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Episode
23

Part 1: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Learning English (and How to Avoid Them)

First published on
February 4, 2020
Language Learning
-
20
minutes
English speaking
English writing
Language learning

From how to get over the fear of opening your mouth to why you shouldn't speak too fast, we go into some of the most common mistakes English learners make, and how to avoid them.

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Transcript

[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] I'm Alastair Budge and welcome to the show where you can learn English while learning fascinating things about the way the world works, and of course about how to learn English in an effective, interesting and engaging way. 

[00:00:26] In today's episode, we are going to be talking about the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them.

[00:00:35] So it's a slight deviation from our usual topics of weird and wonderful things that happen in the world, but we've had quite a lot of you asking for more material, specifically on English learning, and if you are interested in learning English, which I guess if you're listening to this podcast, you probably are, it's probably a good thing to be aware of some of the mistakes that you should be avoiding

[00:01:04] If you are hoping to hear specifics in this podcast about phrasal verbs or people making mistakes in pronouncing a particular word, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. 

[00:01:16] We aren't going to be talking about specific mistakes people make, but rather strategic mistakes in terms of the approach that you take when learning English, so mistakes that people make, no matter what their mother tongue is or how long they've been learning English. 

[00:01:35] As we go through these common mistakes, if you recognise things that you do, well, then we'll talk about ways you can avoid doing them. 

[00:01:45] And if we talk about mistakes that you know that you don't make, well, you can give yourself a little pat on the back

[00:01:52] Before we get right into it, let me just say that nobody is perfect. 

[00:01:58] I'm certainly not, and don't feel disheartened if you notice some of your own behaviour in some of the things that we'll talk about today. 

[00:02:07] Fixing some of these mistakes isn't always easy, and learning English isn't full of quick fixes and hacks, but if you can avoid making these mistakes, then you'll find yourself progressing a lot faster than you would do otherwise.

[00:02:26] As I was making my notes for this podcast, it became obvious that if I tried to squeeze everything into one podcast, well it would end up being quite long. 

[00:02:38] So we are going to split this podcast into two parts. 

[00:02:41] You are listening to part one and part two will be zooming into your podcast app of choice in the next episode, which should be on Friday, so make sure that you hit that subscribe or follow button if you haven't done so already. 

[00:02:57] As a quick reminder for those who have listened before, and just a point to note for those who are listening to this podcast for the first time, you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this podcast over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:03:15] The transcripts and key vocabulary are super helpful for following every word, and comes with definitions of the more unusual words or phrases, meaning you end up boosting your vocabulary with every single podcast. 

[00:03:31] All right then, today we are talking about the mistakes that people make when learning English, but a lot of these can be applied to almost any language. 

[00:03:41] Again, we are talking about mistakes in approach, not specific mistakes with vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, or anything like that.

[00:03:49] For each mistake, we'll talk through what the mistake is, why it's bad, and what you can do to fix it.

[00:03:57] So without further ado, our first mistake is one that so many English students make, and that is to use materials that aren't interesting to them. 

[00:04:10] Materials that are designed just for language schools or to be used in the classroom. These are often artificial, staged situations and they're not really interesting at all.

[00:04:26] I'm sure if you close your eyes now and just think of some materials that you might have used in an English class, they're probably not particularly interesting. 

[00:04:36] The result of this is that you can find yourself getting bored, you can't motivate yourself and you can't concentrate as well, and the study of language becomes a chore, something boring to do, not a pleasure. 

[00:04:53] Does this sound familiar? I guess to many of you it probably does. 

[00:04:58] So how can you avoid it? 

[00:05:01] Well, it's actually quite easy really. 

[00:05:04] Just read or listen to content that hasn't been dulled down specifically for language learners. 

[00:05:12] Films, books, series about things that you're actually interested in, or podcasts like this, I hope, where you are learning something over and above basic language and not just listening to staged conversations or boring small-talk where you aren't actually learning anything over and above language. 

[00:05:36] If you surround yourself with what I call "real English", content that talks about things that you are interested in, it suddenly won't seem quite so much like learning. 

[00:05:50] Motivation is one of the key factors in people's progress and success, and the easier it is to keep yourself motivated, well then the easier it will be for you to concentrate and to keep on moving forward.

[00:06:07] Our next mistake is to constantly judge yourself against the progress of others. 

[00:06:14] Everyone learns at a different pace using different techniques and different things work for different people. 

[00:06:22] I'm part of all sorts of different Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram groups, and I am always amazed at how often people ask the same questions comparing themselves against others in terms of their learning of English. 

[00:06:39] Stuff like guys, how often do you practice vocabulary?

[00:06:42] Or I'm trying to read an article on the BBC and I can't understand anything - what am I doing wrong? 

