Episode Transcript

Do you feel that you are practicing your English, but you're not seeing the results that you want to see? Do you feel like you've hit a plateau and you don't know how to start seeing a breakthrough, yet again? If that is the case, then this video is for you because today we're going to talk about the illusion of learning – when you are practicing and learning English and you're not seeing results. So, it's the illusion of moving forward, but actually you are stuck.

If you're new to my channel, then hello. My name is Hadar. I'm a non-native speaker of English, and I'm a fluency and pronunciation coach. And I'm here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom. If you want to find out more about how I can help you, you can go to my website at hadarshemesh.com. You'll have a lot of free resources to get started on your journey. And you can come say hi on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway, where we get more personal.

Okay. So back to the illusion of learning. This is something that I think any learner might experience at one point or another. And I want to distinguish between a plateau – where you are doing the work and you're progressing, but you can't see it right away- but at the same time, all of a sudden, you do feel a breakthrough. Because a plateau is a healthy part of the learning process. A lot of things are happening in the background, a lot of things are happening in your subconscious mind. And sometimes it just takes time for you to be able to use all of that.

Now, that is one thing. So, a plateau is not necessarily bad, sometimes it's something very natural. But sometimes, it's bad because you are working, but you're not doing the right things that actually move you forward. And I want to talk about that today – the illusion of learning.

Now, there are two pitfalls that learners usually fall into. I talk about it a lot, and this video is designed to help you understand what questions you need to ask yourself, but I want to review those pitfalls, so you have a better idea as to what we're talking about here.

The two main pitfalls that learners fall into are, one: consuming content and thinking that this content is going to move them forward – meaning, just watching videos, listening to podcasts, watching television, and not putting it into practice – is still learning. Now, this is not learning, this is content consumption. You are a passive learner.

And while it has its advantages, especially for listening skills and comprehension, you cannot expect yourself to consume something and to be able to use it right away only thanks to the fact that you've heard it. You've heard someone using a certain word, you've heard someone explaining a certain tense, or grammar rule, or preposition, and then you, you know, you'd be able to use it right away. It doesn't happen that way.

If you want to use something that you learn, the learning part, the content consumption is only probably 5% of the actual work. Once you have the knowledge and you have gained the knowledge, the work is to put it into practice: to use it, to implement it, to try it again and again, and again, first of all, on your own, and then with other people. And it has to be out loud.

Now, if you want to practice your reading and writing – yes, download tests from the internet and answer those tests, or handouts, or exercises. But if you want to get better at speaking, you got to put it into practice while speaking. Unfortunately, there is no way around it. Because it's not going to be available to you, you will not have developed the speaking habit, whether it's grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation. And therefore you won't be able to use it freely and spontaneously, which is ultimately what we want. And then we feel stuck.

So, content consumption is not the work. If most of your learning has to do with content consumption, my friend, you are stuck in the illusion of learning. Because while you are learning things, you are unable to use them quickly and effortlessly. And for that we need implementation. So, to practice it out loud, to use it intentionally when speaking. And I have a lot of videos that talk about how to do that. And I'm going to link to them in the description. But right now I want you to understand this concept.

The next obstacle that learners face is the fact that they're learning a lot of things. And some of the things are not even important for them to put into practice. Meaning, you might be learning all these fancy future perfect tenses, but you're still struggling with the simple past, or the present perfect, that is a lot more common.

So, sometimes spending your time practicing and learning has to do with doing the things that you actually need. And this is where I often talk about the Pareto principle in English – the 20%. What is the 20% that you need to learn and put into practice, that will get you 80% of the results? The Pareto principle is that 20% of the causes lead to 80% of the results. And it's the same thing with English.

You don't need to learn all the sounds in American English. You don't need to learn all the tenses. You need to start with the sounds that are critical for you, so you can sound clear. The tenses that are important for you, so you can convey your message clearly and communicate confidently. Even if it's not accurate 100% of the time, but you have the most frequent, popular tenses. You have it done, because you have practiced it and implemented it. And you haven't just watched videos that teach you more and more and more tenses, and how they would use it. And, you know, you just keep on listening without putting it into practice. Okay? So these are the two pitfalls.

Now, how would you know whether or not you are falling into those pitfalls, or you are on the right track and you're not trapped in the illusion of learning? And this is why I have three questions that you need to ask yourself every time you're learning something new.

