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Dreaming in English

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Graciela Graciela | 14:04 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012

Hi, guys! Here with you this week, Graciela. I'm full of dreams! I want to master the English language without too much effort!

I'm glad that like me you are excited about the Olympics I talked about in my last blog but some of you expressed concern about forgetting words in English. Tatiana has to look up words a few times and Rajeeb wants to have a memory chip of the English language inserted in his brain. I think many of us have the same dream on occasions. I do too.


Where have I stored that word?

Aware of this anxiety among non-native speakers of English my colleagues Neil and Chris invented a story for the traditional April Fool's day about a pill that makes you regurgitate the whole dictionary. You should check it out - it was published as a Words in the News item and it's funny but unfortunately it is not true.

Neil taught English in Japan, Spain, the Czech Republic and Poland in the past so I asked him for some tips on how to make it easier to remember new words. He suggested that we revisit the word within 24 hours from learning it and make a note of the word in a sentence that is relevant to our personal lives. I think this might work for me.

But if after a while it takes a few minutes for you to remember it, don't feel frustrated. Neil said that when he wasn't surrounded by people speaking English all the time, sometimes it would take him a few seconds to search for it in his own mind. "That house in the garden where you store tools?... Oh! It is called a shed!"

I think we're all facing some level of information overload nowadays and it might make things a bit difficult sometimes. I grew up speaking Portuguese and when I started to be able to crack jokes in English or remembered that I had actually dreamt in English the night before I really felt that the language was starting to be part of me. It is great to be able to communicate in a different language even if you don't do it as well as a native speaker. Rejoice! Let's enjoy learning and appreciate the fact that with a new language we see our world expand!

What about you - when have you felt a sense of achievement regarding learning English?

Useful Vocabulary:

concern - worry

anxiety - worry or nervousness

regurgitate - throw up

relevant - linked to what is happening

frustrated - annoyed

information overload - too much information

to crack jokes - to tell jokes

rejoice - feel very very happy


  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Graciela,
    exactly one year ago - when I was 55 - I started studying English more seriously than in the past because I had to take my daughter to London... So I thought. Anyway, my daughter came back after one month and half and, despite that, I'm studying English yet! Why? There are many reasons, I guess, but I use to say it's a sort of... rebirth! It looks like I need a new language, a new tongue.
    I've not much time for studying, however I try every day to read something in English (nowadays "Teach Us to Sit Still" by Tim Parks) or listen to the BBC radio; after dinner my daughter and I watch English fictions like last "Sherlock" or "Life on Mars"... How much do I get about what I read/listen to/watch? Perhaps 50% or less...
    In my view, my feeling in "studying" (just a bit of grammar to be honest) in this way is really similar to that of a child who's growing up amid odd adults - and the adults are talking and talking and talking in that strange language, sometimes you understand and sometimes not...
    I don't know why, but it's a very good... sensation!
    My best wishes,
    P.S. I'm telling myself: who knows what you've just written... But I'm confident of your kindness.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Graciela

    Thank you for your advice! It’s important to feel encouraged when you have to face with difficulties. I’ll take on board Neil’s experience. Usually I make a note of the word in a sentence which is given in Cambridge dictionary. But indeed it’ll be more efficient to match it with my life.
    Guys, the joke about a pill for remembering words was so funny and arch! To be honest I understood that it was a joke only I read your blog, Graciela. On the 1st of April when I listened to this program my only thought was “How strange that they issued the program on Sunday. It’s so unusual!” Indeed I was aware of Fool’s day and was surprised that none of my friends pulled my leg. But I trust your site unconditionally so I believed in it but thought it would be very harmful for health. I always considered myself as a very clever woman. How could I be so gullible! I take my hat off to Neil and Chris. Well done, guys! :-)
    Talking seriously I think it would not be interesting to awake in the morning and begin to speak unknown language. Because the very process of studying is very interesting though difficult. For me the very difficult part is listening especially if it’s the news. When I talk and can’t get someone right I can ask him/her to say the same in other words. I recon that I’m good at reading. I’m so happy that I can read in the original. Modern authors such as Irwin Show and Ernest Hemingway are more understandable for me. I venture to say that I understand about 90% in their novels (maybe I’m very self-confident). But it’s a difference to read old masters. For instance reading “Pride and Prejudice” I checked myself looking into Russian translation though I know the plot by heart. Anyway it’s worth spending our time to feel an atmosphere and be absorbed in author’s style.
    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 3.

