I was chatting with a fellow teacher and language learner the other day and he had this to say about learning:
“I think it’s much better to take it slowly. You remember things better when you take your time. English once a week, with a bit at home, that’s enough in my view.”
We then changed the topic, but I returned to this theme a bit later as I wanted to follow up on what he had said. I asked him how he learned French, which he speaks at proficiency (C2) level:
“I learnt French every day. I had intensive lessons at a school and that’s how I got better so quickly. Plus I was living in a French-speaking country..”
This seems to be a common theme at times, where a few teachers or bloggers will give out advice that they themselves don’t follow (or sometimes those who are really good at something don’t always know how they did it).
Similarly, I read an article at the weekend where a teacher advised students not to worry about how much time they devote to English, as she says that if you put too much pressure on yourself to do more, you’ll then feel worse about yourself when it doesn’t work out.
So she recommended that doing 30 minutes a day is better than 20, and 15 minutes a day is better than 10.
She’s right to some extent. There’s no point being annoyed or frustrated with your progress if you can’t or don’t have the time.
Be realistic about where you are. Be cool with who you are.
But here’s today’s advice in a nutshell:
- Don’t believe every single piece of advice you hear, including on this blog. Dig a bit deeper and find out for yourself if the advice works for you.
- Some teachers don’t want to pressure you and so they give advice that might not be the best for your situation. Dig deeper.
- If you can do 20 minutes a day, great. If you have the time to do more, this is what I recommend especially if you want to make rapid progress.
- Be realistic about what you can expect to achieve with the time you have.
- Use your time wisely. Go for speaking practice first and then extend beyond that. If you have no one to speak to you can try speaking to yourself. I personally don’t do this for the languages I’m learning as I have enough personal contact with native speakers, but if you’re in a small town you might want to check this out.
One way to make self speaking practice better could be to give yourself a task, such as making your own video (eg start with making a short 1-2 minute short talk – you’ll be amazed at how it helps organise your ideas).
- For those who have more time to devote to English and want to make a lot of progress: sure, take into account what successful language learners say, but look even closer at what they do.