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When a person finishes their English course we know for sure they aren’t really finished. To be finished is literally a death signal, the best way to keep yourself open to new English is to keep your mind open and learn to change with the times.
Even in myself as a native speaker I can say that over the duration of my lifetime my English has changed a lot.
- Stage one: The English I spoke as a child was based primarily on what my parents/family and teachers expected of me, it was polite, respectful, and related to my interests
- Stage two: the high school English was when slang first started to enter my vocabulary, I was constantly wanting to keep up with the latest this/that and the other and had to acquire some new vocabulary or phrasings based on the new culture that was emerging.
- Stage three: the university years meant that I became full of academic jargon, and theories. Often to high level for normal every day usage but some how I thought that that was what it was like to be an adult.
- Stage four: The post university years was my working years, where I had to learn how to be understood by each and every person I worked with. That means my language became very everyday but with all the university learning in it.
- Stage five: The friendship zone years, this was really all about talking about things in a way that you really enjoyed. Sometimes there were ‘code-words’ or ‘words only those people in your friendship group knew about’. Also this stage changed often because sometimes I would have 3-4 different groups of friends and each would require a different kind of language usage, some were more formal than others.
- Stage six: The dealing with children years. This really is where you had to dumb down all your English and make sure the children would understand what you meant.
- Stage seven: The teaching English years. This is really all about the understanding of what level of English the students are at and making sure that you are speaking the language that they can understand. Often in one day I could go from simple English to very complex English almost within seconds. Great teachers becomes very good at that because they understand that different levels require different grades.
The main reason that I am making these distinctions clear is that most people are actually moving between all these stages on a daily basis without realizing it. This shows great competency.
ESL learners need to understand that there are different kinds of English for different situations (just as there are in their own language), but that it will be constantly changing also, as new words are born and new cultures are experienced.
So remember, your learning will not stop once your course is over, the only thing you need to understand is that your English will change, and you need to allow it to.