WWP: The Biggest Thing Holding Your English Back
Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.
Today I’m going to be talking to you about the biggest thing holding you back from improving your English, as well as why it’s holding you back, and how we can overcome it.
So, what do you guys think the biggest thing holding you back from learning English and improving your English is?
In terms of learning languages I find the biggest thing holding people back, and that holds me back from improving in a language, obviously not English, but other languages like French and Portuguese, is fear of making mistakes, fear of being incorrect, the fear that getting anything less than 100% correct is failure.
When does this occur?
So, this might occur at school, in class, in social situations like parties.
It could happen in public when you’re trying to buy something or have a conversation with a stranger.
It could happen at work with colleagues, with your boss, or in job interviews and those kinds of formal situations.
Where does this problem originate?
And where does this problem really originate from?
For me, at least, I think this problem originates from learning a language at high school, learning a language in a class environment where you only get rewarded for being 100% correct.
There’s no points for being understood.
And I don’t feel that this really translates to the real world where you don’t get any points in real life for being 100% correct.
You don’t get any points, or any bonus points, for being 100% grammatically correct, for using the exact correct article, for using the right verb tense.
And what do you guys think you get points for?
You get points for being understood, for being able to get the message inside of you and send that to the person that you’re speaking to, and for them to understand you.
If they can understand what you’re saying, you’ve achieved your goal.
You don’t get extra points for them understanding what you’re saying with 100% correct grammar, with 100% correct pronunciation, with 100% correct intonation or rhythm or article use, whatever it is.
Why does this hold us back?
So, why does this hold us back, guys?
It holds us back for multiple reasons.
Fear of being incorrect or fear of making mistakes prevents us from being able to practice as much as we would, as much as we could, or as much as we should.
It prevents us from experimenting with the language.
We don’t try and use things that we’re not 100% certain are correct in this example, in this situation.
It also prevents us from having more organic and natural interactions with native speakers.
So, if we can’t feel comfortable, if we can’t feel confident, if we can’t feel at ease it’s a lot harder to have meaningful interactions with native speakers and get the most out of those interactions.
How can you overcome these fears?
So, what can you guys do to overcome the fear of being incorrect, the fear of making mistakes?
This is really really simple guys.
Don’t aim to be 100% correct, aim to be understood.
So, I’m going to say that again.
Don’t aim to be 100% correct, aim to be understood.
So, what do I mean by this guys?
Aiming to only speak or write in English when you know you’re going to be 100% correct is like training to run a marathon by reading books and watching YouTube instead of actually running.
So, it’s important to learn things from books and from YouTube, but ultimately, if you want to run a marathon you need to run, you need to get out there.
You may not run very well at first.
Maybe you can only run a kilometre, maybe you can only run 5kms, but you can’t get to that goal of being able to run whatever it is, 42, 46km that’s in a marathon, I think it’s 28 miles, if you don’t get out there and practice.
And it’s exactly the same thing with English, guys.
You can’t… there is not enough in the world that you can read and there is not enough in the world that you could watch, not enough research you could do, not enough that you could listen to that you would finally be able to open your mouth and speak English perfectly.
The only way, the only way for you to improve your English, especially in terms of speaking, and writing, but speaking primarily, is to do it. Is to get out there and practice it.
Just like running a marathon the only way to get good at running marathons is to run marathons, or is to at least get out on the street and start running and work towards being able to run a marathon.
So, speaking English is much the same.
A lot can be learnt from reading and listening, but to speak and write well, you have to speak and write a lot.
To speak and write well, you have to speak and write a lot.
So, don’t let wanting to be 100% grammatically correct paralyse you.
Don’t let it prevent you from practicing.
Ultimately, the goal is to be able to convey the message, to communicate with other people, to send and receive information.
And if you can do that, who cares?
Who cares if you’re not grammatically correct?
Who cares if you’re not 100% grammatically correct right here, right now?
That comes later. That comes later.
We can all aim to eventually be grammatically correct.
We can all aim… I’m constantly aiming to do that.
I still make errors, but I don’t let those errors prevent me from speaking.
I don’t let those errors prevent me from practicing or prevent me from interacting with other people.
So, that’s probably one important point that I need to state.
It’s not that I think that you should never aim to improve your grammar.
It’s the complete opposite.
You should always be aiming to improve your grammar, to be aiming towards being 100% correct, but don’t let the fact that you want to eventually be as correct as possible, and to speak English as well as possible, prevent you from speaking it today, prevent you from speaking it now, prevent you from practicing as much as possible.
So, that leads me onto the last little section here guys where I want to talk about the benefits of not giving a damn.
The benefits of not giving a damn
The benefits of not giving a damn.
What do I mean by this?
Worst case scenario, let’s go over that guys.
Worst case scenario, someone doesn’t understand you.
You feel awkward and embarrassed for a moment, the conversation’s ended and both of you forget that that ever happened within 5 minutes, maybe, 10 minutes, not even?
That’s it. That’s pretty much it, guys, at least in most general situations the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you make so many mistakes that the other person doesn’t understand what you mean.
They feel a bit awkward and embarrassed, you feel a bit awkward and embarrassed and the conversation ends.
But, what’s the best case scenario in not giving a damn?
The best case scenario is that you improve your English instantly, you know.
