How did I learn English?

No, English is not my native language.

I came in contact with English when I was a child. Being a bit different from other kids of my neighborhood was not easy to bear. I didn’t play much with them and the only thing I could do was to watch  television. Those days we could not watch a lot of TV channels, just two or three because we didn’t have cable or satellites.

One day, it was Monday afternoon I saw an ad about a program called ‘Foreign language on Television”. And they started to show it three times a week.  Every six months they changed the target language. You could have learnt English, German, French and Italian. First they started with English.  It was the famous “Follow me”.

Follow Me! was a series of television programmes produced by the BBC in the late 1970s to provide a crash course in the English language. It became popular in many overseas countries as a first introduction to English; in 1983, one hundred million people watched the show in China alone, featuring Kathy Flower.

The British actor Francis Matthews hosted and narrated the series.

The course consists of sixty lessons. Each lesson lasts from 12 to 15 minutes and covers a specific lexis. The lessons follow a consistent group of actors, with the relationships between their characters developing during the course.

 But the series I watched had reviews and explanations in m y native language as well, making it easier for me as a child to understand it better and they lasted not 12 to 15 minutes but more than half an hour.  They gave extra explanation about speaking, grammar and vocabulary so I took a notebook and started to take notes, although those days English was not important as it is now in my country. My cousins thought I was crazy and I was wasting time for nothing but I kept going on.

Within a short time I was very good in English and Italian, and the reason might be because I wasn’t afraid. Somehow I had conquered the fear and although I made mistakes I really didn’t care. I read books in English thinking I was reading well but when I played the tapes again and again I saw where I made the mistakes and tried to improve myself and correct them.

Then in the third grade primary school, a year after I started to watch ”Follow me” we had English classes. I was more than happy thinking we were going to progress and be fluent. Such thing did not happen. Our teacher was good, kind and easygoing but he just made us read and translate, and conjugate some words on the board, nothing more. This is the time when I decided to learn English more thinking I am going to be an interpreter. Somehow I was affected by our teacher’s ideas even though I didn’t like them.

 Then the series of “Follow me” were again on television.  It was like finding the biggest treasure in the world because that was the only source outside school where I could practice and be in contact with English. There were no movies like nowdays, or they were to rarely shown,  we had no internet, and we didn’t have any good books.  None of these could be a reason for me to quit.

Now I wonder how can people and students as well complain they can’t learn. Well my question for them would be: “Is it that you really can’t or you do not want to?”


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