Learning English? ‘Snow’ Problem. Chillax and Use Your Common Senses!


I’m writing this in the middle of a blizzard. No worries, though! I’m not outside braving the elements. I’m inside—sitting “as snug as a bug in a rug.” As I cuddle with a cup of hot tea (in between putting my thoughts on paper and looking out the window), the howling wind is swirling the snow into small mounds. If the “white stuff” and wind continue, these small piles will morph into colossal snowdrifts that will require a trusty tractor, snazzy snow blower or a simple snow shovel and some energetic elbow grease to clear paths or roads. I imagine radio announcers are urging people to stay at home as they mention road closures and dangerous whiteout travel conditions.

You may be asking, “What does experiencing a blizzard have to do with learning English?” I’m glad you asked. Pull up a chair and chillax with me as I try to sell you on the idea that learning English is similar to the snow spiraling around outside. Don’t worry. I’ve never been accused of being able to sell ice to an Eskimo, so I’m not giving you a snow job. Maybe you’ll agree with me, maybe you won’t. If nothing else, perhaps you’ll walk away with a new word or two or maybe you’ll understand and be able to use some idioms dealing with winter, cold or snow.

As I was saying—learning English is like the snow falling outside. At first, a few snowflakes fall. A single snowflake or a few flakes falling aren’t worrisome or much of a concern. People might stop to enjoy and note the beauty of these simple yet intricate, fragile, falling ice crystals. Living in an area that receives plenty of snow each year, I often anticipate the first snowfall of the season with a sense of awe. This is what I call the wonder factor. Each snowflake is reported to be unique and special in design. Similarly, when people learn English, the beauty and enjoyment of being able to communicate in a new way is the wonder factor. When babies utter their first words, parents smile with delight and applaud their little ones’ efforts. Later, when the blizzards—barrages of words, questions, or arguments come, parents might ironically smile, think or say, ‘I couldn’t wait for my babies to talk, but now I can’t wait for them to hush and just listen.” (God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.)

Another reason learning English is similar to the snow falling outside right now is that as the snow accumulates, so does its influence on peoples’ lives. As noted earlier, a few snowflakes aren’t worrisome, and they are of little consequence. Some snowflakes melt and vanish shortly after they hit outstretched hands, open mouths, or solid ground. Others accumulate and can be used to form a snowball or friendly snowman. However, when snow’s collective magnitude is coupled with strong wind, it can quickly snowball into an impacting event. I’m not just talking about the impact a few well-aimed snowballs can make. I’m talking about a life-changing, wallop. I’m talking about a powerful blizzard. Likewise, learning English can have a life-changing effect on people as well. Communicating well in English can increase your potential job possibilities, enlarge your circle of relationships, and even change your way of thinking.

Yet another similarity between really experiencing the snow and learning English is that both are best done using all of your senses, or as many senses as you possibly can. To fully appreciate the snow and experience it most memorably, you should not only see the sparkling snow. You should feel its chilliness against your cheeks and hear the crunch of snow under your shoes as you walk in it. You should even try to taste its icy goodness melting on your tongue. Admittedly, smelling or describing snow’s scent might require more creativity and imagination on your part, unless you collect some snow (avoid yellow snow) and add other ingredients to your freshly collected snow to make snow ice cream. Then whatever snow ice cream flavor you made can be the scent of snow to you. Nonetheless, you’ve just thought about snow trying to use all your senses. If you do get to experience snow with all of your senses, perhaps the total experience will be frozen in your memory banks forever.

Similarly, when you are learning English, try to use all of your senses, even when the language skill you are focusing on seems to predominantly rely on one sense. For example, typically if you are trying to improve your listening skills, your sense of hearing is at the forefront. However, even when you are concentrating on improving your listening skills, you can try to implement more of your senses in your learning process. Don’t just listen to words or phrases if you can find a video related to what you are learning in English. Use your sense of sight and hearing coupled together for a stronger learning experience. To incorporate your sense of smell into your listening learning process you may have to get a bit more creative. Maybe you could use an invigorating essential oil in a diffuser as you are listening. Some scents are reported to help stimulate productivity, increase your focus, or even put you in a peaceful or positive mood. Utilizing your sense of taste while improving your listening skills also might require you to use your creativity. If you are listening to new vocabulary words you could write the words or important phrases in something fun like chocolate pudding or use small pieces of candy to form your vocabulary words. Doing so would incorporate your sense of touch and your sense of taste as you could eat some of the pudding or candies while listening. Otherwise, perhaps you could just grab your favorite snack as you listen and write. As a chocolate lover, I can vouch that chocolate might not be the answer or solution for everything, but it might make whatever situation you find yourself in more enjoyable.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that learning English can be similar to experiencing a powerful blizzard. Just as snow can change plans or dramatically impact people’s lives, learning English also has the power to alter plans and impact lives. Finally, to make your English learning experience more memorable, use as many of your senses as possible when you are studying or practicing English. As an ancient Chinese proverb states, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Don’t get left out in the cold when it comes to your English learning. Realize that learning English well can be a life-impacting event. It makes sense to use as many of your senses as possible not only to make your English learning enjoyable but to also freeze the English you’ve learned into your mind so you can remember and use it.

braving the elements—go outside in stormy or severe weather

as snug as a bug in a rug—a rhyming expression meaning that you are warm and cozy

chillax—a combination of the words chill (out) and relax, used informally to express the idea of calming down, relaxing and not stressing over a situation

whiteout conditions—condition where visibility is hampered by snow, fog, etc.

elbow grease—hard work

snow job—a huge effort to persuade, or deceive someone by using flattery or exaggeration

sell ice to an Eskimo—an expression that describes an excellent salesperson or someone who can easily persuade or convince someone to “buy into” or agree with them

snowball into—accumulate into, gradually turn into or form something

left out in the cold—to be excluded

it makes sense—it is logical, reasonable or understandable

Written by Nancy Goracke for EnglishClub December 2019
Nancy Goracke is an experienced online English teacher with Topic-Time. She is dedicated to helping students improve their English communication skills and reach their English goals.


Leave a comment