Lesson 1
The key factors to improve your level

I'm going to show you two videos. 

As you are watching video number 1, please, try to answer these two questions:  

  1. What problems do the Spanish speaking people experience when trying to speak English?
  2. What do you think they should do to improve their English?



Let's see video number 2:

As you're watching video number 2, please try to answer these two questions:  

  1. What problems does this young man experience when trying to speak English?
  2. How different is his behaviour compared to the passers-by in the first video?



Now let's see the answers to the questions:

  1. What problems do the Spanish speaking people experience when trying to speak English?

In the first video the problems are:

    a) They do not have enough vocabulary to speak fluently. 
      b)  They do not know how to use the verbs. 


        For example: "You can TO take the underground" or the young lady who says "you are visit Prado".

        In the second video, the problem is not so much fluency as the speaker has a speech prepared and he speaks quite well. 

        As he says himself, he needs to improve his pronunciation.

        It's  important to observe the differences between these two situations.

        The first speakers were caught by surprise. So, they could have been thinking:

        - OOOooh! This is hard, I want to help this woman but I don't know if I can. I should know more English.

        In the second video, instead, the young man seems to be quite confident. 

        He really wants to improve his English, so much that he makes a video on Youtube to look for native speakers to speak on Skype. So, he takes action.

        Who do you think is going to progress the most in the long run?

        Hard to know because we don't know them and we aren't fortune tellers, but from the point of view of their attitude I would say the young man of the second video is going to be an advanced student soon.

        Now, let's answer the second question:

        How can they improve their English?

        1) They can all improve their English by learning more vocabulary, but more importanly by learning how to use the verbs.

        I usually say:

        "Verbs are the bricks of the house, without them you have no house"

        So, the first thing you should do to increase your fluency is to learn well the most common verbs in sentences.

        If you get the verbs right, it's not too important to have a broad vocabulary.

        But how should you learn the verbs?

        I often advise to use a combination of methods because, as they are hard to learn, trying to learn them with only one method, for example, repeating the list of irregular verbs, is never enough.

        In this context, one of the best ways of learning the verbs is by learning them in sentences.


        Because you learn at the same time:

        - The verb tense
        - The sound
        - The structure in which you should use the verb. 

        Let's see some examples. 

        If you are giving directions, like in the first video, you could learn 10 sentences with very common verbs.

        For example:
        1. Puedes coger el autobús aquí. You can take a bus here.
        2. Es el autobús número 52. It's bus number 52. 
        3. Puedes coger el metro.You can take the underground/metro.  
        4. Coge la línea 2 y luego cambia a la 4 en la estación “ABC”.Take line 2 and then change to line 4 at the station “ABC”.
        5. Cuando salgas verás la Puerta de Alcalá. As you go out you'll see Puerta de Alcala. Este un monumento que está al lado del parque del Retiro.This is a monumental gate next to Retiro Park. 
        6. Cuando llegues a la calle “CDE”, debes buscar cartel que dice: “FGH” When you get to the street “CDE”, you have to look for a sign that says "FGH". 
        7. Está a 3 paradas de aquí. It's three stops from here. 
        8. Puedes comer en el restaurante llamado "Los Mondaditos".You can have lunch at a restaurant called "Los Montaditos". 
        9. Se escribe: "Los.....2 y está a la vuelta de la esquina.It's spelled L, O, S. M.O.N.T.A.D.I.T.O.S and it's around the corner. 
        10. Tienen tortilla española, un tipo de omelet con patatas.They have Spanish Tortilla, which is a kind omelette with potatoes. 

        Notice that when you learn all these sentences you'll be learning at the same time: verbs, vocabulary, structures and pronunciation.

        Along the same line, another very useful way to learn the verbs correctly is by listening to graded audiobooks.

        Here you have an example for advanced students:


        Verbs that can be learned with this passage:

          • Could- podría, podía
            • Keep- mantener
              • Was- passive form- Was not asked.
                • Asked- preguntado
                  • Had- Past tense of "have"
                    • Bear- Soportar

                      Sentences that can be learned with this passage:

                        • I could hardly keep- Apenas podía mantener
                          • I was not asked to sample it- No me invitaron a probarla
                            • I had to bear my trouble- Tuve que mantener la compostura.   

                              Structures that can be learned with this passage:
                                • Past tense:  I could- I had to
                                  • Passive voice: I was not asked

                                    Finally you can also learn the sounds and entonation.

                                    See how effective it is.

                                    Important: In order to really learn these sentences you must repeat them aloud many times.

                                    2) Believe it or not,  even more important than learning the verbs or the vocabulary well, is your attitude. 

                                    I'll explain why.  

                                    Suppose you agree with me that it’s a good idea to start learning sentences in English for different situations. 

                                    And you start right away after watching this video, but after a couple of days you get bored and you give up.

                                    The technique of learning sentences will be of no use.
                                    If you really want to become an advanced student you need to have the  attitude of a champion.

                                    And what is the attitude of a champion?

                                    Basically, the attitude of champion is that of a person who does more than the average to get where he or she wants to get.

