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No matter where you are on your language learning journey, the fact of the matter is... you’re never done learning. For many, this concept is frustrating. Numerous English learners have told me that they feel frustrated with their ability to grasp different aspects of the language, from the grammar, to the pronunciation, and memorizing useful vocabulary - plus many other things that are essential parts of communicating in any language.
While I sympathize with the frustrations (even I want to know all the words in the dictionary!), I say let’s be proactive about those frustrations by turning them into actions that will actually help you grow and progress.
Let's look at the 3 steps that you absolutely need to take in order to level up your English.
Pssst, there's a helpful freebie you can download by clicking on this picture:
#1. Identify your purpose.
Remember that language is a tool. And what is a tool? A tool is something we use to accomplish task. Tools make tasks easier. Tools help us achieve things that might otherwise be impossible. So, first you must answer this question: why do you need this tool? What are you going to use this tool for? The reality is that there is probably more than one purpose for acquiring this tool. Are you traveling to or moving to an English-speaking country? Are you planning to study in English? Perhaps you need it to advance at work? Delve deep into you answers to gain a very clear perspective of just what your purpose for learning English is.
Here is an example of a common purpose:
“I need to pass the IELTS to study in the UK.”
This, of course, is a valid reason to study a language, but there is much more to it! Once you arrive in the UK you’ll need to communicate with your professors, your peers and the general public. Additionally, do you think you might want to make friends? Or order a coffee? The list goes on!
After even a little thought, the purpose for working to advance in English might seem more important than it did initially. After breaking it down, even ever so slightly, we can see that the purpose for learning English here is much more than passing an exam!
You need to establish answers to these questions. Why? Because these are your motivations. They are what make you see value in it. Why would you put effort into anything you do if you don't see a purpose for it? Motivation is what gets you started! This is why you need to give it some thought.
The next step is non-negotiable, so ready carefully!
#2. Consider your mindset.
Don’t give up before you’ve even begun.
“Why can’t I?”
“I can’t become fluent.”
“I can’t understand native speakers!”
“I can’t because I’m scared!”
These are thoughts that will hold you back and make you believe that what you want is impossible. Ditch that negativity and instead, ask yourself, “How can I?” Your mindset plays a huge role in your progress. For example, “I’ll never be fluent in English” should become “how can I become fluent in English?" Take the time to shut down a mindset that is encouraging your failure. Create a list of "how-can-I" questions for yourself...because there are, most definitely, answers! You, and you alone, are in control of making it happen and it all begins with a mindset that sees the possibilities.
I don’t usually encourage comparing yourself to other people, but I want you to realize that other people have achieved fluency. If it’s been done before, that means you can do it, too! You have got to believe in yourself. I am absolutely positive you have already accomplished other “impossible” things in your life. Without a doubt, fluency in English could be your next accomplishment!
Once you know your purpose for learning English, and you know without a doubt that it is possible and you can, indeed, do it, you’ll need to tackle step 3.
#3. Make a realistic plan.
You are responsible for what you do (and what you don’t do), so what actions are you going to take to improve your English?
A key word in this step is realistic. If you plan something that is too difficult, or too time consuming, you’re more likely to fail. Make some simple changes, such as switching the language on your devices to English.
Here’s another idea: dedicate 15 minutes a day to doing something in English– no excuses. Listen to a podcast, watch a YouTube video, read a blog, etc. Do something you enjoy. Write down what you are going to do in a journal like the one I have created for you or in a note on your phone, so you can both visualize and keep track of it. At the end of the week (or the month) when you see what you’ve accomplished, you’ll feel great! Not only that, you'll have developed a habit.
Remember, I can help you and guide you in your English journey, but the majority of the work is in your hands. Learning is not a passive activity; you need to be actively involved in your learning in order to make real progress.
I recommend you write all three steps down for yourself – your purpose, your “how-can-I?” positive mindset questions and your plan of action. I’d love to hear some of your ideas in the comments section!
Thanks for reading!
Wishing you a happy new year,
Shereen (an English nerd!)