Want to Learn English? Stay Positive like Gabby of Go Natural English
This post is a transcript of a video on my YouTube channel.
Studying English? Here’s the transcript as a lesson to study on LingQ.
Steve: Hi Gabby.
Gabby: Hi Steve.
Steve: So, I’m very happy to have with me today Gabby of Go Natural English because very often we talk about learning languages other than English, although English, of course, is the language that is the most widely studied in the world. In fact, many of my viewers, I know many of you out there, like to listen to me speak English. You can even import from YouTube. Study it from LingQ if you want. It’s just content for learning English. In fact, first, I’ll let Gabby introduce herself and then I have some questions.
Gabby: Perfect! Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I love your channel. I love how you help people to learn all languages. And, yes, Go Natural English is to help people learn English specifically, although we talk about language learning in general as well.
Go Natural English is a YouTube channel and our website and a premium course that I started in 2011, so several years ago when I was teaching English in an American corporation in Japan just after I had finished my masters in TESOL. It came out of my desire to help my students learn more. They were having some problems learning from old textbooks and kind of old teaching methods and I wanted to help them more with the conversational English that they want and need for work.
Steve: And you have quite a large number of subscribers, I believe.
Gabby: Oh, yes, almost two million, almost. So if you want to come over and subscribe and help us get there, that would be great.
Steve: Please do so. We will leave a link in the description box.
Gabby: Thank you so much.
Steve: You may be aware that I like having these discussions with these language entrepreneurs who are helping people via the internet to learn languages in ways that are different than the more traditional ways of learning languages.
So, English. People learning other languages, typically, they’re attracted by the culture, Korean drama or they want to travel to South America or Italy, Japan or anime. But English is a need. People need English. They have to have English if they want to go to school in North America or for their job, so what are some of the problems? If you were to try to identify problems, not so much with the language, we’ll get into that later, but as people learning English, what are the obstacles that they face?
Gabby: I think because it is seen as such a necessary task. English learning feels like something you have to do whether you want to or not and it loses some of its allure. You feel like you have to do something and then you don’t want to do it. It’s a problem. I think this comes from when we were forced to learn English maybe in high school or college. Maybe now if you want to advance in your career you feel like you have to do this. You go to a class and they use kind of old teaching methods where you’re expected to be perfect and listen to lectures and not get to speak very much and then when you do speak you make a mistake and your teacher says bad. Mistakes are bad and you’re left feeling frustrated. This is not fun. This is not something I want to do, but I have to do it. It’s not fun anymore and that’s, I think, a big problem in English learning in general, maybe language learning, maybe for other languages as well.
I mean, I remember when I was learning Spanish in college and I felt similar. I couldn’t make a mistake. I couldn’t try new vocabulary words to see how they might work in conversation because my teacher might say, well, that’s not right. I encourage English learners and language learners to make more mistakes because that’s how we learn. But to answer your question, I think it’s kind of a challenge or a problem that we’re starting from this mindset of, oh, English is something I have to do and don’t really want to. Where is our motivation then? Our motivation is lacking in that situation.
Steve: It’s a bit like if I think of school children in Canada who have to learn French and they don’t really need the French to communicate. So if you live in Japan you don’t really need the English that much, even though your employer wants you to have a score on TOEIC of whatever. Why am I learning this? There’s no one around me that speaks English, why do I have to learn it. How do you overcome that? If we exclude the sort of immigrants in North America, most English learners don’t need it on a daily basis and they don’t have an opportunity to use it on a daily basis. They might be in Brazil. They might be in Russia or somewhere, China, Korea. How do you overcome that?
Gabby: It’s very frustrating because you don’t need it on a daily basis and you don’t hear it on a daily basis, but when you do need it, like in a business meeting or an interview, it’s really important and it’s high pressure, so how do you overcome that.
A lot of it is mindset because we’ve developed kind of a negative mindset around English that mistakes are bad and I’ll never be good at English. I can’t speak English. This kind of mindset. A lot of English learners start a conversation saying, hi, my name is Gabby and my English is very poor, for example.
Gabby: This is a very negative way to think about your skills, to think about English and so the number one step, even though it may seem kind of silly, but the number one step is to break that mindset and decide I can speak English. I will be a fluent English speaker. Yes, I’m deciding right now that this is my identity. I am an English speaker. Maybe I don’t speak perfect English, but we don’t need to tell people that and we also don’t need to focus on that. Instead, we can think, ah, every day I’m improving a little bit. That is how we start with a positive mindset. After we change our mindset and start thinking more positively, then we can talk more about language acquisition. But the first step so important and often overlooked is your mindset and deciding yes, I can speak English.
