Don’t Study English Hard in the New Year – Practice the Easy Way Instead!

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Improve Spoken English


Hi guys! Hello boys and girls. Hello my dear fellow foreign English speakers and welcome back to Robby’s English Harmony video blog. And welcome to the year 2016. And I’m pretty sure that a lot of you guys are making new year’s resolutions just like we all do. And also some of you would be making the resolution to study English really hard next year and become fluent in English, right?

But here’s the thing – if you make the resolution to study English hard, it’s actually a double whammy which means that you’re going to fail on two accounts. First of all, if you decide to study English, studying as such is a method of preparing yourself for exams, tests and the like. That’s the typical academic approach basically where the education is centered around assessment, typically a test or an exam. Studying is the crucial part of it. You study for a test or an exam, then you pass it and then you move on to the next one.

But in reality when it comes to spoken English performance, studying for it is not going to make any difference. It’s all about practicing instead. So basically you have to shift your focus away from studying entirely and focus predominantly on practicing your English. And it’s not just about spoken English, right? As a matter of fact, any English-related activity requires loads of practice for you to become good at it. Whether it’s reading or writing or listening or speaking you can only become good at it by doing it!

And you may want to check out this blog post that I published earlier last year which is all about you being what you do. And spoken English, written English, English comprehension, reading are no exceptions to the rule. You can only become good at practicing those areas.

When you study that rather implies you sitting down and reading a book. That’s the typical picture that conjures itself up in my mind when you mention the word “study” and I’m pretty sure a lot of you guys would be the same when you say “study” – 9 out of 10 people would be thinking about sitting down at the desk and pouring over textbooks and studying really hard.

That’s the second part of it. It sets you up for failure again because if you have the concept of doing something really hard, the very word “hard” implies that it’s not going to be enjoyable. It’s not going to be an enjoyable experience at all. It’s going to be studying which by its very nature is perceived to be something boring and tedious and hard makes it twice as hard, twice as boring, twice as tedious.

So when you have this concept in your head “I have to study English hard.” As a matter of fact, you don’t even want to do it deep down inside and you will find every excuse along the way just to put it off for another day, for a week, for a month. And then the whole next year is going to just fly by in a jiffy and you’ll realize that you haven’t done anything!

So what I suggest is instead of studying, make your goal to practice English. Instead of doing it hard, do it the easy way. It doesn’t have to be hard. What I’m doing now isn’t hard at all. I’m just turning the camcorder on and I’m just speaking away, right?  And by the way you can read an article here about the advantages of recording your speech in a camcorder and how it can improve your spoken English, right?

So it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be easy and it has to be easy. It has to be enjoyable because everything that’s hard is not really enjoyable. Well, there’s a lot to be said about, say, working out, exercising hard which is enjoyable. But then again, it’s somewhat a bit different, you know. I would rather call it challenging, not necessarily hard. If something becomes too hard on the verge of you not being able to do it. It’s like spinning your wheels on a bike and getting nowhere. Stuck in the mud for instance. It’s not an enjoyable experience at all!

So I want you to shift your focus away from these seemingly good new year’s resolutions such as studying hard, I have to study hard. And then I’m going to become a good English speaker or I’ll just develop English fluency in general, right? I have to study hard. For some reason or another you have this concept in your mind and that seems like the only way to go to succeed. But it’s not the case. Get rid of that, get rid of the study, get rid of the hard part and just practice English regularly and do it in an easy way, in an easy manner. Enjoy the process, right?

Whatever it is you’re doing, whether you’re consuming audiovisual content or you’re reading or you’re writing something or you’re speaking with yourself, doing lot of English practice, it has to be done in an easy way. You just have to do it in a way you can manage it. There’s no reason for you to set the bar very, very high and aim for it knowing that you’re going to fail, that it’s going to be too hard. And there’s another article that I want you to read and there’s a video as well called “This English stuff is too easy, give something more difficult! Give me something more difficult, right?”

And what made me to create that video was an e-mail I got off one of my customers who said the English Harmony system’s content is too easy and that he wanted something more difficult. And that’s another wrong concept that some of you guys may have that if you do something easy it’s not going to develop your English. You have to be doing something really hard, push yourself really in order to develop. Well, there’s a certain degree of doing it obviously. If you constantly stay within the comfort zone, you’re not going to be developing your fluency, say a great deal.

But then again, it’s all about practicing. You could be talking about the same things, using the same words all over and over again but you will still develop within your comfort zone. You will become even more fluent. You don’t even necessarily have to acquire a large base of vocabulary, words or whatever. All that matters is that you can use the words that you know fluently, right?

And I hope you get the drift my friends basically. Don’t aim for something that is hard, difficult. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that only that way you will experience some development. And when it comes to study, studying, just get rid of that concept altogether. Obviously, if you want to pass certain exams and tests and what not, then some study is required. Do it. But I strongly believe that you will experience an even greater development and you will actually prepare for those exams. If you practice loads, you will quite naturally know what is the right way of saying or writing this or that particular thing, probably without actually putting in as much study as someone who only studies to pass the exam, if you know what I mean.

