The Lingo Ledger

Instructor Spotlight: Kathleen Ramage



Kathleen Ramage has been teaching English online for the past 4 years. She's taught thousands of group and private lessons to students from all over the world. Kathleen is also an award-winning underwater photographer and still teaches land and underwater photography whenever she has the opportunity. She has a Bachelor's in Psychology and currently resides in Bali, Indonesia.

Kathleen's method of teaching is student-centered, allowing students to evaluate their own strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Every student’s experience of learning English is unique, and Kathleen likes to design a personalized blueprint for their progress. "Some students do best with a formal, structured approach, and others respond better to a more free-form style," she says.

What advice you would like to share with students trying to learning a new language?

First of all, be persistent and patient. Think about how long it took you to be fluent in your native language. Experts suggest that it takes 5-6 years for speaking fluency and much longer for writing proficiency in your mother tongue--a language you were immersed in every waking moment, seven days a week, at a time when your brain was primed for language acquisition.

Do the calculation: 16 waking hours a day x 7 days a week x 5 years = 29,200 hours.

Now compare this time investment in your native language to the time you have in your busy life for learning a second language. If you have only 2 or 3 hours a week to study and practice, then progress is going to be extremely slow. You need to have realistic expectations. Be proud of yourself every time you can communicate reasonably well with a native speaker. Focusing on your weaknesses will only discourage you. It is going to take years of dedication and practice to become fluent.

One more piece of advice I want to share is to spend your time practicing the skill you want to master. Every student I work with wants to be a better English speaker. When I ask them what methods they are using to become better speakers, they tell me that they read books and magazines in English, they watch Hollywood movies and American TV shows, they listen to the BBC news, and they study English grammar in textbooks,. All of these are excellent things to do and are necessary skills needed to acquire the language, but they don’t make you a better speaker.

The only way to become a better speaker is to PRACTICE SPEAKING. Think of it a different way—let’s say that you want to play the piano. You learn how to read music, you sit next to amazing piano players and watch them play for hours, you listen to piano music all the time on your iPod; but, does that make you a great pianist? No, you have to actually sit down and play the piano.

So to be a better speaker, you have to find opportunities to speak the language as often as possible. Are your spouse and/or children learning English? Have 15 minutes of English time every day at dinner. Are your coworkers learning English? Make breaks and lunchtimes English-only. If you are reading something in English, read it aloud. If there is no one in your house or car to talk to, talk out loud to yourself: make your shopping list, plan your weekend, remember something that happened in the past, give a review of the book you just finished reading or the movie you saw last night, etc.

Practice, practice, practice! Of course, the very best way to be a better speaker is to take classes with the teachers here at Lingo Live.