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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: 6 Things to Stop Saying If You Want to Learn English

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Hi, Im Oli.

Welcome to Oxford Online English!

In this lesson, youll see six things we often hear from English learners we meet.

We see them in YouTube comments.

We hear them in classes.

Do you want to learn English and make faster progress?

Of course you do!

You should stop saying these things.

Stop sayingIts difficult.”

Definitely, never sayIts too difficult.”

Instead, sayI need more time.”

When you sayIts difficult,” youre immediately taking a negative approach.

Its like sayingI cant do it,” “I should give up,” “Theres no point


This way of thinking makes you feel bad about yourself, and it discourages you from trying


Everything is difficult when its new and unfamiliar.

When you learn Englishor any languageyou have to deal with many new and unfamiliar


But, guess what?

With time and practice, everything gets easier.

So, dont sayThis grammar point is too difficult.”

Dont sayWriting essays is too difficult.”

Dont saySpeaking fluently is difficult.”

SayI need more time to understand this grammar point.”

SayI need more time to learn how to write essays well.”

SayI need more time in order to speak more fluently.”

This helps you approach your English learning in a positive way, so that youre focused

on improving and progressing.

Stop sayingI understand.”

Dont sayI understand this vocabulary.”

Dont sayI understand these grammar rules.”

Dont sayI understand what people say, but I cant respond!”

Many English learnersand language learners generallyfall into the same trap.

They confuse understanding something with knowing it.

But, really knowing somethingfor most learnersmeans that you can use it.

I understand *how* to play the piano.

You hit the keys in the right order at the right times.

I cant play the piano.

So, is it useful that I understand how?


Lets come back to you, and your English.

Youre reading something in English.

You find a word you dont know.

You look it up in your dictionary, so you know the translation in your language.

You think to yourself, “I know this word now.”

You go to English class.

Your teacher gives you exercises on a grammar point.

You do the exercise, and you get most of the questions right.

You think to yourself, “I know this grammar.”

Maybe you even complain to your teacher, and sayThis grammar is too easy!

I know this already!”

You read a text.

You understand it, or at least most of it.

When you try to write something in English, its a mess.

You cant put your ideas into sentences, and your writing is full of mistakes.

So then, you start saying things likeI understand words but I cant use them!”

I understand when I listen, but I cant speak!”

I understand grammar, but I make mistakes when I speak or write!”

First of all, its natural for your passive skills to be better than your active skills.

Its natural that your listening and reading are better than your speaking and writing.

To some extent, this is normal and it isnt a problem.

Its true for native speakers, too.

But, many English learners *do* have a problem here.

They focus on understanding, and then they complain that they cant use what theyknow”.

If you cant use it, then you dont know it.

If you make mistakes with a grammar point, then you dont know it.

If you cant use a word when youre speaking, then you dont know the word.

It doesnt matter if youve studied something a hundred times.

Can you use it?


Then you dont know it.

So, dont sayI understand…”

Instead, sayI can use this,” orI cant use this.”

Thats what counts.

Thats what you care about, right?

Stop sayingHow do I…?

Dont sayHow do I remember new words?”

Dont sayHow do I get 7.5 in IELTS?”

Dont sayHow do I improve my listening?”

Instead, ask yourselfWhat can I do today?”

SayWhat can I do today to learn some new vocabulary?”

SayWhat can I do today to prepare for my IELTS exam?”

SayWhat can I do today to practise my listening skills?”

We meet many students who ask huge, general questions like this.

How do I speak fluently?”

How do I write a high-scoring IELTS essay?”

How do I speak with a British accent?”

These questions are too big.

You dont do one thing to speak fluently, you do many, many things over a long time.

When you ask big, general questions like these, you get trapped in abstract generalities.

Youre living in a future dream, where you somehow speak perfect English.

But, you cant control the future.

All that time you spend thinking about the abstract future, youre wasting time right


Focus on what you can do today.

Theres a saying in English.

Actually, its in the form of a question: how do you eat an elephant?

Have you heard this?

Do you know the answer?

You eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Thats what learning English is like.

If you look at the whole task, it seems impossible.

Its like eating an elephant.

Its too big.

But, you can do it.

People do it!

Its not even rare.

You can do it, too.

You just have to do it one bite at a time.

Focus on what you can do today.

Thats the only thing you can control.

Stop asking questions likeHow long will it take me to…?”

Dont sayHow long does it take to become fluent in English?”

Dont sayHow long will it take me to get band seven in IELTS?”

Dont sayHow long will it take me to learn to negotiate in English for my work?”

First, no one knows.

You dont know, and I dont know.

No one knows.

Maybe youre a genius and youll do it in four weeks.

Maybe itll take you four years.

Maybe youll never do it.

How am I supposed to know?

Hows anyone supposed to know?

Every learner is a little bit different.

No one has the same experience.

Secondly, often, this question hides something underneath.

This question often saysI dont want to study English; I dont want to spend

my time and money studying English, but I have to.

So, how can I get what I want while spending as little time and money as possible?”

Look: being efficient with your time and money is a worthwhile goal, but if youre trying

to learn English and your starting point is: “How do I do this cheaply and without spending

much time?” then your chances of success are slim.

Heres the answer: if you dont want to study English, then dont.

You dont have to.

If you really dont want to, then you probably wont learn much anyway.

So, what should you say instead?

Instead, askWhats the next step if I want to…?”

Whats the next step if I want to get band seven in IELTS?”

Whats the next step if I want to improve my speaking?”

Whats the next step if I want to stop making so many grammar mistakes?”

Again, these questions focus you on the present and encourage you to take action now.

This increases your chances of making progress.

Stop sayingI cant.”

Dont sayI cant speak fluently.”

Dont sayI cant understand films and TV in English.”

Dont sayI cant write without making mistakes.”

Instead, ask yourselfWhy?”

Why cant I speak fluently?”

Why cant I understand films and TV in English?”

Why do I make so many mistakes when I write?”

Theres a reason.

Theres an answer to all these questions.

If you want to learn, you need to find the answer.

There might not just be *one* answer, there could be many.

The answer might not be simple.

In fact, it almost certainly wont be.

But, finding an answer is the first step.

Why cant you speak fluently?

Maybe you dont get enough opportunities to speak English.

Maybe you live 99% of your life speaking and thinking in your native language.

Maybe you lack vocabulary.

Maybe your pronunciation needs work.

Maybe something else.

I dont know.

Remember: every learner is a little bit different!

You need to find the answer for you.

Thinking this way will encourage you to take action and do something now.

SayingI cant…” all the time just makes you feel bad.

Find out why, then do something about it.

Stop sayingI want...”

Stop sayingI need…”

Dont sayI want to improve my speaking.”

Dont sayI want to have a bigger vocabulary.”

Dont sayI need to get band six point five in IELTS.”

Often, when English learners say, “I want…” orI need…”, theres a second meaning.

Its not bad to have goals or to want things.

But, if you say this, is this all you mean?

Many people who say these things really meanI want *someone else* to give this to me.”

I want *someone else* to solve this problem.

I want *someone else* to wave a magic wand and get me my IELTS result.

I want *someone else* to take away all the bad feelings and the hard work and the difficulties.

It doesnt work like that, and its never going to.

You heard this before, but Ill say it again: you dont have to learn English!

But, but, but

I need it for my job.

I have to learn English to emigrate to Australia.

I have to learn English for my exams at university.

No, you dont.

No ones forcing you to learn English.

You want to, or you dont.

If you want to, then do it.

If you dont, then save your time, your money and your energy.

And, for sure, no one else will make it happen for you.

Other people can help.

Good teachers can help.

English-speaking friends and colleagues can help.

But, in the end, it depends on you.

So, dont sayI want…” orI need…” if what you really mean isI want someone

else to give me the solution.”

Dont wait for someone else to solve your problems.

Take responsibility for your own progress.

Im not saying that to be unkind.

Im saying it because youre the only person who can.

Thats it.

Thanks for watching!

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