Good morning! “Apke zamane mein video games hote the?” (“Did you have video games in your times?”) inquired, our almost 12-year-old daughter, Akshara. ‘Zamana!’ Can you believe it my own daughter made me feel like an object from pre-historic times? I actually imagined myself living in the era of dinosaurs…

And while I sat getting my hair coloured, (thank God for all those international brands, who’ve replaced the objectionable word ‘dye’ with the more acceptable word ‘colour’) I did wonder that in our times, (What to do?) there were really no video games and other stuff that children today entertain themselves with. There was either the Chitrahhar or the Sunday movie (which were dependent on the whims of the electricity) and the books. So, obviously most of us took to reading for entertainment.

But if you’re from these times, you’ll be surprised to know that we as kids had to surreptitiously (secretly) read, for pleasure read (novels and other story books) was considered a vile pursuit (bad thing), though it was okay to go through the general knowledge books (ugh…). Now, obviously things have changed dramatically, parents run behind their kids with books and the kids run for their lives and sanity.

But, of course, there are children who absolutely love their fictions and spend hours gloating over them.

Why am I narrating this incident to you? Well, because I want to tell you (the nth time) that reading is ‘the’ only method that can help you learn good English. Thus, don’t live in a fool’s paradise (a dreamland) that a person or an institute can twirl a magic wand and make you into an expert English communicator, it is you who will have to take charge of your own learning and work towards it, others can only show you the way.

Like the other day, a participant in one of my classes suggested that I must (please make a note of the word ‘must’) come 15 minutes early and go 15 minutes late and correct all the written work. Nothing wrong with the suggestion; however, the assumption that only correction of grammar can lead to good English, is wrong.

Here are few oft-repeated tips that can help you learn English and also improve upon it:

– Read books of your interest.
– Listen to a lot of English, by watching English programmes and movies.
– Interact with people, who have a good knowledge of English.
– Don’t force grammar upon yourself.
– Learn grammar, if you must, but be subtle (restrained) with it.
– Don’t expect spoon-feeding, as an adult take responsibility of your own learning.
– Don’t translate, even if it is difficult, frame sentences directly in English.
– Don’t rush yourself, learning a language takes time.
– Use simple words and lucid (plain, clear) sentences.
– Don’t bother about making mistakes or people laughing at you.

When I say, ‘don’t translate’, I do mean it. Translation will not help you learn English. The other day, another participant proposed that I must translate every line in Hindi or Gujarati once I’ve spoken it in English. Really Sir! I will be completely daft (silly) to do that. I don’t even like my students using Gujarati to English or Hindi to English dictionaries, forget about translating my own lectures.

Enough said! Trust me reading is also the only way to avoid making your children make you feel like a living fossil (historical object).

Keep smiling…

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