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Part 2: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Learning English (and How to Avoid Them)

Feb 7, 2020
Language Learning
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19
minutes
Language learning
English speaking
English writing

It's time for Part 2 of our most common mistakes people make when learning English.

Learn about why you shouldn't worry about grammar, why 'survival' listening isn't the answer, why you don't need to go to an English-speaking country to learn English, and how to set yourself effective goals and not get disheartened.

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[00:00:02] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:10] I'm Alastair Budge and today it is the second part, the second half, of the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them. 

[00:00:22] In part one, we learned about why you should choose normal content over content in traditional language learning textbooks, why you shouldn't judge yourself against others, why you shouldn't pay attention to hacks or shortcuts, how you should rid yourself of your fear of making mistakes and why trying to speak too fast is a terrible idea. 

[00:00:49] So if you haven't listened to part one yet and that sounds right up your street, then go and give that a listen.

[00:00:58] And just in case you haven't got it right in front of you, you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary and become a member of Leonardo English over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:12] All right then, let's get back into it and talk about the final five most common mistakes that people make when learning English and how to fix them of course. 

[00:01:23] Okay, mistake number six is a very common mistake that millions, tens, even hundreds of millions of English learners make, and that is to focus on grammar as a standalone discipline

[00:01:38] Grammar in English has its easy parts, but like anything, it has its tricky bits too, and once you've covered the basics, the foundation of English grammar, the more complicated the grammar gets, the harder and more never-ending it can seem. 

[00:01:59] Yes, it's obviously a bonus that nouns don't have genders in English, and most of our verb conjugations are relatively easy compared to some other languages, but phrasal verbs are obviously a nightmare, and English has a load of weird, and I'd still say wonderful grammar rules that take time to master. 

[00:02:23] As I'm sure you've probably realised by now, even native speakers still make grammar mistakes, so you shouldn't feel too bad about making grammar mistakes yourself. 

[00:02:35] But if you decide that the way to master English grammar is just by sitting down with a grammar book and working your way through, then you're really not going to progress very fast at all.

[00:02:50] You'll probably also get pretty discouraged and it's easy to lose motivation if you are just heads down in a grammar book. 

[00:03:01] You'll remember from part one that our first mistake was to not focus on interesting content, and you would have to be a bit of a masochist, slightly strange person if you were to classify grammar books as interesting content. 

[00:03:19] Yes, of course, it's useful to have a base understanding of English grammar, how various words are conjugated, and so on, but once you have reached the kind of level that I imagine you are now if you can understand this podcast, then time spent on standalone grammar exercises is normally time, well, not quite wasted, but certainly not particularly well spent. 

[00:03:49] So what is the fix for this? What should you be doing? 

[00:03:53] Well, instead of focusing on grammar-specific exercises, you should try to acquire grammar through contact with real materials - books, articles, podcasts like this one, so that you understand and acquire grammar rules through real world practice rather than just focusing on the rules themselves.

[00:04:16] When you come across a strange piece of grammar in English, by all means, you should try to figure out the rule behind it, and make sure you put it in your little black book so you remember it, but don't focus on grammar alone. 

[00:04:34] Remember too from part one of the podcast that you should try to lose your fear of making mistakes. 

[00:04:41] How is this relevant to grammar? Well, you shouldn't worry about making grammar mistakes in English, and as I said, even native speakers make mistakes as well. 

[00:04:52] If you can embrace the quirkiness, the weirdness, the strangeness of English grammar, and stop worrying about learning it as a standalone discipline, then you'll be amazed at how quickly you actually learn grammar. 

[00:05:08] You pick up the grammar rules without spending any time actively working on it.

[00:05:14] Our next mistake is a real pet peeve of mine, something that's really close to my heart, especially given that I started this podcast partly as a way to combat the problem. 

[00:05:29] And this mistake is of not really listening to native speakers of not really paying full attention to the sentence structures, the choice of words that they use or the way that they pronounce a particular word. 

[00:05:45] When listening to native speakers, whether it's this podcast, any other podcast, or speaking to a native speaker in real life, so many people just put their entire focus on trying to understand the gist of what is being said, the meaning of what is being said, without focusing on the content, the actual words that are being used. 

[00:06:11] Now I should say that there are those that have a completely different view to this saying that you should just focus on comprehension, saying that you should train your ears to listen out for a few core words to get the meaning of a sentence.

[00:06:28] But this only really works if you're just starting out, if you're just at the beginning of your journey and you're not trying to get to advanced level, the sort of level that I imagine you would like to achieve in English.

