What’s Your Motivation For Learning English?

Motivation

From my point of view, motivation is so closely linked with number two on our list, goals. (If you haven’t seen my list of Almost Everything You Need to Learn English, click here.) However, to me, goals are concrete, specifc, measurable things wheras motivation is a more general concept. For example, your motivation might be; to be able to speak English well enough to use it on holiday, but, a goal would be; to hold a conversation with an English speaker for 10 minutes, talking about particular topics of interest, by a certain date.

What motivation is. What motivates you to do anything?

In scientific terms it is said that motivation has two parts; directional and activated. Directional motivation is that which moves you either towards a positive outcome or away from a negative one. If you want to be a fluent English speaker, that is postive, going to English classes at work only because your boss will fire you if you don’t is negtive motivation.

Activated motivation is the seeking (looking for) and consequent liking of the process and is dependent on the amount of dopamine in your system. Anyway, I’m not a chemical scientist so I’ll stick to what I know best and concentrate on how motivation relates to learning a language.

What motivates you to learn English?

I don’t know! However, I can tell you what motivates me to learn Czech. Firstly, I live in the Czech Republic so being able to understand what is happening around me is immensly important. To be able to really understand your culture, I have to better understand your language. I love playing football and talking to people who are interested in football and this is a huge motivation for me to get better at Czech. I want to have deeper conversations about the culture of football as well as discussing the game itself. (The photo is of me with my friends from Berlin watching 1.F.C. Union Berlin.) I also love films and would really like to be able to watch more Czech films without English subtitles. I am a big fan of Svěrak and Smoljak and, as well as watching their films, I would like to understand the Cimrman plays. I have been to the Žižkov theatre but to the English performaces, which are excellent, however, to fully understand a Czech performance and be part of a Czech audience would be magic!

How can you find your motivation?

Think about reasons why bettering your English is a good idea, think about your interests in life, the things that really turn you on, and then try to connect the two together. If you really, really can’t think of something, maybe you have no reason or motivation, maybe you just don’t need to learn English after all.

Etymology of the word motivation.

“that which inwardly moves a person to behave a certain way”

Czech translation

motivace;

Synonyms

Reason

Stimulus, motivator = stimul/podnět (stimulus in English)

What motivation does.

Motivation drives us forward, makes us get up in the morning, keeps us going when the going gets tough, prods us to take action, inspires us to be creative and gives us a positive, happy feeling (when it’s that positive motivation – striving towards something better).

Action to take.

Right now, take out a pen and paper and start to ‘brain dump’ your ideas. Anything you can think of that might be a reason to learn English, write down all your interests and look for connections between the interests and the reasons. Think about and write down how your life could be improved by improving your English and how you could positively affect the world, or at least your small part of it, by being a better English communicator. I’d love to know how you get on, so let me know in the comments below.

Almost Everything You Need To Know About Learning English

Almost Everything You Need To Know About Learning English

Today I am going to tell you what have I learnt (or learned) about the best ways to learn English (or any foreign language). For the last five and a half years I have been living in the Czech Republic, helping Czechs and Slovaks with their English. Mainly, I have focussed on spoken English because my clients want to improve their speaking and their is no better way to that than to simply speak.

Here is a vocabulary list of the words in bold and their English definitions

During these last five years I have learnt a huge amount about how to teach and how we learn. It is my intention, over the next few weeks, to tell you just what I have learnt and to go in depth into each of the ideas. Today I will give you an overview of what to look forward to in the coming weeks and it is my hope that you can use this information to create some kind of personal plan for learning. First things first…

Motivation

Before you even start learning your new language, you need to have motivation, a reason for learning. This could be as simple as wanting to take a holiday in a foreign country, where you know English will be indespensible, or it could be because you want a new job and English is a prerequisite for getting the position. If you have a solid reason for learning it can help motivate you to learn. If you are studying English because your boss told you to, I recommend you find some real motivation to spur you on.

