William started learning English at 12 years old and continued at university and beyond, spending a couple of years in England as a teaching assistant and then returning to France to work as a school teacher, in some pretty tough classrooms and less-than-perfect teaching conditions. William talks about how he continues to maintain his English, the importance of finding good language exchange partners, and more.
Notes for the Introduction and Ending Monologues (not a 100% complete transcript)
Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well. In this episode you’re going to listen to a conversation with another LEPster picked by other LEPsters for an appearance on this podcast. This time it’s the turn of William from France who came joint 3rd in the competition – it was a tie between William and Robin from Hamburg, and Robin will be on the podcast soon as well.
Right so this episode is the latest in the WISBOLEP series and WISBOLEP means Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and it was a competition I launched last year in which listeners sent in short recordings to persuade members of the audience to vote for them to be chosen for an interview on my podcast. So far I have spoken to the winner – Walaa from Syria and the 2nd place contender Tasha from China. Let’s now return to Europe and talk to William who lives in France. Shout out to all the French LEPsters. Salut les francais, et les francophone, ca va?
I think these WISBOLEP interviews are really interesting and there is a lot to gain from listening to them.
Sure, there will be some people who will decide that they just can’t listen to another learner of English and only native speakers of English are worth listening to. I can understand that to an extent, but I do think that completely dismissing non-native speakers of English like that is a mistake.
Learning English is a complex and personal process and I think there is a great deal to be gained from listening to other learners describe their experiences and methods of learning English. This can give you inspiration in terms of specific things you can do to improve your learning, and generally it can give you a lot of perspective about what it really means to be a learner of English or a speaker of English as a second language, what proficiency really is, what fluency really means, how important perfection is compared to having the initiative to just go out there and start using English. Also it can give you a sense of camaraderie with other fellow learners, and it’s very healthy to know that you are part of a community of similar language learners around the world, all of whom are trying to work on their English level in various ways. Some people are better than others, but everyone is going through a similar process.
We are all learners of English in a way, including me, and it’s wrong to think that learning English has a specific end point or conclusion to it. It’s a never ending process and there are always things to learn and ways to improve in terms of how we use this tool to communicate with people more effectively.
Perfection is not necessarily the thing to expect from yourself or others. It’s a high ideal to strive towards but if you only accept perfect English, then prepare to be disappointed, both by yourself and by others. Setting perfection as your ultimate goal is quite unrealistic and doesn’t really reflect the nature of English as a pragmatic language. When you’re using English in the real world, it’s not necessarily about having flawless English but about the results that you achieve with your English. It’s “connection not perfection” as the girls from AEE always say.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious or that you shouldn’t try to do your very best in English. It’s important to try to be better at English of course. But little mistakes are inevitable, holes in your knowledge of English are inevitable and you should not let these things stop you on your journey with this language. We have to try to accept that we will make mistakes and we have to learn from them. You have to be philosophical about it.
Another idea that strikes me as I listen to these WISBOLEP episodes is that curiosity and a willingness to take a few risks are really important. It seems to help your progress in English if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone a bit and throw yourself into situations that will ultimately help your English to develop. Be curious all the time and keep moving forwards in your quest to know more, learn more and get more control over the language, even if you never really get to the end – in fact there isn’t really an end point. Be patient and don’t let little obstacles get in your way.
I could bang on about this kind of stuff all day, but I will conclude by saying that it’s up to you to find your own motivation to keep going with English. There is no “one perfect way”. Everyone has to find their own path, and I think it’s a long-term thing. At the very least, certainly for the next hour or so I hope you simply enjoy listening to William and me talking about his experiences, with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and don’t underestimate the value of listening to fellow learners of English.
I would say, try not to compare yourself to others too much, and equally, don’t judge others too harshly. Just try to take inspiration from other people’s stories and examples.
This brings us to William from France, and in fact this conversation demonstrates a lot of those ideas that I just mentioned.
Just a little bit of background info on William before we start, just to give you a sense of the context from which he learned English.
