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one of my fond memories ...
I would like to share a writing lesson I learned from our American teacher when I was a college student a few years ago.|
In our first writing class, she brought a red apple, put it on a transparent glass plate, placed the plate on the desk near the window, and adjusted it a few times. The sunlight was streaming on the red apple and its holder, and casting a narrow shadow on the desk, a glimmer of smile was on her face. As she was walking away from the plate slowly, and looking around us, she started to talk, I couldn't remember the exactly words she said, what she told us roughly as follows.
'I would like you to describe the red apple and its surrounding in about one hundred words, which must be strict to the sketches of its physical appearance. After that, you are going to add another one hundred words to stretch its look to other areas that are related to it, for example, giving a brief description of an apple tree, an apple orchard, its sweetness and nutrition, etc. "
We were stunned, biting our pens, or gazing at the apple, or peeping at each other, as our teacher was pacing up and down the class room, saying a few encouraging words now and then, giving out a few hints here and there. However, it didn't help, a large portion of our papers remained empty, we were only hear the clock ticking faster and faster, and ticking louder and louder, the time was running out ...
The theme she taught us is that to learn a language, especially a foreign language, we must get back to the basic, the square one, and start from the scratch, like children, who usually describe things and their surroundings specifically and vividly and concretely, as apposite to them, we adult tend to think abstractly and generally, and use many big words (abstract and general) which is the number one enemy of the language learning.
For example, most of us know words like fruit, vegetable, light, we may not understand, cranberry, kale, dusk (or twilight) ... on the contrary, children usually pick up these specific words before they learn the categorical term, like fruit ...
Just like most of you, I am still working on the crazy English. Is it crazy? No, as our teacher said, "It is lovely, the school catalog calls it as an English course, I would call it as a course of magic, the magic of words and ideas."