Are you thinking about learning English? Are you already learning English? Do you enjoy learning English?
Learning a new language is an amazing thing and it opens doors to many opportunities but sometimes it can seem like an uphill struggle, an impossible voyage into the unknown, not something that we enjoy…
I get it and I feel your pain. Over the years I’ve learned (or tried to learn) a few languages: French and German at school (I was actually a French teacher for while), Mandarin and Arabic when I worked in Hong Kong and Egypt, Spanish and Galician when I came to live in Spain, Portuguese (I live on the Spanish/Portuguese border) and for some strange reason I decided to start learning Swedish last year (lockdown fever!)
Some of my attempts have been more successful and enjoyable than others and I believe that optimism has a big part to play. So I was excited to discover this article from Simon Sinek, described as “an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together”
In An Optimist’s View Going into 2021, he describes 5 lessons we can take from 2020 into 2021 to make it “remarkable and inspiring.” I believe we can apply these lessons not only to our professional and personal life but also to our language learning life (to enjoy learning English!)
I recommend you read the full article first (it’s short!) and then check out my ideas to apply these lessons to learning English.
Lesson #1: Ask for help and be there for others
Stress is an inhibitor, when we are stressed learning doesn’t happen and our experience is definitely not enjoyable! Don’t suffer your language learning pains alone. Share them with your teacher, coach or other people like you learning English. It doesn’t matter whether it’s just a shoulder to cry on or advice we are looking for, what matters is that we share. Connect with others and enjoy learning English.
Lesson #2: Feel all the feels
“Allow feelings to flow. Don’t edit or judge them… just feel them” (Simon Sinek).
It’s normal when we are learning a language to feel conflicting emotions. Elation, frustration, satisfaction, disappointment, hopeful, hopeless, excited, terrified…
Did you know there’s even a phobia associated with language learning, xenoglossophobia!
Naming and sharing our feelings can help minimise and even reverse the negative effects on learning and help us enjoy it more.
Lesson #3: Have difficult conversations
Often we ignore things that are uncomfortable, we “bury our heads in the sand” We often avoid the difficult conversation because we are scared we will say the wrong thing or offend someone.
One of the reasons I started Your English Self was because I believe learning English can provide us with opportunities for having these “difficult conversations” for sharing our opinions in a respectful way and for practising empathy, tolerance and respect.
In our ever more connected, global society we need to be prepared to engage with people from other backgrounds and cultures and for the possibility of “difficult conversations” Enjoy the opportunities that learning English can bring to help us understand each other better and create a more empathic, peaceful world.
Lesson #4: Embrace ahead and behind
In the article, Simon Sinek suggests that we don’t “see things in terms of good or bad but rather in terms of ahead and behind” and to see things as “a continuum”. This is an “Infinite Mindset”. When learning English, instead of labelling our mistakes and challenges as “bad”, think of them as “behind” moments that we can learn from. As we move along the continuum we can use our mistakes and previous difficulties and challenges to be better prepared to face new challenges and have more “ahead” moments. Think of mistakes and challenges as opportunities. Enjoy the learning journey.
Lesson #5: Express gratitude
Be grateful for the people we have around us who support us on our language learning journey. For some it’s our teacher or peers in class who are there for us, for others it’s our partner who cooks dinner to give us time to study or our kids who give us 20 minutes peace to listen to a podcast because they know it’s important to us… For some it’s even our boss who isn’t actually making us do overtime (studying English outside of work hours) but is giving us a chance to learn new skills.
Be grateful that we have the opportunity to learn another language!
I encourage you to take some time to think about where you are on the optimistic scale when it comes to learning English.
- How do you feel about English?
- Do you enjoy learning English?
- Do you feel alone? Do you have people you can share your joys and pains with?
- Do you feel supported?
- Do you feel ready to engage in conversation?
- How about your mindset? Is it “infinite”?
If you do feel ready to engage in conversation but you feel alone, you can sign up for my YES Mails and join the growing YES community of English language learners (and start to enjoy learning English!)
Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.
Sending optimistic vibes your way…
Simon Sinek. “An Optimist’s View Going into 2021.” Simon Sinek, https://simonsinek.com/2021. Accessed 3rd Jan. 2020.