I Want It That Way

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With no one around to help me out, I was on my own seeking strategies that work. In the first place, I have never sought anyone's go signal to study English. I made a personal decision to just do it.

When the going got tough, everything had been a top secret. No one knew about my struggles. No one knew that I had been fighting battles.

It came as no shock to me though. No one in my circle cared about me learning English. To them, English never amounts to anything. Some took notice, got curious, and found what I was doing ridiculous.

I had been without luck with my vocabulary-building efforts but giving up was never an option. My burning desire to improve myself had kept me motivated to find a better way. And the best way I could think of at the time was to keep my learning adventure systematic. 

I noticed I had been disorganized.

The need to keep track of the words I had learned was something I had to work on. Remember, I lived in a far-off place. I knew nothing about fancy notebook planners and organizers. All I could take advantage of were our wall calendars.

In the present digital era, wall calendars may seem old-fashioned. But it turned out to be just what I needed to keep myself organized. Almost every Filipino household even to this day keeps at least one.

Every year, we have three of those oversized calendars that feature large boxes containing big numbers in solid black text. We always have the ones with large grids and with a white background for easy reading. 

They hang easy on our wooden walls: one in the living room, one in the kitchen, and one in the bedroom.

My idea was if I wanted to learn a useful word, I'd write it down in big letters right beside the date. It had to be clear enough for me to read from afar like at least two meters away.

Each time I stepped into the kitchen, living room, and bedroom I would fix my eyes on the calendars and read out the word of the day. The dates served as tracking numbers. 

Each new day meant a new word. Before I wrote down another word and set my eyes on it, I would always go over every word written all the way back to the first day of the month.

It didn't matter if the word starts with A or B or C. The ultimate goal was: I must study at least one word, yes any word a day. If I failed to remember the word's meaning, I'd check the dictionary right away.

Reading individual words aloud and seeing them too often helped me in a way. When my mother ripped the calendar sheet out after the month ended, I had seen and read and memorized plenty of words and their basic usage.

I would say this method did not really help me build a huge vocabulary. The words didn't stick that much longer in my memory either. What helps me is something easier to do and more natural. And I'm using this powerful strategy to this day.

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