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Chapter 03: Psychology Is More Important Than Grammar and Vocabulary


Most people have suffered from English for so long they worry there is no solution. Trained by schools to be passive, fear mistakes, and search for just one right answer, most English learners are stressed and frustrated. Some feel nearly hopeless. They have spent years in English classrooms. They have spent years memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary lists. They have spent years studying for exams such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or TOEIC.

Despite all this work and effort, most English learners are frustrated. Many struggles with even simple conversations. Many feel nervous at any time they must speak English. They have memorized countless grammar rules, yet even simple conversations feel difficult. Likewise, despite years of study, most learners still cannot understand American TV or movies.

After so many years of traditional learning, students are confused. When they try to speak, they constantly think about grammar and translations. First, they think of a sentence in their own language, then they translate it to English, then they think about the grammar, and finally, they speak.

When they listen, they go through a similar process. They hear the English, translate it into their own language, think of a response in their own language, translate their response into English, and then think about the grammar to be sure their response is correct. No wonder their speech is so slow and unnatural! No wonder English feels so stressful and difficult! Real conversations are fast, and it's nearly impossible to do all of this thinking fast enough, especially when talking to a native speaker.

If you think about translations and grammar during a real conversation, you will quickly become lost. Instead of listening carefully to the other person, you'll be translating your own responses and trying to remember grammar. Your speech will be hesitant. Often, the other person will become frustrated by your lack of understanding. Of course, if you see the other person is losing patience, you will usually become even more nervous. It's a terrible downward spiral that most English learners know too well.

There is a solution. There is a way to escape the hidden curriculum. There is a road to English fluency and you can travel on it. You can speak English powerfully. You can speak English clearly, naturally, and effortlessly. This solution, however, will require you to completely change your beliefs about education and completely change the way you learn English.

I call the solution the Effortless English system and it has two parts: the psychology and the method. Most schools, most teachers, and most learners focus only on the method. In other words, they are solely focused on the pieces of the English language — vocabulary and grammar. As we learned in the last chapter, schools primarily use the "grammar-translation" method, with some "communication activities" added.

While schools are focused just on method, they completely ignore the first part of the Effortless English system — the psychology. Yet, psychology is probably the most important element for success with English speaking. When you think of your own English speaking, you'll realize that your nervousness, lack of confidence, and frustration are major problems. How do you change these?

Without an effective psychological system, you will struggle to find success with even the best language teaching method. Let's use a story to understand these two important parts of the Effortless English system. Imagine that you are on a road. You are driving on the road to English fluency.

What kind of car would you want? Let's say all you have to drive is an old slow car that often breaks down. In addition, you fill this old car with cheap gasoline. What kind of trip will you have? How fast will you go on this road to fluency? Most likely, your trip will be slow and frustrating, with frequent breakdowns. In fact, you probably will not reach your destination.

Now, you could put some high-quality gas in that old car, but even then it will likely take you a long time to reach your destination. Better gas will help a little, but the trip is still likely to be slow and frustrating.

Now imagine instead that you'll be driving a Formula 1 racing car on this road to fluency. This car is made for speed and performance. Clearly, it will go faster than the old, slow car. But what if you fill it up with cheap, low-quality fuel? There will likely be problems. Racing cars need racing fuel or they will not perform well.

Obviously, the best situation would be to put high-quality racing fuel into your Formula 1 racing car! With this car and this fuel, your trip on the road to fluency will be fast and exciting.

This is how learning English works. If you've been studying for a while, you know by now that there are all sorts of systems. Traditional classes at universities.

Private lessons from language schools. Online or packaged software courses. Immersion programs that put you in the country where they speak the language you're studying. In other words, you've got a lot of different cars to choose from. Some may be better than others, some may be faster. But even the greatest of these methods, the Ferrari of language teaching, if you will, need fuel to make it work.

A method, after all, is only an engine. And if you don't give an engine the proper fuel, even a great one won't work the way you'd like it to. To succeed, you need both quality fuel and a powerful engine.

The right engine + the right fuel = success

Obviously, I believe the right engine would be the Effortless English system. What is the fuel? The fuel is your psychology. It is the beliefs, emotions, and goals that power your learning. Your fuel is your motivation, your confidence, your energy, your enthusiasm.

Your Fuel: Success Psychology

If your psychology is weak, even the best method will fail. In other words, if you have connected stress, fear, nervousness, and doubt to the process of speaking English you will have a lot of problems. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens in most schools. The tests, the error corrections, and the boring and ineffective methods used in schools combine to create powerful negative emotions in most students.

Even if you're using my Effortless English method, you must have strong psychology. Unless you bring the proper emotional energy to the language-learning process, it won't be enough.

The Effortless English system is based upon a success psychology system known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP. Developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, NLP is focused on the psychology of success, high-performance, and motivation. Rather than study mentally ill people, Bandler and Grinder researched the psychology of the most successful people in the world. They then created a psychological system designed to help individuals achieve the highest levels of success and happiness in their lives.

What Bandler and Grinder found was that happy, motivated, and energetic people actually learn better. They perform better. They achieve more success in all aspects of their lives. The opposite is also true: If you're feeling bored, stressed, sad, frustrated, or even tired, your brain actually functions more slowly and has a harder time remembering information.

