I want to talk to you today about positive thinking. Did you know that the way you think, and the things that you tell yourself, can have a big effect on your learning?
I’ve chosen three things that students often say to me, both in our one-to-one lessons and on my Facebook page. Maybe these are things that you say or think too. I want to help you change the way you think about your learning so you have more success with your English!
“My English isn’t very good”
Almost all English learners say this! I’ve even known advanced-level students who are almost fluent and still say that their English is bad! In fact, I’ve never heard a student say “My English is actually quite good!” Why is that?
I think a lot of people focus on the negative instead of the positive. Imagine you are having a conversation in English and you make a mistake. Do you think, “Oh no! My English is terrible!” or do you feel pleased with yourself because you can have a conversation in English? I bet most people are in the first group and I want you to be in the second group instead.
Do you feel bad when you make grammar mistakes? Do you feel frustrated when you can’t remember a word? Do you worry that your pronunciation isn’t perfect? I know that a lot of you do!
But do you ever think about all the things that you CAN do? If you can hold a conversation in English, you are doing amazingly well! If you can understand a video in English, well done! If you can read this, congratulations!
Even if you’re a beginner, there are lots of things that you can do. Maybe you have learnt ten new words that you didn’t know yesterday. Maybe you have just studied the present perfect and you now understand it a bit better than you did before. Each little step is a positive!
I remember the first time I understood a joke in Polish. It was just a really simple sentence on a billboard advertising a supermarket but I still felt ridiculously excited!
So try to worry less about the things that you can’t do perfectly yet. Instead, remember what you CAN do and allow yourself to feel good about that!
"I’ve been learning English for years and I’m not getting any better"
This is another thing I hear a lot. I remember a student I taught years ago. He came to England for nine months and started in a lower intermediate class. When he finished, he was in the advanced class but he was convinced his English was still at the same level as when he’d first arrived!
When you’re a beginner, you can go quite quickly from knowing nothing to being able to manage basic conversations. Then you feel really pleased with yourself because you can see how much you’ve learnt. Somehow as you go up through the levels, it gets harder to see your progress.
Perhaps it’s like watching children grow. If you see a child every day, you don’t notice them getting bigger but if you don’t see the child for a while, you notice a huge change in them the next time you meet. I bet you are actually making far more progress than you realise!
Remember, just because there are still things that you find difficult, this doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress. It might also help you to know that you’re not alone in feeling like this.
This happens a lot. A student makes a mistake and I correct it. The student says “sorry” and clearly feels bad about their error. Then I feel bad because I made the student feel bad! Isn’t this a crazy situation?!
So why do so many learners apologise for their mistakes? I think they feel ashamed and embarrassed when there’s really no need to feel like this. If somebody corrects you, especially if it’s a teacher, please remember that they are trying to help you and not make you feel bad.
Mistakes don’t have to be a negative thing. In fact, you can learn a lot from your mistakes and this will help you to improve. Try to see errors and corrections as an opportunity to learn and improve, and not something to feel worried about.
When you make a mistake with your English and somebody corrects you, be happy that you’ve learnt something and don’t say “Sorry”!
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