I now speak English well, or at least that is what I am told (it’s normal, no matter what our level of English, to feel we could be better)!
And one question that I am often asked, by both native English-speakers and by non-native speakers alike, is ‘how did you learn to speak English so well?’
I decided to write down the steps I followed. Hopefully, these steps will inspire you to speak English and will give you the confidence to do it.
1. I was motivated to learn
You don’t need to be a professional psychologist to understand that motivation is key to almost any activity that you decide to get involved in. In learning a new skill, such as a language, your level of motivation is really important. If you are not motivated, it will be hard to become good at anything.
I was highly motivated to learn English. I understood that to get a good job in my area of expertise (software) I needed to understand and speak English well to get a good job in the future, maybe in Europe or in the USA.
Of course, that can add pressure, but I didn’t see it like that. I saw it as an opportunity. And for that reason, I was able to successfully able to proceed through the following steps.
2. I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes
The problem with fear is that it paralyzes us: we literally cannot move at times when we are terrified. Of course, I never lost the ability to move when I was learning to speak English, but in the early days, I was nervous: nervous about making mistakes.
But one day, a very good teacher opened my eyes to the fact that mistakes are actually a good thing.
Think about when we are young. How do we know something is hot and not to touch it? Usually, because we start off by touching it…and burning ourselves!
And so it is with learning more or less anything. As long as we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes time after time, we learn how to improve from the errors we make. And this is an incredibly liberating feeling because it frees us from fear: the fear of making a mistake.
So don’t be afraid. Communicate!
3. I took the opportunity to practice as much as I could
There is an old English expression that ‘practice makes perfect’. And so it is with speaking (and reading, writing and listening to) English. And you don’t need to be perfect either!
4. I used as many different tools as I could to help me
There are some incredible tools out there to help you learn English. From grammar and pronunciation apps to vocabulary games, to listening exercises and beyond. Explore some of the options that are available to you, and use your smartphone to learn English on the go.
A writing assistant such as that provided by Linguix provides you with templates that you can use to write in English, having your mistakes corrected along the way (with explanations provided). Similarly, when reading text on the web, you can click and Linguix gives you definitions of any words you highlight, providing synonyms too.
Use the right tools and reach your end-goal quicker!
5. I did the things I liked doing but in English
Of course, you could take part in an English course, and that’s a really good idea: after all, it is important to know the grammar and particular rules that can help you improve every aspect of your English communication.
But don’t just do grammar exercises. No. Instead, look to do all those things you love to do, but in English.
Change the settings on your smartphone to English so every time you browse the internet, English is the default language. If you love football, watch games with commentary in English. Watch movies in English with English subtitles (it’s really important to be able to see and hear the language at the same time due to the differences you find in the pronunciation and spelling of English words).
Listen to singers and bands that use English (and read the lyrics), read articles on your favorite subjects in English, play computer games in English (and converse with English speakers while you do it!)
The point is, learning a language doesn’t mean sitting in a classroom. It means immersing yourself in all the things you love, but in another tongue. You will enjoy the experience, and be motivated to learn. What’s not to like?
6. I spoke to everyone!
Here are a couple of statistics for you. Approximately 350 million people speak English as their native language. Yet another 750 million speak English as their second (or third) language. That tells you two things:
1) In being able to communicate in English, you will have access to an additional billion people at least. Only by learning Chinese could you get access to a similar amount.
2) More than double the amount of people who speak English do so imperfectly (and how many of those 350 million native speakers can claim to never make a mistake wither?) So, in relation to point (2) above on this list, mistakes become ever less important. No one is going to judge you anyway!
The point is, having English opens up so many more possibilities to communicate, so take advantage of that fact as early as you can and start to communicate every time you get the chance. And that doesn’t just mean with native English speakers obviously, as you can now communicate with those millions of Chinese-speakers, Japanese-speakers, Spanish-speakers, German-speakers and so on who can speak English too.
You have just opened up your world, so make the most of it!
7. I enjoyed the experience
It may be a little easier said than done, but if you can enjoy the experience, it will make your time learning English all that much more productive. So have fun!