The idea for this post came out of a text chat discussion we had on Gapfillers a little while ago when, we came up with a formula for improving performance and skills in English.
The title of the discussion was ‘How to get my English to a high level’ and the first three Ps to emerge (they all just happened to start with P) were:
Patience, Perseverance and Performance
and then the fourth and equally important Practice.
With this Posse of Ps it’s hard not to reach your English goal (and hard to keep away from P-words too :-)! )
So let’s expand on them and see how they can help you to achieve your dream in English.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your English. If things take time to sink in, make sense or execute don’t worry. If you keep on at a steady pace then you will, almost without realising it, achieve the milestone that you are aiming for. One day you will suddenly realise that you know something, really know it in your muscles, that you have been struggling to master for a while. Remember that language learning goes in a series of plateaux and is not a straight, onwards and upwards, line. You may feel that you are not making any progress for what seems like a long time and then suddenly, almost overnight, you get it! With patience these steps will happen and you will see and feel them. This will give you even more confidence to keep going!
This attribute helps you to pick yourself up, even after you have had a setback, and push forwards. It is easy to give up. It is easy to say I’ll never do this. Let’s say you took an exam and didn’t get the result you wanted you can shrug your shoulders and say that you’re not ever going to get the grade you need or you can learn from the experience and get back on track. Sometimes when you have this experience you need someone to support you and help you to keep going and find out where you went wrong. A mentor, however, can only show you the way and encourage you. At the end of the day YOU are the one who needs to draw on your inner strength and focus on your dream again and take action to move closer to it.
By performance here I mean actually using your language. Speaking and writing as much as you can and making sure that you have an audience to receive this performance and sometimes even rate you on it! I speak to English learners every day and many of them tell me how they don’t have opportunities to speak or they can’t find anybody to look at their writing. Then I speak to others who have found themselves language buddies online and they speak every day and assess each other’s writing! You have to try to create opportunities for yourself and it’s so much easier today with the internet.
Be brave if you can’t find a group then why not start one yourself!
The fact of the matter is that languages improve with use and so if you need to improve, then you have to use them. You cannot rely on your books alone you MUST get out there and speak and write.
The more you perform the better (especially if you have good feedback) your performance will get.
The difference between practice and performance is that one is ‘real’ and the other is preparation for real. If you speak then your purpose is often other than the words and sentences – it is to communicate something to someone. When you write it is to convey and message, or information, or get an assessment in an exam. On the other hand when you practise you are trying to perfect your skills for the performance. It’s rather like training in sport or rehearsing in music. It is in the practice where you can experiment with new words and phrases or a new style or new ideas. Practice is the focused way in which you get your skills to performance level. It is here that you can try things out, experiment with new words and phrases or new approaches to writing. You can ask people if you are right or gauge someone’s reaction to your new style or new vocabulary. Try and test, test and try, and you will broaden your language for the ‘real’ times.
But both practice and performance work together to get you those high level skills that you desire.
So, here you are; the 4P approach to getting your language skills to shine and achieving your goals in language whatever they may be.
And in case you are interested, here is the ‘warts and all’ transcript from that PPPP chat!!
How can I get my English to a really high level?
Welcome to live chat.
09:02 Berni: Don’t forget GapChat at 13.00 GMT today! See you then
12:51 Berni: Hello and welcome to today’s GapChat. How can I get my English to a really high level? I’m very excited about this topic as I think Gapfillers is a perfect way to start!
12:59 Berni: Add your comments in the box and press send. Don’t worry about just watching what others
are doing. Add your comments when you feel ready.
13:00 Berni: Hi Blanca I hope you manage to stay with us today!
13:00 Blanca Morales: Hi Berni, I´m sure you have the clue to get my English to a really high level?
13:01 Berni: I was hoping you would give us your advice as your English is at a very high level already!
13:01 Blanca Morales: It seems to be working at the moment.
13:02 Berni: I think one point about you Blanca is that you keep going and always look for areas of your English to work on – this is very important!