Clearly, it is important to connect positive, rather than negative, emotions to the process of learning and speaking English. The process of connecting emotions to experience or process is called anchoring. Anchoring can be positive or negative. For example, imagine that you listen to a specific song when you are feeling extremely happy. If the emotion is strong enough, a connection will be formed between the song and the emotion. And if you are feeling very happy when you hear the song again, that connection will become stronger.

Eventually, you will create a very strong connection between the song and the feeling of happiness. At that point, anytime you hear the song you will automatically find yourself feeling happy. That's what happens with your favorite songs and that's great!

However, this process also works with negative emotions. Imagine that you have a stressful experience in the English class. Maybe the teacher corrects one of your errors when you are speaking and you feel embarrassed. Now imagine that you continue to have a series of negative emotional experiences in English classes. You frequently feel bored, nervous, and stressed while learning and using English.

Eventually, a strong connection forms between English and negative emotions. This is a negative anchor. Once this is formed, whenever you try to use English you will automatically begin to feel more nervous and stressed. This is why many "advanced" English learners still have so much trouble when trying to speak.

Sadly, most learners now have powerful negative anchors connected to their English speaking. The good news is that negative anchors can be broken and reprogrammed. This, in fact, is your first step towards speaking English powerfully.

Instead of feeling nervous, imagine if you suddenly and automatically felt powerful every time you spoke English? What if you automatically felt more excited every time you learned English? This change alone would improve your speaking.

Through the power of anchoring, you can indeed connect these powerful emotions to English. The secret to breaking a negative anchor and creating a new positive one is intensity. The more powerful emotion is felt (while using English), the faster and deeper the connection.

So, to create a strong positive anchor for English requires a few steps.

First, you must create a very intense positive emotion. Most people believe that emotions are something that happens to them, but in fact, we create our emotions. It is possible to choose your emotions and to create them consciously.

For example, if you wished to feel tired and sad right now, what would you do?

Let's start with your body. How would you use your body to create a tired and sad feeling? Would you pull your shoulders back, or hunch them forward? Would you look up or down? Would you smile or frown? In fact, by simply changing your body you would change your feelings.

To make yourself feel even worse, you would think about sad and negative things. Perhaps you would think about a big problem you have or about a big regret. And what about your voice? You could moan, cry, or whine, and that would make you feel even worse.

After doing all of the above for a few minutes, you would genuinely begin to feel sadder and more tired. This is how you consciously can create a negative emotion.

Of course, this process works for positive emotions too, and that is good news! How would you make yourself feel more excited right now? Again, start with the body. Pull your shoulders back and push your chest up and out. Bring your head up and look straight ahead. Put a big smile on your face and hold it.

Next, change your thoughts. Think about something great in your life. Think about the biggest success you have ever had. Think about your future success speaking English powerfully. Smile bigger. First, you are just pretending, but eventually, you will feel stronger and happier. That's because your emotions change when your body changes. It's a simple technique.

Of course, you can feel even better by using your body even more. Instead of just standing and smiling, raise your arms over your head. Then jump in the air like you are celebrating a big victory. And use your voice. Shout and cheer loudly as you jump and smile and think of wonderful things. Go crazy! This is called a "peak emotional state," an intensely powerful positive emotion.

The final step, of course, is to connect this great feeling to English. So, still feeling great, immediately start listening to easy English audio. As you are listening, continue to smile and move your body in a strong, positive way.

Each day, just before you begin learning English, you will create this peak emotion. As you repeat this process every day, these strong, positive feelings will become connected to English. Eventually, every time you hear or use English you will automatically feel energized, positive, and excited. You have broken the old negative anchor and replaced it with a new positive one.

And there is more good news. Research has shown that people who are excited and energized while learning actually learn more quickly. They remember more and they remember longer. They perform better. In fact, you will speak English better right now simply by being in a peak emotional state. Creating this positive anchor to English, therefore, is your first step to faster travel on the road to fluency.

:: Why Happy Students Learn More

Dr. Stephen Krashen, a linguist at the University of Southern California and one of the top researchers on second language learning, believes negative emotions act as a filter, reducing the amount of new language input you're able to learn. As a result, students who feel bad, anxious, or worried remember less vocabulary and don't speak as well. Essentially, they learn more slowly.

The best way to counter this, Krashen says, is by keeping students interested, reducing stress in classrooms, and boosting learners' self-confidence.

In one study, researchers found that when they compared the performance of students who were energized and enjoying themselves in class with the performance of students who were just being drilled in material, the energized students did better. The same was true when they tested these students again at three months and later at six months.

I see the same thing in our Effortless English Club community. When you look at our most successful members, you'll find a common factor. They are all extremely enthusiastic. They have a lot of energy. They're very, very positive. They have very strong positive emotions. When you use peak emotions you can speak better – right now.

Therefore, each and every time you study English, create a peak emotional state. Change your body and your mental focus in order to create excitement and positive energy. Build a strong anchor, a strong connection, between English and your most positive emotions. Heal your English trauma.

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:: AJ Hoge teacher





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