(photo credit: http://bit.ly/2it1SPo)
One of the reasons why IELTS and TOEFL make their ‘pass level’ so high is because being ‘good enough at English’ is not going to get you very far.
Some may argue the point of ‘well it depends on why you want to learn English’ , but well I come from the school of thought of ‘if you are going to take the time to doing something why not try to do it the best you can’ – in other words ‘good enough is never going to be good enough!’
When it comes to learning a language, not being able to distinguish between some simple terms can make some catastrophic results. For example:
- Can/can’t: ‘I can swim’ vs ‘I can’t swim’. If your dive instructor on your lovely holiday asks you if you can swim or can’t swim, knowing the difference can be life threatening – if you know what I mean!
- Will/won’t: ‘I will catch you if you fall’ vs ‘I won’t catch you if you fall’… Well similar to Number 1 but this time you are going to be the once picking up the bill from the insurance company!
- Condom/condo: In this country people live in condominiums and they are called ‘condo’s’ for short. If you tell someone you’ve just met that you live in a condom, for sure they may decide that their friendship with you might not be the kind of ‘lifestyle’ they want.
- Make yourself at home: This one is a simple one but often misunderstood, if you start moving all your stuff into your friends house, your friendship may soon be over.
- Whatsup!: Well, there’s nothing much to answer here other than ‘uhhh..the sky?’… if you don’t understand English and a non-reply could be construed as being unfriendly.
- And so on….
Sometimes it takes only a simple error in pronunciation or wording that can change everything. Also things in your culture that are phrased a certain way, may be offensive in the English culture. Sometimes politeness goes strangely in the wrong direction if you aren’t aware of the simple differences.
In English culture it is always polite to finish everything on your plate at a meal, in other cultures it is considered offensive as you are indicating to the host that you weren’t fed enough!
All these things take time to learn and time to make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice. No one is perfect and everyone has to learn as they go, but never sit back and say ‘ahhh..my English is good enough, no need to keep going with the classes’. There’s always more to come.