William is from a town just outside Paris, called Combs de Ville. His parents are from the French West Indies and more specifically from an island called Guadeloupe, which is a French overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. So his parents were from there originally and they moved to France in their twenties. William was born in France. He grew up learning French as his first language, but his parents did still speak Creole (the local language from Guadeloupe – but no English. In his own words “Creole and French were the main languages used at home but my parents didn’t want me to use Creole. We were in France so French was the only language I was allowed to use. So it was a bit strange to be able to understand a language without being able to use it.”
As you’ll hear, English didn’t come into William’s life until he started learning it at school like everyone else in France at the time, at about the age of 12. But he took to it and liked it. I wonder if having several languages in the household growing up had anything to do with that. It’s possible. But in any case, William didn’t get a head start on his peers in terms of English.
I’m not going to explain in advance all the main points in our conversation. Instead, I will let you discover it as you go. What I will say is that I really enjoyed this chat, and you will find that it gets more focused, more specific and more insightful as it goes on.
That’s it from me now. I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation with a few reflections and thoughts, but now, let’s hear from William from France, who came joint 3rd in the WISBOLEP competition.
Oh one other thing, before I forget. William wanted me to add something at the start of this episode – and that is to say a big thank you to all the people who voted for him in the competition, giving him the chance to be featured in an episode of the podcast. So, thanks from William.
So that was William from France. I really enjoyed talking to him. He’s a lovely guy and here are some of the things I took away from this. Here are some thoughts and reflections.
- English is a journey not a destination.
- There’s no end point in terms of learning English. It’s like being a musician or a sports player. There’s always training to be done and room to improve in terms of technique, general fitness and fluency and so on. You have to practise all the time and there are always ways in which you can gain more control and more efficiency in how you use English to express ideas. This is true for native speakers of the language as well, including me. I see myself as a work in progress too, in terms of how effective I am as a speaker or writer of English.
- Finding language partners for language exchanges can be a great way to get regular practice into your life, but you have to find the right person, and this can take a long time, but don’t let that stop you – keep searching, keep talking to different people until you find someone who is right for you. This could be true of one to one teachers as well. Sometimes you need to shop around a bit. Remember, like William you can find language exchange partners, conversation partners and English teachers on italki. Italki is both a sort of marketplace for online teachers, but also a social network which you can use to find other language learners, and that could include fluent English speakers who want to learn your language, and like William you could just informally set up conversations with these people and spend some time speaking English and some time speaking in your language, and if you get the right person that can be an invaluable source of practice for you. To sign up for italki you can still use my link, which is www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and if you access italki that way and then buy some lessons with a teacher, italki will send you a discount voucher worth 10 dollars which you can use next time.
- BUt the point there is → be patient, be dedicated, keep searching, don’t give up and you could find someone who you can practise your English with on a regular basis in a mutually beneficial way. It could be a way to make new friends as well.
- Finally – stay curious, about English – especially in terms of learning about how the language works in order to work on your grammar in a sort of organic way – just trying to work out how the language works, referring to grammar books (a tip could be Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – a good reference book for English grammar and usage) and also stay curious about other people, because this is really important in developing good communication skills. It’s not just about how well you can speak and express yourself, it’s about how well you interact with other people and listening to others is a big part of that. So, be curious about the language, but just be curious about people you meet and be interested in other people when you talk to them and you’ll find that your communication skills will thrive as a result of that. I feel that that’s something William does – he is interested in other people and that’s a strength of his. It’s one reason why he communicates well.
OK, just some thoughts that occurred to me at the end of this episode here.
Feel free to share your thoughts too in the comment section.
I would also like to say that talking to William gave me a little boost. He said some nice and sincere things about this podcast, about how it has helped him and how I might be helping other people and I appreciated it. So good luck to you William and all the listeners who are still listening all the way up to this point in the episode.
That’s it from me,
I will speak to you in the next episode. Again – a reminder that I am also working on Premium series 29 – What did Rick Say? And so premium subscribers – look out for new episodes in that series arriving very soon. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more details and to sign up.
Have a lovely day, morning, evening, night! Stay safe! Stay positive! Stay curious!
Speak to you soon.
Bye bye bye bye bye.
Song: Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles
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