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Don’t Tell Me I Can’t! 12 Myths About Learning English

Envy is a strong word.

I’m sure we’re all very nice people, but envy is one of those negative emotions we feel when we see someone speaking English fluently.

Why would you be envious?

Well, because they make speaking English look so easy!

Now, don’t feel bad. It’s natural to feel this way when you’re learning English.

Usually, people feel envious when they think that they can’t have what someone else has.

That fluent speaker should not make you feel envy—instead, they can be a role model for you, or an inspiration for your English learning journey.

When you feel envious of a fluent English speaker, you should turn that envy into motivation.

With hard work, you can achieve what they have achieved.

You can learn English too!

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Why You Can Learn English

At some point, you may think the words “I can’t learn English.” But I can tell you, you’re definitely wrong.

The very idea that you—or anyone else—can’t learn English is a myth.

A myth is something that many people believe is true but is actually not true. Ideas like “I’m not smart enough” and “It’s impossible for me to learn English” are myths. These are all myths that you can be tricked into believing.

Why are they myths? They’re myths because they’re simply not true.

They’re just obstacles (things that block you). The good news is that they’re obstacles that many non-native English speakers have already gotten past. They have succeeded, and so can you.

We’re here to help you learn about the most common myths and misconceptions about learning English. Follow our tips and you too can get past any obstacles in your language journey.

Obstacles will only stand in your way if you let them.

It’s time to rediscover your motivation to learn English!

Don’t Tell Me I Can’t! 12 Myths About Learning English

If someone says, “I can’t learn English,” they’ll often explain by saying one of the 12 myths below.

Today we’ll debunk (prove that something is false) 12 common myths about learning English. I’ll also give you some tips to help you get past the different obstacles that you might face.

Myth 1: I’m Not Good with Foreign Languages

The mind is a powerful thing.

If your mind thinks you can’t learn a foreign language, you’ll have an extremely hard time changing that belief.

So, do yourself a favor and change your perspective!

It’s simply not true that you’ll never understand English just because it’s not your native language. Even though we develop native-language maps in our brain from a young age, our brains can still absorb new knowledge. Every day we collect new information. It’s no different when learning a new language.

Simply changing your mindset gives you the best chance to learn something new.

Top Tip: Use your native language to boost your English learning! Find blogs, articles or short stories and rewrite them in English.

Myth 2: I’m Embarrassed to Speak English

The famous poet James Joyce said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” This means that every mistake you make helps you learn something new. This is very true when learning a new language. You need to see every mistake as an opportunity to learn.

There’s no reason to feel embarrassed if you say the wrong word, sentence or pronunciation. Everyone has been a beginner at some time in their lives! Accepting that you’re a learner will help you not be critical about yourself, and teach you to enjoy the mistakes you make while learning.

Still feel silly when you say the wrong word? Telling people that you’re learning English can help take the pressure off. It’s also a great way to find new learning opportunities because others might want to help you.

Top Tip: Record yourself having your own English conversations. This is a great way to build your confidence when speaking. You can also listen for things that you could improve.

Myth 3: I’m Too Old to Learn English

Yes, younger people easily learn new languages, but that doesn’t mean older people can’t learn English. An adult has more experience and focus to solve problems.

Instead of believing your age is stopping you, take a closer look at your learning. What exactly is it about learning English that’s difficult? Is it the content you’re learning? The methods you’re using? Could it even be the place or people in your learning environment?

After you’ve identified the real obstacles, you can start to introduce some changes to make learning easier and a lot more pleasant.

Top Tip: Write difficult English words on flashcards and study them daily. This simple exercise makes you feel successful every day. It boosts your confidence and makes you feel happy about your improvements.

Myth 4: I Don’t Have Enough Time

We get it, you’re busy.

The whole world seems to be busy. Everyone is moving so fast.

We have so much to do and are always out of time.

However, believing that you need a lot of time to learn English is false. You simply need to know how to organize your time.

First, think about what time of day you learn best. Not the part of the day you have the most time or the least disruption. We’re talking about the time your brain is working at its best. When your focus is sharp and learning feels easy. This is the time you need to use for language learning.

Now you plan your day and schedule your language learning to happen during this time of day. Even if it’s only half an hour, write it in your schedule or to-do list. Be consistent and study at this time every day.

There are small things you can do to make it easier to stick to your routine. Lay out your books and resources for easy access, download your videos and audio so they’re ready to play and make a specific learning area so you’re always ready to learn, learn, learn!

Top Tips: Fill the gaps in your day with quick learning lessons. For example, listen to English-language podcasts as you stand in line at a store. Or play with English learning apps while riding the bus. Turn every spare moment into a learning opportunity!

FluentU’s videos are perfect for learning in quick bursts and while you’re on the go. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences.

There are many different types of videos, as you can see here:

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FluentU makes it easy to watch and understand native English videos with interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see what it means, learn how to use it, hear it pronounced and more.

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For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” then you see this:

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You can learn any video’s vocabulary with FluentU’s fun quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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The videos are organized by genre and level, so it’s super easy to find the ones that work for you. FluentU also keeps track of your learning, then suggests videos and examples perfect for you.

Start using FluentU on the website or download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.

Myth 5: I Need to Visit an English-speaking Country

In the past, learning a new language was difficult because it was harder to travel to other countries. But with the internet, we can now bring foreign languages into our homes with the click of a button.

To improve your knowledge, you need to actively look for learning opportunities. Use these opportunities to bring English into your life. Choose food from English menus. Read English instructions and follow English signs. You can discover ways to learn and practice English in your own life, without the need for a plane ticket.

Top Tip: Surround yourself with English speakers, and simply listen. This way you can recreate the experience of traveling to an English-speaking country by immersing yourself in others’ conversations.