[00:06:51] It's completely natural to want to engage with other learners and understand how your progress compares to theirs, but everyone is learning at their own pace using things that work for them. 

[00:07:06] By all means, try out different tactics, but you will find out what works for you and you shouldn't be comparing yourself constantly to the progress of others.

[00:07:19] The great thing about learning English is that it's not a competition, it's not a zero-sum thing, so there really is little to be gained by constantly comparing yourself to others who are learning English. 

[00:07:34] Assuming that you are now at an intermediate level or above, and I guess given that you are listening to this podcast, you should be, then you should have a decent enough idea of the techniques and strategies that work for you and endlessly comparing yourself to others means you're not only distracting yourself from the core task of engaging with English content, but you are also more likely to be distracted, to be caught up by the next shiny thing or new technique. 

[00:08:11] So the more you can avoid this, the better. 

[00:08:14] This brings me on to the next mistake, which is what I call taking the easy option or looking for shortcuts, looking for hacks

[00:08:27] This is something that actually pains me to see, and it's something that I see all the time with language learners.

[00:08:35] In the era of people thinking that there must be a hack, a shortcut for everything, a quick solution that means that you don't need to put in the hours, this is becoming increasingly prominent

[00:08:48] And lots of people seem to spend hours searching for hacks, for shortcuts, that will mean that they don't actually have to put in time learning the language.

[00:09:02] So no, just putting on English songs while you sleep won't make you wake up miraculously one month later and find that you're speaking with a perfect British accent. 

[00:09:13] Learning a language, learning English does take time, and the mistake that people make is to try to think of this time as a boring, necessary task that they want to get through as quickly as possible, so they can minimise the amount of time that they spend doing this. 

[00:09:33] Thinking about it like this is just framing it in completely the wrong way . 

[00:09:38] Instead, you should embrace the actual language learning process. Remind yourself of why you are learning English in the first place. 

[00:09:47] Remind yourself of the goal that you have in mind, be that to get a job, to be able to talk about more than basic subjects with your colleagues, or to feel more at ease in an English speaking country, and then stop looking for hacks and shortcuts and embrace the actual process of learning.

[00:10:08] Thinking of needing a hack makes language learning sound boring and tedious, but it should be the opposite. 

[00:10:17] Relish it and suddenly looking for elusive hacks, hacks that are difficult to find and actually don't exist, suddenly looking for these won't be so attractive anymore.

[00:10:32] Our next mistake, which is something that almost everyone suffers from to a certain degree, is the fear of making mistakes. 

[00:10:42] Now I'm sure that you've heard this before, and being told, "don't be afraid", is aboutas useful as being hit in the face with a wet fish. So I will not patronise you by saying that.

[00:10:57] Instead, I'll give you a few tips of things you can do to actually help get over this. 

[00:11:03] So, the first thing to do is to think about the reasons why you are afraid and the things you can do to get over this fear. 

[00:11:13] It's completely natural that you, assuming that you are a adult who is a fluent, confident, and literate person in your mother tongue, it's completely natural that you feel like you're a different person when you are speaking English, you can't express yourself in the same way. 

[00:11:33] In fact, even the most fluent of English learners, people who have lived in English speaking countries for many years, they often can't express themselves in exactly the same way as they would if they were speaking in their mother tongue.

[00:11:51] You often feel like a different person, unable to communicate in the same way as you could do if you were speaking in your mother tongue. 

[00:12:00] So it's completely natural to feel afraid of speaking. 

[00:12:04] It's almost always easier to nod pleasantly, to, to nod your head up and down rather than to try out a new structure or word because you're afraid that you might make a mistake.

[00:12:17] But without trying, you're not going to learn. 

[00:12:21] And if your objective is to learn, which it has to be, then if you don't try, you won't learn. Remember, and I say this as someone with a non-native English speaking wife, a large percentage of my friends being non-native English and also someone who spends a large part of his life speaking languages that aren't my native English, and feeling fearful myself, we just need to remember that people don't actually care when you make mistakes and also in all probability, you make fewer mistakes than you think you do. 

[00:13:00] I've got a good story here, which I think will be interesting and relevant for a lot of you.

[00:13:05] So I have got a great friend, a Sicilian called Francesco, who is actually the godfather to my son. 

[00:13:12] He arrived in London in 2013 I think it was, without speaking a word of English. 

[00:13:21] Fast forward a few years and he is now doing a PhD, a doctorate at the University of Cambridge on a full scholarship

[00:13:31] Now, this might sound completely implausible to you, but the difference between many English learners and Francesco isn't aptitude or natural talent.

[00:13:46] It's probably that he had absolutely no fear. 

