Brain-Friendly Learning

  • What to Do When You Hit a Plateau in Your English Learning

    ‘Hit a plateau’ means to stop growing or improving at something and feeling like there is no more progress coming. It’s very frustrating because you’ve been putting a lot of effort into learning and developing your English and your improvement was fast and noticeable, and then there is no change whatsoever.

    You hit a plateau.

    The main reason you’ve hit a plateau is your routine. Sticking to the same habits often results in failing to progress, despite investing a lot of time.

    Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist and Professor at Florida State University says that what separates experts from the rest of us is that they tend to engage in a very directed, highly focused routine, something called ‘deliberate practice.’ Top achievers in various fields keep consciously developing by doing three things:

    1) Focusing on their technique

    2) Staying goal-oriented

    3) Getting constant and immediate feedback on their performance

    For most of us, however, we tend to feel like we stop making progress once we reach the intermediate level. Why is that?

    When you start learning English, you will increase your fluency very fast. This is because relatively few words keep showing up all the time so learning these words provides a huge ‘return on investment.’

    It’s just like the Pareto principle, that 20% of things create 80% of the results – 20% of English words are used in 80% of English conversation. The 100 most common words in English make up almost 50% of words in conversation. Crazy, right?

    Also, because you started from a ‘blank slate’ (you had no knowledge of the foreign language before starting to learn it), you can clearly see and feel the progress you are making since it’s easy to compare your current level of fluency to what it was just a few weeks ago.

    By changing the way you see how your English learning curve really works, you will understand that in most cases, what you have reached is not a plateau, but simply an intermediate phase where it will take more and more time to get similar gains in fluency to what you got before.

    So, what to do if you reach a plateau?

    Luca Lampariello, a language learner who speaks 12 languages says that if you feel like you haven’t made much progress recently, consider looking into changing the material you’re using. If you’ve been using the same textbook or the same method for learning a foreign language and it just doesn’t seem to work anymore, think about adding some variety to your study tools or even completely changing your learning strategy.

    I suggest you challenge yourself. Transformation is painful. Doing easy stuff will not get you results. If you want transformation you got to do more of the hard stuff, the stuff that you avoid, that you don’t want to do, that requires a lot of brainpower and a lot of focus.

    I know, there are a lot of distractions out there but listen – you can practice the easy stuff for an hour, or you can practice the hard stuff for 10 minutes, and you’ll get more results in those 10 minutes than an hour of easy practice. Because an easy practice just keeps you in the same place.

    You don’t need to be smart or talented to achieve anything you want.

    If you would like to have someone by your side to help you stick to a challenging routine, stay goal-oriented, and give you constant feedback on your progress, consider working with a language coach.

    So, what are your thoughts? I would love to hear how you dealt with the feeling that you didn’t improve anymore, and how you kept yourself motivated and did not give up on your goals. Do you change the study material as you progress from a beginner to an intermediate and advanced stage?

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  • How to Express Your Ideas in English

    Have you ever been in a situation where you had a great idea, but you just couldn’t find the right words to say? Instead, you started talking gibberish, ended up embarrassing yourself, and failed to deliver the point you wanted.

    Later, after the conversation had ended, you knew exactly what to say. Hmm, too late. If this sounds familiar to you, continue reading to find out how to express yourself clearly and concisely.

    Why Is This Happening?

    Every single sentence starts as an idea. Ideas, or things that we want to say, come randomly. They come in the form of words, images, flashes of memories, scents, music, and so on. They don’t come in order and they don’t have any structure.

    When we talk, we translate this idea into a point that we want to deliver in the form of sentences. For the point to be easily understood by others, we need to put the idea into a structured sentence, which is what most of us usually fail to do. It’s just like putting puzzle pieces together.

    So how can we learn to make a great meaningful sentence quickly in our head before we open our mouth to speak?

    Read Anything You Can

    Books, essays, articles, leaflets, magazines, comic books, posts, tweets. Anything. The purpose is to expand your vocabulary and learn how others make their sentences. By observing how other people express their thoughts, you’ll learn new ways of doing so.

    My tip: Follow English speakers on social media and read their posts. You will learn new expressions they use, including slang, idioms, or phrasal verbs.

    Learn Different Kinds of Expressions and Synonyms

    Let’s have a look at some examples: Instead of ‘Thank you.’ you can say ‘I appreciate it.’ or ‘I can’t thank you enough.’ Instead of ‘It’s raining.’ you can say ‘It’s pouring.’ or ‘It’s raining cats and dogs.’ Instead of ‘I’m very hungry.’ try saying ‘I’m starving.’, and the list goes on.

    Expressing something in a lot of different ways will help you engage your audience. Instead of saying the same expressions again and again, you can change the sentence structure and make it less monotonous. This way, your audience will not lose interest in you. Moreover, the more expressions you know the more probable some of them will pop up in your mind when you need them.

    My tip: Use WordHippo (http://www.wordhippo.com) to find synonyms, antonyms, and words in context.

