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030 10 tips for learning success from ten years of teaching

Welcome back to another episode of the Art of Business English. This week we have a completely different episode for you. In our 30th episode I will be motivating you to improve your English. In this episode, I am going to share with you 10 tips for learning success based on my ten years of teaching experience. 

If you have every thought that you are bad at languages then just forget that concept and get it out of your head. Today I reveal some of the things that separate a good student from a bad one. 

AOBE is also now on Stitcher. This is a fantastic podcast app that is for both Apple and Android. Make sure you download a copy and add the AOBE to your favourites list. 

Currently we are also working on a new project to offer premium content to our members. So, stay tuned for more information over the coming weeks and months. 

Well, I hope you guys are loving the content and remember, if you want to ask for an episode on any topic, then just reply to this email and let me know. I love getting your comments and I am more than happy to develop an episode that answers any questions you may have.

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Hi everyone, welcome back to another episode of The Art of Business English, this is Andrew Ambrosius here, and in this week, I’ve got a bit of a different episode for you guys; basically, I'm going to be looking at a bit of a motivationary stuff, there's going to be no technical stuff, no grammar, there's going to be no rules. Basically, I'm just going to be explaining to you guys 10 of the main ideas or main things that I have learned about learners in my 10 years of teaching experience. So basically, what I will be doing today is sharing with you guys how you can really stay focused, and what are some of the keys to success when learning a foreign language. 

Okay, so let's all start and kick it off then with my top 10 tips for successful learning. So let's start with the first one okay, now the first one is that everybody is capable of learning English, okay? I don't know how many times I've heard people say oh I'm really bad at English; oh English is just not my thing; oh I'm terrible at languages; and that is just really an absolute fallacy, it's a lie, it's not true; it is true that some people are better at languages than others, okay, you have to admit that, because you know, some people are better at golf than others, some people are better at cooking food than others, but just because someone's better than you or you're not as good as someone else doesn't mean that you can't, you know, achieve a decent level at the thing that you decide to do, okay? 

It just means that you just need to practice, and practice makes perfect as they say. So, the first thing is that no one is stupid, okay? No one is like, terrible at languages, it's just that- what you need to do is that, you need to find a learning style that is best suited to you, okay? Not everyone learns the same, okay? Some people are happy to learn in big groups with people, and they love the energy and they love the vibe, they love to be able to talk and, you know, make a joke and have a laugh; some people don't really feel comfortable in big groups, so they prefer to have, you know, really small groups or one-on-one training with a private teacher, okay? Some people might be a bit more shy or embarrassed, so, you know, they may prefer these smaller groups or private lessons. 

Some people, you know, really love to study grammar, they love, you know, finding all the rules and then applying the rules, understand the rules, doing their phrases, and doing their exercises; other people hate doing grammar, they prefer just to talk and, you know, learn through doing. So it really depends on the individual, so the most important thing is, get it out of your head that you are not good at languages, get it out of your head that, you know, you're not good at English; it's just- you need to find a learning style that is suited to you and your character, and you also just need to be persistent and get on with it, okay? So that's the first rule, everybody is capable of learning English, okay? 

I learned Spanish when I was 30, I think I started learning Spanish when I was 30, I lived in Spain around then, didn't speak a word of Spanish, and 10 years later, I’m quite a competent speaker; I’d say, so- you know, I'm not perfect but I'm quite competent, so the thing is, you know, it doesn't really matter the age either, you can really start a language at any age, okay? People say that kids are like sponges, and that they learn fast, which I don't necessarily believe it’s true, okay? It all depends on your motivation, okay? I know a lot of kids who have been doing English for a long time, and they don't really have a great level, because they don't really care, they're not interested, they do absolutely nothing, or practically nothing in the way of study, and, you know, it's a long, slow process for them because their motivation to learn is low, and they don't- they're not really interested in it, so, you know they don't really make much of an effort. You though, as an adult, have much more desire because you see the benefit, so, you know, with this motivation, and this desire, you can really learn a lot faster than someone who's a lot younger. So, age and ability have nothing to do with it, it's just getting in and doing it, okay? So that's my first tip from 10 years of teaching experience. 

