Cultural understanding is the gateway to speak English fluently In the 1982 Bollywood comedy movie, Namak Halaal, Amitabh Bachchan, desperate for a job, is trying to impress his prospective employer that not only does he speak English well, he is also familiar with the mannerisms and style of English culture (walk and laugh in English). No one is suggesting to blindly ape Western culture, but being familiar with it helps you learn how to speak English fluently. Meaning of a word or phrase is linked to its cultural context and if you learn English without understanding the culture in which it operates, you are likely to attach incorrect meanings to what you hear and may use words or phrases not suitable to the situation. As much as language of a people is the gateway to their culture, cultural understanding is an important gateway to learn a new language. If you wish to speak English fluently, understanding its culture and adapting your lifestyle and behavior accordingly may help you learn the language effortlessly and quickly. WHAT YOU MUST DO
  1. Use every opportunity to expose yourself to the English language
  2. Think about English speaking as an opportunity to exciting new experiences in a new culture.
  3. Make new friends and become part of social groups and networks which communicate in English. Talking with many people gives you a better sense of what the sound of a word and the use of a phrase is supposed to be. You also understand body language associated with English speaking.
  4. Stay in the company of motivated fellow learners. Group learning will sustain your motivation and enthusiasm to learn how to speak English fluently.
INTRODUCE ENGLISH IN YOUR DAILY HABITS Introduce English in your daily habits to make it an integral part of your life. Here are some suggestions.
  1. Read an English newspaper.
  2. Watch English TV shows, English movies, and the news telecast in English.
  3. It is better to watch English TV shows and movies offering sub-titles in English as it gives you an opportunity to hear the dialogues and read them as well. Audio-visual reinforcement helps in better retention of vocabulary.
  4. Use technology to your advantage. Use podcasts, audiobooks, internet, and skype to listen, read and communicate in English. Refer to the Simple English Wikipedia for information in simple English. Use mobile apps designed towards English readers.
  5. A good story keeps you engaged and helps you pick up the correct style and new words without effort. Start reading English novels. There are several Indian English authors who write fiction based on Indian characters and themes. You may try R.K. Narayan and Ruskin Bond. They are known for writing in simple prose.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES WITH A SMILE Lastly, do not worry about making mistakes when speaking in English. Accept the fact that you are often going to make a fool of yourself. Be prepared to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Remember, if you can’t laugh at your mistake, you will be crying over them…… maybe in English! But it is better to laugh in English, with confidence, like Amitabh Bachchan!          

Vinod Agarwal, 22 June, 2015 (2:40 AM)

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