On Friday November 26th at 1:00 p.m. (Madrid time), I attended an online talk delivered by Adam Broughton aimed at students and teachers from EOI Valdemoro. Adam is an English teacher who wrote a book titled How to English: 31 days to be an independent English learner. Adam’s book is an Amazon bestseller which everybody is talking about. Earning a lot of praise that has generated attention and a desire to read it.
Adam started his talk by saying “The learning process can be very frustrating”. The main goal of any learner is to continue making progress, which makes failing to achieve this target deeply disappointing, and could therefore put people off of the learning process. He highlighted that the learning process is not linear and each learner could show “flat learning periods”, but the most important thing is to keep improving your skills.
During his career as a teacher, the worst thing that he has had to deal with is learner frustration. He discerned three kinds of learner’s frustration:
- Complete stagnation: students staying at B level for life
- Slow death: students who have reached a high level of English, even if they have had an immersive experience in a native speaking country, and then stop improving upon their English knowledge.
- The roller coaster: students with an irregular approach to learning.
It’s argued that living in an English-speaking country is the best solution for making progress, yet according to Adam that is an opportunity that some are able to take advantage of and some aren’t. The solution for making progress depends on what each learner does outside the classroom. This could include factors such as daily use of English and the opportunity to practice in their social environment.
Every English learner needs a foundation level of the language, which includes vocabulary, grammar, etc. Once a learner reaches that level he should start being an independent learner little by little. Indeed, what helps a learner to improve their level is to make everything they learn 100% relevant to them. He stated “Learn what you need to know”, that is the key point of his new way to learning English.
Thereafter, he gave some tips to help make progress:
Firstly, in Adam’s point of view, what prevents B level students to reach C1 level is their mistakes. According to Adam, if we ignore our mistakes we will not be able to make progress. Each learner should, as much as possible, identify and write down a list of their common mistakes and should map out a plan for correcting them.
Secondly, the learner should focus their effort on practising their weaknesses instead of practising their strengths. He also said, “simply look for what you most avoid, to identify what your weaknesses are”.
To improve listening skills Adam has recommended doing regular dictations. He said that Ted Talks could be a useful audio source that we can listen to and write down what we are able to understand and then we can check with the original transcription on the Ted Talk website. He stated that dictation is a perfect way to practice listening and spelling simultaneously.
Regarding how to improve speaking skills, Adam claimed that the easier way is to speak to ourselves about anything we are doing or thinking about. He said, “look around and describe everything you can see, if you don’t know how to say something in English, then ask your teacher”. When it comes to fluency, reading aloud an English text for 5 minutes each day could be very helpful.
To conclude, Adam reminded us that making progress is the best way to avoid frustration, which mainly depends on what we do outside the classroom. In other words, learning should not be done randomly, and should instead be related to our use of English. The key point is how we make the most of our contact with English to improve our knowledge of the language.