Speaking a language fluently is a skill, not a talent. Anyone who will put in the work can improve it significantly. I know because I’ve done it and I’ve helped thousands of people do it, too.
There are common and well understood problems that block language learners on the learning journey to fluency. These stopping points are something that all language learners have to go through to achieve spoken fluency.
So today I will explain
what these obstacles are and how you can overcome them. It’s an English language fluency lesson that’s worth listening to carefully. It could be the difference between succeeding or failing at speaking and understanding English.
There is a big difference between learning to speak bits of a second language and learning to speak it fluently. There is an enormous difference between being able to use a few sentences and ask for directions or maybe navigate buying bread in a shop, and joining in on a dynamic conversation at your workplace or with friends.
- Dynamic: Always changing or active.
- Obstacles: Things that block you or make it hard for you to do something.
- Phase: A stage or period in a process of change or development.
- Cycle: A series of events that happen in a particular order, often repeating.
- Situation: The set of things that are happening and the conditions that exist at a particular time and place.
- Consolidate: To bring together different things to form a single, more effective or coherent whole.
- Soporific: Something that makes you feel sleepy.
- Brilliant: Very bright or intelligent.
- Embarrassment: A feeling of being uncomfortable or ashamed because of your actions, qualities, or conditions.
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Hi there. Are you finding it difficult learning English? You may want to learn English. You may want it because it's useful in your work or useful in your studies, or you want to travel. You want to learn English, but you're finding it difficult and you may have been learning English for many years. Today I'm going to talk about the main mistake that language learners make. The main thing standing in the way of you becoming fluent in English.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
Many people make this mistake and they never really arrive at speaking English fluently. So I'm going to talk today about what you can do about it, what the obstacles are, and the best way to go about learning English and the best way, in fact, to learn any language. So listen on. What I'm about to say, could mean the difference between you arriving successfully at speaking and understanding English fluently or not.
If you want specific tips on how to learn English, specific advice, then sign up for our free course, The Seven Rules of Adept English. That's on our website at adeptenglish.com . This free course will make you think about language learning, if you've not heard these tips before. The Seven Rules of Adept English offers you tactics. Today in this podcast, I'm offering you the overall strategy for learning a language.
So what was that vocabulary I just used? 'Strategy', S T R A T E G Y and 'tactics', T A C T I C S. So a 'strategy' is an overall approach, a broad plan to achieve something. The main broad thinking that you must have in order to achieve your purpose. That's your 'strategy'.
And 'tactics'. 'Tactics' is a word that we might use in sport. These are the lower level actions that you take towards accomplishing something. So in this podcast, I'm talking 'strategy'. In the Seven Rules of Adept English, we're talking 'tactics for learning English'.
What strategy do you need to learn English?
I would divide language learning into three distinct phases. The word 'phase', P, H A S E, it means 'a particular part, a section of a process'. That's a 'phase'. You might talk about the 'phases of the moon's cycle'. You might talk about 'a phase in someone's career', or you might talk about a 'phase' in your teenager's life where they perhaps dye their hair black and have a messy bedroom. That would be a 'phase'.
So what are the three phases of learning a language? Well, I would say...
Phase One - you' re a beginner in language learning. You're probably in a classroom situation and you are learning the very basic bits of language. You start from knowing nothing, and many of you who listen to Adept English, you started this language learning journey back in school when you were a child, when you were first taught English. You have to learn the basics, the basic grammar, the basic vocabulary, the way the language hangs together, the fundamentals, in other words.
Maybe you start with the verbs 'to have' and 'to be', and 'to go'. The simple verbs. Certainly that's how we start learning European languages. If you're learning Spanish, you learn 'tú tienes'. If you're learning Arabic, you learn 'We go to the market' is 'نذهب إلى السوق'. And if you're learning Polish, ' jak się masz?' means 'How are you?' So we start off with these kinds of words and phrases. I know you enjoy me attempting to say things in languages I can't speak!
So I'm talking language basics here in Phase One, the sorts of things that you learn in the first year of learning a language. So it's generally a classroom situation or a language course where you would do this. If you're learning on your own, that is possible, but it takes quite a bit of motivation to teach yourself this phase.
And this first phase is very necessary. We do need this basis, this structure, this kind of 'nuts and bolts' understanding of language. It may be that the language you're learning is in a different script to your own, so you have to start by learning how to write it. This phase will take a little longer if that's the case.
