Some students are patient and others are very impatient. Some students are diligent and others want to communicate as much as possible and as quickly as possible. The ones I see improve most quickly are the impatient ones. Why?
Hungry for language
Impatient students are hungry for language and they will try to soak up as much as they can in any way possible. Books, radio, podcasts, DVDs, making friends, joining organisations.
Urge to communicate
Impatient students need to communicate and this need comes from their heart. They want to talk to people and use the language they are learning and share the passion they have in their lives with someone.
They are not ‘good at studying’
Impatient students don’t study grammar with books very often unless someone has told them that their grammar stops them being understood. They don’t sit down with books they don’t enjoy. They don’t always do their homework but they come to lessons prepared to talk.
They don’t care about being perfect, they care about being good enough.
On they other hand, students who try to be perfect and diligent usually take a long time to speak, but their grammar is perfect. They are nervous about mistakes. However, if you make a mistake, nobody will cry; in fact, nobody cares about the mistake but you. You can’t communicate outside the classroom by taking one minute or more per sentence because people will walk away.
Be good enough. Perfect is an unrealistic goal. Native speakers are not perfect all of the time. Try to be as natural as possible and be understood, because what is language for? It is for communication.
If you want to be quicker at speaking here are some things to try:
- reading aloud;
- mimicking television shows, DVDs and podcasts (using the pause and rewind buttons if you need to use them); and
- talking to yourself, perhaps even recording yourself.
There are other things in life. You may have a job, several interesting hobbies, a social life. Many of these things are more interesting than studying English most of the time.
Do you want to be great? It doesn’t just happen to you. How much your English improves depends on how much time you put in to actually studying.
Having podcasts play while you sleep and read messages from your friends in your native language isn’t going to improve your English. The truth? You are probably studying half-heartedly if you are multitasking. If you have an eye on your book and an eye on the television showing news in your own language you are not studying at all. You are putting on a show but nobody other than you cares about your show. You are trying to convince yourself you are studying. I am here today to tell you that you are not.
There are so many things that you could do to make up your study time.
If you think I am being harsh, I am. But I could be harsher. I could be Tyler Durden.
If you want to get better, you could book a lesson with me.
Should you pay to study? Some students do very well with free study material while others like to have a lot of textbooks. It can be quite expensive to buy a lot of textbooks but there are also advantages. I am going to talk about the pros and cons of studying using free material and textbooks.
The best things in life are free?
There is so much available on the internet for free that anything you want is often just a Google search away. There is music, video, text, speaking practice and even grammar and vocabulary exercises. You can even download books legally from places like Project Gutenberg.
Sometimes you need a little bit more structure to your study and without a textbook, teacher or mentor to guide you it may be difficult to know what you need to study and in what order.
You get what you pay for?
Not all textbooks are equal. Sometimes expensive textbooks are worse than cheaper options. Sometimes you may pay a lot of money to a language school who give a lot less to the experienced or inexperienced teacher in the room than you think. Before you spend your money, think about whether it is worth it. Read some of the textbook in the shop, or ask for a demonstration lesson.
Spending your money can be a great way to keep your motivation up. It’s like all those people who would never exercise if they didn’t pay for gym memberships. However, be aware that a lot of people also pay for gym memberships and never go. If you would like to take a lesson with me, look here.
Myself, I buy nice running shoes and go running on the street almost every day and my wife criticises my Japanese grammar and vocabulary every day. I read free magazines and web pages and make word cards.
“I want to use English,” my students say, “but I don’t have anyone to talk to apart from you.”
“What about writing a diary?” I suggest.
“I never keep to it. I always abandon it after a week or so.”
In which case, here are some other suggestions.
The first one is from my student who makes her to-do list in English every day. It’s a daily habit and it means she keeps using English and it has to be clear.
Next is the logbook, which is not quite a diary, but a list of the things you have done. It might be a list of the study activities you have done, or in the case of the artist Austin Kleon, a list of all the day’s notable activities. I keep one about this website (in English, my mother tongue) and one about my running (in Japanese, my second language). I have found that the more you do this, the more motivated you become to keep going with your goals so it’s definitely worth trying.
If you know any other easy ways to use English every day leave a comment to share your idea with others.