Learning English Effectively
Why is it that despite the same Business English training, the same trainer, the same number of learning hours, the same learning conditions, some participants can make substantial progress and achieve great results, some achieve very little, but most usually end up somewhere in the middle?
This has been a question I have been asking myself since the beginning of my English Training career. A question which has enabled me to continuously improve my own training and help more and more participants to get much better than average results.
This question has generated answers and insights that I believe should be implemented and promoted in ALL training and learning – not just my Business English Training.
In this series of posts, I will attempt to outline the core ingredients of effective and accelerated learning and provide you with some practical tools and techniques that will allow you to learn more effectively and get much better results. But, in this specific post I will provide a simple overview of each factor that contributes to effective learning, which will then be expanded on in future posts.
Learner Psychology, Mind-Set & Personal Traits
Do you know your behaviours are driven by forces you may not even be conscious of? Therefore…
All your results are determined by these same forces that you may not be even aware of!
Self-image - Definition of Self
I am going to start with the most powerful driver and influencer of human behaviour. Tony Robbins says the most powerful force in human behaviour is the need to act consistently with who we believe we are – our perception of self, often referred to as our self-image. This basically means if we truly believe and see ourselves as a person who always follows through, always does what is necessary to reach their goals, this is what we will ultimately drive our behaviour, thus the results we get.
If however, we see ourselves as a loser, who always gives up, then guess what, this is what is going is going to manifest in our lives. Even if you start our English Learning journey with all guns blazing, mega-motivated and ready to kick arse, if this behaviour is not aligned with your own self image and beliefs, guess what? Your own psychology will say “what the F##k is going on here, this aint you, I am not having this!
From this point on your own self-image will work against you and bring you back to your normal level and familiar behaviour. Basically, your own self-image or psychology will never let you get the results, the success that you can’t truly see yourself getting. I know… it sucks!!
Have you ever asked yourself what the real influences of your decisions are? Why you prefer one situation over another? The answer lies at the core of your character, of what defines you as a person; and that is your personal value system. Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.
Let’s say you want to move up the career ladder and to get there, you need to take your English communication to a very high level. So, you choose to embark on a new English learning experience, determined to get from your intermediate level B1 all the way up to a C2 advanced level. You specifically define and set your goals like a true expert and break them down into manageable steps and you commit to spending a few hours each day on improving your English. You get started and get stuck into getting from A to B.
But there is a problem after a few days or a week there is a problem. You start to lose motivation, there are excuses for not following through, you gravitate towards other activities – your hobbies, other important projects, family time, watching TV.
As mentioned above this could easily be caused by your self-image, but another reason is your values. You see whenever you take on a new goal, a change, a new hobby or start to make different choices, you are ultimately saying no to the multitude of other things you could be doing. Now some of these things you don’t give a dam about, but there are likely to be one or 2 that you do, and because of your new English learning goal they are not being done.
So, you have 2 opposite forces – 1 pulling you towards your English and 1 towards watching football on TV. Without consciously choosing and reinforcing your new behaviour and empowering your new value, you will always be drawn to the value that is most important. So, if football is more important, eventually football will win and the English learning will dwindle and the goal will die.
Beliefs have a powerful impact on your behaviour and choices that you make, especially as we have already discussed above relating to self.
I have heard many statements in my business English classes that demonstrate people’s beliefs – some actually very funny! But what many don’t realise, is the power that these spoken statements and beliefs have over the results you will ultimately get. For instance, the beliefs “I am too old”, “I have the wrong brain to learn languages”, “I have always been bad at learning English”. “I hate English grammar” will all be very destructive to your performance and learning capabilities.
However, empowering and productive beliefs like, “I can learn easily”, “I can learn anything I set my mind to” “English is so simple” will enable you to learn effectively and deliver great results. Beliefs tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies – you get what you believe you will get.
Before you can set any goal, create any strategy or embark on your English learning journey, it is essential to have clarity. Clarity is the knowing and the understanding of what exactly you want, what you need to learn, and very VERY importantly, why you need it, why your goal is important.
An area of clarity that is often over looked and I see time and time again in my Business English training is related to “What are you willing to give up in order to reach your goal?” and “What problems, fears and obstacles are you willing to face and overcome?”.
When I ask my new highly motivated participants “what do you want to achieve, what are your goals?” and they say something like “I want to speak English fluently and be able to easily and confidently talk about my job, world affairs, etc”. I say that is great, that is a great goal. However, the mood usually takes a bit of shift when they realise what they must invest and more so, what they must give up in order to make this a reality.
You see not many consider this when they are overcome with a desire or they set a new exiting goal. But it is probably one of the biggest predictors of success. “What are you willing to give up?” “What problems and pain are you willing to accept, face and overcome?”. The answers to these questions are what matters, not “What do you want?”.
From Focus comes power. But first to have focus, one needs clarity. People often complain, I don’t have enough time, I am too busy to learn English properly, but it is never about not having enough time. People who say they don’t have enough time, just don’t have clarity on their priorities, their values and on what’s truly important. Because they don’t have this clarity, they are controlled their moment by moment events and their impulses and emotions.