[00:13:51] He made hundreds of mistakes every day, but he always did so with a big smile on his face, as well as a very large Sicilian moustache

[00:14:02] And the result was that he was able to get to a really good level of English, good enough to get into a PhD program at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

[00:14:15] So people don't care when you make mistakes and the sooner you understand that every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn the sooner you'll get over this fear and the faster you'll learn. 

[00:14:31] Our final mistake for part one is one that actually a lot of people make, and this applies equally to English native speakers.

[00:14:42] So this is to try to speak too fast. 

[00:14:47] People from some countries are particularly guilty of this, so unfortunately I'm going to single outthe Spanish speakers, um, you often speak very fast , but it is a mistake that people from almost every country make. 

[00:15:05] You might equate fluency with the speed at which you speak, but actually there's not really anything fluent about this.

[00:15:17] As a non-native speaker, you might see another non-native speaker speaking English very fast and mistake this for fluency or a high level of English. 

[00:15:31] But actually often it is completely the opposite. 

[00:15:36] Lots of people try to speak too fast and end up making mistakes that they wouldn't have made if they spoke more slowly.

[00:15:46] Plus, if you speak more slowly, especially as your pronunciation is likely, still going to be different, a little bit different, to that of a native speaker, you will be easier to understand and you will make life easier for the person you're speaking to. 

[00:16:07] In fact, some of the most impressive orators in English speak very slowly and with frequent pauses between words and sentences. 

[00:16:19] Barack Obama, for example, is almost universally acknowledged to be a fantastic orator

[00:16:28] If you listen to Obama speaking, he speaks very slowly and frequently pauses almost as if he is just searching for the right word. 

[00:16:42] He also doesn't hesitate and fall back into um, or ah, or ugh, words. 

[00:16:49] The result is that he comes across as an incredibly talented speaker, someone with a fantastic way with words and ability with language. 

[00:17:04] So what can you do to fix this mistake? 

[00:17:08] Well, it's pretty easy.

[00:17:11] Speak more slowly. 

[00:17:13] Speaking quickly really isn't a proxy for linguistic ability. 

[00:17:19] The faster you speak does not mean the better you speak. 

[00:17:23] If you have one person who speaks at 75 words a minute, but uses more nuanced structures, more advanced vocabulary and better grammar versus another who speaks at 150 words a minute, so twice as fast, but isn't so easy to understand and makes errors, well, I think you can guess which one will come across as the more accomplished English speaker. 

[00:17:56] Okay then in the interests of keeping every podcast under 20 minutes so that they arebite-sized and easy to fit into your day, we are going to call this a day for part one of this list. 

[00:18:09] Stay tuned for part two where we'll go through the remaining five of our top mistakes that people make when learning English, and there's also one little bonus one at the end. 

[00:18:21] As a sneak peak, you'll learn why focusing on grammar can be detrimental, why people don't listen properly, why you shouldn't feel the need to go to an English speaking country to do an immersion course.

[00:18:38] I'll give you some tips on fitting your English into your already busy day and how to set manageable goals that will put you on the right path and mean that you can continue your momentum with your learning. 

[00:18:53] That's all to come in part two and as a quick reminder, if you haven't already hit that subscribe button, make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts zooming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday. 

[00:19:09] And for those of you that are looking for the transcripts and key vocabulary so you can follow every single word, you can grab a copy of every transcript and key vocabulary for every podcast we've ever done and get access to our bonus members-only content over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:19:30] You've been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:19:36] I'm Alastair Budge and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]



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[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] I'm Alastair Budge and welcome to the show where you can learn English while learning fascinating things about the way the world works, and of course about how to learn English in an effective, interesting and engaging way. 

[00:00:26] In today's episode, we are going to be talking about the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them.

[00:00:35] So it's a slight deviation from our usual topics of weird and wonderful things that happen in the world, but we've had quite a lot of you asking for more material, specifically on English learning, and if you are interested in learning English, which I guess if you're listening to this podcast, you probably are, it's probably a good thing to be aware of some of the mistakes that you should be avoiding

[00:01:04] If you are hoping to hear specifics in this podcast about phrasal verbs or people making mistakes in pronouncing a particular word, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. 

[00:01:16] We aren't going to be talking about specific mistakes people make, but rather strategic mistakes in terms of the approach that you take when learning English, so mistakes that people make, no matter what their mother tongue is or how long they've been learning English. 

[00:01:35] As we go through these common mistakes, if you recognise things that you do, well, then we'll talk about ways you can avoid doing them. 

[00:01:45] And if we talk about mistakes that you know that you don't make, well, you can give yourself a little pat on the back

[00:01:52] Before we get right into it, let me just say that nobody is perfect. 

[00:01:58] I'm certainly not, and don't feel disheartened if you notice some of your own behaviour in some of the things that we'll talk about today. 

