How To Stay Motivated

When you get to a certain level of English (especially intermediate level) it can be hard to see real progress, and you don’t really feel motivated to keep studying.

You might think “I can communicate well and people understand me. Why should I keep studying when I can’t see concrete results?”

This seems logical. But I want to encourage you to keep going – and to stay motivated. It’s really worth your time, because you’ll start to minimise mistakes, and your English conversations will become much “richer” as a result.

I’d even go further and say that your working relationships will improve. You’ll understand more, you’ll get more out of the conversations, and you’ll deepen your relationships with other people.

So, what can you do to stay motivated when you don’t see “progress” every day? Here are four things that help.

Set aside regular blocks of time

When English study becomes a regular habit, it’s easier to keep going. You DO need to find a time that suits you. Before everyone in your house gets up? 15 minutes after dinner? It doesn’t matter when, but it does matter that you do something every day.

I’m a great believer in short blocks of time, as well. 15 or 20 minutes is a fantastic amount of time to achieve a result.

Aim for small, achievable goals

If you’ve got 15 or 20 minutes every day, set yourself a little target that you know you can reach. That might be to read two pages of a book that you enjoy. (Two pages is quite a lot – especially if you need to look up words.) Or one news article every day.  Or five example sentences of new vocabulary. Or five minutes watching a TED talk (and 10 minutes analysing the script)…

Small, simple goals are great because they give you a sense of achievement – making you feel more motivated.

Keep a journal

This is one of those things that work better over the long-term. Record what you learn in your daily study sessions (maybe a new word or collocation, or better mastery of a grammar rule) and then look back at it after a month, or two months. You’ll be AMAZED at how far you’ve come.

Reward yourself

Go on – give yourself a “pat on the back” or a little chocolate, or even put a gold star in your journal. You’re doing this for you, remember, so you need to see and reward your milestones.

Conversely, don’t “beat yourself up” if you don’t manage the 15 minutes every day. I want this to be fun and rewarding for you – not a punishment! Just try to create strong habits before you start breaking them.

Now go and eat that chocolate!

 

Native Speaker Phrases – Summer Holidays

A quick way to sound more like a native English speaker is to use phrasal verbs in conversation. You don’t need to use them all the time, but one or two in a conversation makes you sound more natural.

Summer Holidays – 10 Phrasal Verbs

If you’re planning your summer holiday, here are 10 phrasal verbs you can use with your colleagues, customers and suppliers.

Get something in

When you “get something in”, you give something to someone who has been waiting for it. Here’s an example:
“I need to get my holiday request in before the end of the month.”

Wind something up

This means to bring something to an end. You can wind up a meeting, or even wind up a company (close it down). But here’s an example for you about holidays:

“I’m winding up my ongoing projects before the August break.”

Tie something up

This has a couple of meanings. If you’re tied up (a phrasal verb with no object), you’re busy. But when you tie something up, you finish it.  We often use “tie up” with “loose ends” (the odd, miscellaneous things that are left over in a project).

“Before I leave on Friday, I have to tie up a couple of loose ends.”

Clear up something

When you clear up, you make something tidy. This could be your house or a room, or your workspace:

“Before I go, I need to clear up my desk.”

Put something away

When you put things away, you put them in their right place.

“I’ve got a few files to put away.”

Hand something over

When you hand something over, you give it to another person. For example, you might hand over something to a colleague before you leave your job, or before you go on holiday:

“I’m handing over my outstanding projects to Sue.”

Sort something out

“Sort out” is one of those phrasal verbs that you can use in lots of different situations. We often use it when we’re talking about organising or arranging something. For example:

“I’ve got to sort out this paperwork” or “There are a few last-minute things to sort out.”

Take out insurance

We use “take out” in many different ways, but one use is to talk about insurance policies. If you take out a policy, you sign the contract and pay the premium.

“We need to take out holiday insurance before we go.”

