Learning to speak English fluently is about motivation, and the time you commit to learning, and what you are doing with that time than just about any other criteria. Today we talk about an Uber driver in Amsterdam, proof you or anyone can learn 2 or 3 new languages if you want or need too. The question is: Will you? We’ll help you find the motivation and the time to do it.
It’s an age-old question that has faced many students and employers all over the world. What is the "best" way to learn English, or any other foreign language, as a second language? As an English teacher who teaches 100’s of thousands of students English as a second language, I want to share with you my insights on what makes learning English more successful.
To learn a new language, you need to keep yourself motivated and immerse yourself in the new language. Thinking you will learn a new language sitting in a classroom is a mistake. It’s just not going to happen. You have to do more than classroom work to succeed. You also need to "want" to do more.
Fitting language learning time into your normal life is a challenge. You need to ask yourself, "Can I find a way to learn outside of classrooms that fits with my lifestyle? How can I spend as much time as possible learning English?" We think Adept English delivers English learning materials in a way that fixes the how do I learn outside of the classroom for most language learners.
Getting Good at speaking English fluently is all about using your time more efficiently, and also about gaining access to more useful listening materials and improving the quality of your studying. This English podcast lesson will help you focus on where you can get better and how to learn English (or any language) and actually get better at it. We have a free English course called the "7 Rules To Adept English" that can help you, which you can subscribe to here.
No matter why you are looking to learn English, or any language, you will need to decide to make the change and simply start. I’ve met many people who talk about wanting to learn a language but never seem to make the effort. Making the effort is the first step.
Learning a foreign language is one of the most incredible things you can do to alter your life. It will open up new opportunities, improve your outlook on the world, and you will have fun. The benefits are vast, but you have to actually want to do it.
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Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Today let’s talk about some general truths about language learning. How and why does it happen? And why might your language learning be blocked?
So in view of the fact that more measures, more restrictions are now coming in because of increased coronavirus numbers and now also because there is a ‘new variant’, a new type of the virus which has been found in Africa - travel is once again going to be restricted.
I think that we are now going to be staying home a lot of the time again this winter. Necessary, I know. But I’ve been lucky enough to travel twice in the last few weeks - to France to see my family at last in October, which was lovely and then last weekend to Amsterdam.
The trip to the Netherlands was booked a long time ago and it felt as though we were just about going in time. There were restrictions of course - we couldn’t eat out in the evening. But we still had a great time - and I confirmed once again, I love Amsterdam.
So I’m savouring this last piece of foreign travel in my mind as it will be a while before we can do it again. What’s noticeable as an English speaker when you go to Amsterdam - people speak English to you all the time. I don’t like to be one of those English speakers, those English tourists who just expects everyone to speak English - that’s rude.
I do like to learn a few words at least, of the language just so that I can say ‘Hello’, ‘Thankyou’, ‘Sorry’, ‘Excuse me’, etc. But Dutch isn’t much taught outside of the Netherlands and what’s striking is just how good the level of English is there. I can guess written words in Dutch sometimes because of my knowledge of German and let’s face it, my knowledge of English too. There are many similarities between these languages. But speaking it - well Dutch pronunciation is an immediate challenge.
And our experience last weekend reflected the fact that so many people in the Netherlands have really, really good English. People at the airport, people at the train station, our Airbnb host - all spoke really good English and they automatically went into English on seeing us. It’s as though it’s as a matter of course that people in the Netherlands learn English and learn it really well.
During our stay, we also used Uber quite a lot to get around. Last time I was in Amsterdam, we used the tram and bought a book of tickets. But because we were only there a short time this time, and there were only two of us, it didn’t seem worthwhile. So we got around using Uber and got to speak to various drivers on our journeys. None of our Uber drivers were white native Dutch speakers, but instead they came from North Africa or the Middle East originally and all spoke really good English.
It made me think that if you are a taxi driver or an Uber driver, you have a really good opportunity to practise your languages.
For example, our last Uber driver, the one who took us to the train station in central Amsterdam told us that he was from Morocco originally. He spoke really good English and we had an interesting conversation about COVID.
He’d been hospitalised and seriously ill with COVID last year, but managed to pull through just before he was put on a ventilator. He was funny, had opinions and praised the Dutch government highly. He said ‘they look after you’, ‘they find a way to enable everyone to have healthcare’. They put money aside and he was contrasting this with how difficult it can be in Morocco, where much of his family still live.
