One Step at a Time or Jump Right in?

This week's post is part of a series on finding books for your 'to read' list and setting up a reading challenge.  But before we even start talking about all the books you can read, you have to know yourself as a person, a reader, a language learner!  So there's something I'd like you to consider first.  It's something you may not be used to thinking about:


    Step by step or Jump right in? Which one are you?

    So what book should I choose? I should pick something based on my reading level, right?  Something easy if I'm just starting out...

    It's more complicated than that.

    I love teaching because it reminds me: the human family is made up of so many kinds of thinkers--each perfect! 

    We have unique ways of seeing the world, relating and learning.  

    Knowing your preferences and how you may differ from others can help you enjoy your language learning, your reading habit...

    Life in general really!

    Two approaches to life, learning languages and reading:

    Do you know what still surprises (and inspires) me after 15 years of teaching?

    While two people may have a similar level of English, they may have entirely different ways of living, learning languages...and reading books.

    I have seen people with roughly the same level of English have extremely different reactions to being immersed in books (the same is true for being immersed in conversation!)

    Think of which of these two approaches** appeals to you more.

    • Don't worry about which one you think you should use.  
    • Don't worry about which one your culture or family approve of!
    • Don't even worry about the one your best friend wants you to try.  

    Pick the one that feels right for you. 

    Step by step:

    Do you like to approach life one logical step at a time. Do things seem better when they follow an orderly path? If so...

    • In life you may not enjoy being thrown into a situation where you don't feel you have all the skills (or the knowledge) to do things right!
    • You'll like the way it feels to master one skill (a verb tense, how to use a certain kind of phrase...) and then move on to a slightly more difficult task.  
    • You may learn quite well from language classes: with an explanation followed by structured practice until you 'get it.'
    • When you read, you may find you don't really enjoy books that have too many words you don't understand--or expressions you wouldn't know how to use yet.  
    • You may feel overwhelmed in conversations or when reading books if the level is too far above what you can understand really well. 
    • You may struggle to find your words in English and express your thoughts fluently, but when you do speak, you're careful to speak correctly.

    Jump Right in:

    Do you struggle with step by step explanations?  Do you do better immersing yourself in a new situation and 'figuring things out as you go?'

    • In life, you may have a preference for jumping right into a situation and learning, taking on the entire situation or idea at once. And you learn from the experience.  You learn from your mistakes.
    • You may have trouble if you cannot see the meaning, or importance of what you are learning, if you cannot connect personally to the subject at hand, if it doesn't challenge you or inspire you.  Or if it doesn't cause some kind of emotional reaction in you.
    • You may not mind reading a book and only understanding 60-70% of it (or watching a movie, or listening to a conversation).  
    • You may have a more easy time expressing your ideas fluently than with expressing them correctly.  Or if you're more advanced, you may have noticed you were able to express yourself fluently first, and with accuracy later.
    • You may not like the way it feels when grammar is explained and you need to 'drill' in order to master a concept.  Perhaps you've practiced the same concepts again and again... without learning them.  

    Do either of these sound like you?

    Remember, we all use the 'step by step' approach AND the 'jump right in' approach at times.  

    Otherwise, we couldn't follow step by step recipes for new dishes AND fly across the world to start our lives anew in strange places! 

    It's just that most of us feel more comfortable with one way of learning...or the other.  

    Think about how different you may be from the next person--from another person with your same level of English.  It's not like these differences are tattooed on our foreheads!  

    You are silently different and unique.

    So remember to choose your books in a way that reflects who you are and not just your level in English.

    Because your level is only part of the picture. 

    We all have our preferences, but we're not slaves to them!

    Remember also that you can (and may have to!) learn to work outside your preferences.  In language learning, it's hard to avoid all drilling and repetitive practice!  Just like it's impossible to avoid jumping right in to the "whole" language when you travel to another country.  

    The point is to remember which are your strong points, to think about where you feel comfortable.

    Honor that and push on from there.

      What do you think?  

      Do you see your learning style in any of the descriptions above?

      Do you learn better taking things one step at a time or diving right in?

      What factors (aside from your level) affect your ability to be yourself in English.

      If you have questions about the best book for you, don't be afraid to get in touch.  Or stop by the Vagabond English Book Club to ask questions and join the discussion.

      Stay tuned for the next blog post--with some suggestions for choosing the right book for you--whether you're taking it one step at a time or jumping in feet first.

      Note: ** I have used a simplified explanation of learning styles here, to help you think differently about enjoying your reading habit in English. There is so much more information on this subject!  If you're interested, here is some of the reading that inspired this blog post--and that inspires my teaching...and learning!