As Tony Robbins says, “You can achieve what matters most to you, but first you must be clear and focused on what you truly want”. If you are truly committed to learning English, you have clarity on your goal and purpose (the why?), to get great results you just now need to tune into the abundance of power you have at your disposal by directing your focus. Be conscious and aware of your goal, of what is important, remove the distractions, make conscious decisions and use your focus to direct your decisions, behaviour, use of energy and attention.
Desire is the starting point of all success. Without desire there is no success. Without desire, a true burning desire, when the going gets tough, the tough wins and many will quit. It will be desire that helps you get through the struggles and difficult moments of your English learning adventure. It is desire that gets you to follow through and do what needs to be done, even when you don’t feel like it.
So before you embark on English learning journey or commit to any new goal, make sure you have the desire. Are you hungry? Are you fired up? If your answer is a not a resounding “YES” but more like a “so la la”, do yourself a favour and find a new goal that matters!
If your motivated, be careful though – not all desires are the same. Ask yourself WHY do I have this desire? What is the source of this desire? It is said one of the most common desires comes from the need to escape from pain, especially boredom.
I have seen this in my Business English Training. People attend English to escape from their job because it is boring or maybe their colleagues or manager are annoying. These desires are not the desires that will propel you to success and get your great results in your English communication development – they are just an escape, any distraction that is better than the current pain would be appealing.
A true desire is aligned with your deep held and core values. So for example, if providing family security and going on amazing luxury holidays is a core value, and you think improving your English will take you up the career ladder and increase your income, then this desire will be more pure and much more powerful and long-lasting.
How you feel in any given moment (the state that you are in), drives your choices and determine your actions + hence what shows up in your life and the results you will get. If you come home from work feeling exhausted after a hard, stressful day, do you think it is going to be easy to get yourself to use even more energy by practicing your English – especially when your favourite TV show is on? Plus, even if you do manage to do your English work, how effective do you think the practice will be?
Clearly one can see how vital your moment to moment state (how you feel) is in determining your levels of success. Therefore, it is imperative that you take control of your state. This can be done in a number of ways but basically falls into 3 categories.
Physiology – move your body, exercise, get you body pumping, put your body posture in a strong powerful position, eat good nutritious food, drink lots of water.
Focus – Whatever you focus on you will feel. If you focus on your shitty day, your argument with your boss, how tired you are feeling…guess what? You’re going to feel shit. Where focus goes, energy flows – so guide your focus on what you want to create, not what you want to forget or avoid.
Meaning – The words you use to describe an experience become your experience. One of the faculties that us humans have, that no other species has is the power to choose our own meaning. If you have a bust up with your partner and you choose to give the event the meaning of “she does not love me anymore” – well I guess this could lead to a pretty bad feeling and you are not going to be in the mood to study or learn effectively. However, if you choose the meaning “she is just tired, stressed and needs some time to herself”, this will make you feel much less bad, than the former, and the chances of following through your commitments will definitely be greater.
During my almost 10 years of Business English training one of the observations I have made is the power of responsibility – or self-responsibility. It has been clear to me that the participants who take full responsibility for their learning are the ones who progress the quickest.
So how does responsibility show up in a training session or through the training program. Firstly, participants who are self-responsible have a much better idea of what they need to learn, what their preferences are, they know how they like to learn. Secondly, they are more proactive and less passive. They will happily guide the training by making suggestions offering ideas on how to improve, they will support the other learners. Basically, they don’t have the attitude that “you are the trainer and it is your job to train and make all the decisions”. Finally, and most importantly they take responsibility for their results and performance. They will never blame or complain that this lesson was not good enough, or this lesson was boring and irrelevant, they won’t say my English is not getting better, it is your fault (the trainer) for not training me properly. Rather they take action to make it better. You see responsible learners know they always have a choice; therefore, they are the ones who decide what happens in the lesson, they have the power to make the training more enjoyable and effective.
Persistence & Self-Discipline
Let’s be clear, if anybody is ever going to make any kind of significant change, reach any kind of notable goal, be successful, or make a considerable jump in their English communication skills, there is going to be for sure moments of difficulty, problems, pain, inconveniences, temptations to just sit on the sofa easing chips and sipping a glass of red wine. For the average person or the person without a real desire to reach their English learning goals, there will be occasions where sitting on the sofa watching TV wins. But for those with self-discipline, those who know what matters and why it matters, they will tap into their reserves and follow through on what they know must be done…even when they don’t feel like it.
Another situation that you face when working towards English speaking goals will be “am I actually getting better?” “is this working?” “Maybe this is just a waste of time and energy”, “will I ever speak fluently?”. In these moments of doubt, this is where the persistence muscle has to kick-in. Children are the masters of this. “Can I watch TY?” “No!” After about 25 “Can I watch TV?” you are begging the child to just leave me alone, “I can’t take anymore, of course you can watch TV”. Attaining any worthy goal will require an investment of persistence. Keeping going, when in doubt. Great results and big progress will never be made, if you give up at the first sign of difficulty and resistance.