When the foreign student of English first comes to England he realizes, as perhaps he has never realized before, the difference between possessing a theoretical knowledge of the language and possessing the capacity for using the language in everyday speech. Hitherto he may have looked upon his work either as an interesting linguistic study or as a tedious but necessary preliminary to the passing of some dreaded examination. He is perhaps able to decipher an English text with tolerable accuracy; he is more or less able to translate into classical English the conventional sentences which form the "exercises" contained in his "English Course"; the range of his vocabulary and the extent of his knowledge of classical grammar are such as have enabled him to gain sufficient marks to pass some examination. He may even have paid some attention to the "conversational" side, and have satisfied his teacher as to his capacities for giving oral answers to the set questions contained in his text-book.But on his arrival in England he finds that his relation towards the language has necessarily changed.
English is no longer either an abhorred school-subject nor a fascinating literary hobby; it has now become the medium of communication between himself and the people by whom he is surrounded. His personal comfort depends on his being able to understand and to speak the English of daily converse. Unless he can express his wants, his wants will not be attended to. If he is not able to communicate readily and intelligibly with the policeman, the shopkeeper, the landlady, and his English acquaintances, he will find himself involved in misunderstandings and at cross purposes with the people who constitute his environment.