[00:06:42] For anyone who is, let's say, intermediate level or above and thinking about listening as an opportunity to improve their own English abilities, not just as a survival thing, then you really need to stop listening passively, purely from a survival point of view and to start focusing on every single word. If you didn't understand a particular word or turn of phrase or idiom, ask someone what it means or look it up. 

[00:07:15] Find out why they chose to use that particular word when you might've thought there might've been another. 

[00:07:23] If it's something like a podcast, radio, or film, then make a note of it in your own little black book.

[00:07:31] Go back to it and treat every time you listen to a native speaker as a time to learn from them, not just to go into survival mode, to just understand the gist, the overall meaning, of what they're saying. 

[00:07:47] The sooner you switch to doing this, the sooner you will start actually learning from every single interaction as opposed to just understanding, and you should view every single time you hear native speakers as an opportunity to learn.

[00:08:06] Our next mistake is another one that's quite close to my heart for two reasons. 

[00:08:13] Firstly, as this podcast now has listeners from all over the world, I think when I last checked it was 115 countries, and secondly, because I'm recording this podcast from the little island of Malta, which is famous for people coming here specifically to learn English.

[00:08:34] So if you've guessed the mistake I'm referring to, hats off to you. Perhaps the clues were not particularly clear. 

[00:08:41] What I'm talking about is the mistake of assuming that you need to be, physically be, in an English speaking country to really get better at English, and that these opportunities to listen to and speak English only exist within a physically immersive environment, meaning that you have to actually go there. 

[00:09:05] A load of English language schools will continue to push this message to people as it's obviously in their interest that people get on a plane and enroll in a school halfway across the world in order to improve their own English.

[00:09:21] I'm not here to hate on language schools, some of them are really, really good, and for some people it is a great choice. 

[00:09:29] But it is a big mistake to think that you can only really make progress in an English speaking country and that you have to go to an English school to do so. 

[00:09:41] It's completely possible to become fluent, in the traditional sense of the word, while never setting foot in an English speaking country. 

[00:09:52] How? 

[00:09:52] Well, through all sorts of fantastic materials that exist all over the internet that will allow you to create your own immersive English experience. 

[00:10:05] From listening to podcasts like this, to finding an English conversation partner through things like italki or Cambly, or just Facebook groups to switching your phone to English, watching English films and TV series, you can create your own immersive English experience while not only saving yourself a huge amount of money, but also allowing you to fit in your learning around your schedule.

[00:10:34] If you're currently at university or if you're working, it's not very easy to decide to take three or six months off to go to another country to learn English.

[00:10:45] Perhaps you are already doing this, and if so, kudos to you, hats off to you. 

[00:10:52] If you're not and you're thinking that you should absolutely need to get on a plane and spend time in an English speaking country, just remember, you really don't.

[00:11:02] Okay, mistake number nine is to not make time for it and to assume that you can just fit in the learning around the rest of your schedule. 

[00:11:14] Unless you actually make time every day, or every couple of days or whatever it is, you are so much less likely to actually do it. 

[00:11:25] If you're the kind of person that puts everything in your calendar, just put in that little 15 minute English practice session every morning at 7:30 AM or whatever time suits your schedule.

[00:11:38] Or if you're not a calendar type of person, just make sure that you mentally set aside time, you reserve time, every day or every few days to dedicate to your learning. 

[00:11:51] You might be a super organised person and just be able to fit in things at odd times of the day, but for most people, setting aside the time every day or every couple of days is the best solution as it means it's a lot harder to postpone it, to move it to another time or just forget or skip it. 

[00:12:17] There is a terribly overused quote in English, which is "failing to prepare is preparing to fail", but in this case, it really is true. 

[00:12:29] What will happen if you don't schedule that time in every single day is you'll end up skipping it, you'll end up just not doing it because you know, life happens and there's always something shinier and more attractive than sitting down and doing English practice. 

[00:12:48] And once you start skipping it, you lose your rhythm and it'll become a chore, it'll become something you don't enjoy doing, and you'll lose your motivation, and it really is a vicious circle

[00:13:02] So if you make time for it every day, look, it doesn't have to be an hour a day, even just a 10 minute slot is fine, then it'll just become part of your routine, it'll become part of what you do. 

[00:13:17] And again, little and often is better than setting yourself huge, ambitious goals that you'll never managed to achieve, so saying that you're going to do it for 10 or 15 minutes every day and actually doing it, is much better than saying I'm going to study for two hours every day and never doing it.

[00:13:39] And this brings us on to our penultimate mistake, our second to last mistake, which is actually kind of two mistakes wrapped into one. 

[00:13:51] These mistakes are related to setting yourself goals. So the first mistake is not setting yourself any goals, and the second mistake is setting yourself goals that are too hard to achieve.