Every conversation that you have, straightaway, you make a mistake, whether or not you actually notice that mistake right then and there you’ve had English practice, but if you do notice the mistake you’ve just found something you can fix.
So, you meet new and interesting people as well.
You make a lot of friends.
Again, I’m not only friends with people learning English who’re only correct.
I’m friends with everyone.
I don’t mind at all. We’re all here to improve and get better.
Another point would be that you learn to enjoy practicing English a lot more.
You stress less when you practice.
You’re less anxious when you practice.
Instead of being worried about practicing, you look forward to practicing, you revel in your mistakes, you seek out your mistakes, you then crush your mistakes, and as a result of your mistakes you rapidly improve and you take your English to the next level.
The best part about not being understood
So, the best part about not being understood.
This can happen in conversations where you say something and people are a little confused as to what exactly you might mean.
These moments are actually really really good, because they force you to do multiple things.
They force you to find another way to say what you were trying to say, or they force you to try and say it again with better pronunciation.
They force you to have to go around, around, that obstacle that just came up.
So, you have to learn to improvise using your English.
And improvisation is what is ultimately going to take your fluency in English right to the top, right to where mine is.
I’m improvising right now, guys, and I didn’t do that because I read a lot and I watched a lot on YouTube.
I did that a lot because I practice a lot.
I sit here in front of a camera and I talk a lot.
I speak to people and I use English every day.
It’s a continual process, but I have to do it in order to be good at it.
Mistakes solidify the correct grammar
Mistakes will solidify what ends up being the correct grammar, or the correct phrasing, the correct words to use. It’s going to solidify these in your memory.
And I have a really good example of this in French. I used to say all the time, “Je suis éxcité!”, which means, at least, in terms of what I thought it meant, I thought it meant “Je suis éxcité”, “I am excited”.
And French speakers are going to laugh here.
In French, when I translate exactly, “I am excited”, “Je suis éxcité”, it means “I’m turned on. I’m horny.”.
And this was a mistake that I made a few times.
I wanted to, you know, go to the park or I wanted to go to the movies, and I would say, “I’m really excited.
I can’t wait”, you know, in English it’s fine, but in French it meant I was really horny.
People pulled me up on this.
They said, “Ah, dude, you can’t say that. Don’t say that unless you mean this, and that’s definitely not what you mean in terms of wanting to go to the film, wanting to go to the movies.”, and it’s the kind of thing now that I will never forget.
I will never make that same mistake again, because of that mistake that I made and being pulled up on it, being corrected, and having that moment.
It was really really good.
So, it’s almost a good reason to go out and look for these kinds of errors that you’re going to make, because people will pull you up on them, people will take you aside, and they’ll say, “Actually, don’t say that because it means this.” or “It doesn’t make any sense. And say this”, and when you have those kinds of interactions you’re a lot more likely to remember not to do that next time.
Mistakes are an excuse to laugh
One third thing that’s sort of leads on from that last point is also that mistakes can be funny, and this was definitely the case in… when I said, “Je suis éxcité”.
When I said “I’m horny” or “I’m turned on” instead of “I’m excited”.
This was definitely the case where it was incredibly funny.
So, making mistakes can often lead to humorous exchanges with other people.
You’ll all have a laugh and you’ll have to better explain what you meant.
You’ll make friends by doing this, because ultimately it’s a lot easier to have a conversation with someone who is fun, who’s funny, who’s relaxed, and who just enjoys talking, who doesn’t mind making mistakes.
If you’re comfortable and relaxed and much more open to laughing at yourself, as well as others, it’s a lot easier to have a conversation.
And it’s so much easier to practice a language when you’re enjoying the conversation and it’s just flowing.
When you relax more, you’re more confident and you’re less worried about not just making mistakes but whether or not the mistakes even matter.
If you guys can communicate and the other people understand then I’ll make all the mistakes I can I’m just having fun.
So, don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourselves guys.
This is a very Australian thing where we don’t take ourselves seriously, and if you can laugh at yourself then what can anyone else do to you?
So, let’s finish up there guys.
A little takeaway message.
Obviously, be an ESL student, an English as a Second Language learning student who revels in their mistakes, who’s proud of their mistakes, who seeks out their mistakes, who tries to find their mistakes, analyse their mistakes, who then crushes their mistakes.
So, find these mistakes, fix these mistakes, and then rapidly improve your English and move on.
When you look for all your mistakes and start fixing them one by one pretty quickly, or at least eventually, you’re going to run out of mistakes.
So, this’s such a good way of being able to find the things that you do currently get wrong in English, fixing those things in English, and then taking your English to the next level, and not only that, but speaking more confidently, being less worried about speaking English, and just being more at ease and more relaxed when you have conversations with natives or with foreigners alike.
I want to leave you with a quote here, guys, from Nelson Mandela, and the quote is, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”.
And on that note guys, I’ll see you in the next episode. All the best!
We can’t… we can’t feel relaxed, we can’t feel at ease, we can’t feel comfortable if we’re constantly worried, if we’re constantly paranoid about being correct, or that we’re going to make a mistake.
God there’s sirens going crazy today.
Goddamn sirens! Sirens!
I’ll just wait. Just wait.
Come on. Come on. Jesus.