People struggle all over the world with the flood of information they can find with the click of a button nowadays. Learning has never been so accessible but, unfortunately this deluge of help from the internet often stifles advanced learners. How do you make heads from tails when so many online resources are claiming to have the treasure map to your fluency. The answer is simple: baby steps.
The only treasure map you need is the one you create. If you know where you want to go, then getting there is as simple as not stopping. Baby steps equals patience and perseverance. Vocabulary, grammar, idioms, expressions can all be digested at a rate that is perfect for everyone. Don’t cave in to the need to do it “in 1000 words” or “24 hours”. It. does. not. work. With anything. Ever. You cannot master a skill trying to take shortcuts. All you do is waste time while your wheels spin in place. So take baby steps to your mastery.
How do you start yourself on the road to mastery?
Go back to your goal. What are you trying to do? Well, if you are an advanced learner (which I am assuming you are) of the language then you are probably worried about maintaining that level and increasing your vocabulary. Great! You don’t need to scour the internet looking for courses that promise you the heavens. Read. Read what? Read everything and anything. Step outside your comfort zone of jargon laced articles of your sector. If you are in business, read philosophy. If you are in psychology, read about cosmology. If you are in banking, read about woodworking. The more you branch out the more depth you add to your vocabulary.
So, we’ve got reading. But how do baby steps apply? Well, you guessed it. Read every day. For example, getting up just 15 minutes earlier and reading something first thing in the morning will get the mental juices flowing.
Another baby step to add to your daily routine is listening to English. Subscribe to a few podcasts. Maybe some that are even tied to the topics you’re reading about. This will reinforce any new vocabulary you’ve been exposed to. Put it on while you are in the shower instead of the latest pop songs form the radio. 10 – 15 minutes of listening will cement ideas and words into your passive vocabulary. How? Clue: consistency. You have to listen every day. Baby steps.
Where does the desire and will come from?
I have been living in Spain now for nearly 20 years and there is a wonderful expression in Spanish that sums up everything about learning a skill: Querer es poder. Loosely translated as: If you want to, you can. But this is not want as in I want to win the lottery…no, this is want as in I have an internal driving curiosity and desire to do something and I will find the time to do it because I want to. On Monday, you dread your week because you haven’t got 5 minutes to breathe until Friday night. Then, on Tuesday you meet someone special who captures your attention and all of a sudden there is a desire inside you that finds time to have dinner, watch a movie, and make a special connection with that someone. Your incredibly busy week opened up somehow. Querer es poder.
Baby steps toward your desire. Your desire may not be to learn English. Maybe your desire is to buy a new car but first you need that promotion at work but, to get the promotion English is a requirement. Or, your desire is to help your child get better marks at school but English class is the only one they are failing. Or, your desire is to ace an upcoming exam so you are valedictorian. Or any of a million reasons. English is the vehicle you use to move along the path to your treasure.
Baby steps and querer es poder will help you see that reading and listening everyday are the right tools to get you to the x that marks the spot.