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.

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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.

Just For You. A Traditional English Christmas.

Just For You. A Traditional English Christmas.

So, what’s a British, English Christmas like? Every year I am asked the same questions; How is it different to a Czech and Slovak Christmas? What do you eat? Does Ježíšek come to the U.K.? Who the hell is that fat guy in the red suit? (But not that last one.)

Well, here you are. The answers to all your questions and more, such as, my favorite Christmas food and do I prefer Czech or English Christmases?

Here is a vocabulary list of the words in bold you may find unfamiliar in this post.

Christmas in England usually follows a traditional pattern, whether you are religious or not. If you are religious then it will certainly involve going to church. If you are not religious it might still involve church depending on how guilty you feel.

Of course, I can only really tell you about my personal experiences, which were both of the above, my mother going to church and my father going… nowhere near it.

The week before Christmas I used to enjoy carol singing with a friend and then on Christmas Eve we presented the money to the local church to give to charity (which I’m sure they did).

carol singers.png

So, there is our first difference; for us in Britain the 24th is Christmas Eve and not what we call Christmas Day as you do in The Czech Republic and Slovakia. Christmas Day for us is the 25th, more on that in a minute. Christmas Eve is still a working day for many people and for many of my friends it was also the day they bought their first underage alcoholic drink in a pub.

I didn’t start going out to the pub on Christmas Eve until a little later when I was about eighteen or nineteen years old but the tradition still continues to this day although in a less wild fashion. Back in the day it involved a pint and/or a shot in every pub over a 2 or 3 km course with about twelve or thirteen pubs along the route before finishing in a curry house. We ended the night either falling into a taxi or making the long, wobbly walk home again. These days, a more sedate pace involves two or three pubs and a lot less drinking and walking. It is, however, great to meet up with many old school mates whom I haven’t seen since the last Christmas Eve I was out.

When we were children of course, it was a very different story. After the short, carol singing church service we went home, had tea (evening meal) and hung stockings by the fireplace, went to bed and tried to stay awake to see Father Christmas (Santa Claus) bringing out presents. Usually we fell asleep long before delivery. Clever Santa.

Get a free copy of my Easy Guide to the Present Perfect.

When we were very young we woke up very early, 2:30am was the record but more usually around 5 or 6am. We then pestered our parents to get up so that we could get more presents from them. Here is our next difference. While you only receive your presents from Ježíšek, we get presents from Father Christmas and from each other. Only the most eagle-eyed children might notice the same wrapping paper on the presents.

Around 11am my mum would go to pick up the olds (Grandma and my uncle Harold – more on him in a later post) and another round of present giving would ensue. One o’clock – Christmas dinner. Now, I’m sorry, I don’t want to offend anyone here but carp and potato salad, is not my idea of a Christmas dinner. Don’t get me wrong I am learning to enjoy it and every year I do enjoy it more but I am still craving this…

xmas dinner.jpg

Then with bloated stomachs it’s a local walk and then a bit of television; always a new TV film premiere suitable for all the family. Uncle Harold likes to watch the Queen’s speech but he’s pretty much on his own for that in our house. 5pm is tea time, that’s roast ham, pork pies, turkey sandwiches and Christmas cake. The evening is more drink, nut cracking, board games then sleep.

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Boxing Day, yes, the 26th is also a holiday in England and for many families it’s straight to the sales in the shops. For my family it’s about sport. Boxing Day always has football matches and this year Sunderland (my team) are away at Manchester United. Sometimes we go horse racing with my mum. Boxing Day has nothing to do with boxing though and is probably named after the giving of boxes (presents) to servants, staff, errand boys and postmen in the 1800’s.

horse-racing

And that is basically my English Christmas. Any other questions? Ask below and I’ll answer them for you. How are you spending your Christmas? In a traditional Slavic way? Low key or big party? I love to read your comments.

Merry Christmas. See you next week with a preview of 2017 and what to look forward to in the new year.

Richard.

Goodbye 2016

Goodbye 2016

It has been a long time since I last posted and it’s now almost the end of the year. I’ll tell you all about my usual Christmas in the U.K. in my next post but today we are going to focus on the last twelve months and that means using the present perfect; Arrggghhh! Oh No!

Get a free copy of my Easy Guide to the Present Perfect.

This year, what have we done?  What have we achieved?  Where have we been?  Have we enjoyed it? Yes, they are all present perfect questions, because this year is still this year, 2016, it has (is) not finished.

I am looking back at my new year’s resolutions from January and my plan for 2016 to see if I was successful (by my own standards). Have I been running once a week? (present perfect continuous). Have I been more organized? Have I finished writing that book yet?

running legs

Well, the running has been successful for me. I started running just once a week but quickly increased to three then four times a week and by the end of February I was running almost every day. I really can’t believe that just by setting the simply target of one run per week I was able to be motivated enough to increase the frequency so quickly.

For a vocabulary list to accompany this post click here.

I decided to set a new goal of running in a 10km race and completing it in 40 mins as I am 40 years old now and 40 at 40 seemed like a good target and not so easy to achieve. In early November I ran in a race in Kladno and finished in 40:45.

Being organized? Well, that was a different story. I started the year well (as everyone does with new year’s resolutions) but by the summer I had abandoned (past perfect!) my organizational plan and fallen back into the old routine. Writing plans in my diary really did help to keep me on track and next year I promise I will come into the modern age by using the calendar app. on my phone. I have always preferred the old fashioned paper version.

The book is on hold for the moment as I decided to change tack (a nautical term Petr K) and turn the manuscript into a video script. The result is a video course that will be available at the end of January and will help you with many of the confusing things about English such as “Is it ‘make’ or ‘do mistakes’?”, “Everybody is or everybody are?”, “Do I use listen or hear here?”.

Sadly the calendar and the ‘text me a question” ideas have been shelved (present perfecr passive) for the moment. However, I will put a team together over the next year to make these and other useful things available to you to help with your English.

Overall, I have to say I am very happy with my year, what about you?. I definitely feel fitter and therefore have more energy. I have seen my baby daughter grow up so quickly that although she is only just over one year old, she is already walking (running) and seems to understand both Czech and English. My older daughter has made me a very proud father by learning how to read a map when orienteering and has climbed to the top of a HUGE climbing wall in Kladno.

So what were your goals for 2016? Have you achieved them? Have you been successful by your own definition?  Have you enjoyed 2016?  I’d love to know as we say goodbye to 2016.

(Jana, have you started to make money by doing things you enjoy?  Ivana, have you got your Christmas crackers yet? Richard, have you started to go to bed earlier?  Blahos, have you enjoyed your first term at university? )

Bye for now,

Richard.

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New Richard Hill English Website

New Richard Hill English Website

You may have noticed that my website (richardhill.cz) is currently unavailable.  We are working on a new site now and I will let you know just as soon as it’s ready. The new site will include a new video section available via monthly subscription. Meanwhile, keep up to date by checking your inbox for my emails which will include some teaser videos.

That’s all for now, ta ta.

Richard.