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Basic English Language Training for Virtual Assistants

Home » Become a Virtual Assistant » Basic English Language Training for Virtual Assistants
young adults holding different flags
Source: Canva

So, here you are, once again, in a situation whereby somebody teaches you English… argh…brings back some bad memories, doesn’t it?

Days, weeks, months and years in a classroom, cramming tenses, irregular verbs and articles only to find yourself years later in a position in which you don’t feel comfortable using English with people.

Why is that?

You are not a good student? You don’t have the talent for languages, including English? Learning a language is too hard and you are too old for this? Or does this quote sound familiar:

quote for writer

If all language teachers got a penny every time they hear this one, they would be able to retire very early in their career!

The point is – you are not alone in this. Everybody thinks like that. Even people who are now fluent speakers and writers of English language.

There is one very interesting fact about language learning – thousands of people think that they are not able to learn a language, but they are more than confident that they know HOW a language is learned. The truth is quite the opposite:

YES, you can learn a language, but NO, you are not a language learning expert.

You wouldn’t claim that you know the laws of physics better than a physics teacher, would you? Then leave it to the linguists to find the best and the most efficient ways to teach you English.

So, guess what! We are those experts! Our team has several very successful and experienced ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers, who know how this is done. You are in good hands.

Believe us, we know that sitting twice a week in a classroom is not the best way to learn English. We were there – both as teachers and students. We know there are faster and more interesting ways.

Most importantly – we KNOW that among the biggest problems when it comes to learning English are motivation and attitude. Both of these issues come from the fact that people believe some very widespread myths about how the second language is acquired.

So, what is this lesson about?

There is nothing special to learn. There will be no assignment at the end of the lesson. The sole purpose of this is to get you to understand that there is absolutely no obstacle for you to reach the level of English language that will enable you to be a successful online worker.

We’ll go one common myth at the time and we’ll provide real-life and/or scientific proofs to make you realise none of those myths are true. Most of those myths are sentences that all of us said at some point in our lives.

Why is this important?

Let’s not waste time explaining why you need to learn English well. You already know that – you need it to be taken more seriously and to be able to land better jobs.

But, why is it so important to bust these language learning myths before we move further? Because they are crippling you more than you know! They are PRECISELY why you haven’t learned English better so far.

This is not just a pep talk. This is science!

Scientists have determined that there are several important factors in language learning. They have pinpointed what makes you learn it more or less successfully.

Among some of those factors that detrimental to your language learning are those that we want to eliminate here:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation

These two are correlated. Everybody who has ever tried to talk in a language other than their own, knows that anxiety very well. You feel like you are about to sound stupid and that you are going to irritate others. Those feelings grow and the anxiety cripples you.

Why is it so important to eliminate anxiety? Think of your brain as of a computer. Even the most powerful computer has limited capabilities. If you overburden it with many demanding programs, all at once, it will slow down and do each of them employing less capacity.

Now, think of anxiety as of a VERY demanding program. If you let your brain deal with anxiety, it will leave very little of your capacities to dedicate to learning. That’s why the anxiety is the enemy of language learning.

The motivation for language learning is influenced by goal salience, valence, and self-efficacy. Goal salience means – how important it is to you to learn a language.

Since you are opting for an online career, let’s guess that you are down with this one.

Valence means – what is your attitude toward learning and how much do you wish to learn English. We hope, when you realise that it is not so difficult and that it can be fun – you will tick off valence, as well.

Self-efficacy is your own belief that you can achieve your learning goals! This is the stumbling block of many language learners. Why? Because they believe not in themselves, but in the language learning myths that discourage them.

Let’s bust those myths, build that self-efficacy and eliminate that anxiety!

Busting the Language Learning Myths

Myth 1: I’m Too Old to Learn English

Oh, one of our favourites! For a long time, even the experts thought that young children learn language faster than adults. This is just not true!

Just think about it – how long does it take for a child to learn their native language? Years! Even when they reach their school age, they are still struggling with grammar, vocabulary and don’t really speak that well, do they?

The point is – children learn languages in a different way. They are not overburdened by expectations. They don’t feel the anxiety. They have fun learning! It’s a game to them.

On the other hand, the adults want to know the rules, the reasons, the laws of the language and they approach it that way. This leads to them overburdening themselves with reaching certain goals, high expectations and self-consciousness. The truth is:

learning English myth

Still not convinced? Then how do you explain this: 90-year-old in Malta to learn English.

adult male leaning English language
Source: timesofmalta.com

Just to prove this is not a lone case, read up on this brave gentleman who travelled to Oxford: 80-Year-Old Student Proves Age Is No Limit.

However, if you are still not entirely convinced, read these two articles that involve serious linguistic proofs of the fact that you DO NOT lose the ability to learn a new language with age:

Now that we have established that the right time to start learning English is NOW, let’s deal with other myths that keep you from being successful.

Myth 2: I’m Not Good at Languages

Can you prepare a meal that would get 5 Michelin stars? Probably not. But you still can cook, at least a little bit, right?