    Dear Graciela,

    Thank you for your informative blog. Though it appeared after a long gap, but it worth the wait. It's so interesting to know that you dream in English, I don't remember in which language I dream, next time I'll keep an eye on that. Even I don't know if I dream in colour or b/w.

    I was pondering on your question about the time when I felt a sense of achievement in English, and it made me revisit my entire life in a short time. Actually, I could read and write in English for long as, for a large part of my life I studied in English, though it was not my primary language of education till I passed my tenth class. I somehow developed a strong affinity to learn English in my early childhood and as often as I could, I used to read grammar books and bi-lingual dictionaries that were available to me at that time. But I never had to speak English and I always feared that I'd make mistake and people would laugh at me. So, for higher studies when I'd to leave my home state (I am from India and by birth we're almost multilingual, we can speak/ understand more than one regional languages and English is the official language here) to an other city in an other state (within India) with a different regional language, I was in trouble. I lived in a hostel where students from various parts of India used to live together, some of them were even from other countries, mainly from Africa. So, I'd to get rid of my mother tongue and had to learn to speak in English. I was left with two options, fight or flight. I chose the first one. It took me almost a year to gain the basic confidence to speak in English, and of course with lots of accent and errors and with a trembling confidence (I could not afford the luxury to attend the posh English speaking classes). Often during weekends, we watched English movies, but initially I could not understand much of it. So, I'd to develop an ear for it too. It was a really a slow, long, tedious and frustrating process when finally one day I realised that I can speak and understand well. Not to mention the moments when I'd to become laughing-stock to my friends and acquaintances for my poor English, in fact those incidents made me more stubborn. Accent has always been a problem to me, it requires awareness, practice, intonation, articulation and the right atmosphere that I did not have at that time. Awareness is important, as it makes one understand how the right pronunciations are made (26 alphabets, 44 various sounds), once one is aware of the sounds and how they're made, s/he can attempt to improve it, but only with conscious effort. After a long process of conscious practice one can reach closer to a stage, one may call it 'effortless speaking', where without effort one speaks like a native. It takes time and the right atmosphere. By atmosphere, I mean if one is among a group of native speakers s/he'll develop it in no time. My aim is to reach that stage. I am still far far away from it, but I am enthusiastic and motivated, like Shelley said, 'If winter comes can spring be far behind?' So, if I've reached this far, I'll one day reach where I want to be. Further I like to read a lot, the first novel that I read in English was Godfather by Mario Puzo and I've been reading a lot since then. So, in a nut shell, I doubt if I've so far had the sense of achievement for English, but I know I'll feel it when I'll have it, the way you felt it, the way everyone feels when they reach their destination.

    @Sergio, I liked your comment. I am sure you've bountiful of experience that you will share with us someday.

    @ Everyone, I am sorry for the long comment and wasting your time. Also, please pardon me for the mistakes in it, I already edited it for 3 times and I am running out of time to review it further.

    Best Regards,

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Graciela

    I am glad to know that someone whose mother tongue is different from English is able to achieve an excellent level of it as you are.
    I am quite sure that all of us have own personal story why he/she wants to become a good English communicator.

