(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/2kZBKkj)
I often use the gym analogy to get people to understand many things about learning and doing your best, but consistency is definitely one of the easiest points to grasp when talking about the gym.
So, stepping aside from the ESL road here, let’s look at the average gym goer.
If you are a regular at the gym you will know that you may have all had to start somewhere. The treadmill or the bicycle and the speed you went on was initially low and you were exhausted and as you increased it over time and you managed to improve your fitness, and so the story goes. This one is easy to understand.
But the best analogy is the consistency one. I think most analysts of human behaviour towards the gym would have to agree that those people who are ‘consistent’ with their attendance, ‘consistent’ with the approach they have to maintaining and/or increasing their targets and in turn ‘consistent’ with their muscle building, fat loss, or general fitness development (whatever their desired outcome is). Consistency is the key to achieving it all.
The same goes for the ESL learner. If you are consistent in your attendance, consistent in your attempting all the exercises and endeavouring always to learn more, your outcomes of speaking and understanding English will be consistent also.
But one thing to remember, when the gym goer had a bad day and was tired and rundown, did they stop? No, they went right back the next day and tried again. When they didn’t achieve their goal in one month and it took more effort than they expected, it was consistency that kept them there trying. When they found themselves wondering if it was all worth it, the momentum of consistency kept them going because simply they couldn’t imagine a life without it.
The same is for learning a language. When the rough times come, consistency will be the thing that gets you through. When you reach that plateau of learning and you don’t feel like you are shifting any more, consistency kept you moving and being creative to try to find something that triggered more understanding, and finally (and most importantly for learning a language), after consistency has done its job, fluency takes over, and everyone’s goal is to be fluent.
Consistency doesn’t mean doing the same thing every day, that’s just boring, consistency is making sure you are continuing to try, explore, evaluate and learn on a daily basis no matter what it takes. Consistency is the key to all forms of learning and English is no exception.