They Say it Will Be Fun…….. And it Will Be 😉
By Marco Brown
Everybody knows that when we do something that we like, we do it well and get the best results and I hope that after last month’s EC Blog article you are already taking the first active steps to trying to make yourself think in English as often as possible . Even more, I hope that you are starting to feel some of the results and are getting that feel good factor that some students have told me that they have started to experience . Seriously, if we put some fun and passion into the learning process, those amazing results will be obvious to more of you in no time at all.
Just remember that coming to study abroad was a gift that most of you decided to make or offer to yourself and in any case, it was something that was supposed to make you happy and make you feel good about yourself. Where’s the fun in staring blankly into the pages of yet another grammar book when you could be having a great time doing something else , actively using your language skills? Especially when these fun activities will give you more potential to progress much further in your active communication and guide you closer to your ultimate goal of increased fluency.
What about all of those tips on mental muscle power in last month’s article? Did it give you food for thought and is it working for you too ? Let’s keep going and take it one step further. It is time to let our hair down and relax even more as we take the process to the mirror. Yes, the mirror!!!
Let the fun begin and talk to yourself in the mirror, voice your thoughts and look at yourself go as you speak in English more and more. It might seem strange at first but you have my word that this approach works so well ,in addition to being a fantastic confidence booster. What’s more, this activity connects with potential for greatly improved pronunciation, as you watch your mouth make new movements in the mirror whilst speaking. In any case, it certainly is not as crazy as doing endless pages of grammar exercises until three in the morning. That will not stimulate and motivate you or encourage you to speak . Plus, in class the next day, you will be feeling so tired that you will not be able to focus on what your teacher and classmates are saying anyway !
If the new mouth movements seem strange at first, that is absolutely normal. It means that you are doing it right and are starting to get used to the sounds and movements that you do not make in your own language, so you will be starting to make the movements that will make your speech sound more like a native speaker ( because as English speakers, we do not usually know how to move our mouths with the same movements that you use when we try to speak your language ) . One of the funniest comments that I can remember is that of one brilliant French student a few years ago. She told me that her whole face felt as if it had become an elastic band covered in chewing gum for the first week whilst she was trying out these exercises. Determined as she was, she refused to give up and today, years later, she still speaks in an absolutely fluent and clear way with the sounds and intonation that come naturally to native speakers.
A former Japanese student liked the sound of one of my other suggestions, which she personally found fun and useful and that was all about acting as a different person. From the shy and reserved student in class , she went on to become one of the active motors in the group in no time at all. Currently, she is releasing a new cd of songs ,recorded in English . Simply imagine your “star”, somebody whom you know or admire, or even think of a famous celebrity . As you walk around your room, flat or balcony, pretend to be that person and literally put yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. By the way, this fun role play situation can also be done with a couple of friends and works just as well, but you might want to start on your own first until you really feel those gainful effects.
Just imagine yourself speaking assertively and positively with total confidence and let your mind drift off into a fantasy world. Keep thinking of how your star would react and what they might think or say as they move around the same space in which you find yourself. In the supermarket, what would you stars think as they go down all of the aisles and look at all of the products? Do remember though that you are not Angelina or Brad, so do not stay in front of the champagne section for too long, as that might be a bit hard on the student shopping budget 😉
Do let that imagination go all the way and do keep thinking in English, using all of the vocabulary that you know. Your brain is a really powerful tool but you can be even smarter. Did you know that the brain makes little difference between real and perceived success and achievement, yet it does go through the same process, releasing feel good factor substances that make you feel like a definite winner! With frequent ,regular practice, you will have the best results in many situations just by programming your brain to have a ‘can do/will do’ attitude. This can help you in so many situations , from really believing that you will pass an exam to opening a damned hard jar of something that you feel like eating but can only see from the outside. Think of all those Olympic athletes before the start of a race. Ever imagined what must be going through their minds at that time ?
If you really feel that you are not the type of person who can put themselves in such an imaginary situation for a while, then there is still another idea for you that may work. Just focus for a while on a time when YOU were your own star , a time when you did something special when you really felt at your best. It really does not matter what you were doing or why but you just have to remember that great moment again. When your memories start coming back to you, close your eyes for a while and smile. That feel good factor of success is flowing back. Now , try to think of the situation in English, using all of the vocabulary you know. Do not go hunting for a dictionary, just close your eyes, remember, feel and think…. In English. Imagine the great feeling filling your whole body and feel that moment of greatness. When you can really feel that sensation, click your fingers together , press your nails into your hand or pinch yourself slightly, just to connect the mental state to a physical feeling. Take a big sigh and smile and remember that you were and are the person who is such a success! This exercise is great because you can discreetly bring this feeling back at any time in a few seconds, particularly useful for getting into the right frame of mind before an exam….or setting off on an Olympic race.