    In my case I can tell you that at the last year of our education in medical university in Hungary my husband and I had opportunity to spend a two-month-period in the USA as a medical practise. In the secondary school I learnt a lot of English, but it had been completely missing for six or seven months /because of huge amount of learning of medical science/ my English seemed very poor in the USA. I think I do not need to tell you how desperate I was.
    So when my husband forced us to try to find a job in an English speaking country, I did not want to go anywhere either to live or to work. So we stayed here.
    But in hindsight we can conclude that our decision has given real and lovely grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles for our children who have never been replaced by paid nannies.

    Now when my daughters are young teenagers and I make my daily work without any greater effort I restarted to improve my English.
    I create a little England around me where all of books, films, newspapers and songs are English. It seems to me as a meditative practise in order to relaxation where all things which are not related to my work are happening in English.

    I wish all of us joyful Learning English.

    Krisztina from Hungary

  • Comment number 5.

    It's Krisztina again:
    The missing period was at least 7 YEARS, not months.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dear Rajeeb, it's for sure I don't deserve your really kind words; in any case thank you so much - it looks like when my students (I teach Physics) sometimes show me their gratitude...
    But I have to say that reading the posts Graciela, you, Tatiana and Krisztina wrote, I felt an agreeable and friendly sense of involvement.
    To all of you... a huge "ciao".

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi, Graciela,

    Thank you for this blog! This was hard for me not to reopen your blog to see do you had any update, and, finally, I found that- dreaming in English. I wish I could dreaming in English a day.

    Tatiana, I had the same thought with you about the special pill, after we take it, we can become a native speaker in English. When I read that article, I think "Oh! My God! Is that really true? That isn't fair for people who afford a lot of time and energy on learning English." At the end, till I read the article said the medicine will harm our brain. I thought that makes sense. Am I too stupid? ha!!

    Graciela, that is a good question to ask "When I felt a sense of achievement regarding learning English?" I thought of all my past. About four years ago, I met a US guy in a swimming pool and he was a swimming expert. He started to teach me how to swim like him. Surely, he taught me in English. And, gradually, we became friends. In the beginning, I knew zero about English and he taught me by all the activities we appeared together. He was a very very generous guy I had ever met. And we still keep in touch now. You know, I live in Hong Kong and here are almost no chance who you can speak English with. Then, I realise how important to know English in Hong Kong if you want to make foreign friends here. That is my story how I got addicted to English.

    I have to agree with Tatiana once again. When we face obstacle we need to be encouraged to deal with that, especially, something you are not familiar with, likes English. I am eager to learn English when I get rid of English puzzles one after one every times.

    Sergio, please allow me to have great respect on you. I don't think I will still have the same enthusiasm of learning English as you when I am in your age. Perhaps, I will be proud enough of myself and complacent myself getting enough experience in my life. Now, I am 28, I know one thing; Learning is a endless destination. Thanks for your sharing.

    Rajeeb, Don't apologise about your long write-up. I am so glad to read your opinion here. Even, when I looked at this webpage and saw your comment then I thought " Well! Rajeeb's comment was tedious." But, after I read it carefully; I found out yours is meaningful and encouraging. Thank you so much!!

    Krisztina, thanks for your story. I think you might a good mother. I could tell you're merciful from your story. Wow! That is very cool to study medical science in US. I look forward to reading more about your story.

    Thanks Graciela's blog and all of your comments there really widen my mind. Let's keep encouraging each others on learning English through our write-ups. Thanks a lot!

    Sai-fung from Hong Kong

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Graciela,

    I am working in a diversified culture , where people having different accent. some of them are native. I fell success! , when i understand native speaker's accent.
    To quench my thirst of English, blogs, English News, and Movies help me a lot.

    Though, i face few obstacles while using proper grammar some times, and still taking help from Internet, I never regurgitate English grammar book to overcome this.

