Whenever you set out to do something new, like learning to speak English, something you want to do that is not part of your life’s routine at the moment, you need to prepare yourself. If you want to do something new, like learning a language, then you need to decide what things you need to do, and focus on adding this additional set of routines to your daily life.
You need to break down the tasks needed to achieve the result, speaking English. Learning language activities you need and implement them consistently. You need to make room in your existing daily routines and you need to keep doing them until you form a habit.
People are mostly a collection of routines, activities we do repeatedly. You have routines you must undertake, like eating, to survive. But you have flexibility on when and how you execute these routines.
Just saying, “I want to learn a new language,” is not a habit. Saying “I will go to a language class 2 days a week,” is not enough, you need to make learning to speak a language part of your life’s routine. You need to build this extra activity into every one of your days and make it a habit.
Establish a consistent set of routines and make room for them to take place. Once you’ve decided what you will do you need to stick to the routines until they become a habit, which in my experience takes about 20-40 days.
Find a language learning system. Something that already has tasks and routines you can use.
A morning ritual. Maybe it’s as simple as making sure you have your Adept English audio lessons on your phone and you charge your mobile phone up.
Do things even if you don’t want to do it. If your routine is to listen to 30 minutes of native English speakers every day, then do that. No excuses.
Don’t disappoint yourself. Set realistic goals, don’t set yourself up to fail.
Focus on doing the routine. To begin with it is important to implement your new routine consistently. Forget about the language learning results. This will come later.
Make it fun. You are more likely to stick with something you enjoy.
Forget about what you did before. You might have tried learning a language before. Forget about history, focus on the now.
Set reminders. When you start a new routine, you need to remind yourself to do it. Set your computer screensaver to remind you, send yourself a text message, leave post-it notes. Ask friends to remind you!
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Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English.
One of the most important elements in learning a skill is the ability to be consistent, especially in your English learning. Language learning needs you to be consistent. Consistent, C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-T is an adjective and if you’re ‘consistent’, it means that you have regular habits, you’re the same in your habits and your practices over time. So in terms of your language learning, it works best if you have consistent habits, if you do it regularly. Maybe Adept English helps instil that too, as we put out our new podcasts twice weekly. So even if this is the only English language listening that you do in a week – there is some consistency to it.
When you’re learning a new skill, then often the best way to go about this is what I call ‘little and often’. So to do a little bit of practice every day will be the most helpful for your English. Learning language is a bit like getting fit through exercise, losing weight – or like growing plants or improving your cooking skills. You can’t do it all in a single day. You can’t suddenly achieve your goals by the end of one day. You can’t get fit or lose weight – all in a single day.
Learning a skill takes time, and you get better results, if you put effort in over a prolonged period of time. Doing ‘little and often’, especially if it’s a bit every day – is more likely to achieve success. So successful language learning involves making a commitment – that means a ‘promise to be consistent’ – just like you do when you look after children, animals or plants. If you’re looking after children, animals or plants, you need to be available to them over the long-term, not just a short burst of taking care of them, on a particular day. You can’t be a good parent with one day of big effort! It needs consistency!
So think of frequent language practice as ‘nurturing your English language skills’, just as you might nurture a child, an animal or some plants! The verb ‘to nurture’, N-U-R-T-U-R-E means ‘to look after, to give care to’. And obviously, there’s a relationship, a correlation between the amount of time and energy and effort you put into your nurturing and your level of success at it. So you might say to me ‘Hilary, my English language learning is important – but it’s not as important as looking after my son or daughter!’. And I agree with you of course.
A photograph of a man who has great study habits. Consistency, routine and the habit learning little and often is the key to success.
But when I’m talking about your commitment to your English language studies, I think the idea that ‘you get back what you put in’, or another English phrase ‘you reap what you sow’ – they’re both apt. You need both commitment and consistency – but the good news is, that you don’t need any other special skills. If you have commitment and consistency in your language learning, that’ll be enough! Your brain will do the rest for you automatically. Especially with our ‘Listen & Learn’ method. So if you’re really committed, you’ll learn quickly and if you’re less committed and you spend less time on it, you’ll just learn more slowly. Either is fine.
There are statistics which show that learning languages daily is the best and that people who’re consistent in their habits around language learning are more likely to stick with it for the long-term. And make no mistake, with language learning, long-term is necessary. Any person, website or organisation which promises ‘learn fluent English in three weeks’ – they’re frankly just not telling the truth!
What’s called in learning psychology either ‘distributed practice’ or ‘spaced repetition’ is the type of practice that’s most likely to get results. ‘Distributed practice’ means that your English language practice is broken up into smaller sections and done over a prolonged period of time, over a longer period of time. And ‘spaced repetition’ just means that you repeat the same learning, but with spaces in between, with gaps of time in between.
So with our podcasts, or material from our courses, it works best if you listen a few times, to gain understanding. Then leave it for a little while, listen to something else. And then come back to the original podcast and listen again – just as you were about to forget it. This then strengthens any learning of new words, which you might have just been about to forget. It takes a number of listens, a number times hearing a new word or phrase, before you remember it – and even more times hearing it, before you’ve stored that word or phrase in your brain, so that you can use it when you speak yourself.
If you want to make use of ‘spaced repetition’, our Course One, Activate Your Listening is designed to make use of spaced repetition. The structure of the course is that there are recordings on topics, some of them rather like a podcast, others are a conversation. Then there is a second recording, where I run through the difficult vocabulary, giving explanations of the difficult words, rather like I do on the podcasts.
Then you listen again to the first recording, this time, knowing all the vocabulary, understanding all the words. Then there’s often a third recording, which uses some of the same vocabulary, so that you hear it again, this will help you remember it – it’s spaced repetition. And then with some recordings, there’s also a pronunciation exercise, which uses the same vocabulary again. So the whole course uses the idea of spaced repetition to help you with your English learning.
What appears to be important about the ‘spaced repetition’ or the ‘distributed practice’ is not just the ‘little and often’ nature of the learning, but also the spaces in between the learning. The rule seems to be that for simple skill learning, shorter spaces of time in between sessions of learning are better, whereas for more complex learning, slightly longer periods in between are better. It’s as though your brain needs some time after your learning session, to absorb what’s been learnt. But what’s also really important is that you go back to the same material to remind yourself of it.
So that information is useful – and I hope you can use this information to manage your learning with Adept English. I know that there’s such a thing as ‘real life’. When we use this phrase in English, ‘real life’, we mean ‘what happens in real, normal, human life’. What happens in a typical person’s life. And often, even if you have good intention, ‘real life’ intervenes. There are periods of time when you’re especially busy at work, or you have people coming to stay – or there’s an event with your family or friends that just takes all of your attention – or you go on holiday.
That’s something which seems a bit far away for many people at the moment, but hopefully we’ll again be in a situation where going on holiday is a norm. So what I’m trying to say here, is that sometimes, even with good learning habits, even with consistency, you get out of practice, out of the habit for a week or two. You don’t do your English language learning in the usual way. But it’s really important to not let this make you feel bad about yourself. Real life is real life – it happens, and often there is nothing you can do about it. All you need to do is ‘draw a line under’ the period of time where you didn’t do your English and when normality returns, when things get back to normal, just go back to your good learning habits and restart.
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A really, really important part of success at language learning and many other things, is the ‘going back to it’, returning to your studies, even when you’ve had a break. Remember you’ve only failed at something when you’ve stopped trying. Don’t be hard on yourself, if you’ve missed your language learning for a while, just get back on it and keep going! And be consistent when you are doing it. That will help you progress.
As ever, once you’re beyond basic English learning, then learning through listening is the best method for fluency. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.