Five Limiting Beliefs about Learning English
Many people have beliefs that limit their language learning. It hinders their learning because they think they can’t learn English because of the belief or thought that they keep telling themselves over and over again.
Below you will read about five common limiting beliefs that students that are learning (or want to learn) English have.
Many people say…
1. I’m too old to learn English.
You are never too old to learn something new. It is not true that there is an age limit for learning a new language. It may however, be more difficult as time goes on but you’re up for a challenge, right? Instead of making up excuses of what you aren’t learning, keep track of what you know or have learned. You could try to learn one new word a day, write a paragraph a day or spend 10 minutes focusing on English. If you take small steps to learning English; you will learn.
Make a list of words you know or just learned. Don’t get stuck on what you don’t know. The more positive you are about your learning and English language acquisition, the better it will stick in your mind.
2. I can’t speak English proficiently without traveling.
This is not true. I have met a lot (like thousands) of people that speak proficient English and they have never traveled to any English speaking country. They speak and understand English. You too can learn English without jetting off to New York, Sydney or London. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do right now, focus on what you can. You can learn English where you live if you have access to a computer and are determined. There are plenty of free resources, websites and classes on the internet that can help teach you English.
3. I have no one to speak English with.
That’s ok! You can learn to speak English no matter where you live in the world as long as you have access to a computer. It doesn’t matter if you live in a remote village in the mountains of India or in the jungle in the middle of South America. You can find other English learners, just like you online that want to learn English and would love to practice speaking with you. Many people are in the same situation as you are. There are many language exchange and language learning websites that will connect you to someone that wants to practice English or that wants to learn your native language. With the advances in technology, you can literally learn to speak English without ever leaving your home.
4. I can’t remember all of the English grammar rules.
No one can remember all the grammar rules. Learning a new language is not about learning rules, it is about learning words that allow you to communicate with other people. Your grammar does not need to be perfect or even near perfect to be understood and start communicating. Native English speakers do not know all (or often times a lot) of grammar rules and make many grammar mistakes. They don’t care. I assume that since you are reading this book you want to learn to speak English fluently. Focus on speaking and listening not on being the English grammar police.
Let’s pretend your grammar isn’t great but you try speaking anyway. You could say ‘I yesterday banana eat.’ And I as a native speaker might say back to you, ‘Oh, you mean… you ate a banana yesterday?’ At that point, if you were paying attention you would have heard what you were trying to say, stated correctly and could rephrase (or resay) what you heard. ‘Yes, I ate a banana yesterday.’ Just like that, you were able to communicate with someone while making grammar mistakes and learn the correct way to say something…. without studying a grammar book or rules about past tense. You can drastically improve your English grammar by practicing speaking.
Stop wasting your time memorizing verb tenses and grammar rules. This will not help you become a better English speaker. It instead will make you insecure about speaking because you are thinking about rules instead of thinking about talking and communicating with a new person.
5. I’m afraid to make mistakes.
Mistakes are good; no…EXCELLENT! The more mistakes you make the faster and more you will learn. Everyone makes mistakes all the time. You should try not to get hung up on feeling bad about making mistakes.
In my class, I had two very different students. One never said anything and if I forced her to speak she would look really nervous and whisper her answer. She was obviously terrified that something bad could happen from her mistakes.
Another student that was in the same classroom talked a lot (sometimes too much). His English was far from perfect but he kept trying. He made a lot of mistakes but everyday kept trying his best and approached learning English as a positive and fun thing. He liked that he could communicate and talk to more people.
The difference between these two students is that one was terrified of making mistakes and the other did his best. By trying your best and focusing on learning more, you will learn English. If you focus on the negative, like telling yourself that you don’t know how to say something or that people will laugh at you if you pronounce something wrong, you are hindering or stopping your learning.
Stop making excuses and telling yourself that you can’t learn English. Learning to speak English is something that is totally possible and realistic. You just need to approach your language learning in a positive manner and stop your negative thoughts.
Four Steps to Helping You Keep a Positive Mindset:
1. Small Successes
Instead of focusing on the big picture of “learning to speak English fluently” focus on small attainable mini habits or goals. If you are able to focus on one thing at a time, you will feel more successful and will be able to accomplish more.