    Start Using Your New Sentence Structures and Vocabulary

    You’ve seen how other people do it. Now, it’s time for you to do it yourself. Before speaking try writing. Writing is a great way to train your mind to think clearly and concisely. By writing something, you will learn to:

    1. Put your ideas into well-structured sentences.
    2. Make a point without going in circles.
    3. Implement new vocabulary and expressions.
    4. Assemble your ideas to make a compact text.

    Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t need to start writing books and essays. Keep it short. Write a post, a tweet, or just a two-sentence observation. The purpose is to improve your thinking process.

    Don’t Try to Sound Too Smart

    In my experience, a lot of English learners think that by using complicated sentences and formal vocabulary they will sound like native speakers. In fact, it’s the other way around. When your conversation partner does not understand what you are talking about, you lost the point of having a conversation. Use simple words and short sentences that people would understand. Believe me, sometimes it’s much more complicated to explain a complex issue in a simple way.

    What has helped you express your ideas clearly? Share it with me in the comments.

    Do you want to hear more tips and tricks? Book your free session with me today.

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  • 5 Steps to Learn the English You Will Use the Most

    When thinking about where you should start your English learning journey, think carefully about the most common words and phrases YOU will use. This is super efficient, and it’s also why following English coursebooks is generally a terrible idea. Why?

    English language books are targeted at everyone and no one.

    What should I do then, you’re asking?

    1. Picture the situations you will get into

    Let’s start with picturing the situations you will get into as a recruiter or even in your free time. Getting to know someone, meeting people in a hotel, speaking to clients, attending Zoom meetings. You will be arguing, agreeing, giving your opinions, and talking passionately about things.

    2. Think of the vocabulary and phrases you will need in these situations

    What topics do you normally talk about with your friends? What hobbies, sports or activities do you normally do? How do you make small talk with clients?

    Write down a long introduction about yourself (in your native language). Pretend you are introducing yourself to someone who is just meeting you, and you’re saying all you can about what you love and hate, what you like to do in your spare time, find interesting, talk about, joke about. Write it all down.

    3. Learn how to express yourself in the most natural way for your personality

    To feel really natural when you speak English, it’s important to think about the phrases and expressions you normally say in your own native tongue. What do you like to say to express liking, or disappointment, great happiness, or curiosity. Start to listen to yourself and notice these expressions. Ask your friends, they will have some fun telling you!

    4. Translate it into English

    Finally, translate your writing into English. Ask a native speaker or an English coach how they might say these expressions if you are not sure. Start to memorize them and use them with enthusiasm. Have fun with it.

    5. Learn it by heart

    Now that you have your own personalized version of English, it’s time to learn it by heart. Why? Because when you memorize something, you feel sure about it, and feeling sure means feeling confident.

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  • Do You Have Limiting Beliefs about Learning English?

    First of all, what are limiting beliefs? Limiting beliefs are things we believe and tend to say to ourselves that are limiting our potential of doing better. They are usually what we think about ourselves. The most common limiting beliefs start with “I am”, “I am not”, “I don’t” and “I can’t”.

    1. I have no one to speak English with

    That’s ok! You can learn to speak English no matter where you live in the world as long as you have access to a computer. You can find other English learners, just like you online that want to learn English and would love to practice speaking with you. There are many language apps and websites, such as Hello Talk or iTalki, that will connect you to native speakers who want to learn your native language so that you can practice English in return.

    These apps are great for casual talk and to boost your confidence. However, the fastest way to improve is to find a specialized English coach who will help you with the specific language you need. The good news is, even this can be done 100 % online.

    2. I can’t remember all of the English grammar rules

    No one can remember all the grammar rules. Learning a new language is not about learning rules, it is about learning words and phrases that allow you to communicate with other people. Your grammar does not need to be perfect to be understood and start communicating. Even native English speakers do not know all of the grammar rules and make many grammar mistakes. If you want to speak English fluently, focus on speaking and listening.

    If you focus on grammar rules too much, it will make you insecure about speaking because you are thinking about mistakes you might possibly make instead of communicating with a new person. Take me as an example. I don’t know most of the Spanish grammar rules and I can still communicate pretty fluently.

    3. I’m afraid to make mistakes

    Mistakes are GREAT! The more mistakes you make, the faster and more you will learn. Everyone makes mistakes all the time, including me. You should try not to get hung up on feeling bad about it. I mispronounce Spanish words all the time, I mix up tenses, and cannot use the subjunctive, but in 99 % of cases, my counterparts understand me.

    The thing is, if you don’t speak because you are afraid to make mistakes, others might misinterpret your attitude and think you don’t want to talk to them. On the other hand, if you speak confidently, you will give off positive vibes and come across as more accessible, and honestly, nobody cares how many mistakes you make.

    By trying your best and focusing on learning more, you will learn English. If you focus on the negative, like telling yourself that you don’t know how to say something or that people will laugh at you if you pronounce something wrong, you are hindering or stopping your learning.

    Are you ready to challenge these beliefs? Start today. I’m rooting for you.

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