- How did you become fluent?
- Fabian’s experience in learning English.
- What is your background in the US?
- What do you do if you’re still learning English?
- National education methods don’t work at all.
- Grammar drills can be boring.
- Why you need to be realistic with what you can do.
- What’s the biggest hurdle you need to overcome when learning English?
- What makes a successful language learner?
- The more languages we speak, the more neurons are used to not mix them up, and the more difficult it will be to maintain them.
- Do you have any goals in regards to your future with your English?
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Diane 0:00 Hi, Fabian, thanks for coming on the podcast Do you have pretty big podcasts about French of people learning French. And I've been a listener for quite a while now, I don't know, a couple of years. So and I know that you also speak several languages. So I thought we could get you on here to talk about your experience in learning English and how you find it.
Fabien 0:26 Hi, everyone. Hi, Diane. I'm Fabian. I'm French. And I've been teaching French for like, three years and a half now.
Diane 0:36 Cool. And yeah, in the last few years, you've been making a podcast, which also has a YouTube channel. And you do a range of different topics about but speaking, obviously, exclusively in French, kind of everyday topics, sometimes history, but yeah, lots of different things. And I was curious to know what you did before. You became you had this new role before you did French teaching making podcasts? What did you actually do?
Fabien 1:09 Before being French teacher, I was working in France as a customer service advisor for an internet company. So had nothing to do with my current occupation. But I was helping people anyway.
Diane 1:24 And how long have you been speaking English?
Fabien 1:27 I've been keen on speaking English since I was a kid in primary school. But I've been really speaking, since I've been learning it on my own. So around five or six years,
Diane 1:39 and why was it that you actually started learning English? What was it that made it interesting for you? Would you mind telling us something about that?
Fabien 1:50 Well, I have part of my family living in the USA, my aunt is French, and she moved to Chicago when she was 20 or something, then my uncle is American. And so is the daughter, my cousin. So when I was a toddler, my uncle and my aunt would send me American toys or gadgets like T amenties, GI Joes. And I even was the first kid to have those shoes with lights on the hill, you know? So I started to realize this American culture, and I wanted to be good at English to be able to understand my uncle and my cousin. And a few years back, I decided to backpack liberal. So I needed to speak English. But I never felt forced to speak English. I really like how it sounds, and are really like to speak it.
Diane 2:46 Yeah, it's nice to hear someone actually saying that they like the sound of English because in general, people learn because they have to not because they really want to know like with their language like French, or maybe Portuguese and Spanish, they like the sound of it. But yeah, in the case of English, it's pure duty or for work or something like that, or because the world is dominated by English. So it's nice to hear someone actually appreciate the sound. So tell me, if you could, how did you learn? And are you still working on your skills now? So like, what do you do if you if you're still studying, practicing now? What kind of activities or resources do you use?
Fabien 3:34 Yeah, I'm still trying to improve my English skills. nowadays. I don't make as much effort as a bootleg because of the lack of time, but at least I'm trying my best to maintain them. I mostly watch English videos, any kind of them and especially made for Native people and not for learners. For example, I often watch a Jimmy Fallon shows, but I also watch different kinds of channels like anatomy, biology, science, fitness, language learning, and so on and so on. And when I watch something, not always but I look up some new words, from time to time. And also to improve I try to face new challenges to speak English when they occur. Speaking right now in English is a good example. Or when I come across last foreign tourists, I tried to help them out as much as I can, on the train, on the street and so on. So I try to create those occasions to speak English
Diane 4:41 that you want to learn. But there's plenty of people that you can meet online to, to practice with and there's websites. There's Netflix, there's YouTube, there's lots of opportunities. You have to create those opportunities as as for Damian has said, so let's talk about how you actually learned English. What did you find work for you? How did that process work? What do you find useful in learning English? And what do you find? That doesn't help? And then also, if you could say, you know, have you continued to get better and better? Or have you ever found yourself getting to a point where you you get stuck? So just yeah, something you could tell us about that would be great.