For example: You could focus on learning how to say five phrases about what you did yesterday. This way, once you memorize five phrases you will feel accomplished; like you actually did something versus trying to learn all the past tense verbs at the same time.
Don’t focus on what you can’t do or haven’t done. Stay positive and focus on what you have learned.
2. Do Your Best
Always do your best. Try not to compare your language speaking skills to other people. This is hard but if you focus on doing your best and speaking as much English as you can, you will learn faster.
If you focus on others, you will have trouble focusing on your goals. You will always be comparing your English to someone else which is not very productive. It’s ok to make mistakes but know that you did the best you could. If you think that you can’t do it or that it is too hard, it will be more difficult to achieve your goals.
3. Try Your Hardest
Trying you hardest will help you learn English quicker. It is not always easy to try your hardest, sometimes you are tired, or have other things on your mind but you need to focus on what you are doing in the moment. By focusing on one thing at a time and giving it 100 percent, you will feel better and see your results quicker.
That means if you decide that you are going to listen to 10 minutes of English speaking a day, you need to stop everything else for those 10 minutes. Turn off your phone, find a quiet place without distractions and try your hardest for 10 minutes to focus on improving you English listening skills.
If you let things distract you, you will not be able to concentrate and try your hardest to learn. If you cannot try your hardest because you are distracted, you will not see the results you want to see.
4. Be positive
Being positive is easier for some people than for others. Smile, think positive thoughts, think how it will feel to speak fluent English, think about meeting and achieving you English language goals. The more positive your outlook and thoughts are about learning and practicing English, the better you will feel.
It is estimated that more than 2 billion people are trying to learn English worldwide and you are one of them. The problem is that most will not succeed to become fluent in English because they do not set goals.
You want to be successful, right? Saying you want to speak English fluently is not good enough. This is a very broad statement. When you say something like, ‘I want to learn English’ it is very hard to measure if you are successful or not.
In order to learn English fluently and successfully, you need to set specific goals related to your language learning.
Think about what your end goal is…
Do you want to travel to the United States or UK?
Do you want to get a job where you speak English every day? Do you want to pass the IELTS, TOEIC or TOEFL exam?
Do you want to make English speaking friends?
Before you set a goal, you need to decide on one final goal that you would like to achieve.
Examples of S.M.A.R.T. Goals Related to English Learning:
I will listen to 15 minutes of English podcasts every day from January 1 to March 31. I will keep track each day of how many minutes I listened to in my phone’s calendar.
I will attend an English conversation group at my university every week for 3 months. I will talk to three different people at each conversation group. I will keep track of the dates I attended and who I talked to in my English notebook.
I will read one book in English every week for a year. I will take notes on new words or concepts I learned in my notebook. I will also write down the title of each book.
I will do a language exchange for two hours each week for six months. I will teach the person my language for one hour and they will teach me theirs for one hour. I will record what I learned in a document on my computer.
I will learn one new word in English every day for a month. I will make a list of the new words I learned and their meanings in a notebook.
Reevaluate How You Are Learning English
The quickest way to improve you English and become a proficient or fluent speaker is by speaking.
Memorizing grammar and verb tenses will not help you become fluent in English quickly. Knowing a lot of English grammar will help you speak better (or more correct) English but it won’t increase your fluency.
If you have been studying English for a long time but can’t speak or have trouble understanding native English speakers than you need to think about how you are learning.
Are you learning English is best way for you?
Most people start learning a language in school or at a language institute or class. Many times people do not see the progress they would like to see and become disappointed and think that they can’t learn English. This is not true.
The old fashioned way of studying a textbook and doing grammar exercises does not work for everyone. Actually, very few people learn to speak a language successfully with this model.
It can get confusing because no matter whom you talk to or where you look on the internet there are different ways to learn English. Some programs guarantee proficiency or fluency, whereas others are topic specific and will help you improve one skill area. No one can decide what is best for you; especially someone that doesn’t even know you. You must decide which course of study will make the greatest impact on your life.
In order to learn English, you need to know how you learn best. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I like to go to a class, have a tutor online or do self-guided learning? Do I learn best from audio, videos or reading?
What do I need to be able to do in English? (Speak to native speakers? Pass an exam? Get a job? Etc.)