[00:02:07] Fixing some of these mistakes isn't always easy, and learning English isn't full of quick fixes and hacks, but if you can avoid making these mistakes, then you'll find yourself progressing a lot faster than you would do otherwise.

[00:02:26] As I was making my notes for this podcast, it became obvious that if I tried to squeeze everything into one podcast, well it would end up being quite long. 

[00:02:38] So we are going to split this podcast into two parts. 

[00:02:41] You are listening to part one and part two will be zooming into your podcast app of choice in the next episode, which should be on Friday, so make sure that you hit that subscribe or follow button if you haven't done so already. 

[00:02:57] As a quick reminder for those who have listened before, and just a point to note for those who are listening to this podcast for the first time, you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this podcast over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:03:15] The transcripts and key vocabulary are super helpful for following every word, and comes with definitions of the more unusual words or phrases, meaning you end up boosting your vocabulary with every single podcast. 

[00:03:31] All right then, today we are talking about the mistakes that people make when learning English, but a lot of these can be applied to almost any language. 

[00:03:41] Again, we are talking about mistakes in approach, not specific mistakes with vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, or anything like that.

[00:03:49] For each mistake, we'll talk through what the mistake is, why it's bad, and what you can do to fix it.

[00:03:57] So without further ado, our first mistake is one that so many English students make, and that is to use materials that aren't interesting to them. 

[00:04:10] Materials that are designed just for language schools or to be used in the classroom. These are often artificial, staged situations and they're not really interesting at all.

[00:04:26] I'm sure if you close your eyes now and just think of some materials that you might have used in an English class, they're probably not particularly interesting. 

[00:04:36] The result of this is that you can find yourself getting bored, you can't motivate yourself and you can't concentrate as well, and the study of language becomes a chore, something boring to do, not a pleasure. 

[00:04:53] Does this sound familiar? I guess to many of you it probably does. 

[00:04:58] So how can you avoid it? 

[00:05:01] Well, it's actually quite easy really. 

[00:05:04] Just read or listen to content that hasn't been dulled down specifically for language learners. 

[00:05:12] Films, books, series about things that you're actually interested in, or podcasts like this, I hope, where you are learning something over and above basic language and not just listening to staged conversations or boring small-talk where you aren't actually learning anything over and above language. 

[00:05:36] If you surround yourself with what I call "real English", content that talks about things that you are interested in, it suddenly won't seem quite so much like learning. 

[00:05:50] Motivation is one of the key factors in people's progress and success, and the easier it is to keep yourself motivated, well then the easier it will be for you to concentrate and to keep on moving forward.

[00:06:07] Our next mistake is to constantly judge yourself against the progress of others. 

[00:06:14] Everyone learns at a different pace using different techniques and different things work for different people. 

[00:06:22] I'm part of all sorts of different Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram groups, and I am always amazed at how often people ask the same questions comparing themselves against others in terms of their learning of English. 

[00:06:39] Stuff like guys, how often do you practice vocabulary?

[00:06:42] Or I'm trying to read an article on the BBC and I can't understand anything - what am I doing wrong? 

[00:06:51] It's completely natural to want to engage with other learners and understand how your progress compares to theirs, but everyone is learning at their own pace using things that work for them. 

[00:07:06] By all means, try out different tactics, but you will find out what works for you and you shouldn't be comparing yourself constantly to the progress of others.

[00:07:19] The great thing about learning English is that it's not a competition, it's not a zero-sum thing, so there really is little to be gained by constantly comparing yourself to others who are learning English. 

[00:07:34] Assuming that you are now at an intermediate level or above, and I guess given that you are listening to this podcast, you should be, then you should have a decent enough idea of the techniques and strategies that work for you and endlessly comparing yourself to others means you're not only distracting yourself from the core task of engaging with English content, but you are also more likely to be distracted, to be caught up by the next shiny thing or new technique. 

[00:08:11] So the more you can avoid this, the better. 

[00:08:14] This brings me on to the next mistake, which is what I call taking the easy option or looking for shortcuts, looking for hacks

[00:08:27] This is something that actually pains me to see, and it's something that I see all the time with language learners.

[00:08:35] In the era of people thinking that there must be a hack, a shortcut for everything, a quick solution that means that you don't need to put in the hours, this is becoming increasingly prominent

[00:08:48] And lots of people seem to spend hours searching for hacks, for shortcuts, that will mean that they don't actually have to put in time learning the language.

[00:09:02] So no, just putting on English songs while you sleep won't make you wake up miraculously one month later and find that you're speaking with a perfect British accent. 

[00:09:13] Learning a language, learning English does take time, and the mistake that people make is to try to think of this time as a boring, necessary task that they want to get through as quickly as possible, so they can minimise the amount of time that they spend doing this. 

