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The Maple Leaf Rag

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Mapleleaf Man


June 21, 2012

If I say to you 'bit by bit', will you know what I mean? It's the same as 'step by step'. Want to learn English? Want to lose weight? Want to learn computer programming? Do it bit by bit, step by step. There is no other way. 

I'm trying to lose weight. I exercise every day, eat a bit less every day (I hope) and try to keep active. It's frustrating sometimes because it doesn't look as if I'm losing anything at all. But I am...very slowly. I could spend all day exercising but that wouldn't last too long. I could eat a lot less but that wouldn't work either. As a matter of fact, that would be the worst thing I could do. (Don't ever diet to lose weight. It just makes it harder the next time you want to lose weight. Your body changes, it stores fat because it thinks you're starving. Don't diet....ever!)

Same thing with English. Don't get frustrated. If you learn a word a day, you'll have 365 new words at the end of a year. Ten words a week? That's 520 new words by the end of a year. Do the math. It's not impossible to fully understand 1,000 new words by the end of a year. Don't have time? Sure you do. Keep an English dictionary in the washroom and learn five new words every time you are sitting down...get my point? 

The average educated English speaking person knows about 20,000 words. That person would use about 2,000 words in a week. (I probably know more and use more because I'm a writer. Don't use me as an example.) Knowing that, you would only have to learn 2,000 words to be able to carry on a conversation with an English speaking person. How long would that take to do? Maybe a year, maybe less, maybe more. But, above all, it is 'doable'. That's a new word. If you can do something, it is 'doable' or able to be done. 

Lastly, I say this all the time but it bears repeating, if you can't think of how to say something, try to think of how to say it differently. When I am writing this log, I often start to say something backwards or in a way that only an English reader would understand. That isn't good for you guys so I try to say things another way. There are millions of English words. Anything that can be said can be said in many different ways. Don't get hung up over one or two words. Change the words around and use something else. Go ahead. Ask me anything and I will tell you another way to say it. 

Thanks for reading! 

More entries: A New Year, New Ways to Learn (1), English sucks...but don't give up. (6), Learning English is never easy, but it's worth the effort. (4), Easy English Stories, English vocabulary - another way to learn (1), A Shit of Paper (3), Break a leg - another English idiom. , Repost: Are all Chinese girls lesbians? (3), How language affects your life. (3), Chinese Writing (5)

View all entries from The Maple Leaf Rag >

07:49 AM Oct 07 2019

United States

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04:40 AM Mar 10 2017

United Kingdom

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03:26 AM Aug 31 2016


Hi, I 'm traveling in Canada. I hope we can see each other! Aqui Mi blog por si quieres saber más de mí.

04:59 PM Feb 24 2015



Hey Mapleleaf Man,How are you?I read you comment on Englishteacher's homepage.I would like to say is both of you have the same goal,helping people with english.As a foreigner who eager to learn english ,i am very appreicate for your hard work and the time you paid on this.Thank you.We can't eat an elephant on one bite,so bit by bit.

01:00 AM Jul 05 2012

United States

Mapleleaf Man, very good advice, would like to read more from you!  Smile

01:51 AM Jun 22 2012



Hi Mapleleaf Man!

After reading the blog you've written I can say that you are right. I also had lots of troubles during learning English. I was thirty,when I started getting interested in foreign languages. The reason why I began learning was my work. I've been working as a truck driver  since 1999 roaming in the countries of Europa and from that time till 2005 I did it without having knowledge of foreign languages. I can tell that was terrible, as there were not so lot of help(like navigation) as present days. During these years I was getting angrier and angrier,because I wasn't able to understand the people trying to get in contact with me. It was awful and I made a decision to change it. The first language was Italian and it was being learnt  by me for one and half years,however I had to realize that Italian wasn't the right choice to be able to use it,when I get in a situation with problems, happening the countries where the spoken language is not Italian. So I started learning English and have been doing it for that time. It would have been another chance,Germanian,but it's said it has a too difficult grammar. Yes, I agree with it, as two years ago I started learning it,too. In my eyes, to have a foreign language and to use it safely is possible only, if you visit the country where the choosen language is used,and try to spend a little time there. People can't learn a language without knowing grammar,when they are already adult. It can be possible without it in childhood only,in case of mother tongue.The step by step way  you mentioned in your blog is very important to keep the owned knowledge up,even if it will take from us much time,but it will bring the achievement and give success. Everyone has different ways how to learn easiestly,and the most important thing is to get the ability to use it.