13:03 Berni: Three words that I think are very important (and they all begin with P) are Patience, Perseverance and Performance
13:04 Berni: HI Cee welcome – any nuggets for today’s chat?
13:04 Cee: Hi. Just getting my brain into gear!!
13:05 Blanca Morales: It is but it´s true my commitment to keep it going is high, that´s part of my life but when you´re just a learner is more difficult.
13:05 Cee: Would you add a further p – practise
13:05 Berni: Great idiom Cee! It means to get ready for action.
13:06 jay: Hi Friends..
13:06 Blanca Morales: I agree with these 4 P principles you two have just mentioned.
13:07 Berni: I agree Cee practice and performance go hand in hand you need to take opportunities to perform and then depending on the outcome go back and practise (note 2 spellings pof practice/practise noun/verb).
13:07 Berni: pof obviously? = of Lol!
13:08 rosamund: Hi, everyone! I’ll butt in when I have an idea – you seem to have got off to a flying start!
13:09 Berni: HI Jay welcome we are exploring what you should do to get your English to a high level and have come up the the 4P process! Pretty cool!
13:09 rosamund: butt in = interrupt, cut in. i suppose it’s a bit informal
13:09 Berni: Wow we’re producing great idioms today! Hello Ros welcome.
13:10 Berni: By the way cut in was our word of the day earlier in the week.
13:11 jay: This is first time chattting with you guys am new..Could you tell me about this use of chat..
13:11 Berni: So, how can we really use this process of patience, perseverence, practice and performance to push our skills?
13:12 Cee: Do you think getting your English to a high level is a staged process? – read, listen, speak. So that, in stages your confidence builds along with your ability?
13:12 rosamund: Hello, Jay – nice to meet you! What are your ideas about getting your English up to a high level? I think it’s important not to overlook the little opportunities that crop up (= occur) in your everyday routine. A friend of mine learned Polish while he was travelling to work on the metro eveyr day. It was the only free time he had, but he made use of it with a notebook, a list of vocabulary and sometimes headphones!
13:13 Berni: Jay we meet and chat each Wednesday about a topic on online English language learning
13:13 rosamund: Oops! typoe = I meant every
13:13 rosamund: typo – oh dear
13:14 Berni: The topic is voted for by Gapfillers members and then we discuss and look at ways we can use Gapfillers (and other things) to improve English skills
13:14 Cee: Great idea Ros. I have heard of people learning a language by listening to the radio – song lyrics as well as conversation.
13:15 Berni: We are looking at how to really make a difference to English language skills. I think to do something every day (even 5 or 10 minutes) will help.
13:16 Berni: The important things you have in thes example Cee is that this is authentic, real English and so is a good model.
13:17 Berni: The negative side of just listening to songs or radio is that in some way you need to convert this into an active skill – speaking or writing
13:17 Blanca Morales: Once you have reached an advanced level if you want to overcome that plateau level you feel at, you really need a professional to make your English progress. There I come to sth o learnt from Berni, which is brilliant: language auditing -is the spelling right?-
13:18 Berni: Yes, Blanca I agree you have to have someone chack that you are correct and that you don’t keep making the same mistakes – language auditing is a way of assessing your own language for the mistakes you make over and over
13:19 rosamund: Yes, Berni, i agree – what’s ideal is to be able to make the most of the time you have – the word of the day doesn’t take long for people to absorb – and the grammar exercises here on Gapfillers are also short. Some people like to make their own notes on reading or listening exercises to reinforce what they’ve covered – it depends on how your brain works, really. This can be a way of making the learning more active, to take your point, Berni. it’s not active active, but it’s not just passive – you’re taking sth and doing sth with it.
13:19 rosamund: did you mean ‘check’ Berni? My dictionary doesn’t have ‘chack’. (ho, ho!)
13:19 Berni: Jay what is your opinion on getting your English to a really good level?
13:20 Berni: Oh Ros Lol!
13:20 Blanca Morales: Can you see what I´m saying?
