I’m no good at languages, I never have been
People will judge me
People will laugh at my accent
I’m going to make mistakes
I’m too old to learn a language
I can’t learn the language if I don’t live in the country where they speak it.
I’m not as good as everyone else
And I could go on…
When it comes to language learning, are any of these thoughts familiar to you? If you answered yes, you are most definitely not alone. Attitudes we have about ourselves, assumptions we make about learning a language and our past experiences can (and often do) hold us back.
I know because it happened to me.
I’ve always loved learning languages. Over the years I’ve learnt German, French, Spanish, Galician, a bit of Mandarin and Arabic and now I’m learning Swedish. I was always a studious language learner but never a confident one. I didn’t have the confidence to speak:
- I was worried what other people would think.
- I was worried about the mistakes I would make (I’m a recovering perfectionist)
- I was worried that I wasn’t as good as everyone else around me.
- I had a French dragon (sorry teacher) who scared the life out of me.
So I didn’t speak.
And so I was frustrated.
And so I lost motivation.
I knew I had to change this if I wanted to become a French teacher. So I did. And I freed my French self.
Fast forward 25 years…
In the classroom I see my students experiencing the same difficulties I had (apart from the bit about the dragon teacher ;-)) They are shy, perfectionist, self-conscious, unconfident… and it’s holding them back.
Now I help students and coachees do what I managed to do. To free their English (in this case) self and be a successful language learner.
1. Know yourself
To learn a language successfully, we need to know so much more than vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. We need to know ourselves; we need to get to know our good friend, the brain. Knowing how our brain likes to learn and how to manage our emotional brain unlocks learning.
2. Do it yourself
Be the protagonist of your own learning. Make your own decisions about what, when and how you are going to learn.
If you have a teacher, don’t expect them to make all the decisions. We learn by doing, be being active. Take responsibility for your own learning.
If you have classes, remember there is not enough time in class alone to become the person you want to be in English. To be successful you need to dedicate time to self study. Check you have the strategies you need to learn effectively.
If you are learning alone, you can do it (with a little guidance.) There are lots of brain-friendly strategies you can use to make good learning happen.
3. Be yourself (in English)
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to become someone else when you speak English. You can keep your identity, express yourself in English and be successful.
Hot news! That means you can keep your accent too!
4. Be kind to yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up about what you can’t do (yet). You’ll get there. Under no circumstances, compare yourself to others..
We all come from different language learning backgrounds and have different skills. Comparing ourselves to others does not help us move forward. It only leads to feelings of inferiority, shame, envy, frustration…
Instead, compare yourself to who you were two weeks ago, two months ago, two years ago. How much progress have you made? What can you do now that you couldn’t then?
You may have guessed by now where my name Your English Self came from. I love to play with words, I’m a language geek, what can I say?
So imagine my delight when I realised that the acronym for Your English Self was YES! which is the last step to freeing Your English Self.
5. Believe in yourself
Think positively. Don’t give up when things get difficult. See difficulties as opportunities to solve problems. Recognise that the effort you are making is taking you one step closer in the right direction. See feedback as an opportunity to get better, not as criticism.
Think YES YES YES. I can do this.
Although we all have doubts about our abilities sometimes (especially when it comes to learning a language) it is possible to change that. Follow these 5 steps to become more independent, confident and feel proud of Your English Self.
Are there any of these steps that you’re already doing? Any that you aren’t doing but you’re definitely going to start doing? Share with us below in the comments.
If you are feeling super motivated and ready to free Your English Self then you absolutely must join The YES Crowd
It’s a members only Facebook group for adult English learners who want to:
- learn how to learn a language better
- become a more independent language learner
- feel more confident in English
- feel EMPOWERED
- meet other learners that think the same
It’s a safe, friendly place you can be Your English Self (no judgment just a whole lot of respect and support from me and other YESers!)
Download my free checklist 20 Ways to Learn English Smarter (you wish I’d told you sooner!) for more ideas how to free Your English Self!