[00:14:07] Why is not setting yourself a goal a mistake? 

[00:14:10] Because if you don't have anything to aim for, if you don't have a target of something you want to achieve, it's not only harder to measure your progress, but it's harder to motivate yourself, to get yourself up in the morning to do it. 

[00:14:26] These goals don't have to be huge, you don't have to say that you want to become a professor of English or write a bestselling novel in English, they can be something as simple as this week I want to have five conversations with native speakers, or I want to listen to five podcasts and annotate the transcriptions. 

[00:14:50] Then you can have your bigger goal, which is your overall target, the thing you're aiming for, the thing you want to achieve. 

[00:14:58] Perhaps that's being able to get a certain score in IELTS or it's to be able to have a natural flowing conversation with a neighbour or relative, or to be able to watch an entire film in English without subtitles and for it to not feel like a chore.

[00:15:17] And to elaborate on our second goal-related mistake, it's setting yourself goals that are too ambitious and too hard to achieve either because you just don't have enough time to dedicate to them or because they require results that are just so difficult to achieve that you are setting yourself up for failure. 

[00:15:40] So it could be something like, I want to be fluent in English in 60 days, or I want to spend three hours every morning before work reading Jane Austen. 

[00:15:52] Yes, it obviously would be great if you could achieve these, but it's far better to set yourself goals that you have a chance of hitting rather than just setting yourself up for failure.

[00:16:04] Our final mistake, a bonus 11th one actually, if you're counting, is one that is far easier to say than to avoid making, and that is to get disheartened, to get depressed and sad with your progress. 

[00:16:22] Learning English, like learning any language can be a roller coaster ride. 

[00:16:28] There will be days when you think you can't do anything right, and that it's such an uphill struggle that you may as well give up, just pack everything in

[00:16:38] And I've been there with language learning, it's very easy to get disheartened, but if you remember your goals, remember what you're aiming for, this should hopefully give you the motivation to stay on track. 

[00:16:53] By listening to podcasts like this, you certainly are on the right track and learning English is a journey that never really finishes, even for native speakers.

[00:17:05] So stay motivated, stay curious, stay hungry. You can do it and you just have to believe in yourself.

[00:17:14] Alright, then, with this uplifting message of being disheartened learning English comes the end of today's podcast and of our list of the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them. 

[00:17:28] I'm really curious, are there any mistakes that you think we missed, or is there anything in this podcast that you didn't agree with?

[00:17:37] I'd love to know. 

[00:17:38] You can email us at hi - 'h i' @leonardoenglish.com or find us on Instagram or Facebook. 

[00:17:46] The next episode we will be back onto weird and wonderful things after this little linguistic interlude, so our next episodes will be on explaining why Great Britain isn't really a country, and talking about the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom, if you weren't aware, there was a difference, and then we'll also ask ourselves why so many jobs seem so pointless

[00:18:14] And as a final reminder, if you haven't yet hit that subscribe button then make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts are flying into your podcast app of choice every Tuesday and Friday.

[00:18:27] And if you also want the transcripts and key vocabulary coming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday, and they can be super useful if you haven't tested them out already, then head to leonardoenglish.com forward slash subscribe to join language learners from all over the world and not miss a single word, plus you also get access to our special members-only bonus podcasts. 

[00:18:52] Okay, you have been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:58] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]



Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:02] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:10] I'm Alastair Budge and today it is the second part, the second half, of the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them. 

[00:00:22] In part one, we learned about why you should choose normal content over content in traditional language learning textbooks, why you shouldn't judge yourself against others, why you shouldn't pay attention to hacks or shortcuts, how you should rid yourself of your fear of making mistakes and why trying to speak too fast is a terrible idea. 

[00:00:49] So if you haven't listened to part one yet and that sounds right up your street, then go and give that a listen.

[00:00:58] And just in case you haven't got it right in front of you, you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary and become a member of Leonardo English over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:12] All right then, let's get back into it and talk about the final five most common mistakes that people make when learning English and how to fix them of course. 

[00:01:23] Okay, mistake number six is a very common mistake that millions, tens, even hundreds of millions of English learners make, and that is to focus on grammar as a standalone discipline

[00:01:38] Grammar in English has its easy parts, but like anything, it has its tricky bits too, and once you've covered the basics, the foundation of English grammar, the more complicated the grammar gets, the harder and more never-ending it can seem. 

[00:01:59] Yes, it's obviously a bonus that nouns don't have genders in English, and most of our verb conjugations are relatively easy compared to some other languages, but phrasal verbs are obviously a nightmare, and English has a load of weird, and I'd still say wonderful grammar rules that take time to master. 