Goals

Having difficult but attainable goals will also spur you on. Long term goals are good but you also need more short and medium term goals, which, when you achieve them, will give you a boost and show you that you are making progress. I suggest even making goals for each learning session and gamifying the tasks you have.

Habits

Decide to have good habits. That is a choice you must make; to practise regularly and frequently. You simply must make time and prioritize your English. It doesn’t have to be THE most important thing in your life but it must have a prominent place.

Repetition and Review

I know, this is one of the 150 year old schooling methods that I mentioned earlier but it does have it place within an ultimate learning method. There are two reasons why it has remained the mainstay of the mainstream school and that is primarily through laziness/conservativeness of the school system in general but secondly because it does work as a way of fixing information in your memory. A future blog post will go into more detail on the pros and cons of how you can utilize this technique.

Confidence

Build your confidence right from the start. There are numerous ways you can do this, even if you are a really shy person or someone who is ashamed of their level of English. One quick tip for you today is to make a list of all the words you can find that are the same or similar in Czech and English. You immediately then have a ‘go to’ vocabulary. Start using these words as often as possible to send your brain the message that these words are OK!  You can meet with a native speaker, read books and watch video/tv/films; label everything in your home or office; Take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Take a holiday in a native speaking country and use what you know.

Make Mistakes

I am always telling people to STOP APOLOGIZING when they make a mistake. This is a terrible learned habit from your childhood when you were chastised for you errors by your parents and teachers. You were only trying to answer a question or do some task and because you got it wrong they shouted, scolded, punished, restricted and withheld. It is difficult to overcome these feelings but it is possible. Visualization is the key, more on that later. Basically, be able to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Make mistakes your friend. RELAX, it’s OK, but DO LEARN FROM THEM. I also have a video course to help Czechs and Slovaks to correct some of the most common mistakes you make when speaking English.

Grammar (Oh no!)

Don’t learn grammar in the traditional way (unless you’re a polyglot and find it easy), use my Faster Grammar For Speaking method . I will explain more about this is a later post but essentially  it is a mixed tense way of learning that focusses firstly on the grammar you need to speak about yourself. This is a system I have been developing for some time and I hope will be a massive help to anyone who considers themself a false beginner.

Visualization

Without doubt, the biggest elephant in the room that the education system, the world over, is ignoring. Visualization is the best way to remember vocabulary, full stop (or period if you want to speak American English)

Learning Styles

I have written and spoken many times on the subject of learning styles and thankfully it is something that is creeping into education systems. Use as many learning styles as possible and finding your most prominent learning style will increse you learning effectiveness. I will write more on this later but for now you can check out this older post of mine which will give you a basic understanding of what learning styles are for the uninitiated.

Listen

Unfortunately, I find this to be the one area most neglected  by Czech and Slovak English learners. You should try to listen to native speakers as much as possible. Radio, tv, films, podcasts, music, documentaries and real people. If you are lucky enough to live in Prague you have an unending supply of native speakers. Teachers of course, but also on the streets, in the pubs, restaurants, shops and cafes. Get out there and listen.

Immediate Action

When a word randomly comes into your mind, immediately (or as quickly as possible) find out its meaning, write it down and visualize it. Start using your new words in your writing and in conversation frequently to fix them in your vocabulary.

Ask for Help

When you don’t understand something, write it down and ask your English teacher/helper to explain it. If you have no-one, find someone or at least try to find some advice on You Tube.

Get Creative with Your Notes

Write down anything interesting you find in English, new nouns, verbs, phrases, grammar rules, idioms, expressions or just interesting facts in English. But don’t stop at just writing in the usual boring (school taught) note-taking way. Get creative with your notes. Fill the page with your own drawings, cartooning the vocabulary and using different font styles, shapes and sizes.

Copy What You Hear

Imitate what you hear. Copy the speaker instead of just pronouncing words as you read them. If you really want to have something like a naive speaker’s accent you need to copy what you hear. Don’t just say things the way it’s written or the way you learned it, listen to how a native speaker says it. Be consistent with your pronunciation though and choose a particular accent rather than mixing and matching because this will lead to misunderstandings for sure. There exists a idea of a generic or sterotypical British and American accent when there really is no such thing. Both countries have a multitude of different accents. If you are interested, I posted about British accents on my facebook page here.

