Why accountability is an excellent learning strategy for English students, by English with Stephen

Learning Strategies: Accountability

This is the transcript for the English with Stephen podcast episode all about the language learning strategy of accountability.

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Hello, my name’s Stephen Greene and this is the English with Stephen podcast. Today, I have a learning strategies episode. A learning strategy is what good learners do to learn English as effectively as possible.

The learning strategy I would like to talk about today is accountability. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with numbers, maths and finance. Instead, it is an extremely powerful way to make sure you do what you intended to do.

More on that, after this.

Regular listeners will know that at this point in my podcast, I like to recommend another podcast that English learners might like to follow. This time, though, I am going to let another podcaster tell you himself.

Seriously, if you like music then this is the podcast for you. It is not designed for English students, but you will hear about music from around the world. You can find the Song Surfing Podcast on your favourite podcast app, or go to the site songsurfingpodcast.com.

And now back to accountability.

Accountability is being responsible for what you do and being able to give satisfactory reasons for your actions. When we are talking about accountability, we often use synonyms like “take responsibility” and “transparency”.

But for me, it is more than just being transparent. You might be transparent because you are forced to be. However, if you are accountable, you want people to know everything you do. You do not try to hide things that might make you look bad. It is a part of your DNA, whether that is as an individual or as part of a company or large organisation.

Let me give you a personal example.

I like to run. Actually, that is a lie. I don’t like to run. However, I know that I have to do some exercise, and the exercise I hate the least is running. So I run because I also like to eat pizza and drink beer.

Mmmm, pizza!

I have often thought that if I didn’t eat pizza and drink beer I’d be very fit and very rich. Oh well, maybe in another life.

Anyway, back to running.

I have an app on my phone called Strava. It records all my runs and lets me keep in touch with friends who are also running. On the days when it is cold and raining, or when I really just do not want to go running, I think of my app. I think of the people in my group on the app and how they are watching me, to see if I am really running as much as I should. I am accountable to them. I want them to see that I am doing my best and ticking off the kilometres.

In truth, I doubt any of them really care if I am running or not. But in my head, I imagine they do care. And this motivates me to go for that run on a cold, wet morning when I would really prefer to stay in bed.

But what does this mean for learning English?

Well, it means that you have to be accountable for your English learning. If you are super-motivated then you might only need to be accountable to yourself. Just setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to study for the next 10 minutes might be enough.

However, if you are like me, then this probably isn’t enough. You can increase your chances of doing something if you commit to another person. Simply by saying aloud to somebody else that you are going to study for 10 minutes every day for the next month will mean you are more likely to do it. When you tell the other person, you are making yourself accountable to them.

But there is more. If you make an appointment with somebody every week so you can report on what you have been doing, then you increase your chances even more. You could find a friend who is also learning English and agree to check with each other once a week to find out what you have both been doing. If this isn’t possible, then you might want to find a teacher or somebody else who can also give you feedback on what you have been doing.

The thing about accountability is that it is a habit. Once you are in the habit of doing something every day because you are accountable, it is much easier to keep that habit even if the person you were accountable to no longer wants to meet up every week. Or, as is the case with me and my running, if the people I believe I am accountable to don’t actually care if I get up and go for that run or not.

Maybe I should tell someone that I am not going to eat pizza or drink beer for the next month… nah, there are limits to everything!

Let me know what you do to try to make your language learning accountable. You tell me on my site, EnglishwithStephen.com, or on any of my social media. Just look for English with Stephen on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

And remember to check out the Song Surfing Podcast for some great episodes on music from around the world.

Speak to you later!

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