Have you studied and had difficulty reaching fluency in English? Do you feel like something important is holding you back, but you’re not sure what it is?
Today you’re going to learn about the most common excuses, attitudes and obstacles that prevent you from learning English.
Whether you´re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student, this is a good chance to check yourself and understand how you can be a better learner.
Free E-book: 101 Words You Will Never Learn in School
Excuses & Attitudes (to Avoid)
1. “I’m Not Good With Languages”
It’s true that some people are better at learning languages than others, but you have to accept that some people, with or without a gift, just want it more.
In this sense, the greatest gift you can have for learning is TO REALLY WANT IT. Unless you have some real serious learning deficiencies, you are fully able to learn English. It might take more dedication and patience, better strategies, study habits and awareness of your learning style, but to say that what is holding you back is because you aren´t good at languages is not a good excuse.
The grand majority of people who have learned English as a second language don’t have a gift. They’ve learned through persistent hard work, avoiding excuses, and overcoming obstacles that everybody faces.
2. “I’m Too Embarrassed to Speak”
If you don’t use it, you lose it. All the embarressment or laziness that prevents you from speaking will result in the forgetting of everything you´ve already learned up until that point in the process. This is the big problem with a lot of English schools. They don´t create enough opportunities to speak in authentic situations.
If you don’t use the basic stuff you learn, no amount of advanced grammar is going to help you remember what you superficially learned and forgot because you didn’t apply it.
Furthermore, not speaking contributes to the psychological blockage of your whole process. So what’s the best advice? Open your mouth. Whether it’s in the classroom, alone in the shower, with friends who speak a little or a lot, or even foreigners in real life or on Skype, just stop being embarrassed and OPEN YOUR MOUTH.
3. “Adults Don’t Learn Languages Very Well”
While an adult is not going to have the same ability as a child to learn a foreign language, I think many of us just don’t give ourselves enough credit. There are plenty of advantages to being an adult language learner, including more self-awareness about our learning processes, the fact that we know what we want, and we can plan out our process.
It´s true that the vast majority of adult language learners will never totally lose their accent, but you can smooth it out with intelligent methods, and if you are communicating fine, what the heck is wrong with having an accent? It’s who we are, where we come from, and an important part of our identity. And it often makes you appear sexy and exotic.
The world is full of successful adult language learners who do a beautiful job communicating and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.
4. “I Don’t Have the Time”
You don’t need to sign up for an English school and pay a lot of money, nor do you need several hours of free time every day.
Signing up for and attending the right program can help you a lot and give you some added structure, but if you don’t have the time, use your imagination and learn with the technology at your convenience.
English for Life is an excellent place to start, and there are plenty of free podcasts you can download to learn in your car, in addition to blogs, youtube videos, and a ton of other free resources. If you look hard enough, you will find a ton of resources that will help you learn English without paying anything.
5.“I Need to Go to an English Speaking Country”
You simply do not need to travel across the ocean to another country to have contact with the language. There are English speakers everywhere if you actually take the time to look, and when you get to the stage in your learning where “immersion” is something that would give you a big push, there are other options.
The most important part is adding English into your daily life. Find ways to make it fun.
Obstacles (to Overcome)
6. Lack of Purpose
A lot of people don’t have a strong WHY to learn the language. Even if “I have to learn English for my career” is the truth, if it’s the first thing you think about when you think about English, it’s gonna’ be a long, slow and painful process. This leads to a lack of love for what you’re doing and a mechanical approach.
People who think to learn English in terms of external motivation don´t usually don’t enjoy learning English. They get bored and tired easily and are often not very dedicated.
So what’s the solution? Look for a deeper purpose and cultivate it. Really look hard at why you are learning and use that as the source of your inspiration. Here’s an inspiring story of purpose and perseverance applied to language learning.
7. Lack of Responsibility
A lot of people want to pay somebody to learn English for them or to acquire the language as if it were a chip in the brain. They don’t understand that to learn a language, you need to take responsibility for your process, and stop placing it upon the shoulders of the teacher or school or life circumstances.
Of course, the school and teacher have their own responsibility they must follow through on, but the teacher is more of a facilitator and is only needed to show the student the door. YOU must be the one to walk through the door by your own will power.
Learning English is not a chip in your brain, but an intimate process that you must participate in every day. Yes, EVERY DAY. Excellence (i.e. fluency) is not easily, quickly or even likely to be achieved with a haphazard twice a week effort.
8. Lack of a Good Plan/Method
If you’re going to learn English, you need to decide, and then clarify your motives, investigate well the path to success, and then set your life up and execute. People often don’t organize their lives in a way that will lead to success with their English learning process because they don’t have a very good plan, they don’t make the time to learn every day (outside of class), and they don’t investigate what makes a good school and/or method.
People look for quick, easy fixes to problems that they have to face. If you’re not successful in learning English, first stop and ask yourself, “Why am I not learning?” and take responsibility for your own process. ONLY THEN should you start looking for people that can help you.
Think about the things I mentioned here and then talk with your friends that have been successful in learning. Ask advice from them, research on the internet, visit several schools, watch a class or two, and learn to tell the difference between clever marketing and real quality.
9. Lack of Imagination
Life and English are not two separate things when you’re using your imagination to learn. The problem is that most people treat English like a school subject, which is the worst way to learn a language. English fluency is not to be attained through memorization or grammar or book exercises—not to say that these strategies (to a limited degree) can’t help.
Fluency is a dance, an art, a practice and a passion, and the learner must identify his life experience with the language in order to flow with her own imagination and learning style, to give meaning to the process. This goes along the lines of having a strong purpose (#6), because imagination often flows out of purpose.
Here are a few signs that you’re not using your imagination: You’re not having fun, you’re not excited to learn, you make excuses, and you’re not utilizing your natural abilities.
So how do you spark your imagination? Clarify your purpose for wanting to learn and connect it to what you already do and enjoy, including your natural abilities, your interests, and your life. That is imagination.
What You Can Do Today
A challenge to you: Take 20 minutes to think about what’s holding you back. Do a brainstorm. Just throw down a million ideas on paper and don’t filter. Why do you want to learn English? What are you good at and how can you apply it to English? How can you cultivate a pleasure for learning English?
Don’t let the excuses in. Take responsibility and accept the responses. Think about something that you absolutely love to do and imagine how it would be to have the same passion for English. Remember, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” exactly like your English learning. The million-dollar question: How could you enjoy each step and at the same time be sure that you’re on the road to fluency? This answer can only come from you.
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Free E-book: 101 Words You Will Never Learn in School