Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, September 18, 2006

Remember Where You Were (A)

by AJ

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I just had an excellent discussion with students at the Linguist. (To Learn English With The Linguist (click here).

In this discussion, we discussed the power of beliefs and motivation. Positive beliefs can be very very powerful. If you believe you are intelligent, if you believe you are an excellent language learner, if you have total faith that you will master English, and if you have a deep interest in some aspect of the language & its culture-- you are sure to succeed.

Of course, it helps to have a good learning method. But even with a great method, you will probably fail if you don't have strong positive beliefs.

One problem that many language learners have is that they become so focused on their goal that they forget to celebrate their successes. I have this problem. I'm always comparing myself to better Spanish speakers. If I'm walking around San Francisco and hear Mexican people talking-- I always listen carefully. If I don't understand them, I become depressed. I think, "I'm still terrible at Spanish. I'm not learning fast enough".

This is absolutely crazy. I've only been studying Spanish for 4.5 months.

Of course its good to have goals-- especially measurable goals. But we must not become too focused on them. It is very dangerous to always be comparing ourselves to native speakers, or more advanced learners. Its dangerous because we tend to focus only on the negative-- My pronunciation isn't as good as theirs, my grammar is weak, I don't know enough words, etc.

When we focus only on the negative, we forget how much we have already accomplished. So its important to think about this sometimes. Think back 4 months, 6 months, 1 year. Remember what your English ability was like then. Even better, find some old content that seemed really difficult at that time. Read it and listen to it again. You may be shocked how easy it seems now.

I did this recently with Spanish. I'd been getting discouraged, feeling like my progress was slow. So, I listened to a story called "Patricia Va a California", which I used to listen to four months ago, when I first started. Wow! It seems so slow and easy now.

I realized that I have made a lot of progress. No, I'm not speaking yet. No, I can't understand native speakers on the street. But I'm understanding more of the content I read and listen to. I'm feeling more comfortable with Spanish. I'm enjoying it more.

Set high standards for yourself. Work towards your goals. But in the meantime, don't forget to remember and celebrate all the progress you have made-- and are making right now!

Building confidence is a vital part of language learning. Do it consciously. Do it regularly. Do it systematically. Change your beliefs, strengthen your faith- obsess over your successes!

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