If you are reading this, it is likely that English means more to you than taking the TOEIC test and it is more important than getting a good score on the university entrance exam. Most likely, if you are reading this advice column, you have been studying English for a while and you are genuinely curious about a better way of learning.
If this description fits you, then I have some good news for you! You are more than half way there! Having genuine curiosity about your own English skill is something that cannot be taught, so congratulations for having it!
Curiosity is like the fire that will take you into the darkness and illuminate the landscape of English. The trick is to keep the fire burning as you head into the darkness and to not be discouraged when you can’t see everything around you just yet.
So how can we keep the fire of curiosity burning? Recognize that curiosity is delicate and can be easily killed. Your curiosity about English is the work horse—the engine—that will take you through the journey of English. But it is fragile, and the wrong things can kill your curiosity and your journey will abruptly end, so make sure that your curiosity is healthy and active in your learning.
So how can we keep our curiosity from getting killed? Here are a few things to avoid in order to keep curiosity healthy.
DO NOT compare your English skill with your Korean skill or you will feel imprisoned. Your Korean skill is at the level of a master. Your English is not at a mastery level so thinking about the limitations caused by your lack of proficiency of English only causes frustration.
DO NOT compare your English skill with another person’s English skill because you will feel inferior. There is always someone out there who is better than you. Don’t think about who is better than you.
Whether it would be you vs. yourself or you vs. another person, judgment against yourself is a big curiosity killer, so refrain from judging yourself.
So what is the right way to keep your curiosity alive? Here are a few things to do in order to keep the curiosity alive.
Manage your expectations. Know the limits of what you can do. Accept that you must work within limitations. Then get curious about your own limits. In this way, your curiosity will begin to push the boundaries, and eventually expand them.
Know that growth is slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day and trees don’t grow overnight. Don’t expect massive changes in a short amount of time.
You don’t need to be a superstar. You need to be you. Being yourself, challenging yourself within your own limits, and being patient with the process are all parts of what mastery is. If you become the master of your mind, expectations and goals, everything else will grow.
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International Language Center, professor