An Olympian is someone who competes in the Olympics. An Olympian is someone who has spent a long time preparing and training. He wants to be the best in the world and win a gold medal.
What do learning English and competing in the Olympics have in common?
You have a goal, too. You have been studying and learning English for a long time, too. You want to improve your speaking. You want to speak English more fluently. You want to feel more confident speaking English.
Here are three things that you can learn from an Olympian on how to reach your goal.
1. You have to practice.
Speaking is the result of three important and equal parts:
- knowing the right words (vocabulary)
- putting the words in the right order (grammar)
- saying the words properly (pronunciation)
You learn vocabulary and grammar by reading, listening, and studying sentences. You learn pronunciation by listening and imitating the sounds you hear.
In other words, you have to practice.
Michael Phelps is an American swimmer. He won 6 medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and he has won 28 Olympic medals in total.
When Michael Phelps stands at the edge of the pool before a race, he doesn’t think, “What should I do with my arms? “When should I breath?” or “What should I do with my legs?”
He knows what to do because he has done it thousands of times. He practices every day. He swims a lot. He runs. He eats healthy food to help his body. He goes to the gym and does exercises to increase his strength in his arms and his legs. He does all this to make himself swim faster.
Sure, sometimes practicing is boring! It’s not always fun and easy, but it is what we need to do to reach our goals.
Before you can speak fluently, you need to know a lot of words and you need to know how to use them in a sentence. You learn new words and sentences by reading and listening. (Remember that not all words are equal, and you should focus on learning the most common words in English first.) You can learn how to use words in a sentence by learning collocations. You can learn how to say words in a sentence by listening to natural spoken English and imitating, or copying, the sounds that you hear.
The right words will not magically come out of your mouth in the right order with the right pronunciation just because you want them to.
Related: How to Learn English
2. You need to develop “muscle memory.”
Simone Biles is an American gymnast. She won four gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. She does a lot of jumps and flips in the air. She has practiced these jumps and flips thousands of times.
When she begins her routines, she doesn’t think “Where should I put my hands?” or “What should my body do in the air?” She has practiced her routine so many times that her body just knows what to do. She doesn’t have to think about it.
This is called muscle memory. It’s a memory in your brain of the way your muscles move.
A muscle /ˈmʌsəl/ is the part of your body that connects one bone to another bone and helps you move a part of your body.
Can you ride a bicycle? You learned how to ride a bicycle when you were young. Even if you don’t ride a bike for many years, you can still remember how to ride a bike. You have that muscle memory.
When you are learning English, think of your brain as your “muscle.”
How do you make the sounds of your native language? When you speak in your native language, do you need to think about the correct pronunciation of words? No. You have been speaking your language for a long time. Your brain remembers the sounds that you need to make and what order they should be in, and it tells your mouth what sounds to make.
When you speak in English, you waste time thinking, “What are the rules for using prepositions?” or “Should I use for or to?” You need to read and listen to English as much as possible so you can learn core vocabulary, collocations, and natural English sentences. You need to practice saying words and sentences with the correct pronunciation until if feels natural and comfortable and you don’t have to think about the correct pronunciation.
Related: Get Used to Feeling Uncomfortable
3. You need to believe that you can do it!
Do you believe that you can be an a fluent English speaker?
Do you really believe it?
Or do you just hope that you will be a fluent English speaker? Have you really tried?
Olympians don’t sit on the couch and watch TV for four years, and then arrive at the Olympics and hope they win a medal. They do everything possible to become the best in the world. They know they are the best in the world. They know they are capable of winning a medal.
I believe you can become a fluent English speaker. I know you can, but you have to know it and believe it, too.
Related: 4 Truths about learning English
Cheikh SOW says
What a great article ! I also enjoy sports and the Olympics are just a wonderful event.
After reading this article, YES I believe it ! I can do it !
Now let’s practice some grammar to improve and learn new rules of a beautiful language… English !