Something similar happens with languages. You may not be speaking absolutely fluently, or you may not have the strong command of an extensive vocabulary, but you can still lead a meaningful conversation, express yourself and understand the person you are talking to.

That’s quite enough.

Of course, there are those who are hyperpolyglots and they are the language super learners who have the ability to learn any language quickly and to learn dozens of languages. So, are they born with this talent?

Surprisingly – NO.

They are born with an ability to store information in their long-term memory more quickly and retrieve it whenever they want. That ability, combined with motivation and hard work is what makes a hyperpolyglot.

The ability to learn a language is not a special talent. It is a skill and that skill CAN be perfected. All you need to learn a language are the willingness and faith that you can do it and a brain. Luckily, you have all that!

Therefore, here is the truth behind this myth:

learning English myth

You don’t have to be a hyperpolyglot to learn a language! Of course, some people will be faster about it and some people will need more work, but there is no person with optimal cognitive abilities on this planet that cannot learn a language.

There is a lot of science and a lot of research behind these statements. In the following articles, you will find them described in more detail if you want to know more.

However, the point is the same – YOU have ALL that it takes to start learning English TODAY.

Myth 3: I’m Just Not That Smart

You probably already know that there are many types of intelligence. When people talk about how ‘smart’ they are, they are talking about general intelligence. Well, that being said, let’s bust this myth right away:

learning English myth

There are some researches conducted on children that show the correlation between the general intelligence and the ability to write better, but as far as the conversational language is concerned – there is no evidence that high intelligence is needed to learn a language.

Therefore, relax! You are definitely smart enough to learn English – everybody is!

If you are interested in this topic, here is a nice article that can clear some things up for you: Learnable intelligence and how it relates to language acquisition.

Myth 4: My Memory Is Bad

This is a very common myth among people. They usually describe a situation in which they learned several words one day only to forget most of them the following day.

This happens to everybody – yes, even those amazing polyglots that speak several languages.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t have what it takes to learn a language, it merely means that you have an ordinary human brain.

Usually, throughout our school days, the ability to memorise a lot of data at once was praised and awarded. Having great memory meant being successful at studying. Luckily for all of us goldfish people, language is acquired in a slightly different way.

Even if you managed to memorise all the words from a dictionary, you still wouldn’t have known how to speak a language. You would just be able to understand a lot of words.

The secret is – a BIG PORTION of a language is acquired without you even being aware of it. Your brain does all the work and pulls all the important levers in order to modify itself to be able to use this new language that you are feeding it to.

Being good at memorising words is useful and it definitely helps you study harder, but it is absolutely not essential for learning English. Your memory is just fine and completely adequate for you to give English a chance.

Therefore, let’s say it out loud:

learning English myth

Moreover, there are many tips and tricks that you can use to jolt your memory and to exercise it. You can build it, like a muscle. We’ll dedicate an entire section of the next lecture to this and show you some very sweet hacks.

Here are some links that you may find useful if you want more proof that your memory is just fine.

Myth 5: I’m Not That Communicative, Extroverts Are Better at Learning Languages

Both introverts and extroverts have their strengths. The only way extroverts are in any way more capable to learn a language is that they tend to be more open to get involved into different communicative situations and, thus, get more practice.

However, with the rise of the Internet, podcasts, chat rooms, and other means of communication, introverts can now practice just the same, and to be within their comfort zone.

Introverts are usually better at listening and understanding the grammar and the way the language works, while extroverts find it easier to acquire speaking skills and perform communicative tasks. However, it is all language!

Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and all that can be used to learn English more efficiently. There is no proof, whatsoever, that your personality traits in this regard make you more or less capable for learning English.

learning English myth

Not convinced? If you don’t believe us, believe other experts!

Myth 6: I Would Need a Lot of Money

What is there to pay if you want to learn a language? Books? Classes? You can find that for free today! Online and offline. We will suggest some free or affordable resources in the next few lessons.

learning English myth

Of course, being able to pay for a private tutor would speed up things, but it is far from necessary. You can join different language swap groups, find free courses online and use tons of free textbooks and workbooks that are available on the Internet.

But, let’s talk about what you get for the money you spend on learning a language. If English language allows you to get a well-paid job, change your life and enjoy a new career – is there a price tag you can put on that?

Myth 7: I Have to Travel to English Speaking Countries

There are many proofs that show that complete immersion into language with no access to your native language results in dramatically fast language learning! Take a look at this language experiment conducted by the two linguists who learned languages implementing the “no English rule”.

This is very exciting and interesting, but is it necessary? Absolutely not.

There are thousands of people who live outside their homeland, for years even, and they still don’t speak the language. Even when they are married to a person with a different native language. If simply spending time in an English speaking environment were enough to learn a language, those people would speak it.

Therefore, it is safe to conclude:

learning English myth

Moreover, we already stated that there are many other ways to be exposed to English language without leaving even your own room, let alone country.

