1. Be Encouraged – Your English Is Probably Better Than You Think It Is!
Unfortunately, a lot of English learners have a very negative view of their English skills. Do you ever find yourself saying or thinking things like…
- “My English is probably full of mistakes.”
- “I’m afraid to speak, because other people might not understand me.”
- “I’ve been studying for years, but my English is still bad.”
I can tell you honestly – your English is probably better than you imagine. As a teacher, I’ve interacted with hundreds of students. I correct hundreds of homework assignments and exams from students in my courses. So I can say with confidence that most of you are doing great in English!
Yes, of course there is room for improvement. But you already have good English skills, and I can understand your speaking and writing. That’s a really big accomplishment.
So if you tend to have a low opinion of your English, try to eliminate those negative thoughts by focusing on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do yet.
2. Never Compare Your English Skills To Others’
One reason that many English learners have a low opinion of their skills is that they’re comparing themselves to native English speakers or other learners who have reached fluency. If you observe that your English is not as good as other peoples’, you start to think bad about yourself – imperfect, inferior, etc.
Don’t compare – it’s not fair!
Native English-speaking adults have had 20+ years of being immersed in English practically 24 hours a day. We’ve watched thousands of hours of TV in English, we’ve had years and years of instruction in school, read tons of books in English, and participated in millions of conversations in English.
That’s a huge advantage. If you had all that experience, you’d be a native speaker, too. So comparing yourself, as an English learner, to a native English speaker doesn’t make sense. Learning a language later in life is a different experience and can’t be compared to being raised as a native speaker since birth.
You should also avoid comparing yourself to other English learners. The fact is that everyone is different – some people naturally learn faster, some people naturally learn more slowly. Some people have invested more time in studying, other people have studied “on and off.” Some learners have had excellent teachers, other learners have had trouble finding a good teacher or method.
Don’t compare your English skills to anyone else’s. Just focus on your individual progress.
3. Don’t Take Mistakes So Seriously/Personally
MISTAKES – they have the power to make you afraid to use your English… they can also make you feel humiliated when someone corrects you… they represent your failure to know the rules of English… right?
Mistakes only have all that power if you allow them to have such power.
The goal of learning English is to communicate, and the fact is that many mistakes actually don’t damage communication. Forexample:
- If you say “It depends ofthe weather” instead of the correct version “It depends on the weather,” everyone will still understand you (and many won’t even notice the small error).
- If you say “Ilive here for 3 years” instead of the correct version “I’ve lived here for 3 years” or “I’ve been living here for three years,” people will still know what you’re saying.
- If you say “I have a swimming pull in my backyard” instead of “swimming pool” (a pronunciation error), everyone will understand what you meant because of the context of the sentence.
Yes, of course we want to correct these so you can speak more perfectly. But can you see that these mistakes aren’t so serious? That’s why you shouldn’t “beat yourself up” (think strong negative thoughts about yourself).
Sometimes you make a bigger error that does cause a communication problem. This is NORMAL – it’s part of learning a language! Just try to clarify the issue using other words. Think of a different, simpler way to say what you want to say.
For example: my student was talking about a construction project, and he wanted to say that the owner of the house was asking for a budget / a quote (an estimate of how much the construction would cost). However, he didn’t know the English words “budget,” “quote,” or “estimate.” Instead, he said “the owner of the house wants to know how much the work will cost” – it’s a simpler way to communicate the same message.
Just remember that making mistakes does NOT mean you are stupid. Choose to view mistakes as an opportunity to learn, not a disaster!
4. Visualize The End Goal, And Know That Every Bit Of Time You Invest Is Bringing You Closer!
Do you know WHY you want to learn English?
Is it so you can work in a multi-national company? Live in an English-speaking country? Travel and make friends more easily? Pass an exam? Be able to read books and watch movies in English?
Whatever your reason is, try this simple exercise: when you sit down to study English, spend a couple minutes visualizing (imagining) reaching your goal. Imagine yourself speaking English easily without translating in your head. Imagine yourself confidently giving a business presentation in English. Imagine reading a book in English and understanding all the vocabulary – that would feel great!
Then, tell yourself that EVERY study session is bringing you closer to that situation. This makes your studying more enjoyable and more meaningful, because you know that what you are doing is useful and that you are making real progress.
5. Keep A Record Of Your Progress (Success Journal)
Speaking of progress, it’s very motivating to keep a record of what you’ve accomplished. Get a notebook, and after every study session write down the date and a summary of “what I learned today.” This results in three things:
- the act of writing it down helps reinforce it in your memory;
- seeing the notebook fill up with knowledge encourages you that you are learning a lot and making progress;
- having the notebook makes it easy to go back and review things you’ve studied previously.
So, the world is open to you once again through a new language. Go in and let it enrich you. I guarantee that it will be useful in the end. I hope these tips have been helpful. Don’t just read about them – put them into practice!