The best language learners understand themselves. By English with Stephen

Learning Strategies: Understand Yourself

This is the transcript for the English with Stephen podcast episode looking at the learning strategy of knowing yourself and how you learn.

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Hi there. My name’s Stephen Greene from the English with Stephen podcast. Welcome to this series of short podcasts on how to learn English quickly and effectively.

A few weeks ago, in episode 23, I talked about how you need to understand your teacher. The topic was not how to understand what she is saying, but how it is important to understand your teacher’s motivation for selecting each of the activities you do in class.

Today we are going to talk about you. It is a good idea to know what you like, what you hate, how you learn, and how you don’t learn. In short, you need to understand yourself if you want to be a good language learner.

But first, some music.

Some of the episodes I produce are part of a series called ‘Reasons for English’ in which I look at how English acquired some of its crazy habits.

Many of the episodes I produce are about learning strategies. That is, what good language learners do to learn English. This episode is an example of a good learning strategy because good learners know what works for them.

Other episodes are stories about the origin of important or useful words.

All of the episodes are under 10 minutes and come with a transcript to help you understand and learn more vocabulary. If you would like to listen to the other episodes, they are free at my site

Back to how to understand yourself as a learner.

Everyone is unique. No two people are exactly the same. The way you learn might be totally different to the person sitting next to you. Just because a friend of yours learnt English by reading a book for 10 minutes every day does not mean that you will also be successful just by picking up a book.

I have some students who like to take lots of notes and others who like to draw pictures while they listen to me. I even had one student who looked out of the window all class as if she was in her own little world, but when I asked her about what we were studying, she always gave perfect answers.

Are you the type of person who likes to study alone in silence in a quiet and comfortable room? Are you the kind of person who needs to be alone but listening to some music while you study? Or do you prefer to work with other people, talking to them about your ideas?

Maybe you like to do some of these things some of the time, depending on the task you have to accomplish.

Knowing what works for you is important because we have limited time available, so we need to use that time as wisely as possible.

This does not mean, however, that you should never try a different type of activity. We are always changing. The person you are today is not the same person as 20 years ago. Our likes and dislikes change, as well as the way we learn. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Also, we need to change the way we learn as we improve. The thing that worked for you when you were a beginner student might not be sufficient now that you are an advanced learner.

Now, you might think that all of this is obvious stuff. If so, congratulations, you are a self-aware person and should be able to do well in life no matter what you choose to do.

However, there are many people who are always looking for the next idea, the next big thing, the secret to success. They are looking for something external when the answer is usually internal. Reflect on the things you have learnt in the past. It might be learning how to drive, learning how to paint, or learning how to program a computer. What worked for you? How could you replicate that in learning English?

Once you understand yourself and how you learn, you can start talking to your teacher about getting more activities that suit you. It might not be possible for your teacher to always use activities that are good for you because your teacher probably has a lot of other people in the classroom to help as well, who all learn in different ways. But this is ok because, as I said before, we constantly change. If you are doing an activity that is not your type of thing, then maybe you can get better at it so that it will be your type of thing in the future.

But you will only know this if you are aware of your current strengths and weaknesses.

And now it is over to you. How do you like to learn? What do you find most effective for your language learning needs? I’d love to read about how you learn in a comment either on my site or on my social media. You can find links to my social media on my site, as well as all of the old episodes I mentioned earlier.

Thanks for listening, and I hope to catch up with you again soon.

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