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Episode 12: How To Succeed At Learning English

Episode 12: How to Succeed at Learning English

When it comes to learning English, lots of students make fundamental mistakes.  Listen to this episode of the Business English Community podcast to find out how to make sure you are on the right track.

Here is the full transcript:

How to Succeed at Learning English. Hi there, I’m Paul Urwin and welcome to the Business English Community podcast, where world of business meets the English language. We discuss culture, strategies, techniques, vocabulary, grammar and much, much more. Find out more at

Hi, Paul here, and welcome to Episode 12 of the Business English Community podcast. How are you doing? Well, I hope you’ve had a great week so far. Please tell me what you’ve been up to. Please tell me about any of your questions when it comes to learning English and I’d love to hear more about you and about your location, your country, your city. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.

You can contact me, of course, via Twitter. That’s @Paulmurwin, or via the website. There is a contact form on the website. While you’re on the website, why not pick up your completely free training if you haven’t done that. I really suggest you go ahead and grab it. It’s completely free and very useful.

Don’t forget that you can find the full transcript for this episode on the website as well. So, if you want to follow my words as I am speaking, then visit Checkout Podcast at the top, find the podcast episode and you can follow through the text as you are listening to the audio.

Okay, well, today, I’m going to be talking about how to succeed at learning English, how to make sure that you are on the right path. And the reason I wanted to talk about this is that I talked to many students who are actually trying to learn English. They’re trying to get better, to improve but because they’re going about it in the wrong way, I can see that probably they are not going to succeed and I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to be successful in your learning English endeavors.

I want to make sure that this is going to work for you and if you’ve got the basics right, then I think you can really build on that. It’s like having a foundation for a house. If you have a great foundation, then you are able to build a solid structure but if you don’t have a good foundation, then however much effort you put into building the house from there onwards, it’s probably not going to be very successful.

So, how does this relate to learning English? Well, I’m only going to give you three points. That’s it, three different points in terms of how to succeed at learning English. I feel that many people try to over-complicate things and not just related to learning English in many walks of life. And sometimes when you analyze people who are over-complicating things, they haven’t actually covered some of the basic, some of the necessary points in order to get to where they want to get to.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen when it comes to learning English. In order to succeed at learning English, point #1, remember there’s only three points. Point #1 is to find a method that works. There are many, many different methods out there nowadays, and by find a method that works, I’m talking about a study method and also a work plan. Study method is how you study if you are studying in the classroom or if you’re studying online and your work plan would be how often you are going to study, so once a week or five times a week or however often.

Those two components make up your method. Now, you are listening to this podcast so I know you have an interest in learning English which is fantastic so you’re on the right path. What’s interesting about finding the right method nowadays is that you’re not at school anymore and therefore, you have a lot of flexibility. Obviously, when I went to school and I learned German and I learned French, I didn’t really have any say whatsoever in the study method being employed by the teacher, although it’s mostly very good, and I didn’t really have any say at all in the time table. I had to go to class at certain times and I had to do homework at certain times. It was very rigid. It was a method that was completely planned out for me.

Fortunately, it worked so I’m happy with the method. But now, as adults we have a lot more flexibility so we are able to choose our learning method and we are able to select our time table. That’s great in some ways to have all that flexibility because you can now fit in learning English around your job, around studying for a master’s degree and so on and so on. But with that flexibility, sometimes comes a difficulty to actually make it happen.

Well, it’s the sort of a trade-off, I guess, of having all that extra flexibility as an adult. But what I’m going to suggest you do is that you find a method that works for you and as you have already studied many things over the years, now is the time to really analyze yourself and be honest with yourself and establish what is going to work for you. For some people, online training works amazingly well. For other people, they really need to be in a classroom.

Some people like to follow a book very rigidly. Others really want to study in a much more relaxed, in a much more flexible atmosphere. But whichever way you decide, it’s important that you find a way that is in line with your personality and is in line with your successful learning experiences in the past. If you have already successfully learned something online, then it would make sense to continue to learn something online or if you have recently adapted to learning online, then maybe you can continue.

If you find you study better on your own, then you might want to continue in that way if you find that you always study well and are motivated by other people in a group setting, then it would make sense to keep studying, to keep learning in that environment. I think it’s well worth analyzing your own situation and deciding how you best study.

I would say that a successful study program normally involves interaction with others and that even includes the case where you are studying on your own. I think it’s really important to have someone to check in with, someone to interact with, someone to talk about, talk with in terms of your progress. So even if you’re studying on your own, this whole English learning task, if you like, should not be performed on your own, or at least in my opinion, you should normally be going through this process with other people.