Fabien 5:32 Well, I can definitely confirm that national education school boring methods used when I was students don't work at all. They're not efficient. And even worse, they can make people biggest disgusted with English. But I can see that things are changing. In France, for example, my niece is 14 years old. And lately, she had to record a candle kind of YouTube video for her English classes, talking about her favorite series. And it was so fun for her to make, I could see that she was improving your English by doing things she likes. So forcing people to learn English with boring grammar drills, or homeworks doesn't work. And it's even bad. Why learning English with fun activities, but with a pound of effort, works way, way, way better, especially for primary or secondary school students, because they don't even know whether English will be useful for them or not. So they don't see the point of learning so much boring grammar. And it's almost the same for me as an adult. I mostly learned English doing things I like, like traveling, talking to foreigners consuming content. But with a small percentage of studying drills. Don't focus so much on grammar, focus on vocabulary by listening, watching, having fun, and practicing as much as you can and try new things
Diane 7:18 I find my experience with with learning Spanish, sometimes you just have to do the grammar drills. Unfortunately, because there's in Spanish, there's so much conjugation, you have to know the different tenses, the different people all the different subjects that using that tense, they have a different ending of the verb. And it's very complicated. So it's necessary to practice but there are websites where you can do grammar drills, which are less boring. But still, it's inevitable, there's going to be some some challenge in doing stuff, which is kind of challenging and boring and repetitive. That's fine. I think sometimes we need to get a little bit bored. It makes us creative, if we're bored, you know. But I agree also that doing something that's really practical, like making a YouTube video, even if you're not going to share it with anyone. You're just pretending you're playing Okay, I'm gonna make a video to tell everyone what I did today. That's the kind of thing people do. And they make a lot of money doing their YouTube videos. And so so people can can actually I think for kids, they can see, oh, well, if I can use this language, and I can talk about what I'm doing it has a real impact. And you're not just sitting there listening to audios and repeating things.
So those kinds of things are great and making friends online who are who who speak the language you want to speak
it's a really great way to do it. So are you happy? How happy do you feel with your English? Your current level? And and why?
Fabien 9:04 Yes, I'm quite happy because even though I make grammar mistakes, sometimes I can be understood and I can understand so that's the most important thing. And it brings us satisfaction and fulfillment.
Diane 9:18 If you can have a conversation and you can say what you want to say you're really like I wouldn't say more than halfway there or you're maybe 75% there and I hear from from students I've had several students recently actually say to me in very good English in almost perfect English with a couple of mistakes they'll say to me, you know, Diane my I can understand things but my my speaking is terrible. And they're saying listen, a pretty good accent clearly pronounced, easy to understand, without too many mistakes in grammar and I think like you don't realize what what you've been able to achieve, there is lots of people in the world who would love to achieve this level, even if their level is intermediate to upper intermediate. Those people who are very perfectionistic are focusing on that I want to be see to be you get to see to it's basically, you know, you can do anything you want. That's possibly a topic for another episode, how accurate and how realistic those levels are. But people just want to get up, okay, I need to get B, C to okay, but if you can explain what you want to explain, why not focus on something that really interests you, rather than going through an exam, which is probably a bit over, you know, over detailed for what you might actually want to do. Because, you know, most people who speak a language as a native speaker, they don't do the depth of grammar study or vocabulary study. That some some students who are really perfectionistic do. And I think the main point is not to underestimate your, your skill, once you get that, it's, it's important, I grant to be realistic with what you're able to do, and not to, you know, rest sit back and go, Oh, yeah, I can speak is completely fine. There are those people as well who speak a load of incoherent rubbish and think that they're amazing, because they know a few words. But in my experience is very much related to your personality. So it's, it can be a bit of a hurdle to overcome. Some people, whether it's due to their society, their upbringing, their personality, they have an issue with speaking in front of people and really don't want to make mistakes in front of people. I've met quite a few like that, they can write very well. But they're quite wary of speaking in front of other people, for fear of making mistakes, until they're completely sure that what they say is going to be correct. They're, they're very cautious about actually speaking. So and that's a that's a hurdle. That's a problem. Because without the practice, without making those mistakes, you don't improve, you have to make the mistake to learn from it. Once you correct your mistake, even if you have to correct the same mistake 300 times, once it's there, it's there. And that's how we learn it's it's been studied how how our brains actually work. So what do you like the most about speaking English fluently?
Fabien 12:42 Having the superpower to be able to talk to a lot of people since English is like a universal language? So for me, it's a powerful key that allows me to unlock different possibilities.
Diane 12:54 Yeah, it is a superpower. I think it's kind of underappreciated. Sometimes. There's a common misconception, either you have the skill to learn language, or you don't. But it's just a case of activating that part of your brain. I think some people are stronger than others and learning languages. But with with the right technique that works for you that you feel comfortable with, then then you can really learn it. Yeah, it can be a lot of fun. What do you think makes a successful language learner?
Fabien 13:28 we have to know why we learn English, and we don't have to be forced to learn it. We have to find fun activities to acquire in practice as much languages as possible.
Diane 13:44 So this next question might be a little bit academic and showing something about me. But have you noticed in your experience, or anything that you've read that are genetics type of brain that we have? Or our environment? Have you noticed? And are you have you heard about that having a big impact on yourself? Or the people who speak several languages in the fact that they're able to speak several languages? What is it that makes someone good at learning more than one language? In? Do you have any opinion about that?