Okay? So if you have this resolution to study hard, get rid of it and practice the easy way. All right? And obviously if you have any questions or comments of any nature, publish them in the comment section below my friends. Thanks for watching this video and chat to you soon. Bye bye!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Thanks Juhapekka, it’s an interesting concept indeed; I just looked Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi up on Google and read about the “flow” concept, and it actually makes an awful lot of sense! Will have to return to it at some stage, but now I’m off to the airport, have to attend a family funeral in Latvia.
    Chat soon,

  • Juhapekka

    Hi Robby,

    Have you heard of Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi’s “flow” concept and his large research? I just remembered it and I decided to write a new comment because his ideas about one’s improvement seem to fit well with the idea of enjoying the process. Namely, if I have understood it correctly, Csíkszentmihályi’s work is all about the fact that according to his research, people were most happy when they were pushing their boundaries further in a way that is just beyond their current abilities. I think this would show that if we think hard work is the only way which will pay off in the end, we are in the wrong mindset. Of course, we can’t be in the optimal “flow” state all the time and the right amount of perhaps even really hard work is sometimes necessary, but enjoying the process more or less may be the only way to go because otherwise we’ll burn out and even if we don’t burn out, it seems that we won’t even get the best results.

    I don’t elaborate any further because I just recently remembered his work, but the information I found about Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi’s research through Google seems to be very interesting.

  • Oh really? Both terms are correct? I guess it goes to show my “gut feeling” isn’t that bad after all! 😉
    Thanks for the comment once more and keep in touch – I really appreciate you sticking around and reading/watching content on my blog! 😉

  • Juhapekka

    Hi Robby,

    Your video was nice and concise! I’m glad you enjoyed reading my comment. It also showed that I managed to convey the message successfully.

    I looked up the ski poles vs ski sticks from Cambridge dictionary and it seems that ski poles are used both in US and UK, but in UK also ski sticks are used.

  • Hi Juhapekka,

    And Many Happy Returns to You!!!

    Thanks so much for the comment, I enjoyed reading it – as a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to record a short video on it, here it is:
    Thanks and chat soon,

  • Juhapekka

    Happy New Year!

    Thanks Robby for your wise tips and for your advice in your previous blog post which videos and articles would be the best in 2015. I’m surely going to review them later in order to refresh my memory.

    Your words that “even if you were talking about the same things, using the same words all over and over again, you would still develop within your comfort zone. You will become even more fluent.” are really reassuring for me at the moment because recently I have felt that I’m not improving at all because it seems to me that I have been using the same words and phrases and not going anywhere.

    Your video is also especially good in a sense that I got a good idea from it. Well, actually it isn’t a new idea because I already knew it, you already said it and many others have proposed similar ideas and thus the idea isn’t just mine, but your video refreshed it. The idea is that instead of setting the resolutions and goals such as “I will be completely fluent in English”, it’s better to promise to spend as much time as possible with English and perhaps also setting some specific minimum time frame like 5-15-30- minutes that you at least spend with English every single day. The key thing is to enjoy the process and not to compare yourself with others because that way you are bound to be disappointed because there are always some people who are better than you. It may also be a not-so-good idea to set goals like “I will be able to hold a conversation with nearly perfect pronunciation or without stumbling upon words” because if you fail sufficiently many times, you can become too frustrated and eventually you will give up altogether. I think that if we push our boundaries further as much as possible while in the same time enjoying the process, we may eventually achieve our ambitious goals and maybe we could do even better. In a nutshell, the key idea is to focus on the process and not the outcome.

    A few examples come to my mind as a proof that this “enjoying the process and not focusing too much the outcome” is highly successful:

    Firstly, I have seen videos about Brazilian kids playing football while enjoying it apparently very much. They can really spend the whole day playing football and in the same time enjoying themselves greatly. Of course, these small Brazilian kids may have dreams about becoming the best football player in the world, but I believe that during the practice they forget that goal in some sense and they just enjoy the game. It may not be a coincidence that the most skillful professional football players with the best technique have usually been from Brazil.

    The second example are photos and videos where African kids are running really fast with the really wide smile in their faces and in the light of these smiling kids, it isn’t a wonder that during the recent years the best runners have come from Ethiopia and Kenya.

    The third example is from my own experience: As a little child I enjoyed cross-country skiing immensely and I tended to ski as much as possible. In our school I always won sit-up-competitions even though I was very rarely doing any sit-ups. Some kids who were sporty and doing a lot of sit-ups as a part of their training program always failed to do as many sit-ups as I was able to do. They said something like “You must do a lot of sit-ups in your free time” and when I said “No. Actually, I don’t tend to do almost any sit-ups.”, some of them thought that I must be lying or joking. On the other hand, some of them knew that I was usually very honest in my answers, and they said something like “Your abs must be genetically very strong or then you are extremely talented.” Now I know that I wasn’t either: I wasn’t exceptionally talented nor my abs were genetically very strong because later I read that the classic style and especially the double pole plant technique (where skis are symmetrically pushed forward by ski poles) engages not only hands but also abdominal muscles to a great extent. As a result of my enjoyable skiing, I got strong abs as a kid without ever thinking about getting strong abs. My strong abs were only a by-product and nothing else.

    Of course, certain sensible, specific and measurable mini-goals are appropriate, but I only wanted to express my points clearly. This all also applies into English improvement, of course, and we only have to engage into the activities that are highly enjoyable and where we also use our mouth muscles. As a result, we’ll get strong and skillful mouth muscles as a by-product.