The view of a city at night through an Uber car windscreen. The number of hours you dedicate, and the intensity at which you practice will make all the difference in your English language learning.
He also discussed issues relating to the vaccine and was thoroughly entertaining and we felt buoyed up and enthused having spent time with him - it was one of those conversations! At one point in our journey to the train station in Amsterdam, the road was closed - clearly due to roadworks. t
We talked about this afterwards. Given that this man told us that he grew up in Morocco and still had family there and he’d talked about his last visit to Morocco recently - we surmised that it’s most likely that he would speak Moroccan Arabic with his family as this is the first language of 91% of people in Morocco.
Tamazight (‘tamazirt’) is another language much used in Morocco, so that could also be his family language. In Morocco, there is a lot of French speaking - 33% of people speak French as their second language. And people there also speak some Spanish too.
Then of course, this Uber driver had moved to the Netherlands - and now speaks fluent Dutch and fluent English. In our conversation, he needed no adjustment - we spoke English as we would to any native speaker - and he spoke fluently and articulately. That’s a high level of English.
This sits for me in contrast with the ideas of many people who think of language learning as ‘a near impossible task’. People in the UK often think like this - and probably English speakers in general around the world, have the idea that language learning is somehow impossible or they say ‘I’m just no good at languages’! ‘It’s not for me, I can’t do it!’
To some extent that is a position of privilege - there’s an element of ‘not really needing to’. If you’re an English speaker, you are less likely to hit barriers, meet with difficulties because you don’t speak another language. So maybe you can lack the motivation to learn a language and you end up saying ‘I can’t do it!’
But thinking about our Uber driver, who we surmised probably speaks at least three languages, if not more, with complete fluency - learning a language is about motivation and opportunity.
To put in the huge effort, the consistency, the hours over a period of time - that it takes it learn a language - you have to have a strong motivation. You have to have good reasons for wanting to learn the language. It’s no good saying ‘Mmm, I fancy learning Italian!’ and yet having no reason whatsoever for ‘why I am learning Italian’.
You have to have a reason, it must sense, it must make a difference to your life. You have to find a motivation. And the second thing that you need is opportunity. Actually, being a taxi drive or an Uber driver - that’s a brilliant opportunity to practise speaking different languages. You can make more or less conversation with your passengers, depending upon your level. But one thing is for sure - if you’re using the language that you’re learning every day - you will improve.
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Our Uber drivers in the Netherlands, especially the last one, were great and put our language skills to shame. But at the same time they were not superhumans. Learning language had become their achievement because they had the motivation and they created the opportunity. And with those two things, the human brain responds - it can learn other languages - another language and another and another.
There isn’t such a thing as someone who ‘is no good at languages’. We can all speak our first language fluently, can’t we?! And so we can all learn our second. It’s a bit like learning to drive. Most people’s brain is capable of learning to drive. It just needs to be given the motivation - and the opportunity.
So if you are struggling, if you are finding English language learning difficult - think about your motivation and your opportunity. What’s your reason for learning - is it strong enough? Will your life be improved in some way, if you learn English? And what’s your opportunity? How often do you get to hear the language? How often do you get to listen to English being spoken?
Obviously Adept English is here to do that for you - we make sure that you can listen to as much English language as you like. But the other side? The speaking English. Well, you also must create that opportunity for yourself to speak English. If you’re an Uber driver or a taxi driver and you carry English speaking passengers - obviously you’ve got a great opportunity to learn. But if this isn’t your situation, think about where you will speak English - what’s your opportunity to practise? And again, if it’s not obvious where in your life that will happen - you need to create that opportunity. Find people to speak with.
So if you’re a taxi driver or an Uber driver who speaks different languages, or if you’re in the process of learning a different language - I salute you. And for the rest of us - well, there’s something important to be learned from that example.
Think about your motivation and your opportunity. If you have both of these, your brain will reward you! Your brain will make language learning possible. If you would like more tips and advice on how to learn English - and not in the typical ‘classroom learning’ way, but in a way that results in you being able to be fluent and make conversation - check out our Seven Rules of Adept English Course.
This is our free course available on our website at adeptenglish.com. You’ll be glad you did! So think about your motivation for learning English, use Adept English as your opportunity to listen to English and think about how to create your opportunity for speaking English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.