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Chapter 05: English Is A Physical Sport


One of the greatest errors of the hidden curriculum is that schools teach English as an academic subject. In school, you study English. You learn about English. You analyze the parts of the language (grammar, vocabulary, etc.). You take tests about this knowledge.

The problem is, English is not a subject to be studied. English is a skill to be performed or "played." Speaking is something you do, not something you analyze and think about. Perhaps you can see the problem.

Real English conversations are very fast and they are unpredictable. The other person speaks quickly and you never know exactly what they will say. You must be able to listen, understand, and respond almost instantly. There simply is no time to think about grammar, translations, or anything else you learned in English class.

English conversation is more like playing soccer (football). A soccer player must act and react almost instantly. The player must play the game intuitively. Soccer players do not study physics formulas in order to play well. They learn by doing. They "play" soccer, they don't "study" it.

Studying grammar rules to speak English is much like a soccer player studying physics to play soccer. It might be interesting (or not!), but it certainly won't help performance. Your job, therefore, is to stop "studying" English and start "playing" it!

Remember that your fuel is an important part, perhaps the most important part, of your Effortless English engine. Learning to play English, rather than study it, is a powerful way to develop strong psychology and go much faster on the road to fluency.

When we first discussed fuel, we learned how to use our bodies to change our emotions. It turns out the body is, in fact, a very important (and neglected) key to learning English. By using physical actions while learning, it is possible to learn faster, remember more, remember longer, and speak better.

Dr. James Asher, a psychologist and professor emeritus at San José State University, found that using physical actions in language class actually helps students learn vocabulary better. Dr. Asher became curious about the link between language and movement after watching how young children learned to speak. He noticed that when parents said something, their children typically would respond with a word and some sort of action. He also noticed that parents frequently used actions and gestures while speaking to their babies.

Based on his research and observations, Asher developed the Total Physical Response system of language teaching in which students respond to teacher commands in the new language with whole-body actions. These actions strengthen the meaning of the phrase and make it easier to remember. Dr. Asher believes that students can learn 12 to 36 words in an hour using this method. I've had similar success using a version of it in my lessons and seminars.

Of course, this is the complete opposite of what happens in most English classes. In school, you are told to sit still in your chair. You sit for an hour or more. Naturally, the longer you sit, the more your energy drops. As your energy drops, your concentration drops, too. And as your concentration drops, you learn less and forget more. Of course, this lower energy frequently leads to feelings of boredom. Less movement, less energy, lower concentration, and boredom naturally produce worse results, no matter what the method is, and so we have another downward spiral.

While everyone benefits from physical learning, some people absolutely need it. These people are called "kinesthetic learners." They learn best when they connect learning to physical movement. This kind of learner tends to struggle in traditional classrooms, where they are required to sit motionless for hours. Schools and teachers often label these people as being "learning disabled" or as having "attention deficit disorder."

The problem, however, is not that "kinesthetic learners" are disabled. Rather, the problem is a teaching disability — the failure of schools to teach active learners in an effective way.

My Effortless English seminars and classes are quite different. Many have described them as "English rock concerts." In an Effortless English seminar, we frequently jump, dance, shout, laugh, and move. In fact, it is rare for learners to sit for more than 15 minutes in one of my seminars. I want them to move. I want them energized. Because I know that active and energized people learn faster, learn more, remember longer, and perform better!

Remember, English is a performance skill, not a subject you study. The more you use your body while learning, the more success you will achieve. One way to use movement while learning English is to use the Action Vocabulary method. In this method, you connect a unique physical movement to a new vocabulary word. You shout the word (or phrase) and perform the movement. The movement should remind you of the meaning of the word.

By doing this repeatedly, you connect the word, its meaning, and the unique physical action. This combination creates a stronger and deeper memory, resulting in faster and deeper vocabulary learning. This is far more effective than simply trying to memorize long lists of words.

Another simple way to use your body is to walk while learning English. With a smartphone, you can make your learning mobile! Instead of sitting on your butt, slowly losing energy, put on your headphones and go for a walk while listening to English. As you walk, your heart will pump and your brain will get more blood. You'll feel more energy and thus you will concentrate better. You'll probably enjoy learning more, too.

There is no reason to be limited by old school methods. You do not need to sit motionless in a chair while you learn. You do not need to remain silent. You do not need to be bored and tired. As an independent learner, you are free to learn in a way that is most effective and most enjoyable for you. You are the master of your own learning. Enjoy it!

Remember the peak emotion exercise you learned? This is another excellent way to use your body while learning English. Take a short "energy break." Play your favorite energetic music. Jump, shout, smile, cheer, and dance for a couple of minutes. Fully energize your body and create peak emotions. Then continue learning English. Take this energy breaks every 20-30 minutes every time you learn English. I guarantee you will get better results.