[00:02:23] As I'm sure you've probably realised by now, even native speakers still make grammar mistakes, so you shouldn't feel too bad about making grammar mistakes yourself. 

[00:02:35] But if you decide that the way to master English grammar is just by sitting down with a grammar book and working your way through, then you're really not going to progress very fast at all.

[00:02:50] You'll probably also get pretty discouraged and it's easy to lose motivation if you are just heads down in a grammar book. 

[00:03:01] You'll remember from part one that our first mistake was to not focus on interesting content, and you would have to be a bit of a masochist, slightly strange person if you were to classify grammar books as interesting content. 

[00:03:19] Yes, of course, it's useful to have a base understanding of English grammar, how various words are conjugated, and so on, but once you have reached the kind of level that I imagine you are now if you can understand this podcast, then time spent on standalone grammar exercises is normally time, well, not quite wasted, but certainly not particularly well spent. 

[00:03:49] So what is the fix for this? What should you be doing? 

[00:03:53] Well, instead of focusing on grammar-specific exercises, you should try to acquire grammar through contact with real materials - books, articles, podcasts like this one, so that you understand and acquire grammar rules through real world practice rather than just focusing on the rules themselves.

[00:04:16] When you come across a strange piece of grammar in English, by all means, you should try to figure out the rule behind it, and make sure you put it in your little black book so you remember it, but don't focus on grammar alone. 

[00:04:34] Remember too from part one of the podcast that you should try to lose your fear of making mistakes. 

[00:04:41] How is this relevant to grammar? Well, you shouldn't worry about making grammar mistakes in English, and as I said, even native speakers make mistakes as well. 

[00:04:52] If you can embrace the quirkiness, the weirdness, the strangeness of English grammar, and stop worrying about learning it as a standalone discipline, then you'll be amazed at how quickly you actually learn grammar. 

[00:05:08] You pick up the grammar rules without spending any time actively working on it.

[00:05:14] Our next mistake is a real pet peeve of mine, something that's really close to my heart, especially given that I started this podcast partly as a way to combat the problem. 

[00:05:29] And this mistake is of not really listening to native speakers of not really paying full attention to the sentence structures, the choice of words that they use or the way that they pronounce a particular word. 

[00:05:45] When listening to native speakers, whether it's this podcast, any other podcast, or speaking to a native speaker in real life, so many people just put their entire focus on trying to understand the gist of what is being said, the meaning of what is being said, without focusing on the content, the actual words that are being used. 

[00:06:11] Now I should say that there are those that have a completely different view to this saying that you should just focus on comprehension, saying that you should train your ears to listen out for a few core words to get the meaning of a sentence.

[00:06:28] But this only really works if you're just starting out, if you're just at the beginning of your journey and you're not trying to get to advanced level, the sort of level that I imagine you would like to achieve in English.

[00:06:42] For anyone who is, let's say, intermediate level or above and thinking about listening as an opportunity to improve their own English abilities, not just as a survival thing, then you really need to stop listening passively, purely from a survival point of view and to start focusing on every single word. If you didn't understand a particular word or turn of phrase or idiom, ask someone what it means or look it up. 

[00:07:15] Find out why they chose to use that particular word when you might've thought there might've been another. 

[00:07:23] If it's something like a podcast, radio, or film, then make a note of it in your own little black book.

[00:07:31] Go back to it and treat every time you listen to a native speaker as a time to learn from them, not just to go into survival mode, to just understand the gist, the overall meaning, of what they're saying. 

[00:07:47] The sooner you switch to doing this, the sooner you will start actually learning from every single interaction as opposed to just understanding, and you should view every single time you hear native speakers as an opportunity to learn.

[00:08:06] Our next mistake is another one that's quite close to my heart for two reasons. 

[00:08:13] Firstly, as this podcast now has listeners from all over the world, I think when I last checked it was 115 countries, and secondly, because I'm recording this podcast from the little island of Malta, which is famous for people coming here specifically to learn English.

[00:08:34] So if you've guessed the mistake I'm referring to, hats off to you. Perhaps the clues were not particularly clear. 

[00:08:41] What I'm talking about is the mistake of assuming that you need to be, physically be, in an English speaking country to really get better at English, and that these opportunities to listen to and speak English only exist within a physically immersive environment, meaning that you have to actually go there. 

[00:09:05] A load of English language schools will continue to push this message to people as it's obviously in their interest that people get on a plane and enroll in a school halfway across the world in order to improve their own English.

[00:09:21] I'm not here to hate on language schools, some of them are really, really good, and for some people it is a great choice. 

[00:09:29] But it is a big mistake to think that you can only really make progress in an English speaking country and that you have to go to an English school to do so. 