13:21 Berni: Yes Blanca – have you faded again?
13:23 jay: Berni..Actually i have a habit to improve my english skills.i used to find new word from dictonary and write it a pice of paper..i will read number of times whenever getting time on whole day…like traving ,roaming and somtimes while do bathing..!!!!
13:23 Berni: If you really want to improve your skills then you have to kep an eye on what ‘real’ speakers do – I find some students get to a reasonable level and then just go round in circles.
13:24 Blanca Morales: In fact, practice and awareness are important to boost the learning process.
13:24 jay: ‘real’ speakers means….native speakers?
13:24 Berni: This is a great idea Jay if you keep looking at the word and using it you will remember it! Make sure you look, listen, speak or write even a little every day.
13:25 Berni: Yes that’s right or very good speakers (they may not be native) I think having a good model is important that way you don’t ‘learn’ mistakes
13:25 rosamund: Yes, Jay – that’s a good idea. Do you ever put the word on a post-it? They’re little bits of sticky paper that you can stick on the fridge, or the bathroom mirror, so you look at them regularly. I have different colours, as i find even that can help words to stick (= sink in = become absorbed / learned).
13:26 jay: but whenever iam trying to speak in english ..iam always used to form sentence in my monther lang..then iam transalate it…some times i cant trsnalate what am thinking..
13:27 Berni: So to summmarise – we need to be patient and persevere, we need to practise and perform as much as possible, we need to have good language models and finally we need to expose ourselves to some English every day
13:27 Cee: Ha ha – some of the English used in the media is really quite poor!
13:28 Berni: Aha Jay now this is important – try not to do this as it rarely comes out right – use what you already know in English and start with simple sentences – what do you think Blanca?
13:28 Berni: I agree Cee it can be awful but there is still enough that is good to use I feel.
13:28 jay: Yes…Rosamund..used to stick papers on my walls,TV and bike!!!
13:29 Berni: Jay, you sound as though you are already doing everything you need to do to improve your English! Now try and ‘think’ in English!
13:30 Berni: Right so how can Gapfillers help?
13:30 Cee: Jay , my friend had a rule when learning French – If I wish to speak in French I must think it French too! She said it was very useful.
13:31 Cee: Whoops, ‘Think IN French’, not it -another typo
13:31 rosamund: It’s a much better idea to simplify what you’re thinking in your own language and base what you say on sth you know is right. It’s always interesting wondering how you would actually say sth in your own language – often it would be really difficult, so better not to translate too much of the time, just occasionally. It’s essential to vary your different types of learning, too. You can get bored and stop taking things in.
13:32 jay: sth means?
13:33 Berni: it means something (an abbreviation often used by teachers!)
13:33 Cee: Sth is an abbreviation of the word- something
13:33 jay: Fine
13:33 rosamund: sth = something – sorry, Jay. sb = somebody so = someone. You’re talking to someone who has spent too much of her life in different dictionaries.
13:34 rosamund: That’s why i know how much time you save doing work on this site and not having to look things up! I’ve been there and done that! (= That has been my own experience.)
13:34 Berni: I love the picture of you living in a dictionary Ros! I am sure this would improve language skills a lot!!
13:35 Berni: Jay, where are you joining us from today?
13:35 jay: From India
13:36 Berni: I’m in cold wet UK!
13:36 Berni: How often do you use English actively?
13:36 rosamund: Wow! Do your friends and family all call you Jay – or is that short for another name?
13:37 jay: Actually we used to speak in english in office hours..
13:37 Berni: Is that a rule or just your habit in your office?
13:37 rosamund: Was that for fun, or because you had to, for work purposes?
13:38 jay: because in india more than 500 native language is there..so English is gobal language for Indians.
13:38 rosamund: The idea of 500 native languages makes my head spin!
13:39 Berni: I think English has been a common language in India for a very long time – how do you feel it compares with English in the UK?
13:39 Cee: Wow, 500 native languages!