Cross off / Check off / Tick off something

If you’re someone who always has a “to-do” list, this phrasal verb is for you! When you have a list of things to do, you can cross them off one-by-one as you finish them.

“I’m gradually crossing off everything on my holiday list!”

Stock up (on something)

When you “stock up”, you buy things in quantity so that you don’t “run out” (use up all your supplies). We might stock up on things if we know there will be a shortage, or if we know we’re going to use a lot of something. Here’s a holiday example for you:

“Before we go, we’ll need to stock up on sun cream.”

Phrasal Verb Hints

Lots of people avoid using phrasal verbs through a lack of confidence – and fear of making a mistake. But here are two hints for you so that you can use the phrasal verbs accurately:

Object or no object? 

All the phrasal verbs above can have an object. So you put something away – not just “put away”. It’s important to know this so that you don’t make grammatical mistakes when you use the phrasal verb.

Check the particle 

Have you noticed in the phrasal verbs above how the particle carries meaning? When you know how to use the particle, often the meaning of the phrasal verb becomes clear. Here are some examples:

Up = to do something to completion
Wind up / Clear up / Tie up / Stock up

In = to give to someone in authority
Get in (Also “hand in”)

Over = to someone else
Hand over

Out = to solve problems
Sort out / Take out

Off = to remove (also from a list)
Tick off / Check off / Cross off

Away = put in another place
Put away (Also “tidy away”, “clear away”)

Before You Go!

I specialise in helping you find quick, easy ways to make a big impact on your English.

Book a free 20-minute coaching call with me in the link below and I’ll show you a couple of things you can do NOW to improve your English.

Yes – I’m ready for this!

 

Your English Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Don’t let fear of making a mistake get in your way.

In my article on LinkedIn, I argue that there are only four things you should worry about when you speak or write in English.

Of these, the most important is what happens as a result of what you say. Does the other person understand what has to happen next? Have you answered or clarified a question, or given a clear idea of the next steps?

If you have done all this, it doesn’t matter if your grammar is simple, your vocabulary choice limited, or even that your pronunciation sounds mechanical, choppy or highly accented. I’d also argue that if you’ve done all this in a short space of time, using only the most necessary words, then the other person will thank you for saving their time.

So maybe a different thing to worry about is how to sound more professional when you use English. I’ve given a few suggestions in the LinkedIn article as well.

The “perfection” trap

The problem with perfection is that it stops us from moving forward. When we put most of our effort into perfect English (or the perfect dinner, the perfect present…) we stay with what we know. We “play it safe”. But when it comes to making improvements in English, we need to experiment with new things to make progress.

It will take a few times to practise a new word or a new grammar structure. Mistakes are important in this process, because they show us what we can – or can’t – do with the new item. We need to experiment to completely understand something new.

So maybe a better concern is how to find the place where we can experiment and make mistakes safely and comfortably before using the new word or structure in public.

That’s where friends, teachers and coaches come in! If you’d like to get some feedback on your English, contact me for a free 20-minute consultation. I’ll show you some quick, easy wins that will help you make a great impact in your English.

 

 

The 1% Coaching Method – Quick Speaking Wins

So far we’ve looked at how the 1% coaching method can help you get quick and easy wins in English grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.

In this post, I’m going to show you some ways it will help you when you speak English.

Typical speaking problems

Often, there are two main things that make you less confident about speaking English:

– you aren’t confident that you’ll understand the other person, and

– it takes too long for you to find the words you need to reply to the other person

There are lots of things you can do to improve your listening skills (more on this later), but the second problem can be “solved” more easily.

Often we hesitate because the words or phrases we need don’t come to us quickly enough. When we DO remember what we want to say, the conversation has moved on.

So one thing you can do is use a “holding phrase”. These phrases keep the other person listening and waiting – while you find the right thing to say.

I include this in my 1% coaching because it’s a very small thing in itself, but it has a great impact on how you speak and how you can have a conversation. Here are some holding phrases you can use in two different situations.