Let's look at the second one, which is called action takers, okay? So, the action taker is- you know, the best learners are action takers; you need to really be someone who takes the steps forward in your learning journey, okay? Most people just talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk, okay? If you know what I mean; they are yeah you know this and yeah yeah, you know that; and; you know; people have all these wonderful dreams and ideas, and they might go on a holiday and realize that their English is rubbish, and they felt terrible because other people were communicating quite effectively around them in English, and they felt a bit left out, so they come back with all these ideas; oh I'm going to start learning English, oh yes, and then they don't take any steps, they don’t really take any- they don't take action to get towards that objective; they just talk about and don’t really do it, okay? 

Or what I also found is that, people take the first step, okay? So, they may take the initial steps and then, they don't know how to continue taking action steps towards building on their English level and, you know, in the end, they just give up, okay? So, if you're not an action taker you're going to have a lot of problems trying to do anything really effective in this world, okay? The same is pretty much relevant for most things, you know, if you want to stay fit and healthy, you need to look after yourself, so you need to make sure you take action steps towards eating a healthy diet, going and doing regular exercise, so it's very similar with the language, you know, you need to do it regularly, you need to be consuming different mediums, so you need to be reading, you need to be listening to people, or listening to podcasts, or the news, or watching series, you need to be trying to talk to people, where possible, you also need to be writing, where you can, et cetera, et cetera. So, you need to be an action taker, otherwise you're not going to go very far, okay? And that's true for many things in life. 

Now the next one is, you know, if you want to be successful, then you can't be an excuse maker, and I have seen all the excuses in the world; there are a million excuses; I am tired, I don't have enough time, I'm busy at work, the kids, the schedule, it's too hard, I don't understand anything, I'll never understand, so why bother? And the list goes on, and the list really does go on, people can make a million excuses if they want to, for not doing something so, you know, you really cannot be an excuse maker, you need to be, as I said before, an action taker; so, I mean, excuse makers-  everyone makes excuses, it's normal, it's part of human nature, however if you make excuses, then you will not be able to head in the right direction, and you're going to give up pretty much right away, and it just goes against all that is true to learning a language. 

You need to be consistent, you need to be, you know, you need to be patient, and you need to be constant with your efforts trying to learn, so as soon as you start making excuses, then you are doomed, okay? We are all tired, I mean, everyone is tired, everyone is working hard, I mean, everyone has the same amount of time in their day, they've got 24 hours, so if you're busy, so am I, okay? At my time, I'd do my best, and if I have to start late or longer, then I’ll do it; I'm busy at work, well what a surprise, everyone is busy at work, so go find someone else's shoulder to cry on because it's not a very good excuse for me; oh the kids, the schedule, I mean most of us- well, I've got two kids and, you know, they do keep me busy, but as long as they understand that, you know, you've got time for your things, then you spend time with them, there should be any problem, thing is, people make loads of excuses; they say you know, I don't have time for this, but then off they go, out for drinks with their friends, or you know, off they go shopping, or you know, they spend an hour doing something pointless which, let’s  say, you know, they sit down to do some work, then they started sending emails, or send a whatsapp to someone, you know, like this is just a complete and utter waste of time; and you know, that's not how you block out your time, you need to be really well organized, okay? 

So, it's too hard; well what a surprise, learning a language isn't easy because it requires work and consistency, so if you say it's too hard, then obviously it's going to get easier as you progress further along, but in the beginning, everything's difficult, you know, it is not easy to learn to ride a bike when you're a child, it is not easy to do-to cook, you know, quite elaborate dishes, but you know, with practice, you get better at it and, you make mistakes but you learn from them. I don't understand anything, well you know, that may be a problem in the system, lots of schools nowadays try and immerse people in 100% English with teachers who are native, and again I'm going to talk about that in a bit. 

But, yeah, it's very difficult to understand someone speaking to you in English when you're just starting out, so again, that could be a problem with the school and the system as in, that goes back to what I said to you guys earlier, you need to find the learning style that suits you. If you don't like the teacher or the system, then go find or try a different one, okay? You're not locked into one school, okay? And, I'll never understand; so, what about that? That's not true because, with languages, eventually you do start to understand things, and it's quite a liberating and exhilarating feeling, okay? When you start to really understand conversations, okay? So that is my third point, lock- stop with the excuses and get on with it, okay? 