Thanks a lot teacher Melanie. Thank you.
Thanks for wonderful article. It is an great example. Practice makes perfect and it develop a good muscle memory. Yes believe I can be English fluent speaker.
P L Tyagi says
Thanks for inspirational article.Practice and zeal can lead to “I CAN DO IT” spirit.
Johnson Lo says
Yes, you are right! Practice is a good way to learn English. I agree! Thank you so much for your article.
Thanks Melanie! I need believe in me, because I don´t have confident with my English. In this moment I think that is becuase I need more hours for practice.
When I talk with a native speaker i commit many mistakes and my confidence decreases, What can I do? Do you have any advice to me?
ATINE WALTER says
AAAAAh!, did someone tell u about me? this is the same thing happening to me. I really thank u alot for your guidance, you really encourage me to do alot though I still have problem with memory, punctuation and stammering. thanks and may GOD bless you more than you can imagine.
What I can do to become an Olympic English learner is, to do what you have said: practice every single day.
Yes, I do
Yes, you are right.I need more hours for practice.
Have nice time.
and what you should NOT learn from Olympians?!?! – you should not cheat (in this case, people who trust you), – you should not think you are the last cookie – you should be a role model to youth
Eduíge Drumond says
Thanks, Melanie. Today morning I was thinking I never will be an English speaker. But, after this article, I know: I believe, I can, I will do.
rhena fay garin says
so do i ,, hehehe we can be.
Pedro Mendes, Brasilia-DF says
Excellent explanations and agree with you that you need commitment, engagement and dedication.
English study for over 10 years, and I think “learned” the hard way, because I learned wrong, especially in pronunciation. Learn wrong is worse than not learning. Almost all the time, I had teachers who taught grammar but not taught to speak properly or even guide students to hear more than could the English. Even with all these problems, I think I’m close to speak fluently.
Cristina Campello says
I was just needed to read this email today.A million tanks.I don’t comment about your emails because I don’t know almost nothing of writing.But I’m studyng a lot.
Thank you for your blessed ( ? )help. God bless you!
This article was amazing, thank you teacher! Maybe you can help me, I have a question..I would love to go to other country for practice my English! Do you know about any program of interchange or something like that in Canada?! I would like work in the same time! :) I’m from Costa Rica
Dear Melanie: Everything you say for reaching our goal is true. This is an inspirational article that helps us to be awere of how important is to develop all skills to learn English, in this case.
I want to say: God always bless you in your life.
Thank you so much for your Article melanie
The last part reminds me this sentence;
When you visualise,Then you materialise
Wish you Luck!!
Phyu Sin says
Thank you so much for this link. It is very useful and helpful link for improving English. I believe I can be an a fluent English Speaker. And thank you so much for your encouragement.
Pauline Coté says
thanks your article is a great motivation for me this moment i can do it to be an olympian i will work for that a next session –sorry my words with mistakes
Sunil Kunjachan says
You’re awesome, Melanie!!
Hello! Thanks a lot for all of these perfect articles!! This one motivated me to keep on trying and learning.
Whish you all the best!
Thank you for your wonderful article and God bless you. Yes indeed practice make perfect so I will keep on practicing and “YES I CAN”.but please i don’t have confidence speaking English to a native speaker is there any advice for me?
Hi Melanie.many thanks indeed for this brilliant information.yes I can speak like native when i put much more effort.I will follow your advice and hoping that I will reach on something tangible, especially about pronunciation.but I would like to ask how long per week should listen to the native speaker so as I can develop my pronunciation.I am looking forward to hearing from you.kind regards,
Thanks dear Melanie.i must have a full program of practicing like olympians ,,,,that’s the key words…..please encourage us as before…..you are the best <3 <3
oscar andres meza salas says
I want speak as I see and hear as the actors and actrisses do it in movies.Maybe I do understand Teacher Melanie when she speaks,but when I watch movies,the actors speak so speedy that I don’t control the meaning of the phrases.