13:40 rosamund: In a typical secondary school in the UK we might have 12 – 15 different native languages – only in some would there be more than that – but I can’t imagine there being 500!Top of Form
13:41 jay: Berni..We used to follow UK English only
13:41 Cee: Jay, do you have to speak some English before you start employment, or do you learn it whilst you are working?
13:43 rosamund: What sort of English do you usually need – presumably social English, and also some sort of work-type English, vocabulary and phrases to do with meetings, correspondence, pay and conditions?
13:43 jay: from working environment only…Actually here lot of pepole good in English…
13:44 Berni: Good question Ros – it does depend also on what you need/want to learn – you can plan your programme to reach this goal.
13:45 rosamund: We have a lot of material on the site which should be useful in a work context, Jay.
13:45 jay: I want both !!!! Social as well as Work-type
13:45 Berni: Jay, this is the best answer – everything! can I ask you how you use the Gapfillers site to help youo improve your English skills
13:45 rosamund: Yes, we always laught when people who haven’t learned a language say they want ‘telephone English’. i mean, what do you want to say on the telephone?!!
13:46 jay: Because its makes bore if you speaks only work-type english with friends..Am i right?
13:46 rosamund: laugh – sorry!
13:46 rosamund: I agree, it is boring – and you can be a bit of a bore, too.
13:47 Berni: I think you are right Jay the more widely you use English the better it will become – is there a P word for this?
13:47 Berni: Also, doing things that are not work-related will keep you interested and often you learn more because you are enjoying the topic!
13:48 Berni: Lol Ros, especially if people can only talk about their jobs!!
13:49 rosamund: Shall we invent a term for using Englihs as widely as you can, over as many areas and fields as possible – what about calling it ‘parachuting’?! Jay, Blanca, I’m being silly here, just ignore me.
13:50 rosamund: English – I meant to type
13:50 Berni: Actually parachuting could just work!
13:50 Berni: So, Jay how did you find out about Gapfillers?
13:50 Cee: I can see Potential for some typing lessons here, people!! We are all making lots of typos!
13:51 rosamund: Folks, I’m sorry, but I have to go. Good to chat – thanks for your ideas – I’m going to go and have another think about some of this. have a good week, everyone.
13:52 Cee: I like the term ‘parachuting’, Ros.
13:52 Berni: Bye Ros and thank you for your ideas and thoughts – see you next time!
13:52 Cee: Bye Ros.
13:53 jay: Its really good!
13:53 jay: Got some new word from here
13:54 Berni: I think you are doing the right thing with your practice Jay – maybe you can formalise it a bit more so that you have an idea about the progress you are making. Do you get the word of the day?
13:55 Cee: That’s the good thing about coming onto Gapchat – you see people using everyday, ‘real’ English including idioms, slang and abbraviations. It’s all very useful!
13:55 jay: yes..
13:55 Berni: Which area of your language do you think you need to improve the most?
13:55 Cee: AAghh, abbrEviations! Sorry
13:56 Berni: Lol Cee!
13:57 jay: Simple sentence format and vacabulary
13:57 Berni: In speaking or writing?
13:58 jay: both
13:59 Cee: I have to leave, now. Nice to ‘see’ here today Jay. Thanks again Berni. See you all next week.
13:59 Berni: I see – how much listening practice do you do?
13:59 jay: Bye Cee….
13:59 Berni: Bye Cee thank you for all your input it was very helpful. See you soon
14:00 jay: i have no extra listening proctice! just i will intract with my co-workers and friends ..nothing else
14:02 Berni: I think this is something you can do to improve – try to find some listening exercises on Gapfillers (or another site you use) make sure there are some exercises so you can test yourself but this will help you to get exposed to good English models in different topics.
14:03 Berni: As you hear more of these examples you can use them in your own speaking and writing and this shoudl help you with your word order and grammar – but be patient it won’t happen overnight.
14:13 jay: Thank you so much for your support..
14:14 jay: Have a great time..Bye
14:16 Berni: It is my pleasure – see you soon! Bye
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