[00:09:33] Thinking about it like this is just framing it in completely the wrong way . 

[00:09:38] Instead, you should embrace the actual language learning process. Remind yourself of why you are learning English in the first place. 

[00:09:47] Remind yourself of the goal that you have in mind, be that to get a job, to be able to talk about more than basic subjects with your colleagues, or to feel more at ease in an English speaking country, and then stop looking for hacks and shortcuts and embrace the actual process of learning.

[00:10:08] Thinking of needing a hack makes language learning sound boring and tedious, but it should be the opposite. 

[00:10:17] Relish it and suddenly looking for elusive hacks, hacks that are difficult to find and actually don't exist, suddenly looking for these won't be so attractive anymore.

[00:10:32] Our next mistake, which is something that almost everyone suffers from to a certain degree, is the fear of making mistakes. 

[00:10:42] Now I'm sure that you've heard this before, and being told, "don't be afraid", is aboutas useful as being hit in the face with a wet fish. So I will not patronise you by saying that.

[00:10:57] Instead, I'll give you a few tips of things you can do to actually help get over this. 

[00:11:03] So, the first thing to do is to think about the reasons why you are afraid and the things you can do to get over this fear. 

[00:11:13] It's completely natural that you, assuming that you are a adult who is a fluent, confident, and literate person in your mother tongue, it's completely natural that you feel like you're a different person when you are speaking English, you can't express yourself in the same way. 

[00:11:33] In fact, even the most fluent of English learners, people who have lived in English speaking countries for many years, they often can't express themselves in exactly the same way as they would if they were speaking in their mother tongue.

[00:11:51] You often feel like a different person, unable to communicate in the same way as you could do if you were speaking in your mother tongue. 

[00:12:00] So it's completely natural to feel afraid of speaking. 

[00:12:04] It's almost always easier to nod pleasantly, to, to nod your head up and down rather than to try out a new structure or word because you're afraid that you might make a mistake.

[00:12:17] But without trying, you're not going to learn. 

[00:12:21] And if your objective is to learn, which it has to be, then if you don't try, you won't learn. Remember, and I say this as someone with a non-native English speaking wife, a large percentage of my friends being non-native English and also someone who spends a large part of his life speaking languages that aren't my native English, and feeling fearful myself, we just need to remember that people don't actually care when you make mistakes and also in all probability, you make fewer mistakes than you think you do. 

[00:13:00] I've got a good story here, which I think will be interesting and relevant for a lot of you.

[00:13:05] So I have got a great friend, a Sicilian called Francesco, who is actually the godfather to my son. 

[00:13:12] He arrived in London in 2013 I think it was, without speaking a word of English. 

[00:13:21] Fast forward a few years and he is now doing a PhD, a doctorate at the University of Cambridge on a full scholarship

[00:13:31] Now, this might sound completely implausible to you, but the difference between many English learners and Francesco isn't aptitude or natural talent.

[00:13:46] It's probably that he had absolutely no fear. 

[00:13:51] He made hundreds of mistakes every day, but he always did so with a big smile on his face, as well as a very large Sicilian moustache

[00:14:02] And the result was that he was able to get to a really good level of English, good enough to get into a PhD program at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

[00:14:15] So people don't care when you make mistakes and the sooner you understand that every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn the sooner you'll get over this fear and the faster you'll learn. 

[00:14:31] Our final mistake for part one is one that actually a lot of people make, and this applies equally to English native speakers.

[00:14:42] So this is to try to speak too fast. 

[00:14:47] People from some countries are particularly guilty of this, so unfortunately I'm going to single outthe Spanish speakers, um, you often speak very fast , but it is a mistake that people from almost every country make. 

[00:15:05] You might equate fluency with the speed at which you speak, but actually there's not really anything fluent about this.

[00:15:17] As a non-native speaker, you might see another non-native speaker speaking English very fast and mistake this for fluency or a high level of English. 

[00:15:31] But actually often it is completely the opposite. 

[00:15:36] Lots of people try to speak too fast and end up making mistakes that they wouldn't have made if they spoke more slowly.

[00:15:46] Plus, if you speak more slowly, especially as your pronunciation is likely, still going to be different, a little bit different, to that of a native speaker, you will be easier to understand and you will make life easier for the person you're speaking to. 

[00:16:07] In fact, some of the most impressive orators in English speak very slowly and with frequent pauses between words and sentences. 

[00:16:19] Barack Obama, for example, is almost universally acknowledged to be a fantastic orator

[00:16:28] If you listen to Obama speaking, he speaks very slowly and frequently pauses almost as if he is just searching for the right word. 

[00:16:42] He also doesn't hesitate and fall back into um, or ah, or ugh, words. 

[00:16:49] The result is that he comes across as an incredibly talented speaker, someone with a fantastic way with words and ability with language. 