    I have been working for IELTS exam, and trying to gulp more words, but not by swallowing April Fool Pill.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear for blogger,
    Im from Vietnam. I just read all your comments, and I felt it is very interestes and ueful. It encourage me to learning English despite I see that its very difficult. Thanks u so much! I have problem in practicing English, I can understand all comments that you write-up ( sometimes some words I don’t know, I cant find their definition by check dictionary^_^) but I cant describe my thinking clearly to everyone, meaning my writing skill is weak. I don’t know by how I can use English fluently, or at least I can use exactly words in order to advoid misunderstanding. Iam 22, and I hope oneday I can speaking English well, but at present I don’t know where I can start? Please provide me some tips you often use when you study English. Pls send it to my email [Personal details removed by Moderator] Thanks you so much!
    Best regard,

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Graciela,

    I didn't know that you are not a native English speaker! Well, congratulations for your perfect English! I wish I would be able to speak and write as you. But unfortunately, I am not, at least not now.

    You asked, when we have felt a sense of achievement regarding learning English. Well, for me, it was four years ago. I have been learning English since my childhood but I wasn't motivated and I had some bad teachers in high school, so my level was quite low. I passed graduation exams at high school but the mark wasn't excellent. Then I started to study university and one of our compulsory subjects was English. I was very afraid of the final exam because the tests during the term were quite hard for me. So I asked for postponing the exam - instead of June, I did the exam in September - and I spend the summer with English. I studied very hard (by the way, BBC was very useful for me) and at the end of August, I had very good feeling that I am at quite a good level in English, finally! And it was not only my feeling - I passed the exam without any problem.

    So, that was my story. Have a nice day,

  • Comment number 11.

    HI Guys/Graciela,
    Why don't we start writing letters on this forum, or is there any other way around to work on to improve writing skills.

  • Comment number 12.

    We should not have a topic on "Why People looking over others shoulder at office"

  • Comment number 13.

    Dear Graciela,
    I agree with Sergio when he felt like a "child who's growing up amid odd adults". After several years, I started study english again. It is necessary to travel and busines. Nowadays its is easy because we have web, films and this blog. Thanks!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hello Graciela,
    I write in your blog for the first time. But I found this post interesting to express my consideration about this problem. It's frustrating, when you work hard on language and after you could may forgetting some words and some times these words are so simple, that you feel shame about yourself. But I am glad that I am not alone in this common issue and I think it will be very valuable, for each of us to share our experience about this,it can make our goals easier,than it seems to be. From my view of point I find only one way out of the situation to cope with this problem - It's to be in the English speaking environment all the time , which is difficult for us, who live in non English speaking countries and It will be great if one has opportunity to travel often in English speaking countries or live there some times.


  • Comment number 15.

    Dear Graciela,

    This is my first time to submit comment to your blog. Actually, it may be the first time to write on this web site.
    I'm really encouraged by your advise!! I've been studying English for more than 10years. However, I can't speak it very fluently. That's because I don't study it in the environment where I have to use English everyday. Recently, this web site is my English studying textbook. I'll continue studying English through this site, and be able to speak fluently in some day.

  • Comment number 16.

    What a coincident to meet you here! Nice to meet you. I am from Thailand. I enjoy reading your article and it really attracts my attention a lot. Previously I had a hard time to handle English as well. Especially by the time I happened to speak something in front of English-speaking people or even other people. It really freaked me out. I was nervous and lost my mind. I could not express my thoughts and emotions in a very expressive manner, but when the time passes on, it seems to me that the more I speak the more I gain confidence. I tend to know how to convey my message to another party whom I am talking with. Normally I show a facial expression, body gestures, and verbal articulation as a sign of cordial friendship. By the way, those tips of suggestions really help improve my English in both a verbal communication and a writing session as well. All of them aspire me to continue to learn English because of lifetime investment. Thank you again for a wonderful message today. Bye bye.

  • Comment number 17.

    Really nice discussion is going on here.I wish i could write and speak like you people.I am not a native English speaker.I have started learning English http://youtu.be/lNCYC90lUIw Very soon i could like perfect English.Please share some tips for me.


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