In the beginning, when you first started learning English, every little thing was interesting, you learnt new words, you started pronouncing the words you knew correctly and talking to the shop assistant in the supermarket nearby was no longer a challenge. However, as time went by your excitement started to fade away making you feel like you were not learning anymore. If this sounds like you, don’t be discouraged, because even when you feel like you are not learning, believe me, you are! You just need to break through the exhaustion of your brain and keep going.
How do I keep my learning up?
In my experience there are two efficient methods to learn English; one requires time, another one requires less time but it’s physically painful. Nevertheless, both of them aren’t easy, so pick the hard one that suits you better.
Shock your brain
Even though, in my opinion, this is probably the “quicker” method, it isn’t necessarily the easiest one:
Stop speaking your mother language!
Shocking, right? Let me summarize my experience to explain better:
It all started in 2011 when I was in New Zealand, a country with 18 hours difference from my one where I couldn’t really talk to anyone on the other side of the Globe and to make things even harder WhatsApp wasn’t around at all.
I had headaches, I felt dizzy and many times at the dinner table, with my kiwi host family, I thought that I was going to faint. It hurt, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I remember going home and putting on doubled films so I could hear someone speaking Portuguese.
Funny enough, all my teachers were Brazilians, but they never talked to me in Portuguese, except on my last day when my kind teacher Gabriela gave me a goodbye hug followed by the phrase: “boa sorte guria” (good luck girl).
After 3 months my brain understood that it was time to get over and just deal with the new environment. In my country, Brazil, we have a saying: if you accept it, it will hurt you less.
In the process, you will make mistakes, perhaps many of them, but who doesn’t? We make mistakes in our mother language all the time, so yes, you will make mistakes in English or whatever language you decide to learn, but you will learn!
To conclude, shocking your brain is a really efficient way to learn, but bear in mind that it will require your blood and tears.
Learn at your own pace
Many of my students live in an English-speaking country but they cannot speak English 24/7 and there’s a very good reason for that, they have toddlers.
If you raise toddlers in an English-speaking country you must speak your mother tongue at home so they can learn more than one language at the same time. What a bunch of lucky kids, right?
That’s great for the kids but really bad for the parents who want to learn English. If you find yourself in this situation the following tips might help you:
Set an “English Time” in your house:
State a time where you will speak only English with your family, if you think this will be bad for your kids do it with your partner.
Start texting them during the day, discuss films and TV shows and keep everything in English; you can even play a little game, the one who fails first and speaks the native language will have to do the dishes, or cook dinner, etc.
Whatever you do, make sure that you will talk in English for at least one hour every day (no weekend breaks)
Read a bedtime story for your kids:
This is a fun activity that will also improve your reading & comprehension skills, and as a result, it will make your kids happier.
Bye-bye non-English speaking TV
Your TV as well as all your other devices must be set to English. If you are really, really tired of reading English, you can switch the subtitles to your own language, but no matter what, do not watch dubbed films, that’s really bad and definitely won’t help you with your English at all.
How about doing your homework while the kids are doing theirs?
Time is a problem for all of us, but if you really want to learn, you must find the time.
If you are having one, two, or even three hours of classes per week I am afraid I will have to break some news for you: that isn’t enough! Compared to the guys who are “shocking their brains”, you are away from the 80 hours that they do during the week, so you have to find a way to catch up using the tools you have at your disposal. Boost your English like you mean it!
The bottom line: do something good for your body & mind
Did you know that your lifestyle has a deep impact on your learning process?
If you are doing all of that, but still feel like you are not learning, perhaps you should consider your lifestyle. Are you getting enough sleep? Are your levels of stress high? Do you eat a lot of junk food?
If all your answers for the questions above were ‘yes’, perhaps you should consider changing some habits in your routine. You can start by setting a goal to sleep better and sleep more and eating healthy food. Believe it or not, junk food isn’t only a poison for your immune system, it’s a poison for your mind – you don’t get real satisfaction when you eat it and your body releases toxins that increase your levels of stress which have a deep impact on your ability to learn. In other words: by eating healthy, drinking water and sleeping better you can greatly improve your learning skills.
Learning is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself, you might be paying for it, but it’s priceless, nobody can take it from you, once you’ve learnt something, that’s yours to use as you see fit. Treat your brain as you treat the rest of your body, with love and care, it deserves it!