If you've been learning English a little while and you can listen to Adept English and you can understand me, then Phase One has already happened for you. If you don't feel secure in this phase of your language learning, then I suggest you do our Most Common 500 Words Course. That will consolidate your basic English learning, your Phase One of language learning. And Phase One of learning a language is really important. You are consciously, knowingly, learning the mechanics of a language and that's really necessary.
But here's the problem. Many people continue using these same methods of learning a language, these Phase One methods, all the way through their language learning.
You may become very good at grammar. You may know lots of words. You may be able to write English very well, but does this bring you to speaking it fluently? No, it doesn't. It doesn't work, doesn't work for that purpose. You may be great at passing exams, but that's still not the same as fluency. That's not the same as being able to understand and join in a conversation in the language.
So the number one reason why people don't progress towards being fluent in a language is that they don't change the method of learning beyond this important first phase, Phase One. Now, I'm not saying that you give up on Phase One learning methods altogether. You do them from time to time, but it's not the main method of learning.
So Phase Two, what do you need to do? Well, you probably know what I'm going to say here. Once you have the basics of a language, you need to do a lot of listening. You need to train your ears in that language. Listen, listen, listen and listen some more. Listening becomes your main method of learning the language. And this is where schools and colleges and language courses go wrong. They don't emphasize listening. They don't get their students to spend enough time listening.
And often if listening is included in a course, the problem is that the material is super boring. It sends you to sleep. The students, especially if they're young, can have real difficulty focusing their attention, when the material's boring. Often it's 'soporific' - that's a nice word, S O P O R I F I C. And it means 'sleep bringing', 'sleep inducing'. So sometimes this material is great to listen to if you want to go to sleep. We might say in English, 'Ugh, I could die of boredom!'. That's not what you want when you're learning a language.
A photograph board language learning student. How to improve your English language fluency.
So, of course this is where Adept English comes in. We aim to provide you with interesting listening material. With material that you might actually be interested in if it was in your own language, so that the language learning bit of it almost feels accidental.
But your brain is working at it all the time, even if you don't realize it, that's the most pleasurable and enjoyable way to learn a language.
So the idea is that through listening, English becomes natural and automatic. I'll not say too much more about Phase Two of language learning because we know all about that. But Phase Two is also preparation for Phase Three of learning a language.
Phase three of language learning is where you have to speak. Yes, you have to do it sometime. That's the bit that people feel embarrassed and uncomfortable about. But if you do your preparation, if you grow your confidence in Phase Two, then speaking English isn't so embarrassing. It isn't so difficult because you've done the groundwork, you've done the preparation. You have a really good level of understanding already.
So for Phase Three, you need to find a situation where you can speak English with people. You may be lucky, you may already have that situation in your life. At work, with friends, you may be living in an English speaking country. Brilliant if you are. That makes it much easier. But if you're not living in an English speaking country, you have to create that situation. You have to find other people with whom you can practise your English. You can always find a language partner online for this, if necessary.
And remember, it's not that you stop Phase Two. Continuing to listen is really important. You still have lots of vocabulary, grammar, many, many words still to learn. So it's important to continue your listening, to continue using the listening method from Phase Two, while you're learning to speak, while you're becoming fluent. And even after you've arrived at fluency, it's a good idea to listen a lot to keep your language skills polished.
These three phases of learning a language are overlapping. I like that idea. It's not that you stop them altogether.
Let me give you a lovely low-tech visual aid. I like low-tech! Here is my diagram of the phases of language learning. So you can see here phase one grammar vocabulary classroom. That's really important right at the beginning, and dip in and out of that phase on your way to fluency.
Phase Two overlap slightly with Phase One, but that's a much longer phase. Again, still moving towards fluency, but in this phase you're doing lots and lots of listening. And Phase Three where you do speaking and conversation practice, that starts some way along here. All these three take you towards your goal, which is fluency. I hope you like my visual aid, my low-tech diagram there.
I think what happens a lot in language learning, and this is the problem - people try to move from Phase One to Phase Three. And they miss out Phase Two altogether. That's what makes speaking a language so uncomfortable, so embarrassing, so awkward, and many people, when they try to speak a language, are completely put off by their experience.
But Phase Two, doing lots of listening, removes the embarrassment, removes the awkwardness, and it gives your brain practice at making English automatic. That is really, really important.
So don't move from Phase One to Phase Three of language learning. Make sure you spend enough time doing Phase Two and Adept English is here to help you with that. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com