Also a successful English program is normally going to involve all four parts of the language: Reading, writing, listening and speaking. If you come up with a study plan that only involves learning grammar, I don’t think that is going to get you where you want to get to. So, yes, there is a lot of flexibility in terms of the program that you might select. However, successful programs do have quite a lot of things in common, so working with others and all four parts of the language.

In terms of a work plan, remember at the beginning that I talked about, a method and a work plan. I think it’s important to decide how much time you can dedicate to learning English in the long term or in the medium to long term. Why? Well, because you are not going to get to the desired level probably in the space of a week or a couple of months. This is something that really you should be looking at in the long term.

And if that’s the case, if we are going to attain any long-term goal in life, then it really needs to become part of our routine. It doesn’t really make sense to start off by saying, “I’m going to study English for three hours every single day,” unless of course you can find that time in your routine. But most people don’t have an extra three hours every day and therefore, what usually happens in that situation is that someone who starts off by trying to study too much ends up giving up.

You need to be realistic when you are selecting a work plan. To study, for example, for two hours at a time, three times per week would be much more realistic. That’s something that many students can fit into their schedule. But to say something like, “I’m going to study for three hours every day.” Well, it’s probably not going to work. Number one is to establish a method. Establish a study method and work plan that works for you.

Number two is very, very simple but incredibly important, stick at it, to stick at your plan, to keep with the plan, to keep with the program. Success happens in the medium to long term. If you look at anyone who is successful in any walk of life, then almost always they have spent a significant amount of time working towards that success, and learning English is no different.

I like the phrase that goes something like, “She was an overnight success many years in the making”, an overnight success many years in the making. Meaning that really it wasn’t an overnight success, or she wasn’t an overnight success at all because actually it had been many years in the making.

Now, when you see someone who is successful apparently overnight, you might be tempted to believe that it has happened all of a sudden. But normally when you delve into this situation a little bit deeper, you will find that that person has a long history of working towards a particular goal.

So, stick at this in the long term. So many failures, again, in many walks of life are simply the result of that person having given up. The person has given up and therefore, they haven’t really failed at something. They’ve just given up. When I meet English learners, for example, and those who have given up, it is not that they have failed because they are simply not good enough at learning English or that this is something impossible for them, no, not at all. It’s because they have given up. They have stopped trying to make progress for whatever reasons. This is hopefully helping you to build up a very, very simple plan. Part one or point one, find a method. Establish a method. Point two, stick at it.

And number three, finally, do not let that fear of failure creep in because it’s that fear of failure that can lead people to give up. This is not mission impossible. This is not a long shot. This is a guarantee. I guarantee you will get your English to a very high level if you follow these points, if you stick at it and be positive. But don’t let that fear of failure creep in. Don’t let other people’s experiences where perhaps they haven’t dedicated the right amount of time or effort. Don’t let their experiences cloud your judgment and make you believe that this is something impossible. It definitely is not impossible. It is something that you can get to a very high level of English. You can really dominate the English language if you just stick at it.

Don’t be one of those people who studies English for three months and then gives up and then starts again and then gives up again and then eventually gives up completely. Don’t be that person. Learning English is going to have a hugely positive impact on your career and on your life, so stick with it. Be positive and you will get to where you need to get to.

That’s it, really three very, very simple points. One, establish a method. Two, stick at it. And three, be positive. Of course, we can elaborate in each of those sections and go into more detail. In fact, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me. But really, that’s the essence of it. And as I said at the beginning, some people over-complicate things.

It might seem quite simple. It might seem like a simple plan, and it is a simple plan. But many people don’t have a simple plan and therefore, they end up veering off into the unknown, if you like, and really studying without purpose, studying without direction and that’s not going to get them anywhere at all, okay?

And finally for today, a question for you. What’s your plan? What’s your study plan? What is your work plan? Please let me know in the comments section on the website. I would really, really love to hear from you, to hear your perspective on this and to hear about anything else that, any other questions that you have related to business English. Don’t be shy. Let me know. I can help you.

Finally, if you enjoy today’s episode, I invite you to check out our online learning platform and community at The Business English Community is the essential resource for intermediate and advanced learners who want to take their business English to the next level. We offer extensive audio and video libraries, live webinars and ask-me-anything calls. And very importantly, an active community where you can get answers to all of your business English questions.

If you really want to take action to improve your level quickly, then sign up at That’s it for me. Thanks for listening. All the best, and until next time.

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