                                    You have to follow these steps: 

                                      1. You have to visualise your dream
                                        1. Plan your dream
                                          1. Take advantage from adversity
                                            1. Experience pain
                                              1. Develop your ability to communicate
                                                1. Develop the right habits to make your dream come true   

                                                  Let's now check all these steps:

                                                  1. Visualising your dream
                                                  Most people start learning English because of two reasons:

                                                    1. Get a job 
                                                      1. Get more money.

                                                        Being so, it's important that you keep these goals in mind whenever you feel the temptation to stop with the classes.

                                                        Perhaps some of you are thinking, "No, I don't really want more money, I just need a promotion", but sorry to say: most of the time we don't want a promotion to work harder but rather to earn more money. Right?


                                                          2. Plan your dream

                                                            Your dream, as you probably know quite well by now, it's not going to happen just like that.

                                                            You have to plan it.

                                                            Planning means knowing what you're going to do to get your goals.

                                                            In the case of becoming and advanced student means knowing:

                                                            - How many hours per week you are going to dedicate to learning English.
                                                            - Where you are going to learn.
                                                            - Who are you going to learn with.
                                                            - What methods you are going to use.
                                                            - For how long.

                                                            When you start implementing your plan,  it's also essential that you can adapt it to meet different circumstances.

                                                              3. Take advantage from adversity

                                                                Most of the time when you set goals in life you are confronted with adversity. Adversity is just another part of life.

                                                                If it's so then why not try to take advantage of it.

                                                                Believe it or not, adversity makes you learn faster if you take it the right way.

                                                                I'm going to give you an example.

                                                                Suppose you have to give a presentation in English. 

                                                                You think you have prepared it very well and then when the time comes and you are in the middle of the speech you forget an important word.

                                                                You are embarrased, you feel uncomfortable. At that moment, you feel awful, but later when you go over the experience you'll remember the word you forgot very well. 

                                                                So even if your presentation was a total disaster, you have learned some lessons that will be helpful in the future.


                                                                  4. Experience pain

                                                                    Oh, no I'm not telling you to be a masochist. 

                                                                    What you have to learn is that getting to an advanced level of English will be painful, but you'll be able to bear the pain.

                                                                    It's the same as doing exercise. 

                                                                    When you are doing push-ups you experience pain, but the more you do it, the stronger you become.

                                                                    The same idea can be applied to the English language learning process: the more you spend time learning vocabulary and structures, the higher your level is going to be. Perhaps it's uncomfortable but it's necessary.

                                                                      5. Develop your ability to communicate

                                                                        Communication is everything in life. Think about it. You need to communicate to to eat, to find shelter, to get a job, to interact with your family, friends and strangers.

                                                                        Sometimes it can be a big challenge to communicate in your own language, but it's also a matter of practising and seeing what works better.

                                                                        If you pay attention to the way you communicate you'll end up knowing very well what you need to do in order to communicate more effective. If you ignore it, you'll make the same mistake over and over again and feel frustrated.

                                                                        This is also true for English.

                                                                        Let me give you an example.  

                                                                        Suppose you realise early on that your problem with English is not so much the listening, or the vocabulary, but that you're afraid to speak especially in front of your Spanish speaking colleagues who speak better English than you do.

                                                                        What do you do?

                                                                        You start little by little to overcome your fear of speaking. First by practising alone in front of the mirrow, for example. Then imitating somedody you see on TV, then trying to speak to a friend in English, then trying to speak to a native person. 

                                                                        If you consciously follow all these steps, one day you'll find that the fear has gone away.

                                                                        Remember your fear is only insecurity, and insecurity is the result of ignorance. Thereferore, the more you master the English language, the less fear you'll have.


                                                                          6. Develop the right habits to make your dream come true  

                                                                            Learning English is not a hobby, is a serious activity that should take you one or more hours during the day. That's why it's important that you develop the right habits.

                                                                            For example, if you have little time during the day to study, you should wake up earlier and dedicate at least half an hour to listening, even before you start doing anything else. 

                                                                            So plan your day well, and be aware that building habits is just as important as learning vocabulary, or any other skill.

                                                                            Let's summarise

                                                                            1. Attitude is the most important factor to improve your English.
                                                                            2. Once you have the right attitude you can become an advanced student of English mastering the verbs and increasing your vocabulary and your knowledge of structures.
                                                                            3. A very good way to remember vocabulary and structures is by learning sentences in English in a specific context. 
                                                                            4. Another good way to remember vocabulary and structures is to do graded- readings.  Once you have listened to a specific sentence you have to repeat it aloud many times.
                                                                            5. To become an advanced student you must have the attitude of a champion. 


                                                                            Let's do some homework for tomorrow's lesson.

                                                                            What  to do today :

                                                                            Assess your real level of English answering the following questions:

                                                                            1) What are your biggest problems with English?

                                                                            2) What could you do to improve your English?

                                                                            3) Do yo really know the basic English verbs? If not, what could do to learn them?

                                                                            4) What's your plan for starting to improve your English right now? 

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