4 Steps to English Success – Improve Your Motivation to Study English

Hi, I’m Oli. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, we’re going to talk about
motivation in English learning. You’re going to hear some tips for how to
manage your motivation and get better results from your English studies. Before we start the lesson, don’t forget
to check out our website: Oxford Online English dot com. We have free materials to help you practise
your English, and you can also study in online classes with one of our professional English
teachers! But now, let’s look at some important ideas
about what ‘motivation’ means. Idea number one: motivation isn’t something
you can just decide to have. It’s not like an on/off switch inside you,
which you can just flip from ‘off’ to ‘on’ if you find the right trick. Instead, motivation is a *consequence*. It’s a consequence of your life goals, your
values, your environment and your lifestyle. You can’t decide to change your motivation
directly, but you can change other things in your life which influence your motivation. Idea number two: real motivation is deep motivation. If you struggle to find the motivation to
study English, then that’s a deep problem. There’s also ‘fake’ motivation. This is the kind of motivation which makes
people join a gym and pay for a year’s membership on January the 2nd, and then go once or twice
in the whole year. This isn’t real motivation. Often, fake motivation comes from other people,
but it disappears as quickly as it arrives. Real motivation is deep motivation; it comes
from inside, and it takes time and work to develop. Most importantly, idea number three: it’s
hard to develop and maintain motivation, but it’s easy to kill it. Lots of things can kill your motivation: a
bad teacher, a busy job, a newborn baby who doesn’t sleep well, financial worries, video
game addiction, and many more. So, you have to look after your motivation
carefully. You need to think about many aspects of your
life, not just study-related questions. You’ll learn about these points in more
detail over the rest of this lesson. Let’s move on. We won’t spend long on this section. Why not? Because we already made a whole video about
it! You should watch it, if you haven’t already. Remember that it’s easy to kill your motivation. Not knowing how to set study goals is one
of the best ways to kill your motivation to learn English. If you set yourself goals like, ‘I want
to speak like a native speaker,’ or, ‘I want to speak English perfectly,’ this will
kill your motivation. Where do you start with goals like these? What’s the first step? How do you know when you’ve finished? There are no answers to these questions, which
is why these goals are no good for you. You need to set goals which are specific,
measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound: SMART goals. We’ll give you one more idea here which
we didn’t mention in the SMART goals video. Don’t compare yourself to native speakers;
don’t aim to speak perfect English; instead, just ask yourself one question: how can I
improve? This is how I approach teaching, by the way. This is the question that’s in my head when
I meet a new student: how can I make this person’s English better? Students come to me with all sorts of goals;
they have different budgets, and different amounts of time they want to spend on studying. They’re starting at different levels. Some people are ambitious; others just want
to learn one or two simple points. With each person, there are different possibilities. I don’t worry about those things; I just
ask myself: what can I do to make this person’s English better? You can benefit from thinking in the same
way. This idea makes things simpler, and it helps
you to focus on specific, concrete steps to learn and improve. Guess what: that’s good for your motivation! Overall, nothing is better for your motivation
than feeling like you’re making progress. If you can feel that you’re improving, you’ll
feel more motivated to continue studying. Setting good goals is vital to keep your motivation
alive and healthy. However, there’s another point which is
equally important. Your motivation depends greatly on your environment. This means: where you live, where you work,
what kind of work you do, who you talk to every day, how you spend your free time, and
so on. Let’s take two examples. Imagine two people. We’ll call them Sam and Alex. They’re not real, but the ideas are similar
to many students we’ve met. Sam lives in Amsterdam. She doesn’t speak Dutch, so she mostly uses
English in her day-to-day life. She works in a software firm, where all office
communication is in English. She regularly attends meetings, participates
in conference calls, and gives presentations in English. Outside of work, most of her friends are expats
from other countries. Their common language is English, so most
of the time, Sam speaks English outside of work, too. She only speaks her native language with one
or two friends, or when she calls her family and friends back home. Alex lives in Taipei. He speaks intermediate-level English, but
he rarely uses it in his daily life. He works for the marketing department of a
large company, and most of his day-to-day work is in Mandarin or Taiwanese. At home and with his friends, he mostly speaks
Taiwanese. He goes to English classes twice a week because
he wants to improve; he has a dream of studying in Australia or the UK, but he knows that
his English level isn’t high enough. He often feels too tired to study, or that
he doesn’t have enough spare time. Besides, he feels like studying doesn’t
make any difference to his English level. He feels frustrated because his progress is
slow. What do you think? Do these stories sound familiar to you? Are you more like Sam, or more like Alex? Remember: these aren’t real people! However, I think Alex’s situation will sound
familiar to many of you. We meet and hear from *so many* English learners
who are in this situation. Here’s another question: what can Alex do
to feel more motivated? How can he deal with these feelings of frustration? Short answer: he can’t, or at least, not
easily. That might sound like a demotivational answer! We’re not trying to kill your motivation,
of course, but you need to understand what you can and can’t do to make a difference
if you’re in the same situation. Here’s the problem: Alex lives in an environment
where he doesn’t need to use English. Sure, he has his dream of studying abroad,
but for most people, future dreams aren’t enough. You need something *now*—or at least, in
the near future—which gives you motivation. Alex doesn’t have that. There’s nothing in his life *now* which
means he needs to improve his English. That limits his motivation. He feels like he’s too busy or too tired