[00:09:41] It's completely possible to become fluent, in the traditional sense of the word, while never setting foot in an English speaking country. 

[00:09:52] How? 

[00:09:52] Well, through all sorts of fantastic materials that exist all over the internet that will allow you to create your own immersive English experience. 

[00:10:05] From listening to podcasts like this, to finding an English conversation partner through things like italki or Cambly, or just Facebook groups to switching your phone to English, watching English films and TV series, you can create your own immersive English experience while not only saving yourself a huge amount of money, but also allowing you to fit in your learning around your schedule.

[00:10:34] If you're currently at university or if you're working, it's not very easy to decide to take three or six months off to go to another country to learn English.

[00:10:45] Perhaps you are already doing this, and if so, kudos to you, hats off to you. 

[00:10:52] If you're not and you're thinking that you should absolutely need to get on a plane and spend time in an English speaking country, just remember, you really don't.

[00:11:02] Okay, mistake number nine is to not make time for it and to assume that you can just fit in the learning around the rest of your schedule. 

[00:11:14] Unless you actually make time every day, or every couple of days or whatever it is, you are so much less likely to actually do it. 

[00:11:25] If you're the kind of person that puts everything in your calendar, just put in that little 15 minute English practice session every morning at 7:30 AM or whatever time suits your schedule.

[00:11:38] Or if you're not a calendar type of person, just make sure that you mentally set aside time, you reserve time, every day or every few days to dedicate to your learning. 

[00:11:51] You might be a super organised person and just be able to fit in things at odd times of the day, but for most people, setting aside the time every day or every couple of days is the best solution as it means it's a lot harder to postpone it, to move it to another time or just forget or skip it. 

[00:12:17] There is a terribly overused quote in English, which is "failing to prepare is preparing to fail", but in this case, it really is true. 

[00:12:29] What will happen if you don't schedule that time in every single day is you'll end up skipping it, you'll end up just not doing it because you know, life happens and there's always something shinier and more attractive than sitting down and doing English practice. 

[00:12:48] And once you start skipping it, you lose your rhythm and it'll become a chore, it'll become something you don't enjoy doing, and you'll lose your motivation, and it really is a vicious circle

[00:13:02] So if you make time for it every day, look, it doesn't have to be an hour a day, even just a 10 minute slot is fine, then it'll just become part of your routine, it'll become part of what you do. 

[00:13:17] And again, little and often is better than setting yourself huge, ambitious goals that you'll never managed to achieve, so saying that you're going to do it for 10 or 15 minutes every day and actually doing it, is much better than saying I'm going to study for two hours every day and never doing it.

[00:13:39] And this brings us on to our penultimate mistake, our second to last mistake, which is actually kind of two mistakes wrapped into one. 

[00:13:51] These mistakes are related to setting yourself goals. So the first mistake is not setting yourself any goals, and the second mistake is setting yourself goals that are too hard to achieve.

[00:14:07] Why is not setting yourself a goal a mistake? 

[00:14:10] Because if you don't have anything to aim for, if you don't have a target of something you want to achieve, it's not only harder to measure your progress, but it's harder to motivate yourself, to get yourself up in the morning to do it. 

[00:14:26] These goals don't have to be huge, you don't have to say that you want to become a professor of English or write a bestselling novel in English, they can be something as simple as this week I want to have five conversations with native speakers, or I want to listen to five podcasts and annotate the transcriptions. 

[00:14:50] Then you can have your bigger goal, which is your overall target, the thing you're aiming for, the thing you want to achieve. 

[00:14:58] Perhaps that's being able to get a certain score in IELTS or it's to be able to have a natural flowing conversation with a neighbour or relative, or to be able to watch an entire film in English without subtitles and for it to not feel like a chore.

[00:15:17] And to elaborate on our second goal-related mistake, it's setting yourself goals that are too ambitious and too hard to achieve either because you just don't have enough time to dedicate to them or because they require results that are just so difficult to achieve that you are setting yourself up for failure. 

[00:15:40] So it could be something like, I want to be fluent in English in 60 days, or I want to spend three hours every morning before work reading Jane Austen. 

[00:15:52] Yes, it obviously would be great if you could achieve these, but it's far better to set yourself goals that you have a chance of hitting rather than just setting yourself up for failure.

[00:16:04] Our final mistake, a bonus 11th one actually, if you're counting, is one that is far easier to say than to avoid making, and that is to get disheartened, to get depressed and sad with your progress. 

[00:16:22] Learning English, like learning any language can be a roller coaster ride. 