Steve: I think listening comprehension is extremely important, obviously. In that regard, I should point out that I watched some of your videos and you speak very, very clearly. I try to speak clearly here. Obviously, not every native speaker speaks clearly. Eventually, we have to get used to understanding people who don’t speak so clearly, but while people are learning it’s an advantage to be able to access the language spoken clearly. It doesn’t have to be spoken slowly, but it should be at least spoken clearly. I think that’s a big plus at your channel. You speak at a normal speed, but you speak very, very clearly.
Gabby: Thank you. I’m glad you said that because a lot of people ask me in the comments, are you speaking slowly? Is this normal? I’m speaking clearly. I’m speaking in a professional way that I might make a presentation in. No, I’m not speaking in a super fast way. I might with someone I’m very close to like when I’m hanging out with my friends and joking around. But, yeah, it is normal, so I’m glad you said that.
Steve: Yeah. No, that’s good. Before we go to the sort of specific difficulties of the English language and they are many, starting with the spelling, are there any particular tips? Okay. Have a positive attitude. Believe you can do it. These are things that I say quite often and I totally agree with. It’s amazing how the brain, our emotional state, can influence our success, but are there specific tricks or tips that you like to give your English learners?
Gabby: Yes. I have a five-step process. The first step is to decide that you can, the mindset, and then second is to make sure you’re getting a lot of input. Meaning, you are consuming English. You’re listening to English. You’re watching shows with English. Maybe you’re watching this interview in English, for example. It could be a number of different things, but make sure that you have input and it should be at an appropriate level. So if you’re an intermediate English learner, it’s fine to start listening to native speaker content.
After listening, we want to copy what we’re hearing and use it. So practice and really do this as soon as you can. Not necessarily speaking quickly, but as soon as you start listening to more English start saying what you’re hearing out loud. It’s called shadowing. You can select a phrase that you like and start repeating that to yourself. You don’t need to have another person in front of you to start speaking. You can just talk to yourself, so practice.
Okay. So we have the mindset. We have the input. We have practice. The fourth step is it is important to get feedback on your English. This could be talking to someone else and seeing if they understand you. If you see this glazed over look in their eyes like I have no idea what you’re saying, well, okay, then you go from there.
It could be even talking to something electronic like Siri or Google Voice and see if it understands you in English. It could be working with a teacher or a tutor and getting feedback and corrections. That is really important to see where you’re making mistakes. I will mention, also, you could record yourself. I get really excited about this step. There’s a lot of ways to get feedback listening to yourself on your recording.
The fifth step is repeat all of the previous steps, it’s important with your mindset. Every day, remind yourself I can do this. It’s not something you just do once. It’s really important to continue and repeat this whole process.
Steve: I agree with you, too, about hearing yourself because I think a lot of our mistakes we find ourselves. In a way, we don’t need to have them pointed out. If we listen to ourselves, we’ll see where we make mistakes. Every time I make a video in another language and I watch that video I see my mistakes.
Gabby: It’s awful, isn’t it?
Steve: Not that I will then correct them, unfortunately. I’m condemned to make that same mistake a few more times before I manage to avoid it. Okay, let’s talk a bit about English. What are the big problems? If people come to you and say, look, I’m having trouble with this aspect of English or that aspect of English, is there sort of a list of the most common problems people have with English?
Gabby: Yeah, I get a lot of the same questions over and over. One that’s really interesting is about the th sound in English. I thought it was just in English, but I guess it’s in some other languages. You have two th sounds, the “th” and the “th” and a lot of English learners ask me about how to make the sound or they say it’s very difficult to make the sound. It’s interesting that this is a question I get asked a lot because it’s not necessarily super important to make this sound perfectly in order to be understood. It’s kind of a nice thing to have in your toolbox to sound more like a native speaker, but it’s not the most important thing.
Another question I get asked a lot is how can I make longer sentences, more complex sentences? I guess we’re thinking okay, this means I’m more advanced if I can make long sentences. But, again, it’s not necessarily a good thing because sometimes when you have these long, drawn out, run-on sentences it’s not clear at all what you’re saying, right? It’s kind of funny. It’s not necessarily better communication to make a longer sentence.
Steve: Yeah. No, those are both excellent. Writing is a great way to start outputting and it’s obviously easier to make shorter sentences. I think people tend to overuse the sort of and or whatever connector and they end up with a great long sentence and they’d be better off with each little thought, stop, start a new sentence, stop. It’s better from every point of view. Yeah, so that’s good.
English is a little different from learning these other languages because it’s perceived as more of a necessity rather than a romantic adventure. You’re there to help people, so we’re leaving a link in the description box. This discussion, too, I think we’ll make it available as a lesson at LingQ. If not, people can go to YouTube and with the browser extension we have you can bring that in as a lesson in LingQ. Certainly, Gabby speaks very clearly and I like to think I speak clearly, so it could be a good place for people to practice their listening comprehension.
So, thank you very much, Gabby, and congratulations on getting close to two million subscribers. It might take me a while to get there, but that’s a great achievement. Thank you very much.
Gabby: Thank you so much, Steve. Thank you.