How much time do I have to learn English each day? Week? Month?
Do I have the time or financial means to travel or live abroad in an English speaking country?
Learning a new language can be difficult but remember you can do it. Everyone learns differently but I can tell you that you learned to speak a language well at least once in your life. That’s your native language.
When you were a baby and a young child learning to speak your native language (be it, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, etc.) your mother and father did not teach you to speak by taking out books and making you study lists of words.
You learned to speak your native language naturally. You learned by making mistakes. This is how everyone learns to speak. You learn my mimicking or copying what you hear and then saying it back again. Small children make many mistakes when they are learning to speak their first language. This is great. No one is perfect and everyone learns from their mistakes.
Maybe you have been going to an English class in your city.
Maybe you have been using a textbook or CD’s to learn English. Whatever you have been doing, try doing something different. Try learning English in a new or different way.
You may not be experiencing success because you are learning English in the wrong way for you. There is no one special way to learn a language. You need to try different methods out and find out what works best for you.
Challenge yourself to learn English differently.
If you are proficient in social English, you can:
- Have everyday conversations in English
- Ask and answer common questions in English
- Explain something
- Talk to people and use English in informal settings
- Ask for directions
- Have your basic needs met (get food, housing, other necessities done in English)
- Use some slang words or common sayings
The second type of English that you could become proficient in is: Academic English. Someone that is proficient in academic English may have attended
elementary, high school or university in English. Becoming proficient in academic English takes more time than social English; this is because there is a
more complex vocabulary than social English.
Academic English is something that is improved over time for both native and non-native English speakers. Each year in school, you learn more complex
academic skills. Even native English speakers have trouble becoming proficient in academic English. Especially since each academic area or subject has its
If you are proficient in academic English you can:
- Cite sources/evidence of a claim that you are making
- Summarize and retell stories or what you heard
- Paraphrase or rephrase what you have heard
- Ask questions based on text
- Compare and contrast ideas
- Write in a variety of genres (narrative, descriptive, argumentative, etc.)
- Analyze stories and author’s point of view
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of texts
The last type of English fluency is Professional English Fluency or proficiency. Professional English is English that you specifically use to carry out the functions of your job or career. Each person will have a different sub set of ‘professional fluency’. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects and teachers
all use a different job specific vocabulary.
It is possible to be proficient in a technical English vocabulary exclusively used in the medical field but have little knowledge of English architectural vocabulary. Each profession has a specific technical vocabulary and each person will develop a different professional vocabulary.
If you are proficient in professional English, you can:
- Speak about industry specific problems
- Participate in discussions about common topics in your professional realm
- Ask and understand questions using technical English vocabulary related to your profession/industry
When it comes to professional vocabulary, you may be ‘fluent’ in one area and not another. For example: A banker may be able to talk about money, stocks, bonds and investments with ease but can’t talk about local and federal laws. The banker will not be able to have a complex conversation about laws because she does not work in this field.
Also, keep in mind that many native English speakers are not proficient in all technical vocabularies. It doesn’t matter how educated you are, you will never know everything.
People who are fluent in English can:
1. Speak English all day. Do their normal routine in English.
2. Watch the news or listen to the radio and understand nearly everything.
3. Think in English instead of translating everything
4. Understand English speakers with different accents.
6. Speak English confidently
7. Give a presentation about a topic of your choice in English.
8. Speak on the phone in English.
9. Be understood by native English speakers when speaking English.
10. Dream in English
11. Use clues to help them understand
Many people base how good of English they speak on their English exam scores, but that’s a bad idea. Anyone can cram for an exam and pass it. Most exams are not the best indicator of English fluency.
I can’t tell you when you are fluent and no one else either. It’s up to you to decide when you feel comfortable using English.
Take Action Today.
You should now have some idea, tips and resources to help you improve your English language skills. There were countless ways to improve your English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
The best way to actually meet your goals is to take action-don’t wait; do it today! You won’t achieve your goals if you go nothing. Take a few minutes to evaluate what you would like to accomplish in relation to leaning English and then set a S.M.A.R.T. goal and start working towards achieving it.
You have learned what you need to take some action today… even if it’s only 5 minutes. Start now!