[00:16:28] There will be days when you think you can't do anything right, and that it's such an uphill struggle that you may as well give up, just pack everything in

[00:16:38] And I've been there with language learning, it's very easy to get disheartened, but if you remember your goals, remember what you're aiming for, this should hopefully give you the motivation to stay on track. 

[00:16:53] By listening to podcasts like this, you certainly are on the right track and learning English is a journey that never really finishes, even for native speakers.

[00:17:05] So stay motivated, stay curious, stay hungry. You can do it and you just have to believe in yourself.

[00:17:14] Alright, then, with this uplifting message of being disheartened learning English comes the end of today's podcast and of our list of the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them. 

[00:17:28] I'm really curious, are there any mistakes that you think we missed, or is there anything in this podcast that you didn't agree with?

[00:17:37] I'd love to know. 

[00:17:38] You can email us at hi - 'h i' @leonardoenglish.com or find us on Instagram or Facebook. 

[00:17:46] The next episode we will be back onto weird and wonderful things after this little linguistic interlude, so our next episodes will be on explaining why Great Britain isn't really a country, and talking about the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom, if you weren't aware, there was a difference, and then we'll also ask ourselves why so many jobs seem so pointless

[00:18:14] And as a final reminder, if you haven't yet hit that subscribe button then make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts are flying into your podcast app of choice every Tuesday and Friday.

[00:18:27] And if you also want the transcripts and key vocabulary coming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday, and they can be super useful if you haven't tested them out already, then head to leonardoenglish.com forward slash subscribe to join language learners from all over the world and not miss a single word, plus you also get access to our special members-only bonus podcasts. 

[00:18:52] Okay, you have been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:58] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]



[00:00:02] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:10] I'm Alastair Budge and today it is the second part, the second half, of the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them. 

[00:00:22] In part one, we learned about why you should choose normal content over content in traditional language learning textbooks, why you shouldn't judge yourself against others, why you shouldn't pay attention to hacks or shortcuts, how you should rid yourself of your fear of making mistakes and why trying to speak too fast is a terrible idea. 

[00:00:49] So if you haven't listened to part one yet and that sounds right up your street, then go and give that a listen.

[00:00:58] And just in case you haven't got it right in front of you, you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary and become a member of Leonardo English over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:12] All right then, let's get back into it and talk about the final five most common mistakes that people make when learning English and how to fix them of course. 

[00:01:23] Okay, mistake number six is a very common mistake that millions, tens, even hundreds of millions of English learners make, and that is to focus on grammar as a standalone discipline

[00:01:38] Grammar in English has its easy parts, but like anything, it has its tricky bits too, and once you've covered the basics, the foundation of English grammar, the more complicated the grammar gets, the harder and more never-ending it can seem. 

[00:01:59] Yes, it's obviously a bonus that nouns don't have genders in English, and most of our verb conjugations are relatively easy compared to some other languages, but phrasal verbs are obviously a nightmare, and English has a load of weird, and I'd still say wonderful grammar rules that take time to master. 

[00:02:23] As I'm sure you've probably realised by now, even native speakers still make grammar mistakes, so you shouldn't feel too bad about making grammar mistakes yourself. 

[00:02:35] But if you decide that the way to master English grammar is just by sitting down with a grammar book and working your way through, then you're really not going to progress very fast at all.

[00:02:50] You'll probably also get pretty discouraged and it's easy to lose motivation if you are just heads down in a grammar book. 

[00:03:01] You'll remember from part one that our first mistake was to not focus on interesting content, and you would have to be a bit of a masochist, slightly strange person if you were to classify grammar books as interesting content. 

[00:03:19] Yes, of course, it's useful to have a base understanding of English grammar, how various words are conjugated, and so on, but once you have reached the kind of level that I imagine you are now if you can understand this podcast, then time spent on standalone grammar exercises is normally time, well, not quite wasted, but certainly not particularly well spent. 

[00:03:49] So what is the fix for this? What should you be doing? 

[00:03:53] Well, instead of focusing on grammar-specific exercises, you should try to acquire grammar through contact with real materials - books, articles, podcasts like this one, so that you understand and acquire grammar rules through real world practice rather than just focusing on the rules themselves.

[00:04:16] When you come across a strange piece of grammar in English, by all means, you should try to figure out the rule behind it, and make sure you put it in your little black book so you remember it, but don't focus on grammar alone. 

[00:04:34] Remember too from part one of the podcast that you should try to lose your fear of making mistakes. 

[00:04:41] How is this relevant to grammar? Well, you shouldn't worry about making grammar mistakes in English, and as I said, even native speakers make mistakes as well. 

