If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel you have probably noticed that I started an interview series. The first two interviews were with educators who shared advice about teaching ESL online. However, this third interview was intended for students, but I believe anyone will find value in it.
I reached out to a new friend of mine named Carl Paoli and I asked him to share advice about language learning and the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual. Most people know Carl as a coach, gymnast, and movement influencer. However, after following him for some time on social media, I learned that he is also trilingual in Swedish, Spanish and English.
After watching our interview several times myself, I learned that Carl’s advice and experiences are beneficial not just to language learners, but also to teachers, and the world at large. He offers wisdom in practical ways that everyone can easily apply, whether to language learning or any type of long-term goal.
I hope you take away just as much as I did, which is why I am writing this blog. I have condensed his tips into three major areas so that you can apply them to your language learning journey. I offer suggestions about how to apply the tips that he gave. Be sure to watch the interview if you haven’t already so you can get an in depth look at what he advises.
The Learning Process
Practice, Train It, Apply It
This is something Carl has used as a coach, but he suggests it for language learners, too.
Here is how you can use it:
Choose a word or grammar point.
Practice it by saying it and by learning the definition or the grammar rule.
Train it by saying it aloud and using it in sentences when you write.
Apply it by using it when you are speaking with people.
Your Learning Environment
Practice in a Safe Place
Carl talked about speaking to himself in English while riding on his “janky motorcycle” (poor quality) in Spain before he moved to the United States. He had many fears about how English would affect him upon his arrival. That’s why he took steps to practice by himself and then later with animals and kids.
Think about the a place where you can practice and feel comfortable at the same time. After practicing in that space for awhile and building confidence, take steps to practice somewhere new. Slowly challenge yourself until you are comfortable speaking anywhere and with anyone.
Practice with People Who Support You
Support is an integral part of attaining any goal. You need support not only for practicing speaking, but also for encouragement, venting (sharing frustrations), and accountability. You will be more comfortable speaking with people who support your goal. See if your supporters can also help to hold you accountable.
Ways to Practice
Carl spoke about how gymnastics and language learning turned him into an imitator of sorts. He was able to read body language and tone more closely. He was able to imitate accents and therefore sound like a native speaker.
Sounding like a native speaker can be very difficult for some, especially if your native tongue has different origins than your target language. However, by imitating tone and pronunciation you can improve or sound more native-like.
Do Something Different
Sometimes we find ourselves in the same routine. That’s why we need to shake things up (make changes) and do something different once in awhile.
Choose one way that you regularly practice your target language, then tweak it (make a minor change) a little. For example, if you practice often by listening to a podcast, tweak it by watching a movie instead.
Don’t forget your brain is like a muscle, it needs to be challenged in new ways in order for growth to occur. If you are constantly practicing the same way and it’s too easy for you, then you will remain at the same level. So get out there and do something different!
Make It Fun
Sometimes we start to get bored, discouraged, or overwhelmed with long-term goals, but if we find a way to make it fun we are more likely to practice often.
When practicing any language, incorporate it with something you love to do like listening to music, playing games, sports, or watching movies. You could even do a social hour with friends where only your target language is spoken.
Holding Yourself Accountable
With a long-term goal like language learning be sure to hold yourself accountable and don’t use your frustrations or obstacles as an excuse to give up.
Notice your struggles and your strengths. Use them to your advantage by understanding how you learn, where you need to improve, and what you can do to grow.
Use your support system to help keep you accountable. Make dates with people to practice.
When the process gets difficult, Carl reminds us that we are not alone. Everyone out there struggles in some capacity, but “that’s not an excuse to give up.”