Motivation

Fun Ways to Study English– Language Exchange Partners

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I remember the first time that I had a language exchange…

I was so nervous! I had no idea what to expect or how the people would be that I was going to be talking with.

About 6 months ago I realized that there are actually fun ways to study a language and I just wanted to share my experience and emotions. After many months of doing activities that were not very fun ways to study, I decided I was ready to start talking with real people, native speakers. I found a free site called conversationexchange.com and created a profile. To my surprise, I received over 50 messages within 3 days from various countries. These people wanted to speak English with me! I added a dozen or so people to my Skype account and started to receive greetings from everyone.

I was quite content to just try chatting with people, text chatting I mean. Although I had committed to this idea of talking to real people, I was definitely putting it off (delaying) as long as I could. For the first few days, I was working quite a bit, so it was easy to tell people I was not available to talk.  One night, I was off work early in the evening and I received a message asking if I could practice talking.  I didn’t have a good excuse to say no… so I said yes I could talk!

My ability to speak in a foreign language was not very good at that time. I remember being very content to speak English with this Colombian guy on the other end of the call and only saying with a few words of Spanish here and there. Despite the language barrier, I couldn’t believe how interesting the conversation was! This was one of the most fun ways to study a language. I had met a really interesting person, that was very kind, extremely patient and really funny.

I remember the feeling of speaking and listening to the language I was learning. It was so bizarre. It felt like I was testing every word to make sure they were understood by the person I was speaking to. Until now it was only a theory that these words were used and would be understood but I had never tried. So really, I still had a bit of doubt in this way and it actually took a few weeks to gain some confidence.

A few days after my first phone call, I decided to try talking to a different language partner. It was another interesting person who was smart, friendly and easy to talk to. After talking with 4 or 5 different people, I started to realize that most people that are learning languages are really cool people, ambitious and often very well educated. Just the type of people I like to talk to!

Now I recognize that it is absolutely critical that I feel comfortable talking with the person on the other end of the phone, testing out this new language. It is a very delicate thing working with other people that want to learn, having to teach and also being taught. You have to put yourself in a vulnerable situation where you could be emotionally hurt if you are laughed at or made to feel like an idiot.

If you take the time to find the right person to practice learning a language with it will truly become a natural motivator and be a very fun way to learn English. I find myself wanting to learn the language better to be able to communicate my thoughts clearly to my new friends.

I am really grateful to have found a language exchange partner that I feel is a good friend. We help each other so much every day. There are no stupid questions, ever. Some questions are just funnier than others and are more fun to answer with entertaining examples for the answers.

I’d love to hear your most fun ways to study, what it is you enjoy the most. Leave a comment below!

Amy’s Interview about Learning a Language

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I have been lucky enough to be invited on a podcast radio show to share my experiences learning a foreign language. As many of you know, I am learning Spanish and I was inspired to start this blog to share challenges and obstacles that language learners have.  This blog is where I write about my ideas to help motivate you to continue learning a language and share some personal frustrations so that you know, you are not alone with those feelings. Please follow this blog but entering your email address on the right-hand side of the page you haven’t already; It is for anyone learning a language, not just for people learning English.
http://www.realfastspanish.com/podcast

A few months ago I was looking for motivation to continue learning Spanish and I found an excellent podcast at www.realfastspanish.com. Andrew Barr is not only teaching Spanish on his podcast but he also spends half of the time talking about motivational topics related to learning a language. I have found his podcasts to be extremely helpful and I have supported his podcast since I discovered it in October last year.

Andrew invited me to share my story about learning languages, discuss some challenges I have had and to give some advice to other people who are learning a language. You can listen to the interview here:

Audio Blog Learn English

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this interview and I thought that it was really cool to talk to someone who I look up to for inspiration to continue learning a language.  Andrew is really interesting and had a lot of great advice that he shared with me over the phone call after the interview. I hope that other people can relate to some of the challenges that I am encountering while learning a language and realize they are not alone with feelings such as being terrified or embarrassed to speak, not understanding anything that you hear from a native speaker or being confused about some grammar things. I still struggle with being confident while speaking in a foreign language; although, I have an exciting progress update!

