Discoveries on Learning English Differently
Eva Trumpešová-Rudolfová, Czech Republic
Eva teaches ESP and EAP at Masaryk University Language Centre, Brno, Czech Republic, where she is also a passionate member of English Autonomously team and a counsellor. She is an ardent ambassador of life skills and in her lessons she promotes cooperation, effective communication, critical thinking, creativity, learning skills, self-reflection and emotional intelligence.
Since quite recently, Masaryk University has been offering English Autonomously, a course inspired by University Helsinki model, for students who need to improve their English but feel the need to make the decisions about their own learning themselves. The course provides a certain framework for students to ensure they are not working solely on their own, and it tries to connect students of similar interests so that they might study together, and thus create a learning community. The learning process is supported by counselling sessions and the biggest emphasis is placed on reflecting on learning. Students are strongly encouraged to write (or record) a log, including an introductory and a final reflection. For this purpose, they are shown the differences between descriptive and reflective writing.
The extracts below are taken from the above mentioned final reflections of students from very different fields and levels of study, however, the English Autonomously team found them representative of the semester Spring 2015.
NB. The voices have not been edited.
So what gave me EA? A lot of things. From big self-reflection through opinion about my future to also improving in English. Not in that classic way but in much deeper, inside. I feel more confident and also more comfortable when it comes to English. I can better name my problems I can define them. I can see how stuck am I and I can start do something about that. I have new tips how to learn new words, I have also my log where I can see problem during speaking and writing anytime. I will also continue with writing the log after the course. (I promise… to myself :) )
To sum up, EA was great experience which I enjoyed. This course came to my life in kind of interesting (I don´t want to say straight at difficult) time so maybe it has even bigger impact to me than it should have. I surprised myself many times during the semester and I also realized many things about me, English, my future, my study-style, my strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to EA. :)
I have found this course very beneficial. In my opinion, the autonomy is very powerful when it is used properly. On the other hand, it can be very dangerous, because if there is nobody who tells you what to do, you may feel like there is nothing you should do. And that means there is no progress.
Luckily it did not happen to me. I went through a big change, mostly in my motivation. I felt free and that´s the best part of it – doing what you are interested in and gaining credit for it.
English Autonomously course helped me with my English, my learning skills and strategies, my soft skills, my approach to learning and accelerated my self-development. I was afraid from the beginning but I succeeded in learning new words, doing extra stuff not only what I had to but mostly what I wanted to.
I´m glad that I have tried something new thanks to EA. It was something different I have never experienced before. I really enjoyed this attitude to learning. I think it´s an appropriate way of learning for university students. I wish there were more opportunities like that during my studies.
The most valuable for me was evaluation of what I´ve learned and thinking about how I made it. It´s good to know more about your personal learning process. Later I can work on it.
This course was helpful not only for my English skills but also for my learning in general.
The EA course mainly helped me with two things. First of all, I finally have come to understanding that there is no universal way to learn languages and that I should find the strategy that fits me. Also, I found out that the only way to remember vocabulary is activating it (in other words, repetitive usage till the time when its usage will become unconscious). I am still planning to try to do it in practice, but understanding this was very important for me. As for more practical outcome of the course, I tried new way of learning language – mind maps. I made two mind maps that helped me to sort out and organise the words I already know, and find new words (or long forgotten words) to complement them. I think that mind maps are useful for me personally in learning languages because I can make my own order of the words that help me to remember the material.
Second discovery I made during the course was a new perspective on my oral and presentation skills in English. Listening to audio log and watching my presentations with the teacher were very inspiring. I found out that I have two main problems: excitement and too strict attention to grammar. I was aware about the first problem before, but watching the difference between the parts of the presentation (when I was excited and not) showed this problem in the new light for me. In the beginning of the presentation, when I was nervous, I spoke with breaks, said “A…” many times, my nonverbal communication showed my stress. In some time I got relaxed and concentrated more on what I as presenting than how I was presenting, in this part, my speech was more smooth and fluent, my non-verbal language was supporting my speech. As a result, it is important for me to work on my excitement. Secondly, I´ve found out that I belong to a group called “grammar Nazi”. Which was surprising news for me. I thought me hearing the mistakes being nervous about this is common for all people. But I´ve found out that most people don´t recognize or pay attention to grammar mistakes in oral speech. Therefore, I need to be less strict to myself when I´m speaking, to improve my self-confidence in oral English.
These, were the two main discoveries I´ve made during the course. I´ve also learnt other interesting techniques and sources to improve my English, but matters mentioned above are the main contributions of this course to my personal development and learning English.