Unrealistic expectations, that is one of the keys to failure, okay? If you want to be successful, then you need to have realistic expectations, okay? I'm going to learn English in six months, well right, you know, it could happen if you went to live in London and got a job working in an English-speaking environment, okay? You would probably learn English pretty quickly then, but for most of us, we, you know, have a job where we live, we have a family, we can't just go and live in London and immerse ourselves in the language, so you have to be realistic about how long it's going to take, and how much time you can dedicate to your studies, okay? I've heard someone say I'm going to study three hours a day, let's be realistic, who is really going to be able to study three hours a day, especially when we go back to the excuses, I'm very busy, the kids, my schedule, okay? It’s practically impossible to study three hours a day, unless you don't work, or you only have a part-time job, okay? So be realistic you're not going to spend three hours a day studying and that's not a bad thing, but if you do set up these unrealistic expectations, then what you're going to do is just set yourself up for failure, so be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to your learning every day, okay? 

I can learn English even though I only dedicate one hour a week; well, you know, it's going to be pretty slow going, if you dedicate only one hour a week to learning English, so as I said before, you must be realistic about how many hours you can dedicate, and obviously, the more hours, the better, but if you go- if you try and dedicate too many hours, then maybe you're not going to be able to achieve that goal, and that's going to end up getting you- making you feel more frustrated, and then you'll start making excuses, and then you'll give up, okay? 

So, let's have a look at the next one, you need to have a study plan, and you need to be well organized, okay? If you don't really have a proper study plan, or at least, a weekly class programmed, then you're not going to be very well organized, and you're not going to really be able to meet your learning objectives, okay? So those who learn have a plan, okay? People who learn set aside time in their calendar and they make it happen, so, what do I mean? You need to block the time, I mean you can put anything in the calendar, you can put meeting with John, but just make sure, or you know, on my way from the office, from the hours of 5 to 6 in the afternoon, or 3 to 4, whenever, just put in your calendar, an hour or couple of hours a week, or three hours a week, where you're just blocking it out for study, okay? 

Okay, so you're blocking that time out for study, and then if you can go to your class, one and a half hours, two hours, three hours a week, that's great; block that out as well, don't fail, don't miss class, and if you do miss class, make sure you recover what was learnt or was taught in that class to- and don't miss the material. If you do have a private lesson, make sure that, if you can't make the day for some reason, then you reschedule with the trainer, okay? So, you really need to be organized, and you need to make your study time sacred; people will try and steal your time, all the time, every day, you know you've got whatsapp, you got emails, phone calls, okay? These are things that will consume your time and will really take you off your learning path, okay? So, block out the time, have a study plan, and make sure that you stick to it, okay? 

And that leads me to my next point, but before I go on, just to let you guys know there are some podcasts and some material on The Art of Business in this website about creating a study plan and sticking to it, so I encourage you to go back and take a look at that. Now, consistency is my next one. You need to be consistent, week in, week out, I have seen people who have come to me with a very low level and they have really had a very realistic perception or a very realistic idea about what they're going to achieve, and they've actually gone above and beyond what they thought they would be able to achieve, and that's because they were consistent, they came to me every week, two hours I believe the class was, and they started very low, there was two of them, and they needed English for work, and we, you know, we had a great time, we enjoyed doing classes together but, you know, I taught them a lot and they were really quite diligent about doing their homework, and this consistency meant that, within one year, it was amazing, they were, you know, in meetings negotiating contracts for their company, et cetera et cetera and now, you know, they weren't at an advanced level but, they were at a level that was enough or high enough for them to carry out business functions with native and non-native speakers of English. 

So, I mean that was- the key for them was just to come week in week out and do, nine, ten months a year of English, and, you know, have the summer off, and then come back and do it all over again; and I believe they were with me for about two or three years, and within two or three years, off they went and they were quite happy, I mean they didn't have perfect English, but they are quite happy and quite comfortable to negotiate, travel and do all the things that were required of them in their company. So, week in week out, no excuses, being constant is one of the keys, okay? 

