February 6

Native-Like Speaking is Within Your Reach


​The text below whilst on the same topic is slightly different

It is easy to come to the conclusion that for English learners at the advanced levels further improvements in English and in accent are not easy, and may even be not possible. Indeed, you may have even heard teachers say that.

Many come to such a conclusion because they have not sufficiently considered the contrary viewpoint, that indeed, each person has everything that it takes to achieve whatever level they aspire to and that the only thing stopping them is what they are doing and what they are thinking. You just need to look around and you will find adults who have achieved native-like levels. Talent, a commonly given reason, does not explain those that struggled and struggled initially and then at some point found the keys to their complete success.

I said you have everything at your disposal because you have already shown it by learning the most difficult language of them all, your first! It is the most difficult because you started out with no concept of language, no ability to form words and no real assistance as to how to do it all. You just did it!

Let me look at the issue by coming from another angle. Just imagine trying to go through a brick wall with your bare hands. Not really possible is it. Once you understand the nature of a brick wall, you will know you need to learn to use appropriate tools, if you wish to get through. Hence, the importance of understanding the problems you face, finding the necessary tools and developing appropriate skills.

Now, you may be thinking that you can’t compare first language learning to adult learning. Of course, there are differences but to dismiss all that we can see and learn from our childhood language learning experiences is a grave mistake. One that unfortunately keeps being made…and not just by learners! 

Just because so many people struggle to learn English does not mean that their experience is the only valid one. In much the same way, just because for so long everyone considered the earth to be flat did not make it so.

​The reason why so many struggle to become confident and fluent in English is that they persist in learning in ways that don't produce the results they are seeking. They don't look elsewhere. So instead of questioning your prowess, question how you are learning!

An additional factor, not really given enough weight, are the ways you learned at the lower levels may not really be appropriate at the upper levels. I have come across numerous learners at the advanced levels who do exactly that. Namely, use inappropriate strategies such as translation, grammar study and pronunciation recordings. Each of these strategies may have some use for very particular situations, but to use them indiscriminately will only divert you from your goal to paths characterised by hardship and slow to no progress.

Then there are of course the ones that do realize something has to change but they do not know what to do. So, what is going to work?

So what can be done?

Before I get to that, I need to also mention that our thinking is also a key determinant to our success. As has been said by many different people in different ways, “the kind of thoughts you have will determine how successful you will be”. So, what kind of thinking gets in the way and what kind will help you on your journey?

Spend a bit of time on this question and check to see that you are not undermining your learning. One example I come across often is that I hear people say things like “language learning is hard”. Such ideas can really slow you down in more ways than you can imagine. Try changing that statement to something like, “Isn’t that interesting!”. A simple change like that can completely change how you approach the issues you come across. Now an attitude of curiosity starts to prevail, rather than one of “hardship and suffering!”

At the advanced level, generic one size fits all solutions do not usually work. That is the reason why people at advanced levels of skills in all areas do not tend to go to classes. Most of the ones that do invariably leave them dissatisfied with the progress made. The main reason for that is most classes offer general solutions. At advanced levels (or any other I would suggest), that is not what is needed.

There are then the ones who just try by themselves. Some of these do go on to the highest of levels but most seem to get stuck on a plateau well below their wishes or needs.

Then there are the ones who get themselves a coach. A coach who can identify the exact issues they face and propose solutions custom-built solutions for them. And then adjust the methods as need be, as the learner makes progress.

Exceptional coaches will not only do that. They will work with you in ways so you realize what you need to do AND keep doing as you improve. They will work with you to develop skills that you can use to keep expanding, improving and refining your English. This way you can become, over time, independently able to keep learning as you use the language.

They will also work with you to develop ways of working that you will be attracted to and find rewarding. ALL successful people talk about passion and loving what they do. They do not talk about hard work. Of course, they work at it, but hard work is not what defines their activity. It is the love of what they do that does.

So don’t give up on your dreams, don’t listen to the naysayers. Believe that you have what it takes to become what you want to be and do what you want to do. Search for the ways and the people that can help you achieve them.


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