Stating the obvious…

I just wanted to write a quick post today about something that is or should be, pretty obvious. Maybe not as obvious as it ought to be, but really, if you think about it, it’s just common sense.

I don’t mean to be cryptic but I am talking about how some people can’t see the wood for the trees, their nose in front of their face, to use an idiom or two. What do I mean? Well, I have a couple of things to tell you. First, I was listening to Jack Askew last week, for those of you who don’t know, he is an online entrepreneur who teaches English and coaches teachers how to teach online. Anyway, he was answering questions from wannabe teachers, and they were asking things like “Will this work for me?”, “Can I really make a living from teaching?”, etc. And what he said was, that these people were asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking, will it work for me?, what they should be asking is, “How can I make it work for me?”, “What do I need to do to make it work for me?”.

In other words, how can I make a plan, come up with a strategy, and put that into place to MAKE things work for me? Instead of waiting for fate, luck, or whatever, to magically make things come out ok for me. I thought this was quite insightful, yet really, when I thought about it, it isn’t. It is quite obviously as plain as the nose on your face (idiom alert, see my last post for why I mention this). In other words, many people, myself included, have got themselves into a certain mindset about waiting for things to happen, maybe they will or not, but not seeing ourselves as the agents of our own fortune. This is quite common I imagine, hoping for the best, etc, instead of taking direct action to (see this keyword again) MAKE it happen. Suffice it to say, I have taken this advice to heart.

Anyway, back to the plot. How does this equate to English learners, to IELTS exam takers? To give another example, I was talking to a student this last week about why her IELTS speaking scores were so low. I asked her how much speaking practice she gets a week, and she replied, an hour. As in one whole hour, over a whole week. Well, I didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to solve this particular mystery, and I am sure you can see what the problem was and come up with a solution as well. One hour a week is simply not enough and more practice is needed!….

To put this into context, learning a language is like learning any skill, you have to put in the time and effort. If you want to play piano, drive a car, paint, speak English, then you have to put in the hours required to practice if you want to reach a reasonable level of ability. It’s not magic, not a secret, not rocket science, not really. Now I have written about a similar thing in another post, “How to change your mindset for IELTS success”  and this is merely an extension of this theme. What I mean is that, it is often our mindset that holds us back, again, this is not insightful at all, we all know this to be true even if we have forgotten about it. However, it is often a surprise when someone points this simple fact out to us. To return to the teachers, success doesn’t happen to amble along in your direction, you have to make it work. Again, to the students, an hour a week won’t improve your skills, it might (just) maintain them, but improve them, not really. To give another example from the post I mentioned above “How to change your mindset”, I was talking to a Chinese guy living in Sydney, he was complaining about his poor English speaking ability. When questioned, he told me that he lived with Chinese, his GF was Chinese, he worked in Chinatown, etc. Once again, no need to call for Sherlock Holmes to solve this particular puzzle, I am sure you can see his problem and can think of a solution. Stop speaking Mandarin all day and speak English, and find opportunities to do so. No real surprise there, but when I pointed out this obvious fact it came like a revelation. Although, he already knew what his problem was, he didn’t have the willpower or mindset to make a change and so, nothing changed.

So, to sum up, finally, in anything in life, whether language learning or whatever, you have to have the mindset to succeed. If it takes someone to point it out to you then that is better than never realizing at all. But sometimes really, we are just stating the obvious…..

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