[00:17:04] So what can you do to fix this mistake? 

[00:17:08] Well, it's pretty easy.

[00:17:11] Speak more slowly. 

[00:17:13] Speaking quickly really isn't a proxy for linguistic ability. 

[00:17:19] The faster you speak does not mean the better you speak. 

[00:17:23] If you have one person who speaks at 75 words a minute, but uses more nuanced structures, more advanced vocabulary and better grammar versus another who speaks at 150 words a minute, so twice as fast, but isn't so easy to understand and makes errors, well, I think you can guess which one will come across as the more accomplished English speaker. 

[00:17:56] Okay then in the interests of keeping every podcast under 20 minutes so that they arebite-sized and easy to fit into your day, we are going to call this a day for part one of this list. 

[00:18:09] Stay tuned for part two where we'll go through the remaining five of our top mistakes that people make when learning English, and there's also one little bonus one at the end. 

[00:18:21] As a sneak peak, you'll learn why focusing on grammar can be detrimental, why people don't listen properly, why you shouldn't feel the need to go to an English speaking country to do an immersion course.

[00:18:38] I'll give you some tips on fitting your English into your already busy day and how to set manageable goals that will put you on the right path and mean that you can continue your momentum with your learning. 

[00:18:53] That's all to come in part two and as a quick reminder, if you haven't already hit that subscribe button, make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts zooming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday. 

[00:19:09] And for those of you that are looking for the transcripts and key vocabulary so you can follow every single word, you can grab a copy of every transcript and key vocabulary for every podcast we've ever done and get access to our bonus members-only content over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:19:30] You've been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:19:36] I'm Alastair Budge and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]



[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] I'm Alastair Budge and welcome to the show where you can learn English while learning fascinating things about the way the world works, and of course about how to learn English in an effective, interesting and engaging way. 

[00:00:26] In today's episode, we are going to be talking about the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them.

[00:00:35] So it's a slight deviation from our usual topics of weird and wonderful things that happen in the world, but we've had quite a lot of you asking for more material, specifically on English learning, and if you are interested in learning English, which I guess if you're listening to this podcast, you probably are, it's probably a good thing to be aware of some of the mistakes that you should be avoiding

[00:01:04] If you are hoping to hear specifics in this podcast about phrasal verbs or people making mistakes in pronouncing a particular word, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. 

[00:01:16] We aren't going to be talking about specific mistakes people make, but rather strategic mistakes in terms of the approach that you take when learning English, so mistakes that people make, no matter what their mother tongue is or how long they've been learning English. 

[00:01:35] As we go through these common mistakes, if you recognise things that you do, well, then we'll talk about ways you can avoid doing them. 

[00:01:45] And if we talk about mistakes that you know that you don't make, well, you can give yourself a little pat on the back

[00:01:52] Before we get right into it, let me just say that nobody is perfect. 

[00:01:58] I'm certainly not, and don't feel disheartened if you notice some of your own behaviour in some of the things that we'll talk about today. 

[00:02:07] Fixing some of these mistakes isn't always easy, and learning English isn't full of quick fixes and hacks, but if you can avoid making these mistakes, then you'll find yourself progressing a lot faster than you would do otherwise.

[00:02:26] As I was making my notes for this podcast, it became obvious that if I tried to squeeze everything into one podcast, well it would end up being quite long. 

[00:02:38] So we are going to split this podcast into two parts. 

[00:02:41] You are listening to part one and part two will be zooming into your podcast app of choice in the next episode, which should be on Friday, so make sure that you hit that subscribe or follow button if you haven't done so already. 

[00:02:57] As a quick reminder for those who have listened before, and just a point to note for those who are listening to this podcast for the first time, you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this podcast over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:03:15] The transcripts and key vocabulary are super helpful for following every word, and comes with definitions of the more unusual words or phrases, meaning you end up boosting your vocabulary with every single podcast. 

[00:03:31] All right then, today we are talking about the mistakes that people make when learning English, but a lot of these can be applied to almost any language. 

[00:03:41] Again, we are talking about mistakes in approach, not specific mistakes with vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, or anything like that.

[00:03:49] For each mistake, we'll talk through what the mistake is, why it's bad, and what you can do to fix it.

[00:03:57] So without further ado, our first mistake is one that so many English students make, and that is to use materials that aren't interesting to them. 

[00:04:10] Materials that are designed just for language schools or to be used in the classroom. These are often artificial, staged situations and they're not really interesting at all.

[00:04:26] I'm sure if you close your eyes now and just think of some materials that you might have used in an English class, they're probably not particularly interesting. 

[00:04:36] The result of this is that you can find yourself getting bored, you can't motivate yourself and you can't concentrate as well, and the study of language becomes a chore, something boring to do, not a pleasure. 