To give you time while you find the right words to express your opinion

As far as I know …
As I see it …
That’s a good point and / but …
That’s interesting. In fact …
You know something, I think …

To return back to the subject (you now know what you wanted to say!)

Going back to what we were saying …
By the way, on the subject of …
You know, thinking about …

So next time you need to “play for time” and get the other person to wait while you find the right words, use one of these phrases!

I use the 1% Coaching Method to help you find quick, easy improvements in your English that make a big impact.

If you want help in finding ways you can quickly improve your English, book a free 20-minute coaching call with me in the link below!

Yes – I’m ready for this!

 

The 1% Coaching Method – Quick Vocabulary Wins

One area of English where you can ALWAYS make quick, effective improvements is vocabulary.

With English vocabulary, a great place to start making improvements is “collocations”. These are words which naturally go with other words. So, for example, we say “apply for a job” (not “ask for a job”) or “a dream job” (not “a best job”.)

The “problem” with English collocations is that they’re probably not the same in your language. For example, the verb or adjective that goes with a noun in English may not be the same verb or adjective in your language. This means that it’s easy – and understandable – to make mistakes with English collocations.

Collocation mistakes sound strange to native speakers. Because a collocation is “natural”, it sounds funny when the wrong word is used. Here’s an example I heard recently:

“be full of debt” (“pieno di debiti” in Italian – what would you say in your language?)

A couple of similar mistakes:

“to fill someone with bruises”
“to fill someone with kisses”

Instead, we’d say “have a lot of debt”, or “be in debt”, or even “be heavily in debt”. We’d also “cover someone with bruises” or “cover someone with kisses”. (That’s cute!)

1% Collocation Coaching In Practice – A 3-Step Process

  1. Think about a noun or verb that you use a lot in English – for work or in your daily life. Go and look it up in a dictionary or look online. My recommendation is to search for the word, then type collocation next to it. For example:

job collocation in English

You’ll probably get a link to a collocations dictionary, from where you can see common collocations with that word.

2. Now take a look at the entries. Are you using this noun or verb correctly? Are you using it with the right collocation? Make a note of it and see how you can apply it in your own examples.

3. Then, the next time you use this noun or verb in English, pause for a second so you can remember the correct way to use it.

You can eliminate vocabulary mistakes easily one at a time by checking the collocations. Over time, these improvements add up to a much greater impact.

Want help in finding your 1% English improvements? Book a free 20-minute coaching call with me in the link below!

Yes – I’m ready for this!

The 1% Coaching Method – Quick Pronunciation Wins

Following on from my post about quick grammar wins, I wanted to share with you some ways that you can quickly improve your pronunciation to make a big overall impact.

Pronunciation is a huge area of English, and it’s also an area where people feel most anxious.

But first of all – remember that having a foreign accent isn’t normally a problem. It doesn’t matter if you sound like an Italian, a German or a Mandarin speaker. You can, of course, minimise the features that make your accent sound “strong” – more on this in a future post.

If you’re worried about your accent, make sure that you reduce pronunciation mistakes that could cause misunderstanding. When you do this, you can feel more confident about how you speak.

Two Ways To Improve Your Pronunciation

You can use the 1% Coaching Method on your pronunciation to easily eliminate pronunciation mistakes.

There are two areas to focus on. The first area includes pronunciation features which don’t depend on your first language. These features include word and sentence stress, linking and intonation.

The second area to focus on is individual sounds. Very often, problems with individual sounds are caused by your first language. So this could be r / l problems for Mandarin speakers (and also speakers of Japanese and other oriental languages); or problems with p/b for Arabic speakers, for example.

But some sounds cause problems for speakers of nearly all languages – and one of these sounds is the “ed” ending of regular past participles.