Next week I will expand upon motivation and try to help you find yours and give you actionable steps to find it.

Do you have a plan for learning? A method? A system? Tell me in the comments below.

Why Video Is King For Learning English

Why Video Is King For Learning English

Video is without doubt the best way to learn. I’m not just saying that because I have a free video course for you but because I know from first hand experience that I personally retain more information from watching a well made piece of video, than I do from any other way of learning. Why is that? I’ll tell you later, first of all I want to share with you another of your common mistakes and explain how you can correct it.

We are going with Petr.

If you want to tell someone that you are going somewhere and you are not going alone, it is quite right (correct) to say that you are going with them. The mistake is made here when you refer to both yourself and the other person by saying; ‘we’ are going, and then also saying the name of the other person. For example;

people-in-cinema

You are going to the cinema with your friend Petr. Only the two of you are going. The first time you tell me about this trip to the cinema you should say:

“I am going to the cinema with Petr.”

Not we are going to the cinema with Petr” or “We’re going with Petr to the cinema.”

This is because if you use we are going with Petr, I assume you mean you and I and Petr (three of us). The we would refer to you and I.

If I know, for example, that you have a husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend and you say “We are going to the cinema tonight” then I assume you mean you and your partner, so, you don’t need to say who with. In this case just the first time you mention your trip to the cinema you would say just:

We’re going to the cinema tonight.

I would understand from that sentence that you mean you and your significant other (boyf/girlf/husband/wife etc).

If you want to say at the first mention who you are going with, refer to yourself (I) and then who with, so:

I’m going to the cinema tonight with Petr.

See if you can remember this and compare how well you retain the information (just from reading it) with how you are able to recall information from my free video course.

pc-video-learning

As I talked about in my previous blog, the traditional ways of learning all have their plus and minus points but the most important of those points is that they all have mainly only one learning style, with the exception of meeting somone face to face.  The thing is, with video, not only do you have video and audio, but, it allows for still pictures, written words for you to read and it can be tactile (kinesthetic) if the video has physical action points for you to carry out.The fact that you can stop and repeat certain parts of the video also give it an advantage over meeting a person in real life. Can you imagine asking your English teacher to repeat the same thing as many times as you need to fully understand it?

When I am recommending or explaining new ideas to my clients, invariably (usually) they come from something I have remembered from a video I have seen. That might be TED talks, documenaries or online courses, ok there are many things I have recommended from books too but I find things much harder to remember if I have only read them.

On the site socialmediatoday.com Eric Schwartzman gives these reasons why learning online is king.

Here are 4 big advantages of online learning:

  1. Automatic Retention – You don’t have to take notes. When all the material is recorded, and people are spared from having to retain everything themselves, they can focus on trying to actually understand the key concepts and on demoing tools and services without having to write it all down simultaneously.

  2. The Knowledge You Want First – When information is presented from a lectern, it’s shared in a linear fashion. You have to sit through long, drawn-out explanations, some of which you know, and some of which you don’t. But since everyone knows different things, the linear approach serves the group, but not necessarily the individual.  When on-demand content is broken down into bite-sized chunks, and tagged appropriately so it can be easily found, participants can laser in on what they want.

  3. Learn at your Own Pace – Everybody picks things up at different speeds.  Good instructors try and teach to the center of the classroom, which under serves fast and slow learners.  When you can stop and rewind demos as many times as you like and learn at your own pace, everyone can learn and fast or slow as they like, and no one gets lost or bored.

  4. Anytime, Anywhere – There is no longer a need to schedule time out of the office, wait until the right course is available, be forced to consume 6 hours of course material in a single day or board a plane.  Online social media training allows you to time-shift and place-shift your professional development when you want, where you want.

notetaking-from-laptopWhile I agree with the majority of what Eric says, I would still argue that writing down and taking notes plays a valuable part in commiting information to memory (when used simultaneously with other learning styles). What makes note taking even better is when you add colour, pictures and different styles. Check out Mike Rohde and his sketchnotes for some amazing inspiration.