[00:04:53] Does this sound familiar? I guess to many of you it probably does. 

[00:04:58] So how can you avoid it? 

[00:05:01] Well, it's actually quite easy really. 

[00:05:04] Just read or listen to content that hasn't been dulled down specifically for language learners. 

[00:05:12] Films, books, series about things that you're actually interested in, or podcasts like this, I hope, where you are learning something over and above basic language and not just listening to staged conversations or boring small-talk where you aren't actually learning anything over and above language. 

[00:05:36] If you surround yourself with what I call "real English", content that talks about things that you are interested in, it suddenly won't seem quite so much like learning. 

[00:05:50] Motivation is one of the key factors in people's progress and success, and the easier it is to keep yourself motivated, well then the easier it will be for you to concentrate and to keep on moving forward.

[00:06:07] Our next mistake is to constantly judge yourself against the progress of others. 

[00:06:14] Everyone learns at a different pace using different techniques and different things work for different people. 

[00:06:22] I'm part of all sorts of different Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram groups, and I am always amazed at how often people ask the same questions comparing themselves against others in terms of their learning of English. 

[00:06:39] Stuff like guys, how often do you practice vocabulary?

[00:06:42] Or I'm trying to read an article on the BBC and I can't understand anything - what am I doing wrong? 

[00:06:51] It's completely natural to want to engage with other learners and understand how your progress compares to theirs, but everyone is learning at their own pace using things that work for them. 

[00:07:06] By all means, try out different tactics, but you will find out what works for you and you shouldn't be comparing yourself constantly to the progress of others.

[00:07:19] The great thing about learning English is that it's not a competition, it's not a zero-sum thing, so there really is little to be gained by constantly comparing yourself to others who are learning English. 

[00:07:34] Assuming that you are now at an intermediate level or above, and I guess given that you are listening to this podcast, you should be, then you should have a decent enough idea of the techniques and strategies that work for you and endlessly comparing yourself to others means you're not only distracting yourself from the core task of engaging with English content, but you are also more likely to be distracted, to be caught up by the next shiny thing or new technique. 

[00:08:11] So the more you can avoid this, the better. 

[00:08:14] This brings me on to the next mistake, which is what I call taking the easy option or looking for shortcuts, looking for hacks

[00:08:27] This is something that actually pains me to see, and it's something that I see all the time with language learners.

[00:08:35] In the era of people thinking that there must be a hack, a shortcut for everything, a quick solution that means that you don't need to put in the hours, this is becoming increasingly prominent

[00:08:48] And lots of people seem to spend hours searching for hacks, for shortcuts, that will mean that they don't actually have to put in time learning the language.

[00:09:02] So no, just putting on English songs while you sleep won't make you wake up miraculously one month later and find that you're speaking with a perfect British accent. 

[00:09:13] Learning a language, learning English does take time, and the mistake that people make is to try to think of this time as a boring, necessary task that they want to get through as quickly as possible, so they can minimise the amount of time that they spend doing this. 

[00:09:33] Thinking about it like this is just framing it in completely the wrong way . 

[00:09:38] Instead, you should embrace the actual language learning process. Remind yourself of why you are learning English in the first place. 

[00:09:47] Remind yourself of the goal that you have in mind, be that to get a job, to be able to talk about more than basic subjects with your colleagues, or to feel more at ease in an English speaking country, and then stop looking for hacks and shortcuts and embrace the actual process of learning.

[00:10:08] Thinking of needing a hack makes language learning sound boring and tedious, but it should be the opposite. 

[00:10:17] Relish it and suddenly looking for elusive hacks, hacks that are difficult to find and actually don't exist, suddenly looking for these won't be so attractive anymore.

[00:10:32] Our next mistake, which is something that almost everyone suffers from to a certain degree, is the fear of making mistakes. 

[00:10:42] Now I'm sure that you've heard this before, and being told, "don't be afraid", is aboutas useful as being hit in the face with a wet fish. So I will not patronise you by saying that.

[00:10:57] Instead, I'll give you a few tips of things you can do to actually help get over this. 

[00:11:03] So, the first thing to do is to think about the reasons why you are afraid and the things you can do to get over this fear. 

[00:11:13] It's completely natural that you, assuming that you are a adult who is a fluent, confident, and literate person in your mother tongue, it's completely natural that you feel like you're a different person when you are speaking English, you can't express yourself in the same way. 

[00:11:33] In fact, even the most fluent of English learners, people who have lived in English speaking countries for many years, they often can't express themselves in exactly the same way as they would if they were speaking in their mother tongue.

[00:11:51] You often feel like a different person, unable to communicate in the same way as you could do if you were speaking in your mother tongue. 

