Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Who's Helping You on Your Path to English Fluency? Say Thanks!

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 @ 10:38 AM

thank you English learnersThursday is Thanksgiving Day.

As you probably already know, Thanksgiving is a chance for Americans to get together with family and friends and take some time to appreciate what they have in their lives.

Even if you don't plan to sit down to a big turkey dinner on Thursday, I would like to suggest a way that you can celebrate Thanksgiving by recognizing five people in your life who have or are currently helping you on your path to English fluency.

Who are they and what have they done to help? How could you thank them?

In today's post, I will offer a few ideas to get you started. Check it out!


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Help comes in unexpected ways

 everyone around you is your teacherRemember, in addition to the people who immediately come to your mind as your helpers, help can also come in unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable ways.

Did someone point out a mistake that you didn't know you were making? Maybe it felt like an attack, especially if you are self-conscious about making mistakes.

You might work very hard to avoid these inevitable moments of discomfort as a language learner, but you shouldn't.

When this happened, you felt uncomfortable for a moment but what happened afer that? You never made that mistake again, right? Who was more helpful, the person who pointed out your mistake and made you uncomfortable for a moment or the friends who never told you that you were making that mistake because they didn't want to offend you?

If you want to reach English fluency, you should be spending more time with the people who aren't afraid to tell you that you are making a mistake. They are the ones who are really helping you. They are the ones you should be thankful for.



Identify your helpers and say thanks

Who has helped you on your journey to English fluency? Make your own list and use these ideas to get you started:

 mom1) Your mother: Mom and the rest of the family are usually the ones you can count on to be behind you 100%. Even if they are still back in your home country, they are the ones who might ask how you're doing with your English and actually wait to listen for the answer when others wouldn't wait for the answer. Say thanks to your family today!


2) Your neighbor: You know, that guy who lives next door. You see him every day in the hall, maybe you know his name and a few things about him. You wouldn't really call him your friend but you two usually have at least a few minutes of small talk every couple of days when you bump into each other. That daily practice has helped you to become more confident in English. He deserves a thanks.


3) Your partner: If you and your partner have moved to the U.S. together, perhaps with your family, maybe you have decided to speak only English at home on certain days or at certain times. If you have done this, then your partner is helping you. Say thanks and try dedicating even more time to speaking only English at home. Your partner also supported you in the decision to move to the U.S. This wasn't an easy decision and you will grow immensely because of it.


kids making you accountable to your English goals

4) Your kids: You are probably shocked by how quickly your child has become fluent in English. Some adult English learners find it very humbling when their kids pick up English much faster than they do. 

Every day you watch with awe as your kids speak without inhibition in English with anyone they encounter.

Your are learning a lot from your kids. You are not only learning vocabulary and grammar, but I also hope that you are learning to relax around the language and treat learning more like a game than a serious business. Your kids are also holding you accountable for improving. You need to be able to speak with their teacher at school or the other parents. You have a lot at stake when it comes to your English and your kids are your best motivators.


5) Your language exchange partner: What would you do without your weekly language exchange? This is the time when you get to practice everything that you have learned with your teacher and ask questions about expressions that you heard out on the street or at work. Your language exchange partner has a goal to learn your native language, but at the same time he is helping you become fluent in English. He deserves a high-five and a thanks.


women with dogs6) Your dog: Can your dog talk? No, you aren't learning grammar from your dog. However, if you live in a place like New York or Boston, where people are known to be a bit cold and unapproachable at times (that's a stereotype, I know), then your dog is doing more for you than you might realize. He is the ultimate connector!

Out on your daily walks, you have chatted with other dog walkers because your dog is social. He is always meeting other dogs, which means you are always meeting other (English speaking) dog owners.

 Give your dog a bone and say thanks!


7) The cashier at your bank: One of the daily tasks that you have had to face while living in a new country is speaking with the bank teller. It has been intimidating at times, but now that you have learned the right vocabulary and you have numbers in English straight in your mind, you feel more confident at the bank teller's window.

He or she has offered a kind smile and a hello every time you have gone in. This has made your life in your new country a little bit easier. Say thank you.


coffee barista, practice English8) The barista at your neighborhood cafe: The first day you walked into that cafe that you found around the corner from your apartment, you were scared. You were experiencing your usual caffeine craving, but you weren't even sure how to order a coffee in English.

You decided to walk through the door and give it a try. You stumbled with your pronunciation. You said "uhh" and "umm" about ten times between each word, but with the barista's patience, kind smile, and enormous gestures, you were able to understand each other. Occasionally you have even engaged in conversation with the barista, now that you have become more confident with your abillity to order your daily coffee.

Tell him thanks for the patience, especially in such a busy cafe.


9) Your colleagues: Your colleagues may have watched you stumble while pronouncing your "R's" and "L's" or your "B's" and "V's" and they definitely put their heads in their hands when you messed up the wording of the conclusion for your section of the presentation, but for the most part, they are behind you. You work in a team and they have offered you the best opportunities to learn through English immersion since you arrived in the U.S.

Just being present for the everyday office gossip or the discussion about politics at lunch has made you a more confident English speaker, on your way to fluency.


 female boss10) Your boss: Your boss holds high expectations for you and your English. For that reason, she may be offering financial support for you to work with an English trainer.

That's great.

In addition to that, she is pushing you in a way that your colleagues aren't. You know that you need to lead the weekly staff meetings once per month so you put in extra work to prepare for it and to make sure that you know the right English phrases to use at the right time. You need to produce results at work and your ability to speak English has an impact on your success.  You are growing as a person and as a language learner because of the pressure you might be feeling from your boss. It's actually a good thing to be pushed to perform.


11) Your roommate: The home is the best place to practice your English fluency and your roommate might be a native English speaker or another international professional or an international student who is also learning English, but if you are practicing English at home with your roommate, he or she is helping you on your path to English fluency by creating an English-speaking environment at home.

Say thanks and then sit down with him or her to see how you can get even more English into your daily interactions in 2013. Could you host a house party or dinner party every month and invite native English speaking friends?


To round out this list, think of anyone who has ever taken a few extra minutes to be kind to you or to carry on a conversation even though they saw that you were struggling. They could have moved on to the next person at that networking cocktail party but they stood there and had patience for you as you tried to express yourself.

These people are playing small and large roles on your path to English fluency so take the time to say thank you to them. Let's be thankful for the people in our lives! Happy Thanksgiving!


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Photo credit: Lulemon athleticaAmber B McN, photoloni, Chris. P, dsifry, BTO Educational

Topics: Advice for English Students, Life in Boston, Life in New York

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