Myth 6: I Can’t Afford It

Money is a common excuse that many easily use to explain why they can’t do something. You may think that you don’t have enough money to buy textbooks or that an online course is too expensive. Well, I’ve got some great news for you: you can learn English for free!

The best learning experiences are the most memorable, not the most expensive. Real-world interactions are a fantastic way to learn English because they’re interesting, relevant and free! Get involved by speaking to people and reading newspapers, magazines and blogs. With the help of tons of free English resources online, you’ll be improving your English without even spending a dollar.

Top Tip: Label objects in your house. Seeing and saying the words every time you pass them will transform any household task into an English lesson!

Myth 7: I’ll Never Get the Accent Right

Accents are pretty amazing. They celebrate the differences of people around our world and also bring communities together. But just because you don’t sound like a native, you shouldn’t think learning English is impossible.

Accents and pronunciation can help communication, but you can still communicate even if you have an imperfect accent. It takes time to learn how to say difficult sounds, so make sure you create opportunities to listen to spoken English. Set realistic English speaking goals and give yourself more time to do them.

Top Tip: Watch English YouTube videos and subscribe to English learning channels. The more you listen to spoken English, the more you’ll learn the accent and pronunciation. Don’t be afraid to try it! Remember, even if you don’t get it absolutely correct, your message will probably still be understood!

Myth 8: Learning English Isn’t Engaging

Some people give up learning English because they don’t find it engaging (stimulating or interesting). They may believe the effort, time and energy they put in doesn’t give them great rewards. Those who believe this myth are likely to get stuck and give up.

You often lose interest when you take a passive approach towards learning. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to make your learning more active and exciting!

To make learning English something you really want to do, you need to have a proactive attitude! This means putting yourself into more challenging situations. Do something new. Do something different and unpredictable. Do something that forces you to use your English skills and knowledge. This makes you set bigger goals and gets you excited to reach them.

You have the power to learn the way you want to, so make it fun and interesting!

Top Tip: Call or video chat with friends who speak English. This is a great way to put yourself into situations that require all your English skills at once. Video chats are a fun and challenging way to improve your understanding of listening, speaking, vocals cues and body language!

Myth 9: My English Skills Don’t Develop Naturally

How amazing would it be if we could learn things naturally! Like if our brains already had all the information, and we just had to access it. Imagine if learning was really that easy!

Unfortunately, we know that it isn’t. English learning doesn’t just happen without any effort. But that doesn’t mean learning English is impossible. It just means that to learn English, you need a good plan.

Planning is all about organizing your purpose (why you’re doing something) and goals. Thinking about your learning in this way will help you achieve what you want to achieve.

Ask yourself: Why am I learning English? What parts of the English language do I want to learn about? What do I need to learn to reach my goals?

Questions like these help you understand your motives and organize your lessons, and give you the momentum to learn successfully.

Top Tip: In your learning plan, include activities that make commitments to other people. For example, find an English pen pal to exchange emails or messages with. That’s a great way to keep you accountable. Not only will you not want to disappoint them, but they’ll encourage you to communicate in English regularly.

Myth 10: Learning English Is Boring

If you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that learning English is boring, please put down your pencil and step away from your textbook. The problem isn’t English, the problem is with the learning method you’ve chosen.

Stop boredom by giving your English lessons a makeover! Swap the books for movies, replace the flashcards with a visit to the theater and start singing English songs in the shower!

Whatever it is that brings excitement into your learning, do it! Everyone has their own ideas about what makes learning fun, so explore new methods and find what works for you.

Top Tip: Grab some friends and play English board games. Make sure you understand the rules and then sit back and enjoy the fun, laughter and learning!

Myth 11: English Is Very Different from My Native Language

When you learn English as a beginner, you use your native language to interpret and understand new words in your mind. As you progress, your brain gets quicker at interpreting new words.

However, there’s a point where you can no longer depend on your native language. Some people get to this point and believe their brain can learn no more.

But in fact, getting to this point is a sign of great progress! It’s a signal that you must stop depending on your native language, and now you need to use a whole new way of thinking.

There will always be parts of English that won’t translate, or even be able to be explained using other languages. Let go of your native language and begin to think using English concepts. That will help you better understand the English language.

Top Tip: To start thinking in English, change the language settings on your phone or device. Constantly using English in this way will help you do new tasks from the perspective of an English speaker.

Myth 12: I Will Never Be Good at English

People often want to speak English as well as a native speaker, or at least as well as a friend.

But comparing yourself with others is a quick way to lose confidence, motivation and joy from whatever you do in life. And of course, learning English is no exception. When you plan your learning and set your goals, make sure you’re doing it all for you, and only you.

We all learn at different speeds and in different ways. You need to stop wishing you were as good as someone else. Start rewarding yourself for every one of your achievements. Focusing on yourself in this way will help your skills, knowledge and happiness improve dramatically.

The best way to keep your personal goals and happiness in mind is to regularly review your learning. Find your weaknesses and focus on improving them. Discover the things you find easy and make them more challenging. Go back and look at all you’ve learned, and appreciate how far you’ve come!

Top Tip: Carry a small notebook to write down any new words you see or hear when you go out. This is a great way to change your perspective from “That person knows so many more English words than I do” to “Awesome, I have so many new words I can try out!”

 

We all have our good days and our bad days. Learning English can feel like a roller coaster, but you’re more in control of your learning than you may think.

Don’t believe the myths you hear because they’ll only hold you back. Believe in yourself, create a fun learning environment that works with your learning style and start reaching your goals!


Lucy Brooks is a school teacher who loves inviting younger students into the amazing world of literacy. As an avid reader, you’ll never see her without a book in hand. She enjoys traveling the world but will always call Australia home.

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