Myth 8: I Just Don’t Have Enough Time

Depending of your native language and its similarity to English, you will need more or less time to learn it. For example, if your native language is German, you will learn English faster than if your native language is Mandarin.

However, that is where your native language stops being an obstacle – you CAN learn it, you will just, maybe, need a bit more time.

This is the moment when you sigh and say – but, I don’t have the time! I’m just too busy!

And that is where you are wrong.

Forget about the classes that happen two times a week and last for anywhere between one and two hours. It is great if you like working that way, but it is far from being the only way to learn the language.

Consistency is much more important than the volume of your study. It is better to learn a bit every day than to go days without doing anything English-related and then trying to make up for it during your weekend.

learning English myth

Expose yourself to English at least half an hour a day and it will have tremendous effects on how well you use the language. It is important that you try to be active about it: sing, talk, listen, come up with made-up conversations…there are tons of ideas out there on how to improve some of your language skills in a short time.

Here are some of them: 8 Ways to Get Daily Language Practice on Your Coffee Break

Also, here are some interesting suggestions about planning your daily language learning routine. Or, if you are not so keen on fixed schedules, this is a goldmine of ideas for you: How to Set Up a Successful Language-Learning Schedule (Even if You’re a Screw Up Like Me)

Myth 9: It Will Take Ages to Learn English

You will hear people giving up on learning English even before they start it and they will usually reflect on their prior, unsuccessful attempts to learn English saying something like this:

I learned English in school for 10 years and I still cannot use it at all!

But, have you REALLY spent 10 years learning English? Every day? No. You haven’t. You probably had English lessons twice a week where you were not motivated to learn, at all and you were exposed to ancient, very ineffective language learning techniques.

There are many speculations and guesses in regard to how many hours it takes to learn a language from a scratch. Some say years, others even suggest that it doesn’t have to take more than several weeks.

These numbers vary, but one thing is for sure:

learning English myth

Remember that your goal is not to pass a difficult test. Your goal is to learn English well enough to communicate properly and freely.

Take a look at this man who attempted to learn a second language well enough in six months:

Keep in mind that this person didn’t know Spanish before taking this challenge. You are in a better position than that, aren’t you? Either that or somebody else is reading and translating these lessons for you.

Myth 10: People Think I’m Dumb When I Use Broken English

Another common misconception is that native speakers think less of you when you try and speak their language. Just put yourself in their position!

What if a foreign person came to your hometown and tried to speak to you in your language? Would you laugh at them? No! You’d think it’s nice that they put in some effort.

learning English myth

Therefore, expect that you will be given the same courtesy from your employer. The more effort you put into your language learning, the better the results.

With this being said, it is time to come to the conclusion that you definitely have to forget about worrying how you look or appear to others if you want to successfully learn a language. There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that you are trying to better yourself.

Furthermore, even those that pay attention to you and your language learning will not mock you but appreciate your effort.

Take it from the ordinary person who once believed in all those myths, just like yourself, only to realise that they are just preventing him from learning more. This is not a linguist and it is not a hyper-talented language learner.

He is just an everyday Joe with a little bit of a sketchy memory and a desire to learn. In other words, a person not that different than you.

Now, that you know the truth behind all these common myths, you are ready to take that plunge and start learning.

THE MORE YOU UNDERSTAND ABOUT LANGUAGE LEARNING THE LESS SCARY IT BECOMES

Here is a set of excellent tips to inspire you and relax you before beginning: 15 Things to STOP Doing When Learning English! (Very Important!)

In Summary

Let’s go back to the beginning of this lesson and remind ourselves that motivation and general good feeling about language learning are the most important factors in language acquisition.

Changing your life and obtaining an excellent new career should be sufficient motivation for you as a language learner.

On the other hand, you will hardly learn well if you don’t feel right about the entire process. That is why, now, you know that all those negative thoughts that you thought to be obstacles in your language learning are nothing more than myths!

Here is the list of truths:

  1. You are not too old to learn English
  2. You don’t have to be specially talented to learn English
  3. You are smart enough to learn English
  4. You don’t need particularly good memory
  5. Extroverts and introverts alike can learn English well
  6. Learning English doesn’t have to be expensive
  7. It is not necessary to travel to an English speaking country
  8. You can find some time throughout the day to do some learning
  9. Learning English doesn’t have to last for ages
  10. People are more likely to appreciate the fact you are learning a language than to mock you

So now you know – you have all it takes to learn English well enough – abilities, access to resources and motivation.

All you need to do now is start! Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it possible for people with bad memory to learn English properly?

a. No

b. Yes

2. Do you need to be good at languages in order to learn English well?

a. Yes. Only hyper talented people learn languages well

b. Yes. Talent is all it matters

c. No. Anybody can learn English

3. People think you are dumb when you don’t speak English well.

a. True. You sound ridiculous and should not speak until you speak well.

b. False. They can find it funny, but they usually like it and appreciate it.

4. What are the two important factors that PREVENT successful language learning?

a. Anxiety and the lack of motivation

b. Money and access to good teachers

c. Low IQ and introvert personality

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