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!

 

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 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!

Are You Too Stressed To Learn English?

Are you getting frustrated because English rules seem illogical or too different from your native language?

Read on for three ways to feel less stressed when you learn English.

One of the biggest problems learning a new language is that – at the beginning at least – it doesn’t make sense.

Here are a couple of things my students have said to me:

“Why aren’t there masculine and feminine nouns in English? We have these in … (Italian)”

“Why can you use two tenses but the sentence means the same thing?”

“Why don’t you have one word which means the same thing as it does in my language?”

Stop fighting the differences!

If you spend all your time getting frustrated about how English is different, you will stop yourself from making progress. At some point you need to accept that it’s a language with its own rules and concepts. When you do that, you can relax and start seeing the patterns.

My advice is to “go with the flow”. Accept that the rules might not always make sense to you – and that there’s often some flexibility. Sometimes, the rules are less strict. Be tolerant about ambiguity so that you can concentrate on studying English and practising it as much as possible.

3 ways to feel less stressed when you learn English

1. Relax
Just accept the rules for now – and try not to translate into your own language.

2. Experiment
Try to use a new grammar rule or new word. Put things together in a sentence. Ask for feedback.

“Does this sound correct to you?”

“Can I use this word in this situation?”

3. Make mistakes
Mistakes help you test your understanding. Make mistakes so that you get to know a new rule or how a new word works.

Accuracy or Fluency?

The fear of making a mistake can stop you from speaking fluently.

Read on for four ways you can become more fluent – and sound more like a native speaker of English!

Are you worried that you’ll make a mistake when you speak English or that other people will think you’re stupid?

The fear of making a mistake will stop you from speaking fluently. If you’re too much of a perfectionist and aim to be always correct, it means that you  never take any risks when you speak. (So you never try out new words, for example.)

But it also means that you’ll hesitate and pause more – which of course, makes you less fluent.

Native speakers make mistakes all the time

But speaking a language naturally means you’ll make mistakes. After all, you probably make mistakes in your own language, and I certainly do in English! In fact, here are some of the things that native English speakers routinely do:

  • start a sentence with one subject, but change it half way through
  • forget the right word for the situation
  • get the pronunciation wrong
  • slip into “dialect” or non-standard English

Making mistakes is part of using a language. But it doesn’t matter. The important thing when we’re speaking with friends, family, our colleagues and bosses is that we communicate our message.

In some occasions, accuracy is more important than fluency. If you’re writing – and you need your message to be clear, or if you need to make a good impression, such as when you do an exam, then concentrate on the structure and accuracy.

Ways you can sound more like a native speaker

Here are four things that native English speakers do – and which you can copy – so that you speak more naturally.

1. Paraphrase
If you can’t remember or don’t know a word – or if it seems that the other person doesn’t understand you, say it in another way:

“It’s like / similar to …”
“You use it to…”

2. Use checking phrases
Native speakers use phrases like “Know what I mean?” all the time when they want to check the other person understands.

3. Listen
One of the best ways to improve your communication skills is to improve your listening skills. Listening closely to the other person means you’re paying greater attention to what they’re saying (so you’ll probably understand better).

But the other person will probably also focus more on you when you speak. Better focus means better communication.

So don’t try to multitask! When you speak to someone, give them your full attention.

4. Copy native speakers
When native speakers make a mistake, they don’t stop in horror. They do one of these two things:

  • keep going
  • go back to the beginning. If what you say is complicated or confusing, just start again. Say “Let me say that again” and then say it a second time in a simpler way.