What is up, my friends? Welcome to Speak Easy English, the number one podcast on the Internet, according to my mother.
Alright, so last time I talked about a few strategies to help you get the most out of each episode. But we also started doing something a little bit different. We told a story. So instead of just talking about how to learn (or acquire) fluency in English, we actually told a story of the Three Little Pigs – and hopefully you enjoyed that story (I know I did). But in any case, I hope that gives you a taste of what this podcast will be, once we get done talking about natural language learning and how to use this podcast to acquire English. So in the future, there will be many more episodes where we tell stories and talk about interesting things and current events just to give you something interesting to which you can listen, and engage, and start absorbing English naturally.
Meanwhile, we have two more episode in our miniseries on natural language learning. And today we’re going to talk about one very important question. Some of you have teachers and some of you have language partners – but the question is the same:
Is your English partner or your English teacher hurting your English?
Yes, you heard me! Is your English teacher (or your English partner) hurting your English fluency? That’s the question. And, unfortunately for many of you, the answer is probably yes. So today we are going to dig into that (that means we are going to discuss it deeply), and I’m going to give you some advice on how to correct that situation. Alright, let’s get to it.
Quickly, I’m going to recap (I’m going to summarize what we talked about last time). So, imitating the words and sounds of the language and, in particular, shadowing and mirroring the words I say, (so listening to me, but also repeating the exact words I say as I am saying them – that practice of imitating me exactly) is going to help you develop the muscles in your mouth and your tongue and your throat so that you can produce sounds in English with very little accent – so you sound truly fluent and without a foreign accent. But you don’t want to do that (shadowing that mirroring), you don’t want to do that the first or second or third time you listen to an episode, because when you do that, you are not focused on the meaning and the message. You are not actually improving your English fluency. You are only improving your accent.
Another way to practice and improve your accent is to read out loud when you are reading the transcript. Now, again, this detracts (it takes away) from your concentration on the message, but it helps you to improve your pronunciation and your accent without any pressure. You can do this with no stress when you are all by yourself. And that is great.
We also talked about the power of visualizing stories. So, imagining the story in your head and imagining all the details of the scene, and the weather, and the clothing that people are wearing, and the whole thing (all of the details of the story) – imagine them in your head and that will allow your brain to feel as if you actually lived that experience. And that will help your brain to automatically absorb the language that is being used to tell the story.
Lastly, and something we have talked about repeatedly, is that you should always try not to translate. Try to focus on the message, on the content. Try not to focus on the individual words. You should always focus on the meaning of the entire story, the entire paragraph, or the entire sentence, instead of focusing on the individual words. If you can forget that you are listening to English, that is when your brain is absorbing and acquiring that language the most. I love that because it is so counterintuitive! It does not seem to make any sense, but it’s true! When you forget that you are listening to another language, that is actually when your brain is acquiring that language the most. It’s incredible.
Alright, so let’s get to the topic of today’s episode, which is: why your English teacher or your English partner might actually be hurting you and holding you back.
Okay. It has long been known that your mood and your state of mind is very important to your ability to learn new things. And that goes for anything that you want to learn, not just language acquisition. If you are stressed or you are upset, or your teacher makes you feel uncomfortable or pressured, then you will have a much harder time learning or acquiring anything new. That is already known and is well established.
When it comes to language acquisition, Stephen Krashen has a specific hypothesis related to just this concept, and that is called the affective filter. That’s “affective” with an A. (That is not a common word in English. You do not need to know the word affective. What it means is emotional.) So there is an emotional filter in your brain. A filter blocks some things and lets other things pass. When you have a negative, a bad, emotional state that filter, that emotional filter, blocks out almost everything new. Even if you understand the English being spoken to you, if you are stressed or anxious, your emotional filter will not let your brain acquire anything new from that language. You will not absorb new abilities and new knowledge. It will not happen.
So what does this have to do with your language partner or your language teacher? It’s simple: If your teacher makes you feel stressed and you are not comfortable in that environment, then you will not acquire English. If you think back to school and your favorite teachers, or the teachers that you thought were the most effective, in general, those are always the teachers with whom you felt the most comfortable, right? In fact, if you ask yourself what is your favorite subject in school? The answer depends on who you had as a teacher for that subject, right? Think about it. Your favorite subject likely corresponds with your favorite teacher. Now, many of us, like me, are well beyond the age of school. So my teacher is actually a “language partner” or a “language tutor” that I find online, and I hire to spend time with me every week practicing French or Spanish. And for you, it would be whoever practices English with you. Hopefully that person is kind and patient and you like them. Of course, if you are in high school or college, you don’t really have a choice in who your teacher is. But if we’re being honest, you probably aren’t going to acquire the language in school. You are going to need to listen and read and interact with the language outside of school. So don’t worry, you can simply use your teacher in school to learn some vocabulary or some grammar. But if you actually want to acquire the language, as we’ve talked about, you are going to need a lot of listening and reading outside of school. So when you get to that point, or maybe you already are there and you already have a language partner or a language tutor, then you need to know that they might be holding you back. By that I mean: if they are frustrating you, if they are interrupting you, if they are stopping your flow of thought, then that’s not good!