And the next one, love of reading; a lot of people just don't like to read, and this is a bit of a challenge; I mean reading is one of the greatest and most helpful things you can do for yourself because, it means not just even reading in in English, I mean reading in Spanish or your native language; you can just learn such a large amount of information, and the cost of a book is relatively low nowadays, but the actual information that you can gain from these books is just worth far more than the price of the book; so you need to have a love of reading because, by doing so you're really going to improve your English, and as I've said before, I mean the secret is, you don't even need to read books, you can read up magazines if you like, I mean you need to start doing something or reading something that you're interested in. So, I recommend buying a subscription to a magazine, maybe if you're into cooking or if you're into sport and gym, then you'd buy a book on those topics or a magazine on those topics- sorry buy a subscription for 12 months, only about 20 or 30 dollars a year, and then you've got a monthly supply of magazines coming in, and now I hope you just to get interested in reading, and they're not very difficult to read, okay. I’ve also recommended a book recently on the podcast about words for convincing people and they're great for negotiation, so I'd encourage you to read that book as well, it’s very easy to read. 

So, let's move on then, we've got a few more left. Taking advantage of opportunities; so, you know some of the best learners are- they're not shy, I mean it helps if you're not shy, and- but even if you are shy, you need to overcome this shyness and really take advantage of every opportunity that you've got to practice; so you need to take advantage of every opportunity that you've got to practice, okay? So, many people have the opportunity to speak but, you know, they're too scared, or they're embarrassed, okay? So, there's this famous line I always hear, which is, can you send me an email? So, I mean, try and avoid that, I mean, if you can get on the phone to someone, is it going to be easy? Not really, but the more opportunities that you've got to speak to people, the much better it is for you because, you're going to be able to improve, and these challenges really help you gain more confidence, and you need to just learn some techniques on the phone or in person to help the person clarify what they're going to say, slow the conversation down and really ask clarifying exploratory questions, so the person really makes clear what they're saying. 

So, I had advised you that if you want to be successful with learning English, you need to take advantage of all the opportunities that you have to speak English, or you know, at least have contact with the English speakers where possible, and even if you don't have contact with them orally, send as many emails as you can, you can practice a lot of language in emails, okay? So, another one of my top tips taking advantage of every opportunity you have to practice, okay. 

Now, the next point is very interesting, and I wanted to discuss this as well, because we were talking about learning styles before; now finding a great teacher, that is probably one of the keys to success when learning English, and the thing is, when you do find a teacher, you need to tell them in as much detail as possible, your needs, I mean, I get- I try and really evaluate deeply, my students’ needs, but I mean, often, students really cannot- even in Spanish, they can't articulate well to me what their needs are, I'm like, so, what areas of vocabulary do you typically need to improve at? And they're like, everything, and it's very difficult, as a trainer, to develop really targeted and relevant material, if someone doesn't explain to you really, what it is that they do; so when a trainer asks you about your job, then you really need to go into detail; you understand your job well, but maybe your trainer doesn't, maybe your trainer does understand to some degree, but you know, the more detail you can go into, the much easier it will be for them to really deliver some quality material, and some quality training that really is focused on your needs to help you meet your goals, okay? 

And another thing is like you can't expect much from a 10 year, you know, teacher; I mean some people are just like looking on the internet for someone on a Skype class, and then they're like, well I'm paying 10 years now, and-but the teachers okay, okay? I mean if you pay a little amount of money for something, you're going to get a poor quality generally, okay? Get a professional who has business experience, I mean a good teacher really responds well to your needs, they develop a study plan and they've developed role play situations or scenarios that help you practice in real-world situations. And, my real advice is, find a bilingual native teacher if possible, those teachers are the best because, I mean, I for example can transmit very effectively to my students, the similarities and differences between English and Spanish and I can put it into context very well for them and, you know, I can talk about all the daily and day-to-day mistakes and strange Spanglish that I hear, and really make it clear to the student why it's like this in English, and why it's like that in Spanish. You won't get that from a native English teacher who doesn't speak Spanish for example, because they just don't know- they don't have the experience in learning another language, but they have experience teaching English as a foreign language, but they don't really know what it is like to learn a foreign language, therefore they're sort of missing one piece of the puzzle. 