The first one is, do I need it? Meaning, that if you come across a new topic, or you are really obsessed with phrasal verbs or conditionals or conjunctions, then you need to ask yourself, do I really need it? Will I use it today, this week, this month when I'm in conversation? Do I know how to use it? Do I feel like I'm missing it when I'm communicating with other people right now?

If the answer is ‘yes', then this is definitely something that you need to spend time practicing and focusing on. If the answer is ‘no, I actually don't know when I would use it', for example, learning business idioms that, you know, you probably don't even know if you would need it at some point, then maybe you need to take that time and spend it wisely, practicing other things that are going to help you.

The next question you want to ask yourself is, am I willing to invest the time necessary to integrate that new concept, new sound, new rule into my day-to-day speech? Am I willing to spend that time? And how much time am I willing to invest into learning this thing? So this question also helps you identify if this is something that you're into learning. Because sometimes the answer for the first question is going to be, ‘Yes, I need this', but the answer for the second question is going to be, ‘No, I hate it. I'm not interested in it. It drives me crazy, it freaks me out. I get all stressed out. I don't want to practice it'.

And then, again, it would be pointless to learn it unless you find a fun and exciting way to learn it. And we don't want that. Right? Like, the idea is to also make your learning experience joyful and effective. And it's not effective, if you're suffering. Let me tell you this. It doesn't enter into your brain. Okay? So, “Am I willing to invest the time needed to use it freely and spontaneously when speaking?” It's like this exchange that you're willing to make: time versus owning that new thing in English.

And you need to decide on how much time you're willing to invest. So instead of learning more, right, and just spending time watching more videos, or going to more classes learning it, ask yourself how can I implement it? How can I put it into practice? I love repeating things out loud, again and again, especially when it comes to grammar or vocabulary.

So when you're trying to learn a new word, you want to say it out loud many times, so you build that pronunciation confidence, you build this new habit. But you do whatever works for you. Again, the most important thing is that you turn it into an active practice. And you decide on how much time you're willing to invest. And you have this agreement with yourself, whether or not it's worth it.

The last question that is going to help you know whether or not you are trapped in this illusion of learning – or you are into real learning that gets your result – is, “Will I be able to teach it?” So, after you're done learning and practicing something new, ask yourself, “Can I teach it to someone?” “Is it clear enough in my head, that I can actually find someone who struggles with this topic, and I can explain it in a clear way?”

Why is that? First of all, because I believe that teaching is one of the best ways to learn. Because you need to organize it for yourself in your head in a way that is different when it's just about you. When you make it about someone else and about explaining it, you need to organize it differently in your head. You need to clarify it to yourself on a deeper level. It's not this, “Yeah, I sort of know what this is about.” No, it has to be super clear so you can explain it to others. And when you teach it to others, it becomes even more ingrained in you, and clearer for you.

So, if you feel like you'd be able to teach it to others, then it means that you have really learned it. If you're saying to yourself. “Hmm, not really”, then it means that it's still not clear in your head. And if it's not clear in your head, don't expect yourself to use it when speaking freely. And if you say to yourself, “Yes, I can teach it to someone”, then I challenge you and encourage you to actually offer someone who needs that help to teach them. Because it will enhance your experience learning that thing.

So, to make sure that you are not stuck in the illusion of learning and that you're actually learning and making progress, ask yourself these three questions. One – “Do I really need it? And will I be using it this week or this month?” The second question, “How much time am I willing to invest in learning this thing? And am I willing to invest the time needed?” Because time is needed to practice something. And three, once you're done learning it, “Will I be able to teach it to someone else?” If the answer is yes, you are ready to move onward, my friend, to the next thing.

That's it. I hope this was helpful. Now I want to ask you, what do you think is your 20%? What are the things that you still struggle with that you need to start integrating into your speech? I want you to put it in the comments, because that would also give me ideas as to what you need help with. And maybe I can help you by creating videos about it or directing you to existing videos I have. But also, I want you to clarify for yourself, what is your next goal? What are you going to focus on next when learning? And I want you to practice learning it while asking yourself these three questions.

Okay, that's it. If you like this video, please like it. And consider subscribing to my channel because every week I share with you a new video about fluency, pronunciation, mindset, confidence, intonation, and a lot of fun.

And you can also come on over to hadarshemesh.com – my website, where there are a lot of free resources for you to practice and implement effectively everything that you've learned. Thank you so, so much for being here. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

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