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You’ve Gotta Be Ignorant to Be a Fluent English Speaker!

If I had to name one thing responsible for my spoken English confidence, it would be IGNORANCE.

Are you surprised? Don’t be, because I don’t mean it in a bad way. I’m not ignoring other people when they speak to me; I rather force myself to ignore any negative emotions emerging during a conversation with someone in English!

Let’s say for the argument’s sake, I’m having a conversation with my bank’s local branch manager regarding a loan that I’d like to take out. We’re shaking hands; I’m sitting down and starting explaining the purpose of my visit.

Then all of a sudden, I make a small mistake by calling the loan a “credit” – which is fairly understandable given the fact that loans are called “credits” in my native language which is Latvian. Well, I’ve maintained countless times on my videos that you have to completely eliminate any translation process between your native language and English, and personally I have achieved it.

Still, under slightly stressful circumstances your mind may start playing tricks on you, and I have to confess that I’m not perfect either; no-one is for that matter!

So I’m saying – “I’d like to apply for a loan.” Then the manager asks me – “Have you considered the amount you’d like to borrow?” to which I reply “I recently paid off the previous credit, and I’d like to have another one of the same amount.” But even as I speak the words “previous credit”, I realize I mixed up those two words – “a credit” and “a loan”, so I immediately correct myself by saying “sorry, I mean – the previous loan.” It’s definitely OK to correct yourself during a conversation and it’s much better than allowing mistakes to slip by and risking being misunderstood.

But what making such and similar mistakes can do to you is – they can make you feel very embarrassed, and I bet you know what I’m talking about, right?

Embarrassment is the enemy number one of any foreign English speaker, and it’s a typical example of a negative emotion being evoked in your mind. Embarrassed, ashamed, angry, stressed out – all these are examples of negative emotions that will destroy your spoken English confidence if you allow them to take over your rational mind 😡

This is where ignorance comes into action.

You have to learn to IGNORE those feelings. Ignorance goes hand in hand with not caring, and that’s exactly what I’m suggesting – you have to stop caring what your conversation partner thinks about you and your English ❗

I just made a mistake by calling “a loan” “a credit”. So what? Is it really such a big deal? Even if my branch manager makes a subconscious assumption that my English isn’t as good as he or she expected, so what? Does it make any difference in the loan application process? Well, in theory it could – but in reality I don’t think so.

And even if I start getting quite stressed out and make even more stupid mistakes and start stuttering – it’s not going to affect things on a grand scale. Life will still go on, and the moment I’m walking out of the bank it all stays behind me. It’s gone, it’s not there any more, therefore was it even worth worrying about in the first place?

Of course it wasn’t, so this is what I’m suggesting:

Learn to be ignorant and ignore any bad emotions that threaten your English fluency. Just smile, and enjoy your English conversations with other English speaking people and find contentment in the fact that you KNOW deep inside that your English is very good ❗

It matters not what others think of you, so what is the point in worrying about your spoken English performance?

Don’t take me wrong though – you can’t be ignorant to an extent that you don’t improve your spoken English. You always have to learn from your mistakes, but the trick is to turn off your emotions, if you know what I mean.

Yes, I know it’s not that easy, and I don’t think anyone can master this skill completely. Hey, even I struggle with it on occasions! Yet the very fact that you’re trying means everything, and that’s what really counts at the end of the day!

But if you find it difficult to turn off your emotions, and I can completely understand you, here’s a piece of advice based on my own experience in countless situations when I’ve got overwhelmed by my emotions during a conversation so much that it started affecting my spoken English big time.

So imagine you’re in a situation when you’re getting too agitated during an English conversation because you’re having one of those days when you make a lot of mistakes when speaking, or the particular situation is outside your comfort zone.

Let’s say you just started in a new company and you’re surrounded with new people and one of them starts asking for your opinion on things you don’t really take interest in, or you’re facing someone who feels superior to you with his English knowledge and looks down on you. It could also be a native English speaker speaking with a distinct accent and you’re ashamed to ask him to repeat things after every sentence so you start feeling that you’re useless as an English speaker… So if you find yourself in a similar situation, take a step back and look at the situation from outside.

Ask yourself a question – do I really care what the other person or people think about me? Am I not just trying to please them so that they wouldn’t think badly of me? And even if they do, what affect is it going to have on my life? The likelihood is – NONE.

Your perceived importance of the situation is quite often blown out of proportion and so is the opinion of those people you communicate with ❗

Say for instance, you’re sitting at the table in your launch-break and someone takes a seat next to you and starts having a conversation about the latest model of iPhone. If you’re a gadget freak, fair enough, but if you’re like me you’d start struggling with the conversation not so much because your spoken English is bad but because you don’t know a lot about the iPhone.

So you may start becoming ashamed of yourself, and instead of admitting that you don’t know a great deal about iPhones, you may attempt to get involved in the conversation and as a result you may say something stupid, or make a grammar or a pronunciation mistake. Then your mind would start racing or go blank, and you’d feel like a complete idiot.

But now stop for a while, take a step back and look at the situation from a different perspective. Why is it that you care so much about getting fully involved in the conversation? Why do you automatically want to go with the flow? Is it REALLY important to know everything about everything?

The truth is that after asking yourself these questions you’ll realize you’re driven by vanity, or by your own complex of inferiority 🙁

So I think you’ll quite naturally come to a conclusion that on most occasions it’s not so important that you maintain your stature.

Don’t be afraid of using answers like “Well, I don’t know”, or “Sorry, I’m not really into it”. In other words, don’t be afraid to refuse people ❗ Shift focus from your English skills which may seem to be culprit in making you stutter and make stupid mistakes, to the actual situation. And then, when you’ve looked at it with fresh eyes, you’ll realize that you can most likely ignore your feelings that are induced by the outside forces.

At last, if you find yourself in a situation when it’s got so bad you don’t really know what to say, just step back and think what’s the WORST that can happen if I just ignore the other person.

Yes, now I’m suggesting to literally ignore people if you fail to deal with the situation with other means.

I do it every now and then when some of my Irish work colleagues make a comment on something but I don’t get it because of their pronunciation or because they speak very fast, blurring words. I’m just not bothered asking five times – “sorry, can you say it again?” I just give them a smile and carry on with whatever I’m doing. I’m ignoring the situation and I don’t care if they think I don’t understand English properly or whatever.

I know what I know, I don’t care what others think about me, and I want you to adopt the same attitude ❗

Of course, I’m not saying you have to ignore when someone asks you a direct question, it would be rude and then you really want to ask the person ten times to repeat it if you don’t get it.

But where the ignorance thing comes in action now is – you have to ignore the fact that you may look silly in their eyes, and you have to ignore the rising emotion of confusion and shame emerging inside of you. Quell it, and tell yourself – it’s nothing important, it’s all right to sound the way I sound and I know that my English skills have nothing to do with this situation!

Robby

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hi Sunny,

    It’s pretty much the same as “for example” or “for instance” – simple as that! 😉

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Sunny

    Hi Robby, I have read and heard the phrase ‘for the argument’s sake ‘ a couple of times in your blog articles and videos. I thought about the meaning of it several times but could not come to a satisfactory conclusion. Would you please clarify the meaning of the said phrase? Thank you! in advance.