‘How’. It’s the beginning of the million-dollar question... ‘How do I become a fluent and confident communicator in English?’
The terrible truth is that while many people have been studying English for years, they still feel they just don’t have the ability or the confidence to communicate in real life situations. When it comes to delivering that short but important presentation, sharing in a meeting or even greeting the expat visitor at the office, most will do their utmost to duck out and shuffle quietly away.
Obviously, there is something awfully wrong with this if you have been studying English since Junior High and are now a working professional. Let’s calculate, three years for Junior High, plus another three for Senior High, plus a couple of years during university; conservatively, that would be around 6 – 9 years of English learning, that’s ample time. So, what went wrong? Why didn’t all those years of studying grammar at school make you an English language ‘Super Star’?
The answer is very simple…. E + O. Exposure and Opportunity. Exposure means integrating English into your life in real authentic ways on an everyday basis, and Opportunity, in layman’s terms, means ‘practice’. Not artificial practice, but real meaningful opportunities to experiment with language, test out your communication skills, and get useful feedback which will help you to develop language skills, build confidence, and ultimately become a more proficient communicator.
Exposure is easy to get now. We’re all online and the internet and cable TV have provided us with more than enough exposure. We browse, read online, watch movies and TV series in English, and spend more time than we should on YouTube watching English language videos and listening to English language music. Even platforms like TikTok offer short bursts of interesting exposure to foreign languages.
However, opportunity is a whole other ball game and it’s not so easy to obtain. How do you find people to practice your English with who can also scaffold your language development and give you the guidance you need to improve? Many people sign up for a short language course and promise themselves that they will ‘knuckle down’ for a few months and study hard, but three things often go wrong. The first is what we call ‘life craziness’. Traffic is crazy, work is even crazier and then there is family… Where is the time? Where is the energy? Add in the factor of the current Covid crisis and the ‘New Norm’ and you have the perfect storm for a commitment failure.
The second is getting drowned out and lost in a class packed with dozens of other students who have varying and very different needs. There is only 1 teacher….. 1 divided by 40? Answer: definitely not enough teacher to spread around. 1 divided by 20? Still not enough teacher to go around. So, we feel left out and often left behind, and this becomes demotivating. If problem number 1, ‘life craziness’ means that we miss a class or 2….. or 3 or 4, we just can’t catch up. This is even more demotivating, and eventually we quietly fade away and stop going to classes. Lost time, lost money, and most importantly lost opportunity.
The third aspect in our paper triangle of failure is the quality of the opportunities we receive. Are they really meaningful opportunities to use and develop our langauge skills or are they just artifical exercises and redundant drills with a sprinkle of new vocabulary thrown in? If they are, then its more of the same recipe for the previous failure you experienced and you’ŗe right back to where you were in high school. Not making much progress, frustrated, and losing confidence, yet again.
What does all of this mean? It means that it’s time to change the way we think about learning English. We send mail online, we shop online, we listen to music and watch movies on line, we text and video chat online and learning environments are now virtual and online. No more travelling, no more wasted time, no more problematic schedules. Where ever you are is now a great place to learn, and guess what? Teachers are now individual coaches and mentors and learning online is now more personalized and affordable. But remember, learning a language is all about communicating.
You dont learn a langauge and then communicate, you try to communciate and in the process learn a language.
The opportunity to communicate is essential, not an option. So, when choosing your online learning platform make sure you’ŗe getting what you need, lots of meaningful opportunities through realtime communication, not just mechanical one way ‘click’ exercises or robotic and repetitive activities.
In this era, there’s simply no excuse for you not to be the fantastic English communicator you’ve always dreamt of being, you can take English classes via phone, do online English program modules, or do English sessions with a ‘1 on1’ mentor or coach via platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Skype and many more.
Now, its all up to you. What’s your plan?
By Amber Victoria - Owner and Principal Trainer at The Communciation Factory
An article is never just an article, every little bit of exposure offers us the opportunity to learn. Take a look at some of the interesting vocabulary we used in this article. Remember, reading a new word and learning it's meaning is only part of the vocabulary development process. Plan how to use some of these new words in your day to day English communication.
Article Glossary – Phrasal verbs
Let’s take a look at 9 of the phrasal verbs that were used in this article and explore their meanings.
A phrasal verb is a certain combination of words, sometimes a verb and a preposition like the examples below, which has an idomatic meaning. An idiomatic meaning means that the words when used together have a different meaning than when used separately and by themselves.
1. To duck out - to leave suddenly and usually without telling anyone that you’ŗe leaving
2. To shuffle away - to leave slowly and clumsily often in embarassment
3. To knuckle down - to focus on something and work hard
4. To be drowned out - to not be heard in a busy or loud situation or environment
5. To be left out - to not be included in something
6. To be left behind - to not be making the same progress as others or not at the same level or stage as others
7. To catch up - to make progress and become closer to something
8. To fade away - to slowly disappear
9. To throw something in - to add or contribute something, often in a careless manner
Article Glossary – Idioms
You’ll also notice that this article opened with the idiom ‘the million dollar question’ and we also used the idiom ‘a perfect storm’. So, what exactly is a million dollar question or a perfect storm?
1. The million dollar question - An important frequently asked question that is difficult to answer
2. A perfect storm - A situation where a combination of negative circumstances come together to worsen a condition.
Want to find out more about Individual Coaching and Online Learning Opportunities?