Ed Endings – Easy Solutions

There are three possible ways to pronounce the “ed” ending:

With a “t” sound.
Examples: worked, liked, missed

With a “d” sound.
Examples: opened, delayed

With an “id” sound.
Examples: started, ended

A common error is to use the “id” sound when you don’t need it (typically with verbs ending in “n”.)

Solution: you only need the “id” ending when a verb ends in either “t” or “d”. For all other verbs, your mouth will naturally find the “t” or “d” sound.

Here’s a list of ten common verbs with the “d” ending. Make sure you aren’t saying the “id” ending:

designed
entertained
happened
listened
opened
planned
remained
strengthened
warned
weakened

You can hear the pronunciation here:

What next?

If you’d like more ideas on how you can improve your English through quick wins, get a free (no-obligation) 20-minute coaching call with me. Click the link below:

Yes – Book My Consultation!

The 1% Coaching Method – Quick Grammar Wins

Last week I published an article on LinkedIn about how the 1% coaching method works for non-native English professionals. You can read it here:

The 1% Coaching Method And Why It Works For Non-Native Professionals

How the method works is by improving small details by 1% rather than focussing on doing one thing 100% better. So in terms of English coaching, this means identifying everything that goes into your overall performance in English and improving these aspects by 1% – rather than booking a 60-hour general English course.

The benefits of this type of coaching are huge. For a start, you’re focussed on making real improvement through “quick wins” –  rather than working through a long course. This in turn makes you feel motivated and hungry to get the next 1% improvement. Over time, these 1% improvements create huge overall impact.

In this post, I wanted to share with you some of the ways that you can make immediate improvement.  A simple place to start is with common verb + preposition mistakes, as this is an area that causes a lot of difficulties.

How To Get Your 1% Win – Step By Step

Read through the common preposition mistakes in the list below. I’ve divided them into elementary and intermediate levels.

  • Identify the mistakes that you frequently make, and typical sentences where you make the mistake. Choose ONE to work on.
  • Train yourself to correct the mistake. Start by writing (yes – writing, as it’s the best method to help you remember) FIVE sentences with the correct verb + preposition.
  • The next time you’re about to use the verb + preposition, pause slightly to help you remember the correct preposition.

Here’s the list of 20 verb + preposition combinations.

Elementary – Pre-Intermediate Prepositions

Agree with a person
“I agree with you.”

Arrive at (not “in”) a place
“What time do you arrive at the station / at work / at our hotel, etc.”

Arrive in (not “at”) a city or country
“We arrived in London after a five-hour journey.”

Get married to (not “with”)
“He got married to her last year.”

Go in (not “to”) a building
“”He went in and closed the door.”

Go to (not “in”) a destination
“I go to work / the office, etc at 8 am.”

Listen to (always “to”)
“Listen to me.”

Look at (not “to”)
“Look at her!”

Pay someone for
“I paid him £50 for the chair.”

Search for a person (always “for”)
“They searched for the child for hours.”
“Police searched the house.” (… for the gun)

Spend on (not “for”)
“How much do you spend on rent?”

Think about / of (not “to”)
“What do you think about this sofa?”

Wait for (always “for”)
“Wait for me!”

Intermediate – Advanced Prepositions

Concentrate on (not “to”)
“I’m concentrating on my work.”

Congratulate on (not “of”)
“He congratulated her on the exam result.” / “Congratulations on your wedding.”

Consist of (not “to”)
“It consists of three parts.”

Depend on (not “of”)
“It depends on you.”

Discuss (not with “about”)
“Lets discuss these proposals.”

Stress (not “on”)
“She stressed the importance of the project.”

Welcome to (not “by”)
“Welcome to London!”

What next?

If you’d like more ideas on how you can improve your English through quick wins, get a free (no-obligation) 20-minute coaching call with me. Click the link below:

Yes – Book My Consultation!

 

What Should You Improve First In English?

If I asked you what you should improve first in your English, you might say “Everything!”

Or you might say “You tell me – you’re the coach!”

Both answers are equally correct – but neither address the real problem.