[00:04:52] If you can embrace the quirkiness, the weirdness, the strangeness of English grammar, and stop worrying about learning it as a standalone discipline, then you'll be amazed at how quickly you actually learn grammar. 

[00:05:08] You pick up the grammar rules without spending any time actively working on it.

[00:05:14] Our next mistake is a real pet peeve of mine, something that's really close to my heart, especially given that I started this podcast partly as a way to combat the problem. 

[00:05:29] And this mistake is of not really listening to native speakers of not really paying full attention to the sentence structures, the choice of words that they use or the way that they pronounce a particular word. 

[00:05:45] When listening to native speakers, whether it's this podcast, any other podcast, or speaking to a native speaker in real life, so many people just put their entire focus on trying to understand the gist of what is being said, the meaning of what is being said, without focusing on the content, the actual words that are being used. 

[00:06:11] Now I should say that there are those that have a completely different view to this saying that you should just focus on comprehension, saying that you should train your ears to listen out for a few core words to get the meaning of a sentence.

[00:06:28] But this only really works if you're just starting out, if you're just at the beginning of your journey and you're not trying to get to advanced level, the sort of level that I imagine you would like to achieve in English.

[00:06:42] For anyone who is, let's say, intermediate level or above and thinking about listening as an opportunity to improve their own English abilities, not just as a survival thing, then you really need to stop listening passively, purely from a survival point of view and to start focusing on every single word. If you didn't understand a particular word or turn of phrase or idiom, ask someone what it means or look it up. 

[00:07:15] Find out why they chose to use that particular word when you might've thought there might've been another. 

[00:07:23] If it's something like a podcast, radio, or film, then make a note of it in your own little black book.

[00:07:31] Go back to it and treat every time you listen to a native speaker as a time to learn from them, not just to go into survival mode, to just understand the gist, the overall meaning, of what they're saying. 

[00:07:47] The sooner you switch to doing this, the sooner you will start actually learning from every single interaction as opposed to just understanding, and you should view every single time you hear native speakers as an opportunity to learn.

[00:08:06] Our next mistake is another one that's quite close to my heart for two reasons. 

[00:08:13] Firstly, as this podcast now has listeners from all over the world, I think when I last checked it was 115 countries, and secondly, because I'm recording this podcast from the little island of Malta, which is famous for people coming here specifically to learn English.

[00:08:34] So if you've guessed the mistake I'm referring to, hats off to you. Perhaps the clues were not particularly clear. 

[00:08:41] What I'm talking about is the mistake of assuming that you need to be, physically be, in an English speaking country to really get better at English, and that these opportunities to listen to and speak English only exist within a physically immersive environment, meaning that you have to actually go there. 

[00:09:05] A load of English language schools will continue to push this message to people as it's obviously in their interest that people get on a plane and enroll in a school halfway across the world in order to improve their own English.

[00:09:21] I'm not here to hate on language schools, some of them are really, really good, and for some people it is a great choice. 

[00:09:29] But it is a big mistake to think that you can only really make progress in an English speaking country and that you have to go to an English school to do so. 

[00:09:41] It's completely possible to become fluent, in the traditional sense of the word, while never setting foot in an English speaking country. 

[00:09:52] How? 

[00:09:52] Well, through all sorts of fantastic materials that exist all over the internet that will allow you to create your own immersive English experience. 

[00:10:05] From listening to podcasts like this, to finding an English conversation partner through things like italki or Cambly, or just Facebook groups to switching your phone to English, watching English films and TV series, you can create your own immersive English experience while not only saving yourself a huge amount of money, but also allowing you to fit in your learning around your schedule.

[00:10:34] If you're currently at university or if you're working, it's not very easy to decide to take three or six months off to go to another country to learn English.

[00:10:45] Perhaps you are already doing this, and if so, kudos to you, hats off to you. 

[00:10:52] If you're not and you're thinking that you should absolutely need to get on a plane and spend time in an English speaking country, just remember, you really don't.

[00:11:02] Okay, mistake number nine is to not make time for it and to assume that you can just fit in the learning around the rest of your schedule. 

[00:11:14] Unless you actually make time every day, or every couple of days or whatever it is, you are so much less likely to actually do it. 

[00:11:25] If you're the kind of person that puts everything in your calendar, just put in that little 15 minute English practice session every morning at 7:30 AM or whatever time suits your schedule.

[00:11:38] Or if you're not a calendar type of person, just make sure that you mentally set aside time, you reserve time, every day or every few days to dedicate to your learning. 

[00:11:51] You might be a super organised person and just be able to fit in things at odd times of the day, but for most people, setting aside the time every day or every couple of days is the best solution as it means it's a lot harder to postpone it, to move it to another time or just forget or skip it. 