Fabien 14:18 No, I haven't, we just know how to immerse ourselves in languages living in the target language or country or not. We already know that there isn't any particularly aptitude, generics or whatsoever needed to be able to learn a foreign language. However, the other we are, the more anchored our native language is, and the more difficult it will be for the brain to embrace other grammar or pronunciation rules. But it's not a big deal. It just takes more time. So I encourage people to start learning languages as young as possible, and motivation comprehensible. Compute novelty, repetition and commitment are the main keys. And that's it.
Diane 15:06 So I know that you speak several languages. For you, what are the advantages to having that ability more, not just one extra language, but several languages,
Fabien 15:16 to be able to speak to a lot of different people and to discover a lot of cultures, so we can better understand the world surrounding us and be more open minded. And that's wonderful for me. Yeah,
The more languages we speak, the more neurons are used to not mix them up, and the more difficult it will be to maintain them.
Diane 15:33 that's, that's true, of course. But maybe there's some downside as well, like this idea that maybe were devoting more space in our brain to something that we might not really use, you know, am I going to be able to speak Russian with people every day? I don't know whether that's going to be that important. For example, I sometimes worry about how speaking lots of different languages than our own kind of uses up are the neurons where they could be devoted something that might be a bit more practical? I don't know, what do you think about that,
Fabien 16:08 the more languages we speak there, how they are used to not mix them up, and to avoid confusion. And the more difficult it will be to maintain all of them, I can hear a lot of people saying that they want to speak a lot of languages. But they have to know that it's very time and energy consuming. We will need to be committed to language for life.
Diane 16:34 Yeah, we can really mix up words from two different languages. And sometimes when I'm speaking French, I will be thinking in Spanish, not in English in Spanish. Sometimes when I'm speaking Spanish, I'm speaking and thinking in French is, sometimes it's really confusing. But because there are two similar languages, they can be almost like my brain has categorized them. Similarly, English resides in a different part of my brain almost because it's so central to my whole experience. But yeah, it's also very idealized, isn't it? This idea of like, Oh, I'm polyglot, I can speak 10 languages, but in reality, what's the use of it unless you as you say, unless you're really committed to it, stick with things that you you love, and you're passionate about, and you're going to use and some Yeah, something that's, that's meaningful for you for life. Because it does take a lot. If you learn something, you do need to maintain it. So that's, that's a really good point. So as we move towards the end of this interview, could you please tell me, if you have any goals in regards to like your future with your English skills,
Fabien 17:46 I would like to improve my listening skills and be able to fully understand series of movies without any subtitles. For example, lately, I've been watching the show How I Met Your Mother, which is hilarious, by the way, and I keep subtitles on as a safety net. When I can't understand without context, I'll pause and I look at the world in a dictionary. I don't reveal them all the time. But it's a goal I want to achieve. So I can turn off subtitles forever. I don't really want to pass an exam. I don't see the point for the moment.
Diane 18:27 Well, yeah, I think with a platform of working online, you have people who are going to for their French practice, you can obviously speak other languages. So it's the point of having an exam would be to often it's used to prove to a university or a workplace that you have a certain level, which to be honest, they could perhaps more easily assess that level, if they gave you a quick writing task, or they have an entire video interview with you, they could really sort out much more quickly how good your skills are. Maybe it's also a it's a sign of the commitment to the study, you know, someone who's achieved a C two level in English they've they've really spent a lot of time so it's a way of filtering out the serious people from the ones who are more just kind of playing with it. But I do agree that in general the exams give you definitely gives you a focus so it gives you a very clear goal to aim towards. But yeah, it's very can be very stressful at the end of the day. And yeah, if you don't need it for your job, you don't need it for to get into university then then why why would you focus your studies on an exam? Because sometimes exams can be extremely boring to study towards, you know, it's very repetitive whereas watching videos, having conversations with people, if you're getting corrected by people, that's the important thing if the person is correcting your skills, your Are you pronunciation, your grammar, your vocabulary, then then you're learning you have to be conscientious with using, I would say like a more or less formal, a less academic technique, you do need to be quite organized and you do need to manage your studies, perhaps not everyone has the skill to manage their studies in that way. And they just sort of skate along and hope that they're going to improve. But if you have a strategy, then you can really progress a huge amount. So in the following episodes, I'm will be talking more about what strategies you, dear listener can use in order to improve your English focusing on English for for a while, at least. So anyway, thank you so much, Fabian, for coming on and talking about your experience. It's been great to hear from you. And it's cold français avec through the day to follow Fabian, on YouTube or on Spotify or any other platforms for podcasts. Great, so thanks for coming on. Take care. Bye.
Fabien 21:11 Oh, thanks a lot for inviting me in your podcasts and good luck for this new adventure. It was a pleasure for me and see you soon. Bye bye.