Do you get discouraged about the time it takes your students to improve their spoken English? Or do you, as a language learner yourself, feel that something is ‘wrong’ with you, that maybe you’re just not good at languages?
Don’t think that way. It’s NOT true!
Hey there. I started learning Spanish three years ago and I am a slow learner. I’ll explain.
(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories.)
When it comes to any kind of learning. I am a slow learner and that’s okay. Three years ago on the 1st of June, 2018, I started to learn Spanish. I started working at Spanish by listening and watching videos. Just like you’re doing, just like you’re getting input from your teachers or you’re seeking out input that you understand.
In three years, I have spent about 2,400 hours watching, listening, reading, and using my Spanish more and more. My goal for this year 2021 is to find more opportunities to practice speaking. And I have. I speak now more often during the week. But what I have observed is that I speak slowly, more slowly than other Spanish learners. I stop and pause and think often about how I should say something. I mess up my pronunciation of words, words that I know from hearing and reading, but I haven’t said them and I get them wrong. And that’s okay.
I learned French starting when I was 14. And then I ended up teaching French for 27 years. And I know about myself that I took longer than a lot of people to acquire French. But now I feel very proficient and comfortable and fluent in French and it feels good. That’s a lot of years and that’s okay.
I also know that in other areas of my life, I take longer than other people to learn, to get good at something. I like to write. I write every day, it’s taking me a long time to learn to write well, with skill. And that’s okay.
I have two tips for you then to encourage you. If you’re at that intermediate level and you’re feeling discouraged. If somebody told you ‘by this time, you’ll be fluent!’ and you realize I’m not fluent in English yet. That’s normal. We all learn at different rates.
Think about little kids learning to walk. There’s no magic age – “All toddlers should be able to walk now.!” No, each child learns differently, takes more time. It’s okay. That’s normal.
You see the picture on the screen? It’s of a rabbit and a turtle. Another word for rabbit is hare. Not this kind of hair, it’s spelled differently. And another word for turtle is tortoise. So, there’s a story about the tortoise and the hare. And they had a competition, a race to go a certain distance.
The rabbit, the hare, started off fast and got tired and took a break. And the turtle, the tortoise, just plodded on. Plodding is a great English word to plod along means to move slowly, but steadily, without stopping. I am a language plodder. And that’s okay.
Eventually both the rabbit and the turtle got to the finish line. Think of your goal for learning English, your level, your desire of proficiency, of being fluent, whatever it is. If you stay in the race, if you don’t stop, you will get there. So what if it takes 10 years or 30 years? It doesn’t matter. What counts is your desire and time Desire plus time equal success.
The other tip I have comes from an old movie in the 1980s called ET, extra terrestrial. And it’s about a creature from space who lands somehow in America. And these kids find him and try to help him get back to his family. The only words he learns is “phone home, E T phone home’. But he communicates, he communicates. The kids understand him. He understands the kids. They’re both from different cultures.
Don’t wait until you can speak perfectly, start using your English. Now here’s what I recommend. When you want to speak English, use your English, just introduce yourself and say, “Hi, my name is _____. I am learning English. You’ll have to help me.” I do that all the time. And with my Spanish: “Soy Maria. Estoy aprendiendo Español. Necesitas ayudarme!” and then they do! Their expectation of me has dropped. My stress level has dropped, and that helps.
So, remember: your pace, the time it takes you to acquire English is individual. As long as you have a strong desire and don’t stop, you’ll reach your goal. I’m certain of that. Well, that’s it for this episode. I’m Maria from English without Fear. Talk to you next time.
(Outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)