Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Why You Must Become an "Entrepreneurial" English Learner

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 @ 07:06 AM

entrepreneurial language learnerThere is one main difference between students who reach their English goals and those who do not.

Want to know what it is?

The difference is that the successful students approach English learning the way that an entrepreneur approaches creating a business.They are entrepreneurial English learners!

How is an entrepreneurial English learner different from other learners and why should you learn this way? The entrepreneurial English learner is unreasonable, willing to take risks and ready to change strategies at any moment. He learns English actively and with a sense of urgency.

How can you cultivate these qualities and reach new levels with your English? Read today's article to find out!


Please share this post on Facebook!

8 Ways to Become an Entrepreneurial English Learner



1) Be unreasonable


photo of Steve JobsDo you have an iPhone on your desk right now or in your bag? Are you working on a Macintosh computer?

Apple transformed the way we think about technology and won the hearts of millions of consumers. Steve Jobs was the reason for this and he did it by being UNREASONABLE.

He wanted perfection in his products. He wanted beauty. Developers called Steve's vision for the iPhone unrealistic. That's exactly why it became a reality.

Steve Jobs was unreasonable in his expectations of himself and his colleagues. He set goals that most normal people would dismiss as ridiculous. When people told him something couldn't be done he got quiet, looked at them and told them to find a way.

You need to be unreasonable when it comes to learning English. That means setting goals that seem out of reach, asking questions in class even if you are afraid of looking stupid, practicing whenever the opportunity comes up- like on the train with an old lady or in line at Starbucks- even if it isn't the way you think learning should happen. Just as Steve Jobs had unreasonable expectations for the people around him, you need to create an English-only living situation where you place the unreasonable expectation on your roommates or your neighbors to only speak English. If they don't like it, maybe you need new roommates!

Does all of this seem a little uncomfortable? Great! That means you are on the right track. Nothing great was ever achieved without discomfort.


2) Learn with a sense of urgency

time urgency  learning EnglishThe entrepreneur knows that her competitors are right on her heels. They are ready to overtake her if she relaxes even for a moment.

She runs from meetings with potential clients to networking events. She is up at 6 a.m. and at her desk until 2 a.m. For the entrepreneur, time is scarce. She hustles. There is pain and struggle but success is more important. Time is everything. She maximizes every idle moment.

You must learn English with a sense of urgency and intensity. It is counterintuitive but it's true. The student who relocates to the United States for a short, two month trip and studies English intensely with a sense of urgency will reach a higher level of English than a student who stays in the U.S for a few years and studies English casually, always thinking that he has "all the time in the world."

I learned this simple fact in college. The less time I had to reach a goal, the faster I achieved that goal. You must set short term goals, create accountability, reward yourself when you achieve your goals and learn to work against the clock! It's the only way to get it done!


3) Be selective about who you spend time with:


coffee houseThe entrepreneurial path can be a lonely one.

When the entrepreneur's friends are out on a Friday evening, he is often in his office, fixing his website or preparing for the launch of his next product. He isolates himself because he knows that not everyone around him understands his goal. His friends mean well when they invite him out but they do not look at the world in the same way. They collect a paycheck every week and leave their work at the office.

The entrepreneur often chooses to spend time with other entrepreneurs at networking events or brainstorming ideas over coffee. He is looking to do something HUGE in life and he must surround himself with others who are on a similar path. He needs inspiration, motivation and support.

One of the more "entrepreneurial" English learners that I know recently told me that she showed up a party in the U.S., took a few sips of her drink and then realized that everyone at the party spoke her native language. Did she join them and take a break from English for the evening? NO! She left the party. She was not there to speak her native language, she was there to speak English. This decision to leave took real dedication and belief in a dream of becoming better in English.

But it doesn't have to be lonely all the time. The good news is you don't need to isolate yourself completely. You just need to get really picky about who you spend your time with. The people that you choose to join your social circle must understand that English fluency is your goal. They must be willing to speak English with you or to encourage you to keep pushing for your goal.


4) Be a builder:

english learner buildersAsk an entrepreneur why she does what she does and she will often tell you that it is the process of creating or building something from the ground up that inspires her.

It is less about the end goal and more about the tiny successes that she achieves each day. She is the tortoise, not the hare.

Set a goal to build fluency gradually, not to become fluent overnight. This is easy to say but not everyone does it. In today's "i-world", we expect instant gratification but learning doesn't work that way. These days you can find any language learning program, game, exchange partner or method online and most of them are free. However, this isn't enough. 

Until someone invents an application where we can program our brains to speak a new language without studying, you need to take the old-fashioned route by doing it slowly and steadily, with incredible patience, diligence and dedication. There's no way around this one!

