Are You Learning English Wrong?

Do you feel stuck in your language learning?

Are you like a lot of English students, who have been learning for years, but feel like they still aren’t where they want to be in their English learning?

Then watch this video, where I hope to show you exactly what you’ve been doing wrong and how to change the inefficient way you’ve been learning English. Also, remember to read the transcript below, so you understand everything!

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Let’s go:


Aww yeah, RealLifers, what’s going on?

This is Ethan, with another special video for you.

So, today I want to talk to you about something that people have a lot of misconceptions about. This is a very important subject and this is why you might be learning English wrong.

I want to start out by talking about why you might be learning English wrong. So, this all probably starts when you’re in school. There’s a problem with how languages are traditionally taught in schools, and this problem isn’t just in your country.

So, here in Spain, my students tend to think that this is a problem just in Spain, but as I’ve taught in Brazil, and here in Spain, I’ve learned languages in the United States, I’ve taught at a school here in Spain and in the United States, and this isn’t a problem that is just in one country. It’s in a bunch of countries, possibly all of them.

We tend to traditionally teach languages, for some reason, in schools, like other subjects, like science and math. We teach very logically, very much like you’re trying to solve an equation, you’re trying to look at the language in parts, instead of looking at it more like, like an art, or like something that’s more creative.

So… So, why might these traditional methods be wrong?

It’s because we take them, and we look at, first, at grammar, at structure, and we look very little at what the language is actually used for: listening and speaking. You can probably remember when you first started learning English, and you learned the conjugations, the different verbs, you probably had to learn different tenses and things like these, which, you know, they’re useful for the language, I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn these things, but I don’t think that they should be at the base of what we’re learning.

At RealLife English, we think that you need to take a completely different approach to language learning, and that, actually, the way we’ve been learning is quite backwards.

So, what do I mean by this?

I want you to think about how you learned your first language, how children learn languages. So, children don’t sit down when they’re 2 years old and start studying the language. They learn it by listening, for the first, maybe two to three years of their life, and then, little by little, they start speaking by mimicking those around them, their parents, maybe their other family, maybe other children that they’re playing with, and little by little, they make a lot of mistakes. This is very important, they make lots, and lots, and lots of mistakes all the time, but they don’t care. Little by little, they get better.

Then, when they’re a little bit older, in school, maybe when they’re 5 or 6, they learn the alphabet, they learn how to write, they learn how to read… So that comes after they’ve already been years just listening and speaking, without ever needing to look at the written, the written part of the language.

And then, when they’re even older, for example, in the United States, I started learning about grammar, maybe, when I was 11 or 12. So, grammar isn’t even that important until you’re much older.

So, now you might see why the traditional method seem a little bit funny, a little strange. It’s kind of weird that we’re learning a foreign language the exact opposite way that we learn our first language, the natural way that we learn.

But a lot of people here bring up the problem that most of the teachers are non-natives, which non-natives can teach you a lot of things, but only a native speaker can show you how the language is actually spoken. So, it’s important to get both of these, to get a non-native that can maybe tell you about how, coming from your language, it’s best to learn, but also, hearing the real speech of natives.

Another problem, maybe, is that you’re listening to discs in your traditional classes, you’re not listening to how people actually speak. But, if you’re watching this video, then you’re proactive and you’re looking for other solutions, you’re listening to a native speaker speaking right now.

Alright. Now you know the problem, so now let me talk about a possible solution.

So, the solution would be to surround yourself with the language as much as possible. Stop worrying so much about having perfect grammar, about not making mistakes, about learning about all the structure, and about reading a lot, and start focusing more on listening as much as possible, speaking as much as possible, and doing the things that you already enjoy in English.

I’m going to repeat this again. It’s crucial that you start learning with the things that you love.

So, for example, you could be listening by watching television shows in the original language, in English, you probably already watch a lot of these, but maybe you watch them dubbed over in your language.

You can start listening to podcasts, these are an amazing resource. You can click here to read an article all about podcasts. These are great because you can listen to them anywhere. So, I listen to hours and hours of podcast every week, when I’m going to different classes, going to meet a friend, waiting in line at the supermarket, cooking, cleaning, you can imagine a bunch more things. This is a great way for you to take your convenient moments that you have every day and turn them into language learning, when you’re not really doing anything else productive.

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And it’s also not important that you understand everything. You might start listening to something like a radio, or a podcast, and think “oh, I don’t understand any of this,” like, “My English is so bad,” but the important thing is, like a child, you just listen and listen and listen, and your brain is going to get used to the sounds, and little by little, you’ll get better, even if you don’t understand everything at first. Trust me, it really works. Just try it out for a couple of weeks and you’ll see.

And then, also, maybe once you’ve been listening for a while, start speaking whenever you can.

So, there’s an article here that will show you all different ways that you can start speaking in your city, or online with other people. It’s much easier to find people to speak with than you might think.

So now, start taking every opportunity, if you want to get over your shyness of speaking, the best way to do this is by putting yourself out there and speaking.

And last, just don’t be so serious. It’s something that’s supposed to be a fun process, be creative, think of how children learn and try to play with the language, have fun with it, and make it an enjoyable process. Language is communication, it’s not something that needs to be broken down, it’s not something that needs to be solved, it’s not an equation that only has one answer, it’s something that you need to be creative with, that you need to make mistakes with, and just that you need to know is flexible. Especially a language like English, that is evolving so much, as different people from all different cultures are learning it, and it’s changing through each cultures, pronunciation and interpretation.

Alright guys, so I hope you found this video interesting and that it’s maybe changed some of your ideas about language learning. If you’re interested in these kinds of ideas about language learning, and you want to learn more, be sure to check out the RealLife English website, the blog, here, and that way you can get a good more introduction to different ways to start using your English in RealLife.

FREE E-Book: 101 Words You’ll Never Learn in School

Alright guys, have a good one.


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  • Good! You always give useful tips to not get frustrated when learning new languages.

  • aus kyin says:

    I think exactly same with you. I’d lived in English-culture country at my age of 4 to 9. Remembering that times, I was very good at speaking and reading & listening. But when I came back to my home country English seems so difficult “subject” to learn in class. I can say it, But they tried to fix me within a right order of grammer saying like ” you are wrong because of verb+ing~ blah blah -” It doesn’t make any sense to me and i didn’t know what ‘verb’ means . And at first i made a great score in english test, but as times go over and over it plummed to the nearly 0 at the grammer test and people had thought that i’m not good at english at all.
    I still think grammer is not important as much as LISTENING AND SPEAKING. What it is need for when you don’t know your home town lauguage’s grammer?

  • It´s a fun and interesting way to improve my skills. Thanks!

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  • Paty says:

    Dear Ethan,

    this video is awesome!

    I have the same opinion, and I always try to bring this content to my students, but, you know, as many of them are already used to writing and reading much more than speaking and listening, they feel stuck at these… I don’t know how to explain, but they don’t feel comfortable enough to try a new way of thinking, as if they were doing this wrong.

    Anyway, all I am saying is that it requires a lot of effort from my part to make them understand that grammar is not all we need. But with this great website, I feel I can. Your work is incredible and it is possible to notice how passionate you really are about language learning.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! 🙂

  • arroh areh says:

    Hello Ethan

    Great,thank you for some tips to learning English I have been studying English for one year but im still didnt know how to speak English because in our class we rarely practice speaking and listening podcast or watching video.The scedule to do it only ones again in one week.Much heard explanation about material from the teacher and it was bored.After I watched this video I realize how to learn english.Awww yeah!!!!

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