[00:12:17] There is a terribly overused quote in English, which is "failing to prepare is preparing to fail", but in this case, it really is true. 

[00:12:29] What will happen if you don't schedule that time in every single day is you'll end up skipping it, you'll end up just not doing it because you know, life happens and there's always something shinier and more attractive than sitting down and doing English practice. 

[00:12:48] And once you start skipping it, you lose your rhythm and it'll become a chore, it'll become something you don't enjoy doing, and you'll lose your motivation, and it really is a vicious circle

[00:13:02] So if you make time for it every day, look, it doesn't have to be an hour a day, even just a 10 minute slot is fine, then it'll just become part of your routine, it'll become part of what you do. 

[00:13:17] And again, little and often is better than setting yourself huge, ambitious goals that you'll never managed to achieve, so saying that you're going to do it for 10 or 15 minutes every day and actually doing it, is much better than saying I'm going to study for two hours every day and never doing it.

[00:13:39] And this brings us on to our penultimate mistake, our second to last mistake, which is actually kind of two mistakes wrapped into one. 

[00:13:51] These mistakes are related to setting yourself goals. So the first mistake is not setting yourself any goals, and the second mistake is setting yourself goals that are too hard to achieve.

[00:14:07] Why is not setting yourself a goal a mistake? 

[00:14:10] Because if you don't have anything to aim for, if you don't have a target of something you want to achieve, it's not only harder to measure your progress, but it's harder to motivate yourself, to get yourself up in the morning to do it. 

[00:14:26] These goals don't have to be huge, you don't have to say that you want to become a professor of English or write a bestselling novel in English, they can be something as simple as this week I want to have five conversations with native speakers, or I want to listen to five podcasts and annotate the transcriptions. 

[00:14:50] Then you can have your bigger goal, which is your overall target, the thing you're aiming for, the thing you want to achieve. 

[00:14:58] Perhaps that's being able to get a certain score in IELTS or it's to be able to have a natural flowing conversation with a neighbour or relative, or to be able to watch an entire film in English without subtitles and for it to not feel like a chore.

[00:15:17] And to elaborate on our second goal-related mistake, it's setting yourself goals that are too ambitious and too hard to achieve either because you just don't have enough time to dedicate to them or because they require results that are just so difficult to achieve that you are setting yourself up for failure. 

[00:15:40] So it could be something like, I want to be fluent in English in 60 days, or I want to spend three hours every morning before work reading Jane Austen. 

[00:15:52] Yes, it obviously would be great if you could achieve these, but it's far better to set yourself goals that you have a chance of hitting rather than just setting yourself up for failure.

[00:16:04] Our final mistake, a bonus 11th one actually, if you're counting, is one that is far easier to say than to avoid making, and that is to get disheartened, to get depressed and sad with your progress. 

[00:16:22] Learning English, like learning any language can be a roller coaster ride. 

[00:16:28] There will be days when you think you can't do anything right, and that it's such an uphill struggle that you may as well give up, just pack everything in

[00:16:38] And I've been there with language learning, it's very easy to get disheartened, but if you remember your goals, remember what you're aiming for, this should hopefully give you the motivation to stay on track. 

[00:16:53] By listening to podcasts like this, you certainly are on the right track and learning English is a journey that never really finishes, even for native speakers.

[00:17:05] So stay motivated, stay curious, stay hungry. You can do it and you just have to believe in yourself.

[00:17:14] Alright, then, with this uplifting message of being disheartened learning English comes the end of today's podcast and of our list of the most common mistakes people make when learning English and how to avoid them. 

[00:17:28] I'm really curious, are there any mistakes that you think we missed, or is there anything in this podcast that you didn't agree with?

[00:17:37] I'd love to know. 

[00:17:38] You can email us at hi - 'h i' @leonardoenglish.com or find us on Instagram or Facebook. 

[00:17:46] The next episode we will be back onto weird and wonderful things after this little linguistic interlude, so our next episodes will be on explaining why Great Britain isn't really a country, and talking about the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom, if you weren't aware, there was a difference, and then we'll also ask ourselves why so many jobs seem so pointless

[00:18:14] And as a final reminder, if you haven't yet hit that subscribe button then make sure you do so in order to get the podcasts are flying into your podcast app of choice every Tuesday and Friday.

[00:18:27] And if you also want the transcripts and key vocabulary coming into your inbox every Tuesday and Friday, and they can be super useful if you haven't tested them out already, then head to leonardoenglish.com forward slash subscribe to join language learners from all over the world and not miss a single word, plus you also get access to our special members-only bonus podcasts. 

[00:18:52] Okay, you have been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:58] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.


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