Evolution of “that thing”

Before coming to America, I believed that my English was good. I thought that taking English classes in high school and listening to MTV hit list songs would be a solid foundation for effective communication.  Oh, boy, how I was wrong! I sounded like a broken record. My problem was lack of vocabulary and fluency in speech. It is interesting to mention that every word, I did not know the name for it, was classified as “that thing”. Here are some examples:

“You know that thing that you keep in the closet and hang your clothes on?”

Or, “What is the name of that thing?”

Sounds weird, I know. However, vocabulary is just one aspect of the English language that can be challenging. Let’s not forget about sentence structures, grammar, pronunciation, spelling, etc. Here are some simple examples that can help you move beyond “that thing”:

  1. Be patient. Learning a language is a skill. It takes a lot of practice and time to see results. Remember, nothing happens over night.
  2. Make mistakes. The best way to learn a foreign language is to practice as much as possible. Do not be embarrassed if you get confused. You should consider yourself lucky for being able to write, speak and talk in another language. Not many people can do that.
  3. Study hard. Learning a foreign language cannot be always fun. You need to set the time for studying and practice actively. Remember, practice makes perfect.
  4. Think in English. Some people try to come up with a sentence in their native language and translate it word-by-word in English. This is a trap. Some phrases are hard or impossible to translate. There is no easy way around this; you have to sit down and learn them.
  5. Use the language as much as possible. Use English on a daily basis. Try to practice with your family and friends. If they are not available, “talk to yourself”. For example, you could ask yourself “What time is it?” in English and try to find out the answer.
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