Right after the interview with Andrew, I started speaking with my friend Adrian from Mexico. He decided that he wanted to dedicate the entire call to speaking in Spanish because I had been helping him a lot with English recently. And… I had a completely Spanish conversation for one hour and 15 minutes! After about 20 minutes of talking my typical nervous feeling went away and had some really great fluidity with my speaking.

I have just reached my big goal of being able to have a conversation for more than 30 minutes in a foreign language! But really, I more than exceeded that goal by talking for 75 minutes! A big thank-you to Adrian for dedicating that call to my progress and to Andrew for inspiring me from his interview.

Thanks for listening. Please tell me what you think about the interview or what you think about my latest accomplishment by leaving a comment below!

The Big Problem with Learning Languages in a Classroom

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Recently, I was talking to a girl I know who decided to start learning a language to be able to travel comfortably later this year. She is studying to be a lawyer at a university already, so she decided to take the language course through the university. The previous week, I had recommended a website where she could find a native speaker to practice with, a service that is free, (www.conversationexchange.com.) This was her response,

No, not yet. The reason is that I am worried about saying something wrong. I am kind of nervous to try, It’s also very uncomfortable for me to talk to people for the first time especially by Skype. Sometimes when I am in my language class, my professor will ask me a question. Even if I think I know the answer, I don’t want to say it because I think I might be wrong or I think I might have misunderstood the question.”

Where does this negative feeling of being ‘incorrect or wrong’ come from???

Well, I will tell you what I think…

embarrassed girl intermediate englishSchools from all around the world use a similar method for teaching groups of people. They present the information to the students, they ask some questions to make sure the students understand, they do some exercises and then they give you a test to evaluate your performance. This is the system I know and see the most often in public schools since, I was a child. Of course, there are exceptions. So what is the problem with the system?

There is only one goal for the student: To try to be correct!

The education system values these ideas: it is bad to make errors, to be incorrect or to not know the answer. If you are not correct, you will receive a penalty such as a lower grades or marks, social humiliation and you will likely feel stupid for not knowing the answers.

We are not born with this knowledge, which is why we are in school or a course. The only way to learn is to make mistakes until you figure out how to do it correctly. This teaching method is accepted and is used because it allows teachers to measure results. The issue with this style of teaching is very clear when you compare learning a subject like math to learning a language. Math requires practicing a method to learn how to find the right answer. Language is creative and there are dozens of ways of expressing the same thought. There is no single answer that is right or wrong, just lots of practice to figure out how to say it better.

Anyone who is learning a language knows that you need to try to use it. What happens is: we make lots of mistakes, ask lots of questions (questions that feel like stupid questions) and we need to be corrected all the time! In order to learn ANYTHING, you need to try you start by taking a few guesses or tries until you find the answer.

classroom learning a language

 

I want you to imagine you are in a classroom and the teacher decides to ask you a question. You aren’t sure of the answer. This isn’t your fault because the teacher has not taught you or given an environment where you can safely ask the question. Next, you are forced to respond with either a guess or to announce to the entire class that you do not know the answer. Then you feel like an idiot, you feel stupid, you feel that everyone else in the class must think you are stupid too and of course, the teacher thinks you don’t remember anything they have taught you. This is a perfect example of the social humiliation aspect of being incorrect. If you are correct and you know the answer – you are allowed to skip the penalty for not knowing something new.

Where is the encouragement to try even if you are incorrect? Why is there no system to reward students for trying? The harder you try, the more you should be rewarded. A person who tries all the time, without fear of being embarrassed, receiving poor grades or looking stupid will perform better, they will learn more. They will ask more questions too.

Unfortunately, after going through an educational system that values ‘being correct’ above everything else; we develop a mental attitude that makes us hate the feeling of ‘being incorrect’. It has created an ego inside of us and that ego has one goal: I must be correct so I can be reward by the education system. Making mistakes is an unavoidable part of learning, teachers know this fact but the method of teaching does not create the optimal environment for learning.

I cannot offer any solutions to the problems in the teaching methods I have talked about today, but I hope that by telling you my opinion, you will be aware of your natural desire to be ‘correct’ all the time and where it comes from. Please share your opinion in the comments below and let me know if you like the educational system or if you feel it could be improved.

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