(Oh, and if you think Mondays suck, it probably means that your job sucks. Mondays are great.)
It happened again last week while I was coaching in Utrecht.
“My English is really good – I never need subtitles when I watch a movie. But for some reason I just can’t seem to find the right words in English.”
Welcome to my world. I hear this on the daily. And one of the best ways to explain WHY your English is not good enough based only on listening skills, I’m going to tell you a little story. I’m going to take out the word “English” and put in the word “guitar”. How crazy does this sound?
I love listening to guitar music.
I listen to it every day.
I read a lot about guitars.
I watch YouTube movies about guitars.
I have 2 guitars at home.
But I never pick them up and play them unless I’m giving a concert.
How crazy does that sound?
(Answer: ‘Pretty crazy, Buffi, thanks for asking.”)
And (indulge me with a second question) how good is your guitar playing going to be if this is your story?
Answer: “Not good. Crappy.”
And this is the same with your English. Feeding your ears or your eyes (and yes, they are hungry and need to be fed) does not mean that all that information is in your mouth when you need it. Or in your fingers when you have to write.
Every time you hear or read shizzle in English and you don’t activate it, all you’re doing is putting another book on your bookshelf. Your library in your head is pretty full. That’s why when you’re forced to activate your English it’s a big challenge to find the right words or remember the rules because you first have to find the book, dust it off, turn to the right page, and if you’re lucky it will magically appear.
Please start dusting off the words in your head. There are so many that are dying to come out and play with you. Give them a chance.
The next time you read something, write down 5 words and put them into a sentence of your own. The next time you hear something, play it back again and use it as a dictation exercise. I have a million other ideas if you need more. Some of them can be found here.
And, of course, one other way is to write me back. I will always write you back. It might take a day or two to get back to you, as so many people respond, but I will.
I promise you that.
Promise me you’ll get dusting today?
Sending you a big hug and a feather duster.