[00:12:00] So it's completely natural to feel afraid of speaking. 

[00:12:04] It's almost always easier to nod pleasantly, to, to nod your head up and down rather than to try out a new structure or word because you're afraid that you might make a mistake.

[00:12:17] But without trying, you're not going to learn. 

[00:12:21] And if your objective is to learn, which it has to be, then if you don't try, you won't learn. Remember, and I say this as someone with a non-native English speaking wife, a large percentage of my friends being non-native English and also someone who spends a large part of his life speaking languages that aren't my native English, and feeling fearful myself, we just need to remember that people don't actually care when you make mistakes and also in all probability, you make fewer mistakes than you think you do. 

[00:13:00] I've got a good story here, which I think will be interesting and relevant for a lot of you.

[00:13:05] So I have got a great friend, a Sicilian called Francesco, who is actually the godfather to my son. 

[00:13:12] He arrived in London in 2013 I think it was, without speaking a word of English. 

[00:13:21] Fast forward a few years and he is now doing a PhD, a doctorate at the University of Cambridge on a full scholarship

[00:13:31] Now, this might sound completely implausible to you, but the difference between many English learners and Francesco isn't aptitude or natural talent.

[00:13:46] It's probably that he had absolutely no fear. 

[00:13:51] He made hundreds of mistakes every day, but he always did so with a big smile on his face, as well as a very large Sicilian moustache

[00:14:02] And the result was that he was able to get to a really good level of English, good enough to get into a PhD program at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

[00:14:15] So people don't care when you make mistakes and the sooner you understand that every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn the sooner you'll get over this fear and the faster you'll learn. 

[00:14:31] Our final mistake for part one is one that actually a lot of people make, and this applies equally to English native speakers.

[00:14:42] So this is to try to speak too fast. 

[00:14:47] People from some countries are particularly guilty of this, so unfortunately I'm going to single outthe Spanish speakers, um, you often speak very fast , but it is a mistake that people from almost every country make. 

[00:15:05] You might equate fluency with the speed at which you speak, but actually there's not really anything fluent about this.

[00:15:17] As a non-native speaker, you might see another non-native speaker speaking English very fast and mistake this for fluency or a high level of English. 

[00:15:31] But actually often it is completely the opposite. 

[00:15:36] Lots of people try to speak too fast and end up making mistakes that they wouldn't have made if they spoke more slowly.

[00:15:46] Plus, if you speak more slowly, especially as your pronunciation is likely, still going to be different, a little bit different, to that of a native speaker, you will be easier to understand and you will make life easier for the person you're speaking to. 

[00:16:07] In fact, some of the most impressive orators in English speak very slowly and with frequent pauses between words and sentences. 

[00:16:19] Barack Obama, for example, is almost universally acknowledged to be a fantastic orator

[00:16:28] If you listen to Obama speaking, he speaks very slowly and frequently pauses almost as if he is just searching for the right word. 

[00:16:42] He also doesn't hesitate and fall back into um, or ah, or ugh, words. 

[00:16:49] The result is that he comes across as an incredibly talented speaker, someone with a fantastic way with words and ability with language. 

[00:17:04] So what can you do to fix this mistake? 

[00:17:08] Well, it's pretty easy.

[00:17:11] Speak more slowly. 

[00:17:13] Speaking quickly really isn't a proxy for linguistic ability. 

[00:17:19] The faster you speak does not mean the better you speak. 

[00:17:23] If you have one person who speaks at 75 words a minute, but uses more nuanced structures, more advanced vocabulary and better grammar versus another who speaks at 150 words a minute, so twice as fast, but isn't so easy to understand and makes errors, well, I think you can guess which one will come across as the more accomplished English speaker. 

[00:17:56] Okay then in the interests of keeping every podcast under 20 minutes so that they arebite-sized and easy to fit into your day, we are going to call this a day for part one of this list. 

[00:18:09] Stay tuned for part two where we'll go through the remaining five of our top mistakes that people make when learning English, and there's also one little bonus one at the end. 

[00:18:21] As a sneak peak, you'll learn why focusing on grammar can be detrimental, why people don't listen properly, why you shouldn't feel the need to go to an English speaking country to do an immersion course.

[00:18:38] I'll give you some tips on fitting your English into your already busy day and how to set manageable goals that will put you on the right path and mean that you can continue your momentum with your learning. 

[00:18:53] That's all to come in part two and as a quick reminder, if you haven't already hit that subscribe button, make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts zooming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday. 

[00:19:09] And for those of you that are looking for the transcripts and key vocabulary so you can follow every single word, you can grab a copy of every transcript and key vocabulary for every podcast we've ever done and get access to our bonus members-only content over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:19:30] You've been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:19:36] I'm Alastair Budge and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]