If you haven’t tried learning from video before, I suggest you give it a go. You will find a multitude (tons of stuff) on You Tube to help you learn English and of course you can take my free English video course by clicking here. If you have tried video learning before and weren’t impressed, do still check out my course as I assure you, it will be like no other video course you’ve taken before.

See you next week with a winter holiday special, yes, I’m going to learn how to snowboard! Leave a comment below and tell me if you’ve tried video before as a way to learn English.

The Best Ways To Learn

The Best Ways To Learn

So, I’ve been thinking again, about all the different methods people use for learning English (or any foreign language, like me learning Czech) and how a lot of people struggle to find the right system or style of learning that suits them the best. Video is my preferred way (sign up for my new course here), but why is that? What about the alternatives?

Textbooks

books

I know you’ve tried textbooks, and while they can work for some people, they also bore the pants off other people. If you’re one of those people, read on.

Pages are only two dimensional, so that means at the most two learning styles; words and pictures. They also take so long to work through, especially when you don’t have someone to explain to you the bits you don’t understand. However, learning at least some basic grammar from a book is a great way to start.  So what else can you do to complement learning from a book?

Native Speakers

One to one sessions with a native speaker are a good way to practise what you already know and they are an opportunity to ask your English teacher questions. However, it’s very easy to go with the flow and keep talking without listening. I have found that many of my clients love to speak and talking-womenlove to have deep conversations about all sorts of things from travelling to family life, from sports to spirituality. Often, it seems like people will tell me things in English they would never tell others in Czech. My point is, that although face to face, one to one English lessons with a native speaker are a great way to practise, you are probably not learning as much as you would like. They do, however, bring you confidence and should excite and inspire you.

Group Sessions

So what about group sessions and courses? These provide a superb opportunity to learn a lot, quickly, if you can keep up with the group speed that is. On the other hand, maybe you get bored waiting for the slow ones in the group when you want to move on to the next bit. You can also practise talking with others if you have the confidence to speak in front of the group and it’s a great way to meet others who share your passion for learning.

Going Abroadtelephone-box-red

Holidaying and studying in a foreign country (or even living and working abroad) is thought of as the best way to make quick improvements.  As you can immerse yourself in the language, you are forced to speak. This is probably the most expensive way to learn but you will make the quickest improvement in your understanding and maybe have the most fun!  Since I moved to the Czech Republic my level of comprehension has increased and I have found that I am able to remember new words much easier than when I was learning Czech in the U. K.  While I’m recommending it, I understand that for many people it might not be a realistic possibility.

Audio Books etc

I’ll end with what I believe to be two of the worst ideas. Firstly, listening to audio CDs, MP3s or podcasts WHILST DRIVING! You should be concentrating on your driving not trying to remember new words and phrases, let alone complex grammar rules. Stick to the music, that can be English language songs at least.  Car driver girl.pngAudio is also only one learning style.

Secondly, and I admit I am also sometimes guilty of using this method, is a reliance on Google Translate or other online dictionaries. These, in my humble opinion, should be kept for the odd word or phrase you don’t understand, not used to translate entire emails, PDFs, articles, web pages, reports or seminar notes etc. Try to work out as much as you can first, because trusting yourself will build your confidence. Then and only then, go back to fill in the gaps using an online translator or old fashioned paper dictionary (remember those?).

Conclusion

Ideally, you might use a combination of these methods. If you have the time (to attend a group, see someone for 1-1 lessons, study at home from a book, listen to audio (safely!) and take a yearly trip to study or practise in a native English speaking country) then you would be covering a number of learning styles giving yourself the best chance to improve quickly and remember what you learn. Studying something everyday is key.

Next week I’ll talk about my favourite way of learning; video. You can sign up now for my free mini course to learn about your most common mistakes. Fill in the form below or click here and I’ll add you to the ‘Better Your English Now’ video mini course list.