For the more outgoing student who is really ready to have some fun and laugh, then there is the ‘TV Commercial ‘. Admit it, we have all looked into the mirror at sometime and we have all felt something good about the way we looked…. well at least once, right ?
I remember watching a real television commercial with a really confident and pretty lady with what looked like ‘ perfect’ hair …( to this day, I am still convinced that she was wearing a wig but that is besides the point ). She was really so assertive, telling herself that she was ‘ worth it’. Instead of focusing on the actual content of the commercial, I started to wonder how this concept could be adapted to language learning itself and something came together, so go and grab your favourite t shirt or jewellery,….maybe even a wig, you never know! Do your own pretend television commercial , because you are thinking in English and your motivation is high.
YOU ARE REALLY WORTH IT !
Simply make a quick ,short list of all of the new things that you have learnt or feel that you have understood and feel great about. Stand in front of the mirror, full of confidence and introduce yourself like a superstar using the word “I” as much as you want.
My name is …….
Today, I have learnt…./ I know how to use….
I’m so worth it !
Of course you need to wink and/ or blow a kiss to the mirror because you are a star!
I used to use this technique with my study buddy when we were revising our Russian grammar notes together at University. You have no idea how effective it was for us and because we were doing it for fun at the beginning, we did not even realise that we were actually still studying. All of that technical grammar went into our minds like a warm knife through butter on the breakfast table. This activity can help students focus on what is really important. By this I mean that it is more important to concentrate on what we do know as opposed to despairing about things we do not know yet, focusing on where we feel strong and not where we feel weak.
Really, if you make a conscious and constant effort to push yourself to think in English, you will soon be amazed , completely surprised by what you can achieve and all of that golden feeling of success is a massive confidence booster which,in turn, will make you so much more receptive to everything else you are studying in class. That means that you will go on learning things faster and better with long-lasting results.
One day soon enough, you will just stop in your tracks and take a spot check because you will realise that you have been thinking in English without even making the slightest effort, when you least expect it. You will not know where all of this suddenly came from. It must be a bit like a baby taking its first steps when it is ready, yet we do not remember that far back to realise but one thing is for sure. You will never ever forget the moment when you started to think in the foreign language. It even has much more of an impact on us than our first kiss 😉
I cannot remember my first kiss, yet still see myself in the kitchen, washing the dishes after lunch on one particular afternoon during my gap year before University. I had been listening to some radio show in German , relaxed in my own world whilst doing the washing up and before I knew it, I realised that I had been thinking in German for the last few moments. Such was my surprise that I almost broke the glass that I had in my hand so be careful if you are in the same situation . Even day dreamland can have its dangers !
To this day, I have very fond memories of the whole scene because after a whole two years of disastrous study in German with the least inspiring teacher and a million grammar exercises, I decided to actually take time off in the country, just as you have made the decision to study abroad. With the active decision to force myself to think in the language with the words I knew, it quickly paid off and I was no longer thinking in my own language at all. The fact that I was feeling relaxed and thinking of nothing in particular but the things I could see in my host family’s garden helped greatly. I am not too sure if washing the dishes had a role to play but you never know, that might well be part of the secret too!
Perhaps some of you have already had a dream in English , in which you felt that you were slipping, falling or tripping? Of course, once again, our brain is actively in operation, even when we sleep. We have the reflex to jump or even move, even if we are not awake, simply because whilst lying there, we are relaxed with nothing else on our mind. Our brain tells us that we are falling and we react as a natural result. That is why it is important that we free our minds during our waking hours and remove all of the barriers which we put up that block us. If we tell ourselves that we can and that we will think in a foreign language , then we will and each with our own method that suits us.
Of course, at the beginning, we cannot think of ALL of the things that we would like to express in EVERY situation. My advice is to try to find the method that suits YOU in YOUR personal learning process. Start by using what you do know and once you have started this wonderful new habit, as time goes by, you will reach your ultimate goal step by step. Be disciplined enough to think as fluently as possible with an open mind. As you read in last month’s article, it is not essential that you think in English all of the time, especially at the start ,however, it is important that you make the effort to do so whenever possible and as often as possible.
You have the choice to become frustrated and blocked, falling into the trap of believing that you should be ‘perfect or nothing’ or you can have the mind opening experience of being happy with the fact that day by day , it has become a useful and natural habit to think in English step by step. Do not worry, the results will soon follow and this will change the way you make progress in your studies.
If you add up all of the different thoughts you have in one day, the result is mind blowing. You have the mind power and you can choose to be in control. Your learning journey and its progress can be as amazing as you wish, so watch this space for more effective, proven thinking and learning tips in next month’s EC Blog.
Please feel free to leave your comments in the space below and let us know how you are progressing. All the best and keep up the effort. One more month to go and you should be well on the way to thinking in English and expressing the things you want to say as naturally and as easily as possible 😉