I would like to improve my English. Can you help me?
This the most common request I deal with. And it’s far from being obvious. Here are some questions that I recommend answering for yourself before addressing the specialist.
1. Is it the right time to work on my English skills?
The first reaction might be that it’s never the right time but we should do it anyway. Still, my idea is that language learning as any other activity requires lots of your resources like time and money, and, as you know if you don’t use it you lose it. So if there isn’t any short term meaningful goal for you, it’s better to introduce some regular small habits regarding language usage and leave regular classes till you really need them.
2. Do I really need to boost my English?
The idea that you’re not enough and your English knowledge isn’t enough looks like part of our mentality. Even though there is always an area for improvement, sometimes we have to admit that we are operating on a level that is more than enough in our situation and put our need for improvement on ‘not urgent, not important’ to-do list. If you are not sure where you stand in terms of English skills ask a communication consultant to evaluate your level, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and then make a final decision.
3. What exactly do I need to improve?
One of the top stories I hear sounds like this: “I can’t push forward my ideas at work and no one listens to my opinion, so I decided that I need to revise some grammar”. I recognize the importance of grammar knowledge in communication and wouldn’t recommend that you never check the rules. However, we should remember that, first of all, grammar is about knowledge not about skills and secondly, to sell your ideas you should practice selling your ideas and address rules only if it prevents you from succeeding in your goal. It leads to my next question.
4. What outcomes do I expect?
Before starting training, narrow down your expectations. Take a piece of paper and write down your ideal outcomes. Imagine the end of your language coaching and finish the sentence ‘Now I can…. so it helps me to…” For example, ‘Now I can express my opinion on job-related topics in full sentences without long pauses so I can share my ideas confidently during the meeting’. The more specific you get the better result you will achieve. Together with a communication consultant, you can break your wish to be like a native speaker into more achievable and practical steps.
5. How much time can I invest in language learning?
You should be realistic about your current schedule and the possibility to put extra workload into it. Most of us have a habit to study under pressure but what worked for us as students before an exam, may not work in adult life. If tasks take too much time and interfere with your regular life balance you are in danger to lose motivation without achieving your goals. Therefore, it’s better to set twice longer time limits for yourself but get there than make it a short distance sprint and never make it to the finish.