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How English Learners Can Silence the "Inner Critic"

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:49 AM

inner critic for learning English in BostonHow can English learners become fluent and enjoy the process of learning English?

I have worked with a lot of English language learners in Boston and different parts of the world. I have realized that one of the biggest barriers to English improvement that learners face is themselves.

Everyone reading this post knows exactly what I am talking about. Even if you have never taken the time to think about it, you know what it feels like to hear the inner voice of criticism. Sometimes it feels like a bird is sitting on your shoulder, criticizing everything you do.

The voice can be present in every aspect of life, but when you are learning English, the voice holds you back from taking risks and starting conversations with native English speakers. It also tightens up your mind and blocks the creativity that is vital to expressing yourself in a new language.

In other words, "the inner critic" is a big obstacle for English learners. The good news is, it doesn't have to be an obstacle. In today's post, I will tell you how to redefine success and failure for your language study and silence the inner critic, or at least make it quiet down!


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Shift your Thinking | Redefine Success and Failure:


Your New Definition of Success:

  •  English learners BostonSuccess for English learners is making mistakes because that means you are growing and learning. Repeat that idea to yourself when you are out practicing English.
  • Success is constant practice. Speaking consistently is the most important thing you can do to improve your English. If you do that, you are successful.
  • Success is putting yourself into an uncomfortable situation (language learning opportunity) every day. Strike up a conversation with your coffee barista, arrange a language exchange, have dinner with your native English speaking roommate or neighbor.
  • Success is learning from a place of interest and curiosity. Learning a language is a creative process. Your mind needs to be open and if you are thinking about the score that you need to achieve on the TOEFL exam or the job that you need to get back in your home country with your English, you will not be successful. Get curious about English. Learn English because you enjoy learning, not because you have to learn to get somewhere or be someone.



Your New Definition of Failure:


  • Failure is not challenging yourself and only speaking your native language most of the day. Remember, attending an English class or working with a private tutor for two or three hours per day could help your improvement. But if you leave your class and only speak your native language the rest of the day you will get nowhere and you will waste a lot of money! Create an English environment and build your English speaking network
  • Failure is making excuses that you don't have enough vocabulary words, the right grammar points or enough time to speak or learn English.
  • Failure is focusing on your mistakes too much. When you speak English with a native speaker, that person wants you to be successful. Your inner critic has the ability to paralyze you as it points out every mistake you make during the conversation. Probably to the extent that you don't even hear what the other person is saying. In reality, you can silence the inner critic by focusing on the fact that you maintained a conversation with a native speaker and he or she basically understood what you had to say. Forget about the small grammar and pronunciation mistakes and just speak!



Ready to silence your inner critic? Now you have the tools and ways of thinking that will help you to really move forward as as English learner. What other ideas have you used to overcome your English learning challenges? Please share your comment below!



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Credit: The topic of the "inner critic" was inspired by a Wednesday evening talk by Ron Denhart at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center.
photo credit: ohhector

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