WARNING: Beware of irony! Read the following article at your own risk.
If you are living in the U.S., your English is likely to improve. But there are some things you can do to prevent this!
- Don’t talk to Americans. At work, talk only to people who are from your country, and always speak your native language with them. Do the same in your neighborhood, at the gym, and at your kids’ school events. Don’t be like one German woman I know, who talked to an American and ended up becoming friends with her! Then they had to hang out together and speak English all the time.
- Don’t attend social events. Don’t go to any parties or festivals. Avoid Wetzel’s Coffee on the Veranda, Summer Picnic and Christmas Cookie Swap. You will meet people who don’t speak your native language, and you will have to listen and speak to them in English.
- Don’t take English lessons or classes. The teachers will motivate you to learn a lot of new words and phrases, which could give you a headache. They might correct your pronunciation, which could be slightly embarrassing. They may challenge you to discuss less familiar topics than the weather and your home country. What a pain!
- Don’t watch movies or shows in English, and don’t read articles, websites or even recipes in English. Although these don’t force you to speak English, they do stretch your listening and reading skills and expose you to a ton of real, native-speaker English, including slang, idioms and even profanity! American recipes will introduce you to strange new tastes and force you to learn about American measurements of cups and teaspoons, which are absurd.
- Don’t travel. You will have to use English to ask questions, and you might have to understand the answers — not just smile and nod. You will have to read signs. You might need to complain, in English, about a problem in your hotel. One friend of mine even wanted to write an online review — in English — of the amazing restaurant where she ate.
- Don’t learn the cultural aspects of English communication. For example, the fact that many Americans frequently use irony — that is, “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think, especially in order to be funny” (Learner’s Dictionary).
Beware of irony! If you feel confused or astounded by something you hear an American say, and you suspect irony, try raising an eyebrow and asking in a skeptical voice, “Seriously?” That gives the American a chance to clarify whether he or she is being sincere or ironic.
In case you were wondering, the six suggestions above are all completely ironic! Read them again without the “Don’t”s, if you want our real advice for improving your English. And if you want to follow up on #3, email us at [email protected]. We would be happy to connect you with a teacher who is a good match for you!