What is up, my friends? Hello and welcome to Speak Easy English, the number one podcast on the internet… according to my mother.
Alright. Thank you for joining me on another episode. This podcast is designed to help you become completely fluent in English naturally and automatically, and most important, without having to study any grammar. As always, we’re going to talk 100% in English spoken by a native English speaker. That is me. All of our episodes are free and all of the transcripts are also free on our website. Speakeasyenglish.club, that is speakeasyenglish.club. My name is Brandon and I will be your host, so make yourself comfortable. Get a coffee or a beer, a cocktail, whatever you prefer and let’s get the show on the road.
Okay. Today we are going to talk a little bit about my personal life. And more specifically, we are going to talk about the ways that my children continue to remind me about natural language learning and how this process is automatic and fun. It does not need to be anything else. So if you find yourself stressed out or disappointed in your progress acquiring English, this is a great episode for you. I think I will title this episode Be Childish and in fact you might hear in the background my children are going down for a nap and as usual, they are singing as they lay there trying to fall asleep. So if you hear some singing and squealing in the background, those are my kiddos. So the main thing to take away from this episode is that I want you to be childish. That means be like a child. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s get to it.
My first point is about fluency or quote unquote, being fluent in a language. My kids are almost three years old, so they are two years old and 11 months. They are triplets. So there are three of them. I would absolutely consider them to be full. Fluent in English. They understand what we say to them and they can express basically whatever they want to express. And yet they make mistakes nonstop. Literally every sentence they say is loaded with mistakes. That means there are very, very many mistakes. The verbs are not conjugated correctly. The adjectives might be plural when it should be singular or vice versa. The selection of vocabulary is limited and sometimes completely wrong, and yet nobody would ever say that they are not fluent. Of course they are fluent. Well, why? Why do we consider them fluent even though they make mistakes all the time? Well, because being fluent just means being able to communicate in the language automatically. By automatically, I mean without having to stop and think or translate. They simply say what they want to say and they understand when we are speaking to them, so that makes them fluent. If you notice, nowhere in that definition did you find perfection, because being perfect, or in other words, not making mistakes is not part of being fluent. It does not matter how many mistakes you make, you can still be fluent if you are able to easily and automatically communicate in English, even if you make mistakes every 2 or 3 words. I’m sure many of you see that as good news. You can be proud to say that you are fluent in English, even if you make a lot of mistakes.
Speaking of mistakes, mistakes are precisely what I want to talk about next. Are you afraid of making mistakes when you speak English? I know when I speak Spanish or French, sometimes I find myself feeling afraid to speak because I do not want to make a mistake. This is natural, but it is bad. My kids are reminding me of this every day. As I said, they make a lot of mistakes and guess what? They do not care at all. They do not care about their mistakes. They do not care about trying to improve the structure of their sentences. They do not care about speaking correctly or what other people might think of what they said. This ability that children have to speak shamelessly, that means to speak without caring at all what other people might think or if someone might judge them. This incredible ability that children have makes them very good at acquiring language. They are looking at language as a way to communicate. It has nothing to do with being perfect or impressing anyone. It’s all about communicating.
This reminds me of Dr. Stephen Krashen and his theory of language acquisition, which we talked about during the first ten episodes. I believe we discussed it multiple times, but primarily in episode seven. By the way, if you have not listened to the first ten episodes, please go back and listen to those episodes, because that is where we talk about natural language learning and how to acquire language using this podcast. Okay, so Doctor Stephen Crashin says that in each of our heads there is a sort of moderator, like a gatekeeper that allows us to speak or decides not to speak. And for each of us, the strength of this moderator, that is the power of this moderator to keep us quiet is different. Some people have a very active moderator that tells them to stay quiet all the time, and other people have a much more relaxed moderator that allows them to speak non-stop. You might describe these people as shy versus outgoing or introverted versus extroverted, but the bottom line is, in all of us, there is a voice in our head that says, be careful, don’t make a mistake. Make sure what you are saying is correct and true and precise. And if there is any doubt, don’t say anything at all. And this voice says these things in order to keep us quiet, in order to prevent making mistakes. While this is natural, we need to be aware of that voice, of that moderator, and we need to tell him or her to be quiet: allow us to speak. Sure, this is easier said than done, and especially for people who are naturally. The outgoing and extroverted. This is fairly easy to do, but for those of us who are more introverted or shy, this can be a challenge. I recommend that you use mindfulness to work on making your moderator relax. That means be aware of what’s happening the next time you go to speak English and you feel nervous and you hear the voice in your head saying, be careful, don’t make a mistake. Remember that this is just a voice in your head and it is natural, but you do not have to listen because it’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s good to make mistakes. The more you use your English, the more mistakes you will make. So in other words, making mistakes means you are using your English as a tool to communicate. You should be proud of your mistakes. Pay them no mind. That means don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter. Remember, be childish! Be a child! Use the language without any hesitation and without any shame for mistakes you might make, because that is the best way to acquire English. And at the end of the day, that’s the goal.
