Reading a language learning blog is a funny undertaking, isn't it? You can find amazing community, new ideas and reviews of products that you have not tried yet. For many people, looking at the language learning successes out there is also a real motivator: When you feel like it's never going to be a thing to really learn 20,000 words in Japanese, it's nice to see others out there who have done it.
As a language teacher, I know how you feel. My Twitter and Feedly are full on inspiration for making lessons more interesting, helping students with grammar and being a better teacher. Websites and blogs are an amazing resource and I love reading about what other teachers have tried, what works and just how they go about language teaching. It's so reassuring to know I'm using an idea that works!
Focusing on Yourself
But every now and then, I have to take a break from all the blogs. The internet is noisy, and I start reading about how it's all about immersion, how "using English in lessons is a big mistake" or "no sensible learner uses paper anymore".
It's all "have to do this" and "useless if you don't do that". And I kind of have to shout "NO!! This is my show! We're using my style!" I am a teacher who likes to get to know and forge a real partnership with my student, I want to teach relaxed, happy people. I don't want a cramped-up forced immersion and I know that this method really does not work when I try it. The atmosphere of trust and joy in my lessons disappears when I turn army general, and I feel like a failure.
Conclusion? I am much better when I run the show my way.
Does that sound familiar to you? Too many blogs telling you to watch 5 hours of TV in the foreign language every day, or to only read articles that are way too difficult? Yes, thanks internet. I don't think you need to do that. In fact, I think what you need to do is chill out.
What is something you can do that you truly enjoy without stressing out? Even if it’s something that people don't blog about, if you like it, you're way more likely to do it more.
The Core Skills Idea
For example, take my strong belief that every language learner needs to work on all four core skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing. What if you could work out a plan that addresses each weakness systematically?
The idea of my book Fluency Made Achievable is to guide you through the right kind of self-assessment without telling you what you absolutely have to do. I provide ideas, methods, showing what works and what has crystallized throughout the years as good advice from language teachers and learners. But what I never want to do is have you feel like you are failing if you are doing things your way.
The book’s sequel, The Vocab Cookbook, will then address how you remember all of the vocabulary you pick up and help you develop good systems for learning it. Again, what I do is give sensible advice. Sensible is sensational but not sensationalist.
Run the show.
If you feel demoralised, and can’t believe you’ll ever improve just because the internet says so, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. I hope two books will help you to develop skills to conquer this, but most importantly I want you to feel like you're having fun here.
For me, it's all about trying out my new words on people, looking like an idiot and sticking post-its with vocabulary all ove the house.
What are some things that you love doing in your language study?
- “Fluency Made Achievable” and “No Forgetting – A Smart Guide To Vocabulary Learning” are out now and available at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/book