Watch children when they are playing. They are happy, energetic, and active. Children learn best while playing. They bring an attitude of play to everything they do. Small children don't need much effort or discipline. They are energized by curiosity. They learn actively. They learn by playing and play while learning.

It is time for you to rediscover these natural qualities. As an adult, you still learn best in this way. You, too, benefit from being active and energized while learning. You, too, benefit from physical movement and an attitude of play. As you use the techniques and methods in this book, always do so with a fun and playful attitude!

There are two major parts to the Effortless English system: the psychology and the method. You know that psychology is the fuel that makes the engine go. You must develop that fuel to create higher and higher energy for learning. You have learned how to use peak emotion anchoring, beliefs, and physical movement to create that fuel. You have learned the importance of an active, playful attitude.

In the next chapter, you will learn another psychological technique for creating the most powerful fuel possible for English learning.


So many students waste time trying to memorize English vocabulary. They study long lists of words. They repeat the lists many times, trying to memorize the English words and their translated meanings. Unfortunately, research shows that 80% of vocabulary learned in this way is forgotten in less than a year. That's a lot of wasted time and effort.

There's another problem with this vocabulary learning method — it's boring, and it kills long-term motivation. As a student, you must be very careful— killing your motivation is the worst thing you can do. Learning English is a marathon, it's a long run. It requires high levels of motivation that are sustained for many years.

Using boring vocabulary learning methods, therefore, is doubly bad: it is inefficient and it weakens motivation.

There is a better way, as participants in my breakthrough seminars have found out. It is possible to learn new vocabulary in a way that is far more powerful AND is a lot of fun. When you learn in this way, studies show that you can remember 80% one year later! That's powerful.

The key to deep, powerful, long term vocabulary learning is movement. When you combine strong physical movements with understandable new vocabulary, you create deep connections in your brain and body. These connections are long term. They last! The key is to use a movement that reminds you of the meaning of the vocabulary.

For example, imagine you want to learn the phrase "to proclaim." First, you would find the meaning of the word, which is "to say or announce publicly, often in a loud way." After you know the meaning, you create an action that reminds you of it. You might put your hands to your mouth and pretend you are yelling loudly ("to say publicly and loudly"). Finally, you would shout the phrase "to proclaim" as you did the gesture at the same time.

The more loudly you shout and the more energetically you do the gesture, the stronger the connection you make in your brain. By simply shouting the phrase and doing the movement vigorously several times, you will create a stronger and deeper memory of the meaning.

In a recent seminar I did in Vietnam, I taught a number of new words using this action vocabulary method. The students shouted the new words with me, while simultaneously using the strong actions I showed them. Each action was connected to the meaning of the new word or phrase. By the end of the lesson, they knew those words completely, never to forget them.

But that's not all. Since Effortless English is a deep learning system, I repeated those new words again — this time in a story lesson. Each time I used one of the new words in the story, I asked the students to use the same strong gesture we had practiced. Through the Mini-Story lesson, the students got even more repetition of the vocabulary, with emotion and strong actions.

Finally, I gave the students homework: download the audio of the same Mini-Story lesson, and listen to that audio every day for one week. If students do this, they will learn these new vocabulary words very deeply and will remember them forever. That is the power of the Effortless English system, and that is the power of using physical movement while learning!


  1. Find some exciting, energetic music that you LOVE.
  2. Before you start listening to your English lesson, play music.
  3. As this exciting music plays, raise your head. Look up. Change your body. Pull your shoulders back. Stand tall. Then smile... smile a big smile. Take deep breaths.
  4. Next, move your body. Dance with the music. Keep looking up. Keep smiling. Jump and dance. Lift your arms over your head as you jump and dance and smile. Feel the happiness and energy from the music.
  5. Stop and say loudly, "Yes!" Say it again, "Yes!" One more time, "Yes!"
  6. Now play your English lesson. As you listen, keep your shoulders back. Keep your eyes up. Keep smiling. In fact, stand up and keep moving. Walk and breathe deeply as you listen to the lesson.
  7. When you listen to my Mini-Story lessons, answer each question loudly. Don't be shy. Shout for your answer! Keep your head and eyes up. Keep a big smile on your face as you answer with a loud voice.
  8. If you begin to feel tired or bored at any time, pause the lesson. Play your favorite music again and repeat all of these steps. Add more energy to your body and your emotions. Then play the lesson again.

By managing your emotions in this way, you will study longer, you will remember more, and you will learn 2-4 times faster. You'll also teach yourself to be strong and confident when you speak English.

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