Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

April 1, 2011

Is learning English becoming overwhelming?

Sometimes everything comes to a head and we have so much still to learn and we don’t seem to be making progress. It can be frustrating, we make the same mistakes even though we’ve gone over this point a hundred times. We are working hard and getting nowhere;

” That’s it, that’s the end of it we are not capable for progressing any more  – this is our highest level and this is where we are going to stay, We’ve reached our ceiling and there’s nothing more to do!”

Learning a language ( and this is true of many things) is not an ‘onwards and upwards’ activity. There are peaks and troughs, hills and valleys and worst of all seemingly endless plateaux!

Do you remember learning to ride a bike as a child? How many times did you wobble? How many times did you fall off? How many times did you throw the bike down and stomp off?

In the end though wasn’t it worth getting  back on, trying again and finally succeeding?

How good did it feel when that happened and how thrilled were you to be able to ride off down the road alone!

There is only one way and that is to be patient and persevere.

So back to language. There is a great saying in English ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’  Things of great value take time and burn slowly. Take a deep breath, step back and think hard about what you have really achieved so far. You will probably find that it is much more than you give yourself credit for.

Then analyse your English honestly:

  • What is your goal?
  • Where are you having problems?
  • Where are you feeling frustrated (think of some actual occasions when your English wasn’t good enough – is there a pattern?)

Once you know where the blocks are (or try and get help identifying them if you don’t know) then break everything into manageable chunks and go step by step. For example if you think your vocabulary is letting you down then design some strategies for improving this – read a book a month, or a daily news article or learn 10 new words a week – whatever works for you.

Don’t be too ambitious do as much as you can manage – 10 minutes a day is better than 2 hours once a month – keep it simple. Try and use ‘dead time’ in your day while traveling or waiting for a bus or train, that way your learning won’t be interrupting other activities and vice versa.

So here is the 4P approach to learning English (we came up with this at a Gapfillers forum chat)

Patience:

I’ve said a lot about this already. It is vital – you cannot learn all you need to learn in a day. If you start your study knowing that you must be patient it may stop you from becoming overwhelmed.

Perseverance:

I firmly believe that anything worth having is worth pushing for and unless you persevere even when you don’t seem to be making progress you will NEVER succeed!

Practice:

No skill will improve without practice so unless you dedicate some time to improving and developing your English regularly then you will become frustrated and you will not make progress. Honestly, if you are not prepared to practise you might as well go and find something else to do instead!

Performance: 

This is actually using your English! There is little point in doing all the hard work if you are not going to step up, be brave and actually speak or write. There are opportunities across the web to do this – find some. Make some opportunities for yourself to perform your English!

Finally here are 10 top tips to help you improve your English and stop you getting overwhelmed or frustrated!

  1. Do a bit every day
  2. Plan – an approach or strategy for your learning
  3. Choose something interesting
  4. Consolidate
  5. Choose something with (immediate) feedback
  6. Set a time limit
  7. Follow the tips and advice given on the web-site
  8. Join a forum or chat room and USE IT
  9. Re-visit, repeat and recycle
  10. Smile 🙂 you know more than you did 10 minutes ago!

Some other posts you might like:

 Setting SMART goals for your English Language learning

Grammar is dead – Long live grammar!

Making progress as an advanced learner

Doing a language audit

Still overwhelmed? Maybe I can help you.

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9 Comments »

  1. Berni,
    Great post! I read it as though I were a struggling student and I was very touched. Congratulations. Sometimes we too feel like that: “I’ve reached my ceiling. I cannot take in anything else” and all we need is to preserve!
    Um abraço,
    Bruno Andrade

    Comment by Bruno Andrade (@BrunoELT) — April 2, 2011 @ 12:20 am | Reply

    • Thank you Bruno – I’m happy it resonated with you. I think it applies to anything you set a goal for (even teaching!). I hope it helps some of those struggling with achieving anything. I am going through a similar process at the moment with my work which is probably what inspired me to think about how this may also affect students! 🙂

      Comment by rliberni — April 2, 2011 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

  2. What a brilliant post! I am going to direct my students here when they feel overwhelmed.

    Thank you for a really clear view of what this language learning thing is all about.

    Candy

    Comment by dingtonia — April 2, 2011 @ 10:56 am | Reply

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I hope they will come and find some encouragement here. I also hope that they might learn the song (the Nat King Cole version has the words) and that it might help them to sing it if they feel overwhelmed! 🙂

      Comment by rliberni — April 2, 2011 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

  3. Learning any language is overwhelming, I think that it is important to remember to focus on the speaking first, and the best way of getting to grips with any language including English is to practice with people who speak the language as their first language, this is often helped by visiting the country itself.

    Comment by englishlanguage/http://www.uebersetzungdeutschenglisch.com — May 10, 2011 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  4. […] Is learning English becoming overwhelming? Sometimes everything comes to a head and we have so much still to learn and we don't seem to be making progress. It can be frustrating, we make the same mistakes even though we've gone over this po… Source: rliberni.wordpress.com […]

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  5. […] Is learning English becoming overwhelming? Sometimes everything comes to a head and we have so much still to learn and we don't seem to be making progress. It can be frustrating, we make the same mistakes even though we've gone over this po… Source: rliberni.wordpress.com […]

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  7. I am from Italy but i spent a while over to the UK and i got to learn the local accent as i was pretty young ( a i also attended some classes) and motivated. I moved to australia 2 weeks ago. my friends are from canada and people here have an aussie accent . What should I? my accent will end up being so mixed.. should I either force my self and stick to one accent or let go and just try to be natural?

    Comment by birthday parties san francisco — February 28, 2012 @ 5:32 pm | Reply


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