The real problem is time. If you believe, like me, that learning a language is a journey rather than a destination, then you need to prioritise what to improve, based on the time you have available.

Too much to do = No action taken

Have you ever written a long list of things to do and felt so demoralised and overwhelmed by the list that you ended up doing nothing?

This is what it’s like when you realise you need to improve your English. There are so many things you could spend your time on  – exercises, drills, vocabulary lists to “memorise” – that it’s easy just to give up and tell yourself that you can never do all of that.

And you’d be right. You can’t do all those things unless you dedicate your time 100% to improving your English.

But what you CAN do is be selective about what you spend your time on. Work on one, small improvement at a time. These small improvements add up to a much bigger impact over time.

How does this method work in practice?

Three of the biggest areas to make small improvements in are:

  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation

Can you think of  ONE, small aspect in each of these three areas that you consistently get wrong, or get confused by? For example, the preposition that goes with a particular verb; a synonym that you could use to occasionally replace a word you always use; or a sound that you find difficult.

This is your first 1% coaching exercise! 

Spend a few minutes every day working on this small problem area. Write a few example sentences, work out how you can use the correct form in your everyday English. Try it out for a week and let me know how you get on!

How Can You Be Fluent In English Faster?

When you have a busy life, you just don’t have hours and hours of time to dedicate to learning English.

This is why long, traditional English courses can be so frustrating. An hour a week for six months is a big time commitment – but also not long enough to make a big difference in your fluency.

But there are things that you can do to become more fluent in English over a much shorter period of time.

While there are no magic shortcuts to take you from (say) beginner level to advanced level, you can be SMARTER about what you spend your time doing.

In this video, I’ve got five tips and strategies that will help you get fluent faster.  Two of these involve speaking English with other people, but the other three are things that you can do on your own to prepare you for speaking. (This preparation is just as important as speaking itself!)

Together, these five things will help you take control of your path to fluency.

Want to find out more?

Click the link below to watch the video:

5 Ways To Get Fluent In English – Fast

 

 

3 Expert Strategies For When You Make Mistakes In English

Mistakes are an inevitable part of learning a language. Or, in fact, learning anything at all. We learn something new, test it by using it, make a mistake, test again – this time succeeding.

That’s fine for the theory, but when it happens to us, it can feel very different. Language and communication are such “basic” things, that mistakes make us feel embarrassed.

And when we’re speaking with another person, that embarrassment is public. We can’t hide behind a computer. We’re right in front of another person, with our mistakes – and their reactions – on display.

So when people say that mistakes are a necessary part of language learning, this does nothing to make us feel more comfortable with the mistakes.

That’s why in this post, I wanted to look at some strategies for dealing with mistakes. Because they are inevitable. And because they can make us feel bad.

Changing mindset and perception

First of all, it’s important to realise that very often, our own reactions to our mistakes are different to other people’s reactions to our mistakes.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

In my experience as a Cambridge Speaking Examiner, I’ve tested hundreds of students. After the test, I’ve also heard some of them say “That was terrible” or “I made a huge mistake” or “I’ve failed – I didn’t remember the word”.

But the strange thing is that I didn’t remember any of these “huge” mistakes, and that’s especially true if the student was confident.

During the course of a short conversation, the person you’re talking to will remember the main points of what you said – not every word, and not every mistake.

(Of course, if your English is so grammatically incorrect or if you hesitate before every word, the other person will remember that you found the conversation difficult.)

Native speakers are not teachers

Native English speakers will generally find it very difficult to identify or explain a grammatical mistake. If your message is clear enough, they will also have no problem with mistakes.

But, native speakers are more likely to give you suggestions on vocabulary choice or pronunciation.

3 expert strategies

So, what can you do when you make a mistake in English? In this video, I have 3 more expert strategies for you. Two of these are “mindset” strategies, while the third gives you phrases you can use to repair a mistake.

3 Expert Strategies For When You Make Mistakes