to study. When you say you’re ‘too busy’ or ‘too
tired’, that means you don’t have enough motivation. When you care about something, you find the
time; you find the energy. When Alex says he’s too busy, he really
means that it’s not a high enough priority. When you say you’re too tired to study or
practise, you’re saying it’s not a high enough priority. Alex’s environment limits his motivation,
and his motivation limits his potential progress. Not making progress hurts his motivation even
more. Over time, nothing changes. He spends time and money on English courses,
but his situation doesn’t change in any meaningful way. Motivation won’t just appear out of thin
air. He needs to change something. If you’re in Alex’s position, you need
to change something. You need to give yourself something *now*
or in the near future which means that you *need* English. You need something which is a central part
of your life, and which you cannot do without English. Let’s think about Sam for a moment. Sam doesn’t have these problems, because
if she did, she couldn’t live her life. She couldn’t do her job or talk to her friends
if her English wasn’t good enough. So, if her English was weak in some areas,
she would fix those problems. She would find a solution. Maybe she’d do it herself, maybe she’d
ask a friend, or maybe she’d study with a teacher. It doesn’t matter; she *would* find a solution,
because she has to. Let’s think about you. What does this mean for you? It means two things, and neither of them is
easy. One: if this is your problem, then you need
to change your environment. You need to make changes in where you live,
or where you work, or how you spend your free time, so that you need English in your day-to-day
life. I know that a lot of you are thinking, “Great
advice, guys! I can’t just move to another country! I can’t just get a job in a multinational
company!” Yeah, I know. It’s not easy, but you need to do something. Start small: try to find expat groups or social
activities in your city where there are English-speaking foreigners. If you work for a company which sometimes
deals with foreign clients, ask your manager if there’s a way for you to be involved. We can’t tell you exactly what to do, because
you have your life, and everyone watching this will have different possibilities. All we can say is: you need to do something,
and if you have no idea what to do, start with something small. We said there are two things you need to think
about. What’s the second? Two: you need to take risks. That means that you put yourself in a situation
where you might fail, and that failure might hurt. Think about Sam and Alex again. Sam cannot live her life if her English isn’t
good enough. She’ll lose her job and she’ll struggle
in social situations. For Alex, there are no consequences if he
doesn’t make progress. He just stays in the same place. Maybe he’s unhappy with that, but for most
people, that’s not enough to give you motivation. You need to take risks. That means things like talking to people when
you’re nervous or uncomfortable, moving to a new city, or volunteering to make an
important presentation at work in English. And again, we know this isn’t easy. But, it’s necessary. If you live in a way that means you don’t
need to improve your English right now, then you’ll probably struggle to find the motivation
to study and practise. You need to put yourself in an environment
where you need English, and where failure to improve is painful. ‘Painful’ means that your life is more
difficult and more limited if you’re not getting better. We know a lot of people watching this are
going to say, ‘I can’t…’ ‘I can’t make changes…’ ‘It’s too difficult…’ Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know the details of your life. I don’t know what’s possible or not for
you. Just remember: your environment limits your
motivation, and your motivation limits your progress. There’s no way around that. Finally, let’s talk about one more thing
you need to know. Up to now, we’ve talked about developing
and building your motivation, about how to feel more motivated to study and improve your
English. We’re going to tell you something which
might sound strange, but it’s just as important: your motivation is always limited. You’ll get better results—and be happier—if
you understand this. Here’s a question: how long can you sit
and study by yourself before you get bored and you find it difficult to concentrate? Half an hour? An hour? Two? What if you have to study every day for a
month? Could you still do the same amount? How long can you spend in an English class
before you start to feel bored and you want to do something else? How long can you spend speaking English before
you feel tired and you have an urge to speak your own language? You’ll all have different answers, but all
of you watching this will have a limit. Your limit might be lower or higher, but it’s
there. These limits control how much time you can
spend working on your English. You can try forcing yourself to study when
you’re bored, but it’s not effective. If it works, it only works for a short time. That’s because feeling bored is your brain’s
way of saying to you: “This isn’t important enough to spend our time on!” Remember: motivation isn’t something you
can just decide to have. You have a certain amount of motivation, and
you need to decide how you use it. Don’t be hard on yourself. Feeling bored is natural, and everyone has
their limits! But, it means that you need to set clear goals,
as we talked about before. Also, you need to set priorities based on
the time and energy you have available. If you can study for thirty minutes before
you start getting bored, you need to think: what can you do in thirty minutes which will
help you the most? Many English learners overestimate their motivation,
and set goals which they don’t actually have the motivation to achieve. We’ve met so many students who say they
want to study for hours every day, but most of them give up quickly, because they don’t
have enough motivation to do the things they say they want to do. You can see this from the other side, too. If you can speak in English for half an hour
before your concentration starts to fade, then ask yourself: how can you have a 30-minute
conversation in English every day or most days? Who can you talk to? You have enough motivation and the energy
to do this, so you should try to use that. How do you manage your motivation when studying
English? Have you experienced the things we’ve talked
about in this lesson? If so, please let us know in the comments;
we’d love to hear your ideas! Thanks for watching! See you next time!

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