How I came to learn English. Part #2. English learning and the perception of others in school

When I was young, I perceived English as a very strange language, maybe I was like a lot of Algerians who didn’t spent time learning it. our main foreign language is French, and it stops there. We don’t really bother ourselves with other languages, it is true to the majority of Algerians, and it was true for me.

The evolution of my level in English

I remember that I was excited when we began to learn it in school, I was 14 years old and I was in the 8th grade. I was so weak, I didn’t think that I would be able to speak it someday, I didn’t bother myself to give it a try. But a year after, I moved to another school and I got another English professor, I was always as weak as I had been but it rapidly changed thanks to that professor. He was so interested in his students that I felt like I couldn’t disappoint him. So I worked just enough to be his best student. I was one of the weakest in English, then I became the strongest. during the next year, I will always have the best mark in the class.

At that time, we were studying some basic things like irregular verbs and the construction of basic sentences, we have a text and we had to understand it in order to answer the conprehension questions. the texts had approximately two or three paragraphs. I understood a lot of the words in the text, but I was far from understanding everything. just enough to answer decently to the comprehension questions, and sometimes find a synonym or antonym for one or two of the given words. during the 4 remaining years in school, my level in English did not increase that much. I learned more vocabulary and more grammar, I was able to understand the general meaning of a text, but I was not able to speak or write in English.

The perception of others and my relative skills in languages

I have to contextualize a little here. Because I depicted myself as the most skilled English and French student in all my classes. this is because others were too weak, I just had got good marks because I was the less weak student in the class. but this is not the way others perceived me, and this will have a negative impact on me.

All my friends and classmates perceived me like a skilled person in languages, they understood French without being able to speak it for the most of them, they didn’t understand a word in English. So knowing someone who speaks French fluently and had good marks in English classes is synonymous of a skilled person in foreign languages. But I was not, I learned French instinctively by watching TV in my youth then improved it by reading French literature. This doesn’t count for language learning for me because it started in an early stage and continued through all my life.

I was too weak in English despite the perception of others. This perception gave me a lot of self-confidence, and I looked at myself through the lens of other persons. this self-confidence led me to never revise a language lesson and never seek to improve my French and English because I was way too far ahead everybody.

The lesson I learned

The result of this is that I didn’t make any progress during a very long time. My mistake was to believe, without questioning myself, that I was good at what I did. I took relative matters and perceived them in an absolute way. this means that being the best in something among your friends doesn’t mean that you are actually good at it. You have to constantly find someone better than you and try to surpass him, then find another… and so on. You can also constantly make tests to yourself in order to be aware of your true level on something, locate where your weaknesses and obstacles and try to overcome them. I find this way of thinking more challenging. I got rid of my relative arrogance, this made me more humble, less reluctant to learn new things. Today, I don’t consider myself “skilled” in any area of study, and I just enjoy acquiring more knowledge and improve what I am interested in.

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