The Most Common Mistakes You Make.

The Most Common Mistakes You Make.

So, you’ve got a lecture or class to take in English next week. Maybe you’ve got an interview coming up for a job that requires English. You want to improve your basics fast and cut out those silly mistakes so you don’t sound like an idiot. What about those English emails at work? They aren’t going to correct themselves and you told your boss you can speak and understand English, right?

You need to know two things. One, what are the mistakes you’re making. Do you know? I bet you know some of them, but others you are not even aware of. Two, how do you correct those mistakes and bad habits (like forgetting to put an S on the end of verbs for he/she/it etc.) and how do you remember them?

Now, you know me. I like mistakes, it shows that you’re trying and not afraid. That’s great  of course, but, if you really want to improve quickly, one thing you can do is correct a few of those nejběžnější chyby v angličtině. I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes in my last post, which I wrote in Czech.

Luckily for you, over the last five years I have made notes on the most common mistakes that my students make and I’ve made a great, online, video course to help you correct many of those English mistakes. You can sign up for the mini course for FREE here and find out about your most common mistakes and how to fix them. Enter your email and I’ll send you the link. Entry is via email link only so sign up now or you might miss out.

Today, I’m going to focus on one of your most common mistakes. Confusing when to use come and go, and came, got and went.  An example of a typical mistake would be when we are sitting in a cafe and you say to me, “I came home from work at 6pm yesterday.” This is wrong because we are not in your home, we are in a cafe and where you are dictates which verb to use. You could remember to ‘come here’ and ‘go there’ but it’s not as simple as that.

In order to ‘come’ you usually need to be in the place you are referring to. I came home at ten yesterday.’ This means you are at home now.

If you are not at home we would naturally say ‘I got home at ten yesterday. (not ‘I came home’) but you can also use got if you are at home.

Of course, this being English, there are exceptional cases. If I have planned to meet some friends in a restaurant and I also want to invite you, I would say ‘Why don’t you come and join us? Or, ‘Come to the restaurant tomorrow.’ In this instance I am not in the restaurant now but I am planning to be there before you arrive and you will therefore come to meet me.

However, if you are talking about the time that you left somewhere (not the time you arrived home) then we would use went. ‘I was at the party but I went home (left the party) at midnight.’

go-sign-16620If you want to send somebody somewhere (away) and you will not be with them then use go. ‘Go to the cinema on your own, I don’t like Star Wars.’ (not come to the cinema). If you are inviting me to go with you to the cinema then you can use either come or go. ‘Will you come/go to the cinema with me tomorrow?’

Compare these similar situations:

‘Will you come to my house for the party next week?’ (I will be there)

‘Will you go to my house to pick up my keys please?’ (I have forgotten my keys. I left them at home. I am not there now and I will not be there when you get there to pick up the keys.

‘I went home at 11.’ (You are not at home now and you are talking about the time you left somewhere else)

‘I came home at 11.’ (You are at home now)

‘I got home at 11.’ (You could be either at home or not at home)

If you want it explained in Czech, HelpforEnglish.cz has a good explanation here.

Next week, ‘What are the best ways to correct your most common mistakes and other ways to learn?’ video-player-richard-hill-english

I’ll talk again about learning styles and if you liked today’s content but prefer video to reading then take my FREE Most Common Mistakes Mini Course. Remember, admission to this free course is available to everyone on my email list but you need to sign up for it by sending me an email from this box below. I will send you the link when the course opens in the next few days.

I know that you will get massive value from this course and it will benefit you in many ways, not least, making your English sound a little more native, smoother and more intelligible.

That’s all from me for today. Remember, ‘every day’s a school day’ so let me learn from you by telling me what you think are the most common mistakes Czechs and Slovaks make when speaking English. Leave a comment below and sign up for the course above.

Richard.

Muj Špatný Češtinu

Muj Špatný Češtinu

Pamatujete že ja jsem Anglický rodilý mluvčím?  Tak že, tadz mám problěm protože dneska musím napsát vaše blog v Čestině. Asi, ne, určitě, poynáte že muj řada slovu je jako Anglickz.

