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I see this one again and again, not just in English but in pretty much all walks of life. How often we ask for some advice and we sit and listen to someone’s response to go out and do what they say and fail. We can’t exactly blame the advice giver, we have to blame ourselves for that, for doing something stupid just because someone advised us to do it. But what we do need to do is to think about the points that make sense to us.
For example, if we look at it in terms of learning English. the first person the ESL learner tends to go to is the teacher. That makes sense. They want advice from the teacher on how to learn English better, but in fact the teacher is often the last person a learner should go to because they have never learned English themselves (unless of course they are a non-native English teacher, then that’s another story again). Therefore, the Native English teacher cannot give you advice ‘that they have learned from themselves’.
There are 5 key indicators that will help you identify if this ESL advice is credible or not.
- Does the advice make logical sense?
- For example, if the person says, take every opportunity to speak English to everyone you meet – that makes logical sense.
- Does the person give a disclaimer right from the start?
- This can be in terms of ‘well this worked for me, but you can try it and see if it works for you, but it may not work in every situation’.
- Is the person living walking evidence that that advice can work?
- In the case of English learning, is the person a native English speaker or Non-native English speaker – if they are a non native English speaker and you like how they talk chances are their advice will have more power than if they are already a native English speaker.
- Are you clear that the problem you have is what the person’s advice is solving?
- This is a basic one, whereby you need to understand your own ESL problem first, and make sure the person you are listening to is targeting your issue, not something else.
- Are you asking for advice or just wanting to open your mouth?
- Some people use the opening line ‘Teacher how can I improve my English?’ as an opening line for a conversation. In fact they are only setting up a conversation about advice so they can speak (which is good also), but the person who is giving the advice may know this or may not understand this until the end of the conversation, and end up giving you any old cliché advice just to stop the conversation. So be genuine with your intention when asking for advice.
So there you have it. If you want to improve your English by getting advice from someone, make sure you follow these rules, and if you can say there are at least 3 out of 5 indicators that are true you will probably be off to a good start.
But most importantly you must remember that advice is only that, it really is up to you to make the advice become your own and then once you personalize it, you will be able to activate it much more accurately to fit your needs.