How do you feel when you become interrupted by your partner? How do you feel when your tutor stops you in the middle of your sentence to correct a minor error? How do you feel? I would bet money that it frustrates you. Even if you are not conscious of that on the surface, deep down it is frustrating and negative to be constantly interrupted by your teacher or your partner.
Your teacher thinks they are doing you a favor. They think that you need to be corrected in order to learn. But as we have already discovered, that is not how you learn. You will acquire all of the language (and the correct way to say all of these things) over time, automatically. All of these little errors will correct themselves as you spend more time listening and reading and using the language. It does not require a teacher or a partner to stop you and correct you over and over again. In fact, when your teacher or your partner interrupts you repeatedly, even if they think they are helping, when they interrupt you it is hurting you. It is giving you a negative emotional filter, so your brain will not be able to improve your English from those corrections.
Okay, I jumped straight to the most important thing, and something I am very passionate about, which is the fact that your partner and your teacher should not interrupt you while you are speaking unless they don’t understand. If your language or your sentence was so mistaken, if it was very mistaken, if it was a big error, so much that they cannot understand your message, then, yes, they need to stop you and help you to express your message. But as long as they can understand the message you are trying to communicate, then they should never interrupt you. Speaking a foreign language is already hard enough and you do not need to deal with interruptions.
I will give you a couple other pieces of advice when it comes to getting a language partner or a language tutor. There are basically two ways of doing it. One is free and it is a language exchange, so you’ll spend half the time speaking your language – and half the time speaking their language – and that’s great because it’s free. But the person you’re talking to is probably not a teacher or expert in any way, and they may or may not be helpful, depending on who they are. The other method is to hire a language tutor, who generally are more professional, they have more experience, and it is a better option because you will spend the entire time speaking the language you want to learn. Of course, that costs money, so that’s the trade off (that’s the downside). You can find language exchange partners on websites and apps like Tandem and Hello Talk. And if you are interested in hiring a teacher or a tutor, then you can find that on websites like Preply or Italki. In either case, I strongly recommend that your language teacher or partner is a native speaker of the language you are trying to learn. Native speakers are the best reference when you are trying to learn a language. **I should say, I’m saying “learn”, but I mean acquire. I mean to become fluent**
I will also warn you. Most teachers or tutors are going to try and “teach you” [in quotes], using lessons and using grammar. And they are going to try to use the only method that they know (which is the old method) trying to teach you and trying to make you memorize the words and the grammar. You will have to explain to them what you want. All of the teachers I have ever used, in every single case, I have had to explain to them that I simply want to talk. I simply want to listen to them speaking and then respond, right? I just want to have a conversation. That’s it. No rules, no grammar, no memorization, no interruption, none of that. And be ready. You will likely have to have that conversation with the tutor or teacher that you find.
If you find somebody that you really like but they insist on interrupting you to correct you, then I have a suggestion. You can suggest to them to take notes. They can make a note. They can write down all of the mistakes, the big mistakes, and share them with you at the end of the class. Just the big mistakes. Not all of the little ones, but just the real big ones or the big mistakes that you make repeatedly, right? If you’re making the same mistake over and over – at the end of the class, they can share that with you. They can send that to you. They can email you the notes on the mistakes that you are making repeatedly. That way, they are still correcting you, so to speak. They are still providing you with that feedback, but they’re doing it in a way that does not interrupt your flow of thinking and speaking. That is infinitely better – much, much better – than interrupting you over and over again.
Alright, guys. Your language journey is up to you, right? It’s up to you to defend yourself. And it’s up to you to take responsibility and put yourself in the best position to acquire English. So if your language tutor or your language teacher is holding you back by interrupting you and by stressing you out and by making you anxious, then you need to take steps to talk to them about that. And if you cannot find a resolution – if you cannot solve this problem with your teacher – then maybe you need to find a new partner, a new tutor, a new teacher. It is up to you to make sure that you are in the best position possible to learn and acquire fluency in English.
Okay, thank you so much for listening to this entire podcast. I appreciate you and I am proud of you and the effort you are making to become fluent in English. If you appreciate this podcast, please leave a review. I appreciate five stars, but feel free to be honest. Uh, you can also email me comments, questions, concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can also check out our website and the free transcripts at speakeasyenglish.club. Don’t forget to listen to this episode multiple times. Not just one time, but multiple times. And don’t do it back-to-back. You know by now that spaced repetition is the key. And the more you listen, and the more you read, the more you will acquire English. Alright guys, we will see you next time. Until then, cheers!