Ahhh… musím vzpnout 4esk7 kl8visnice kvůli muj y a z je správný.

Pokračuju… Zkouším napsát bez používajici slovník i překládač tak uvidíme jestli umíte mi rozumět. A, proč udělám Český blog kdzž vždycky psám v Angličtině?  Odpovězda je ukázat že nemusíte být perfektní být rozumění.

Jestli vaše gol je být rozumění je to duležitý jenom že máte důvěra zkoušit ynova a znova (Sakra!)  Mnohu Český lidi vubec říct ani nic protože “to není perfekt”, “to není dobrý”. Slište mě! ear-clip-art-McLLy6RXiNe bude lepšit bez zkoušení. Nevadí jak špatně vás Angličký jazýk, většinu rodilý mluvčí vy pomoc s trpělivostem.

Dneska ten blog bude krátký protože pro mě napsát na počitač trvalo mi hodně dlouhá. Měl jsem nějáký knihy se učit Česky ale pro mě nefungovat. Ja vím že dělám hodně chyby. Máte nějaký jiný nápady pro mě? Doufám že ano. Dolu mužete mi pomoc v commentsu. Dík. 🙂

Přes přístí dva týdnu budu napsát o vaše nejběžnější chyby a jak je opravit. Těšte se na videa mini kurz Zdarma.

Dolu řeknete mi co myslíte co je nejběžnější chyby.

Čau for now.

P.S. Mužete mi  sledovat kliknutím na FOLLOW.

 

A Perfect Future?

A Perfect Future?

Last year I wrote about new year’s resolutions so I won’t repeat myself here. Today I thought I’d tell you about my general plans for this year and talk to you about the seldom used (by you!) ‘future perfect’ tense.

So I’ll start with music and this year Guns ‘n’ Roses will play in Prague. I am really looking forward to seeing them as I have been a fan of theirs since I was a teenager. They are playing at Letnany airfield on July 4th (U.S. independence day).guns-n-roses-logo

As I write I have almost completed my first video course with a lot of useful information that I know will help you immediately improve your English and put a smile on your face. I am already excited about making the next one for you so let me know below what you’d like help with.

In February my family and I are going on our first proper winter holiday together. Radka can ski but I have two left feet so I will at long last learn how to snowboard. As a teenager, whilst listening to GNR, I skateboarded, so, I believe it will be easier for me than skiing. I should have transferable skills!

gardening-fork-and-trowelWhen the snow clears and the weather warms up, we will plant vegetables as we do every year; lettuce, tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, chillis, carrots, parsnips, onions to name a few. We are also planning on buying more hens and increasing our egg production.

So what of this future perfect tense?  What is it?  Well, it’s the tense we use to describe a situation in the future when we are imagining that it has already happened. If you know how to use the present perfect then you can imagine that you are using it in the future.

If you don’t know how to use the present perfect then get my free Easy Guide to the Present Perfect here. Send me an email and I’ll send you the guide.

I’ve just written about some of the things I will do this new year. If I imagine that it is the end of the year and I have done all of these things, I could then say to you now, that, by the end of the year, I will have learnt to snowboard, I will have been to see Guns ‘n’ Roses,  I will have planted a lot of vegetables and I will have produced more video courses to help all my Czech and Slovak friends with their English.

The future perfect is will + have + past particple.

When I am 50, I will have lived for 50 years.

By the end of January I will have finished my video course.

If Sparta win the football league this season, they will have won 37 titles in their history.

I have too much still to do, so I won’t have completed it by next Friday.

Will you have arrived before I get there?

When you get to the end of this blog post you will have read it all.

What will you have done by the end of this year? Let me know in the comments below. Next week I have a treat for you… I will be writing to you in Czech ! Well, my own version of Czech anyway. Remember, if you think this post can help a friend then please forward them a link and if it has helped you then please tell me by leaving me a comment below.