The third thing I will mention is related to both Steven Krashen and also to making mistakes. What I’m noticing are the stages of learning a language. So Krashen’s theory, languages are learned in a certain order, so certain parts of the language are learned first, and there is a series of mistakes that language learners will normally make, depending on where they are in the process of acquiring that language. This might seem a little boring, but it is worth discussing. When you speak English, do you often make some of the same mistakes over and over? Does that frustrate you? I know I do, especially when I’m speaking French. There are certain mistakes that I make unconsciously, almost every single time I speak French. My language partner can still understand me and so she does not correct me. But at the end of the course, or the conversation, she reminds me that I am still making those same mistakes. For a while I felt bad about this. I felt like I was not progressing. I would say to myself, “why am I still making this same mistake over and over?” But thanks to my kids, I am now seeing in real life that acquiring a language does come in stages and there are certain mistakes that you will make over and over again, depending on which stage of language acquisition you are in right now.
My children are showing me this over and over again. As they acquire English, they enter stage after stage of making specific chronic mistakes. They make the mistake over and over and over. For example, one of the first mistakes was confusing “please” and “thank you”. And then when we introduced “you’re welcome” they would mix up “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. It was like they just could not get it straight. They would say the wrong word or they would say combinations of the words like “thank-you-welcome”. Because they just could not remember which one to use. As they acquire more English, they now understand the difference between please and thank you and you’re welcome. But they have entered into a stage where the mistakes they mostly make are with conjugating verbs. They generally only use the third person, (so he or she or it). They normally use that conjugation of a verb. So for example if I say “are you hungry?” They say “I is hungry”. Of course it should be, “I am hungry,” but they say is. Are you going to the potty? “I is going.” And I won’t give too many examples because I don’t want you to hear incorrect English. But my point is they are chronically making mistakes as they work through different stages of acquiring the language.
So back to you and me as language learners. When we find ourselves making mistakes chronically, that means making the same mistakes over and over. That’s okay. That’s the stage we are in right now. And the road to acquiring English or any language is full of stage after stage of different mistakes. And as you work through those stages, you will make those mistakes over and over until one day, eventually you notice that you no longer make them. It’s important to realize that these mistakes are not corrected by simply knowing the right way to say something, or by being corrected by a teacher. You can get corrected a thousand times and you are still going to make the mistake. I talk about this back in episode nine, where we discuss the idea that your language teacher might be hurting your progress if they are interrupting you and trying to correct all of your mistakes. Simply put, that does not help. That is not how language is acquired. Again, let’s go back to my kids. All of these stages that they are working through, we do not correct them. We do not correct their language. When they say “I is hungry”, we do not say “No, no, no. You say I am hungry.” Of course not. We’re not going to interrupt them. We understand what they are saying and they are proud to be able to communicate that they are hungry. So of course we are not going to interrupt them to correct their language. They will learn, they will acquire the correct way to say it, over time. The same thing goes for you. Don’t let your teacher interrupt you to try and correct what you are saying, as long as they can understand the meaning. And I will go one step further. You, yes you, yourself. You need to stop interrupting yourself to correct your sentence. Just speak. Tell the moderator in your head to be quiet and just speak. If it’s imperfect, that’s fine. If you know you are making a mistake while you are making it, that’s fine. Just talk. Communicate because using the language as a tool to communicate is the goal. There is no need for correction, whether it’s from your teacher or from yourself. Getting corrected over and over will not help you acquire English.
Alright, I hope you enjoyed these lessons that my kids are teaching me. I wanted to share these things with you. Many of these things we’ve already talked about, or we probably already know in the back of our heads, but the journey to acquire a language is a long one, and it’s easy to forget some of these simple, yet very powerful principles. So I thought I would use my kids as a reference here and allow their journey to help us on our journey.
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