects with my foreign partners, I won the grand prize for my school, all thanks to the idea that Skype brings the world into the classroom.  

My English is still far from being perfect, and that makes me have this dream of getting close to being native-like to pursue even I have been teaching for 13 years. I feel like I’m still making progress little by little every day. I get to be paid for by doing what I love to do that I am really good at. Thanks to that decision I made ten years ago, I have this passion for life to make who I am today.

Today (Nov. 20, 2017), this video popped up on Your Memories on Facebook. I think my pronunciation and intonation didn't change much, but I was super nervous and lacking in passion then. 

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