#2 If you don't know, TEACH. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works

Apr 12, 2021


Teaching is knowing.

Really. When you can teach others what you know and take questions from them, it means you know a thing or two. The ability to teach is always an indicator of how well I know something. I use this indicator for my languages, too. I'd like to have an imaginary student (or classmate who is confused by what he's just learned etc). and teach him a new grammar point (or just anything new about a language).

In this episode, you’re going to listen to 3 language teaching stories of mine:


  • How I made my classmate understand a grammar point he couldn’t in a ten-minute break
  • How I volunteered to teach basic French to my college friends when all I had was less than basic
  • How my part-time job as an English teacher helped me master the intricacies of English grammar

As counterintuitive as it may sound, teaching what you know about the language is an excellent way to check if there are any gaps in the language you’re currently learning. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself!

If you like this episode, please share it and rate it five star. Not only will it make me happy, it also helps more people get to listen to this episode and transform their language learning.



[00:00:00] Back in fall, 2001, I was three months into my French study, and I dared enough to teach a group of classmates some basic French grammar. Through teaching, I found my French skill took a huge leap forward, and the same thing happened over and over again. As I started to teach my language skills improve. 


[00:00:23] Hi, I'm That Language Guy. I'm a language nerd with over two decades of language learning experience under my belt. I've also been working in a language service industry for nearly 20 years. After my decade long career as a translator and language instructor, I want to create a community of language aficionados like you. That's why I created this podcast, The Language DriveThru, where I provide you with weekly dose of language, learning advice and bite-sized chunks. So if you're passionate about language learning, you're in the right place. Now sit tight and get ready for a weekly language learning delight, right here in the Language DriveThru. 


[00:01:07] Hey, there language nerd. Welcome to the Language DriveThru. I'm That Language Guy. If you haven't already, subscribe to my podcast channel so you can get a fresh dose of language learning advice every Tuesday. 


[00:01:22] So question, what can you do when you want to quickly improve your knowledge on your target language? Today, I'm going to share with you three stories about me that pretty much answered that question. So story one happened back in my high school year. I remember one time we were in the English grammar class where the teacher spent a solid hour explaining one single grammar point to us. But after that, everyone seemed to be pretty much in the dark. And during the 10-minute break, one of my classmates came to me and asked if I could explain the grammar point to him, which I did. And it was the first time I ever tried to explain to others how a language works. And after my ten-minute mini grammar lecture, I was amazed because I learned that by explaining things to others, it helps me solidify my own knowledge. 


[00:02:19] And fast forward to my college year. This is where my second story took place. So I remember that was my... It happened in my first year in college. And on a side note, I had been studying French for three months by then. So when I knew that at college we had to take a second language course, I took German instead. And after around three weeks into my first semester, several of my classmates came to me and complained to me that because they took French as their second language and all the teacher asked them to do in class was to repeat after him. And after three weeks into the learning, they still couldn't make sense of any basic French grammar whatsoever. So they came to me for help and I was naive enough to volunteer to teach them some fundamental French grammar, despite the fact that I was a beginner myself. 


[00:03:13] But when I actually got down to work, I realized that there were several knowledge gaps that I needed to fill before I could teach them anything meaningful. So I spent a couple of days preparing and trying to fill those knowledge gaps. And after that I somehow managed to deliver a very good lecture and my friends were very happy and so was I, because I realized that by teaching others what you have learned you can spot some knowledge gaps and fill them, and therefore it helps you become more skillful. And then take three. Here comes my third story, which still took place in my college year. So to financially support myself through college and graduate school, I gave English lessons as a side gig at private night schools because instead of waiting tables, I thought it might be the quickest way to make money so that I could have enough time for my schoolwork. And since my students were often so inquisitive, they loved to ask questions that I know in order not to be asked the question that I had no answer to, I have to be extremely well prepared. And by trying to be well prepared before each class I found my English proficiency took a major leap forward. And not only did I become more comfortable and more at ease speaking, I also found myself more capable of explaining how the English language works instead of telling them, "Well, it is what it is, you just need to get used to it." 


[00:04:47] So you may wonder why I told you these three stories. Well, that's because just like what I said, teaching helps you organize your thoughts. It helps you gain clarity and helps you spot what you haven't mastered so that you can go back and fill those gaps. It is a very great way to check if you have understood your target language well, and this isn't learning by doing approach which can help you check if you fully understood a specific part of your target language. So next time, when you're not sure if you have fully understood a specific part of your target language, try teaching to others or at least pretend to do so. And trust me, it is a very, very good practice because it can activate your passive knowledge so that it can be active enough. It can also help you internalize what you have learned so that your target language eventually becomes a part of you. So next time when you want to improve your target language, just teach. 


[00:05:48] Now over to you. Have you ever taught others your target language? How did you like it? Did it make you a more observant language learner. Share with us in a common down below. So did you like this episode, if you do rate it and share it so more people can get to listen to it. And don't forget to come on over to my website, thatlanguageguy.com, where you would get a weekly dose of knowledge or learning ideas and occasional heart to heart in your inbox. And that's it for this episode of Language DriveThru. I'll catch you next time. 

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