Sadly, very few students are willing to do this. That is why many people aren't happy with their English progress even after studying for years and years.

You can't get English fluency the way you can get a Big Mac at the drive-through so start building your fluency like an entrepreneur builds her business.


Enjoying this post so far? Please tweet it to share with your friends and colleagues


5) Be willing to look like a fool:


look like a fool, take chances, clown "The world is round", said Christopher Columbus. Haha what a funny idea that was!

The first man who carried an umbrella in England frightened women and had stones thrown at him.

When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, people said it was silly because they already had messenger boys.

Entrepreneurs stick their necks out. They try new things. They take risks. They are weird. They are often obsessed with their idea. They have a vision. As a consequence, they get laughed at! But that is why they eventually become successful.

As an English learner, you have to remember this: no risk, no reward. It's that simple. There is no room for pride when you learn a language. Leave it at the door. Let people laugh at you. Even better, learn to laugh at yourself.

While I was learning Spanish in Latin America, I got laughed at more times than I can remember. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, like an outsider, not sure how to respond to a joke and not able to keep up with the conversation. But I kept working. I kept listening to those conversations and tried to jump in when I could. Then one day, after months of being laughed at, I went to a dinner party with a bunch of Argentines and a few Americans and I realized that my Spanish was better than most of the Americans. It was much better.  You need to learn to deal with fear, take risks, and push yourself. So go ahead, make mistakes and look like an idiot! What's the worst that can happen?


6) If something isn't working change methods quickly:

change methods of English learning if it doesn't work, arrow in yellow

An entrepreneur writes a business plan, creates a product or service, selects a target market and starts making sales. What happens when she realizes that she is using the wrong strategies and tactics? She pivots. She changes her strategy and tries something new very quickly before losing time and money.

Some people work with an English tutor and that is exactly what they need. Others do well in a large group class and some can learn by themselves through language exchanges and online learning materials.

I am not going to tell you that one method is better than another. It depends on you and your learning style. The point is, you need to collect data and measure results.  Figure out which methods are working and which aren't and be willing to make a change. Challenge your cultural assumption that traditional classroom learning is the only way to study a language. If it doesn't work for you leave it behind and move on. There is always a better way.


7) Be a go-getter:


runner in orangeThe entrepreneur doesn't wait for an opportunity to fall in his lap. He goes out and finds it. When someone says it can't be done, he finds a way to make it work. He thinks differently. He lives his life with energy. He ends his days exhausted but fulfilled.

When you attend your English class, how do you sit in your chair?

Do you lean back and let the teacher deliver the information to you or do you sit forward, asking questions, trying to catch the right pronunciation and asking your teacher to repeat a new phrase?

The way you sit in class is your approach to language learning. How's it working? If it's not doing much for you, change. Try learning actively, not passively. Take personal responsibility for your learning. Investigate the English language and American culture in every way that you can. Do more than your classmates. Desire more. Expect more and go get it.



8) Say it even if you don't believe it yet


lightbulb in the snowEntrepreneurs know that there is a difference between saying, "I have a business" and "I'm trying to build a business." It presents a different image to others which eventually gets the business owner thinking differently about himself and what he is capable of.

When people ask you if you speak English, how do you respond?

Do you say, "My English isn't very good but I am learning" or do you say, "Yes, I do speak English and I am continuing to work hard at it." There is a subtle but important difference here. If you apply for an internship or a job in English, don't lie about your skills but don't downplay them either. Don't sell yourself short! If you want to achieve any goal in life, you need to envision that you are already there. Sometimes when others have higher expectations of us, we learn to fit those expectations. So say that you speak English and believe it.


Ready for a challenge?

Your job is to take at least two of these tips and implement them into your English learning strategy this week. Give it a try and see how it works! Drop us an email and let us know! We would love to hear about your experience.


Speak English with Confidence NOW



Photo credits: aneomeprojectors, nhuisman,    OliYoung, left-hand, Phillie Casablanca,   Michael of Scott,    cmiked philozopher

Topics: Advice for English Students, How to Learn English

Speak with Confidence

practice English now with native English speakers

Monthly Newsletter


English Podcast


American English conversation listening podcast

Nominated Top 100

Top 100 Language Lovers 2012

1. Top Language Lovers   Top 100 Final

Business English


Subscribe to this Blog

Free Trial Lesson



"Every day I read the English and Culture blog and I love it."

-Student of English and Culture

Connect with Us

Free Practice Guide


Latest Posts

Resources for You


Student Testimonial

business English student Boston

"My classes with English and Culture have been awesome. I have been taking the classes for almost two months, twice a week and I am really happy about my improvement. Now I feel more comfortable and secure when speaking English and more fluent, too."

-Elkin, Colombia