So, if you can find a native English speaking teacher who also speaks Spanish, the challenge there though is that you will know that you can speak Spanish to them and they will understand you, so then you need to try and avoid the trap of speaking Spanish, especially if you have a low English level, because when- as soon as you find a roadblock or something that's blocking the video of communication, then you're going to revert to Spanish and a good trainer will say oh no, you can't do that, you need to speak to me or try at least to explain that to me in English. So, if you can find a great teacher, I mean a great teacher will be the key to your success, okay? And, be prepared to pay, you're not- it's not expensive, I mean if you have to spend 20, 30, 40 euros an hour on a private lesson, with a qualified professional teacher who, not only has experience as a teacher, but also has experience in business and other sectors, then don't think of it as expensive, it's an investment in you, and it's an investment in your future. 

For example, let me put into perspective, if you don't speak English, maybe you can't get a promotion. If you spend 200 euros a week- a month on private English tuition, or 220 or whatever, I don't know, 250, between 200 250 euros a month on classes, you're going to be doing classes for 10- 9 or 10 months a year, so that's going to be a 2,000 to 2,500 euro investment, now if you improve your level of English, and then based on your level of English, you are promoted because you have got the skill or the key, the key that was missing here's the language component then you are promoted maybe that promotion will be worth a lot more to you than just 2,000 euros a year, maybe the increase in salary will be considerable compared to your previous salary, so you really need to think of this as an investment in yourself and not as an expense, okay? So, find a good teacher and be willing to invest in yourself. 

And the last one is persistence, okay? So, going back a little bit, relating to consistency, but you need to be persistent, I mean, you need to be prepared for lifelong learning, people really just- they're missing this piece of the puzzle as well, when your level is high enough, remember this, you can teach yourself, okay? So, you need to make the original investment because, once you get to a certain level, you can teach yourself via reading, movies and, you can even do conversational classes, okay? so until then, you need to be ready though, to continue despite the failings or frustration, so the higher your level, the less you notice the change in level, okay? And that's something that also can frustrate people, in the beginning when you have a low level, and then you do a year of English, you'll notice the change because, at the beginning, you had a very low level, and after a year, if you've been consistent and you've done your homework, put in the effort, you'll notice that there's been quite a considerable change, however, as you improve and your level gets higher and higher, the changes become less noticeable. You just organically grow, and evolve, and improve, and this is less noticeable, so you need to just, you know, stay motivated, be persistent because, before you know it, your level is going to really be up there and you're going to feel much better and when you get to the level where you can teach yourself, or you can study alone, then you can become quite an independent learner, you can take advantage of all the resources that are available and around you, and life becomes a lot easier, okay? So, persistence- remember learning a language is for life, you can't just learn for three years and then stop and expect that you will improve, okay? 

And that's about it, those are my top 10 tips, a bit of a motivationary  talk for you guys today to get you on to the learning track, you know, we are coming up towards summer if you are in the northern hemisphere, and now is a good time to, you know, take a break, get relaxed, put some perspective onto your- into your life and, you know, get yourself ready for the next year of learning, okay? So, if you guys have any ideas, comments or thoughts on these top ten ideas, then please let me know, I’d love your feedback, we've got a few new things in the pipeline coming up. Basically we've just launched stitcher, so stitcher is a podcasting app, you can find us on stitcher, now the great thing about stitcher is that it's super simple to use, the app’s very easy, has a car mode so you listen in the car, it's also available on Android and iPhone, so you can use if you're on an iPhone or an Android phone which is great, makes it a bit easier, and it's got quite a nice layout as well. 

So, I encourage you guys to check us out on stitcher, especially if you are on an Android device, because then it’d be super easy for you guys to have us there saved as your favourite. And we're also going to be launching The Art of Business English site soon in terms of premium memberships, so that all of you who wish to take part in Premium Membership can get access to some more, like advanced content, so, basically, now you’ll be getting transcripts to the podcast, there'll be quizzes and exercises you can do, and we're putting together a weekly coaching session for our members, so maybe that's something that you guys can be- could be interested in it, so I encourage you to have a look at it, we'll be putting that together soon over the next few weeks and months but, until then, stay tuned and have a great week, and enjoy improving your business English. Bye for now and take care.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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