Are you frustrated with where you are in your language learning? Do you feel you have a mountain to climb? There is a difference between being frustrated or dissatisfied with your language course, and not being satisfied with where you are.
Case 1: “I’m not satisfied with the quality of this course.”
Case 2: “I’m not satisfied with my linguistic level.”
Knowing about these differences can help you work out a plan of attack, and save you some stress too.
For example, someone wrote to me recently saying they weren’t happy with the progress they were making with their present teacher (case 1). Based on what she wrote, I gather that they’ve only had a handful of lessons together. However, assuming the teacher is doing what you’d expect a professional teacher to do, this person may simply not be satisfied with where she is (case 2 in fact).
Being dissatisfied with your level may have nothing to do with your teacher.
In other words, she may be dissatisfied that she’s still intermediate (B1) after all these months or years of learning English, and as a result points the finger at her present teacher as being ‘the culprit.’
But was she really ‘learning English’?
I’ll bring this back to my own situation with ‘learning Czech’ to show you what I mean:
For quite a few years I just had the occasional course, and rarely did the homework. I hung out with people who spoke English or French, and as my job was teaching English, I didn’t get to meet many Czechs outside of ‘English circles.’
Fast-forward to 2012, and I am not satisfied with where I am (B1).
I have to be responsible here and accept that my attitude in the past is the top reason why I didn’t make that much progress in Czech. I just wasn’t that motivated, and I wasn’t that active.
So my present Czech teachers are not responsible, for example, for when I chose to spend each summer in Croatia or Spain or Serbia instead of learning Czech in Prague.
I remember those days well. One month by the sea – or one month learning Czech intensively in Prague. As an Aussie, I just *had* to choose the sea!
But today I’m living with the consequences of this.
So maybe you weren’t that active before – and now you want to change things!
Being frustrated with your present teacher or school or course means, ideally, giving them feedback on how you feel and then seeing if you two can improve the situation.
As a last resort, it may mean changing teachers or school.
Case 2 means working closely with your teacher, and asking for their honest feedback on how you can improve.
You do need to be realistic here about what you can achieve.
A lot of it involves being honest with yourself regarding how much time you have for English. If you have time for one lesson a week, without any homework, then be aware you will need to re-adjust your expectations about what is possible.
You’ll still progress, but not as quickly as someone who has more sessions, and who is active outside of class.
My own solution – the surge
surge n. to increase a lot very quickly
I do have a sense of time running out. I now want to mix in better with Czechs, and to be this level after all this time is…not good (compare this to when I was in France – I reached intermediate after three months!).
Firstly, I am happy with my present learning programme.
Secondly, what I don’t want is to spend another year or two climbing the ‘B1 mountain.’
I’d rather smash through it than go around it like a turtle.
So I’m going to have even more lessons – aiming for 10 hours a week minimum (right now I’m on 5-6 hours a week).
On top of this, I’ve worked out some other activities I can do each week to improve my level (more on this later).
And believe it or not, this summer I’d like to spend in Olomouc, Brno or another Czech city and have classes every day. And meet up with people in the afternoons or evenings.
In a nutshell
If you’re not satisfied with your level, you either need to re-adjust your expectations about what you can achieve or spend more time on your language learning.
In my case I’m going for a ‘Czech surge.’ It’s what I want.
For you to get over your mountain, having a surge of English needn’t cost you much money. If you don’t want to have individual lessons, Prague has a lot of schools offering lower prices for group classes. In addition, there are thousands of English speakers you can swap your Czech with. On Facebook there are groups that organise activities in English too.
“But I don’t have the time for this!”
Some people have companies and partners and children to look after. I get it, it’s a totally understandable and expected priority. Again, please be realistic about what you can achieve, and work with your teacher to optimise your time in class.
In other cases, I’ve heard “I don’t have the time for homework” – and then the student is at the beach for three weeks.
Just like I was in Croatia those summers ago, they may not be ready for a surge of English just now, but at some point their frustration will lead to real action.
And that decision is up to them, not their teacher.
david [at] GetIntoEnglish [dot] com