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“Myth busting” discussion helping to develop learning strategies

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We need to break down some misconceptions about language learning that some students have from the very start

Some of my adult learners of English come to the first lesson with a few misconceptions which I find extremely harmful and definitely see as an obstacle on their way to success in learning. What I always do in the first lesson is “myth busting” discussion, and, I must say, to them the truth often sounds like a revelation. Breaking down these misconceptions is a part of consistent work on building up learning strategies with students (I must note again, it is all about my experience of teaching English to adults).

So, what are the “myths” and the “truths”?

Myth 1: “I have signed up for an English course, and the teacher in the course is responsible for the knowledge and skills I will get. I am simply going to do the exercises and the homework”

Truth: This is not true, because a teacher is simply a guide on the path that learners must walk themselves. We can only show the way. So, the teacher is responsible for the success, but only partially, because a lot more depends on the learner.

Myth 2: “I have 2 lessons a week with my teacher, and some exercises to do as homework, and this is enough to start speaking English fluently in no time”

Truth: Absolutely not. To be able to speak English fluently in no time, one must speak every day. Not just do “open-the-brackets” exercises in the textbook, but consciously communicate ideas and also listen to other people speaking English. The more seldom you do that, the longer and less effective your learning will be. Do you think you would be able to speak your native language the way you do now if you had been exposed to the language only twice a week as a child?

Myth 3: “Learning is just what we have in our lessons and in our homework”

Truth: We use language in conditions when we do not think about learning. Language is an essential part of life. So if you want to learn English you must integrate it in your life so that using it would be natural and meaningful. It goes beyond the classroom and the teacher’s instructions: watching films and series for pleasure, getting the news and important information from English language websites, entering discussions on social platforms.

Myth 4: “It is ok to do all the homework in one go, a day before the lesson or even on the same day”

Truth: It is all about regularity of practice again – small amounts of practice every day are actually better than all of it but in one day.

What are the benefits of such a discussion with new learners? It provides the fundamentals of the most important learning strategies: learner’s autonomy, planning and organisation of independent work, social, cognitive and affective strategies. As the course unfolds, there is plenty of opportunity to introduce more activities and interactions to reinforce these strategies, but I see this discussion as a very important first step.