If you’ve ever learned to dance, I assume it included moving your body and not just watching other people move, right? Same goes if you learned how to ride a bicycle or play the piano.
Well, you know what? The same goes for learning English!
If you want to become fluent – so fluent that you sometimes can’t tell the difference between speaking in English or your native language because they both feel so natural – you have to put what you learn into practice, which means – SPEAKING!
This is how you acquire a new habit. Eventually you won’t think much about a new word or sound because it will become automatic.
In this episode I’ll share some memories from my days in dance class (and what I learned from that experience). Because it’s not just about dancing, it’s about learning any new thing, including English.
Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 114. And today we’re going to talk about why learning English is like dancing.
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. I’m really delighted that you’re here. Now, after listening to the intro, if you are a person who likes to dance, you’re like, “Hm, interesting.” And if you are a person who doesn’t like to dance, then you probably did something like, “Oh, what’s this about?” Which one are you?
I can tell you that I’m not a fan of dancing, but when I dance, I love it. So, I think for me to start dancing there is like this barrier that I need to pass. And when I do, I love it. But since I’m an introvert, I don’t like to go to parties and to socialize, and dance, and all of that. But when I dance at home with my girls, you can not stop me.
But the story, the really interesting story is about what happened to me when I was in acting school, and I had to do all these Broadway moves. And again, dancing is not second nature to me. So, you’ll hear the story about that in the episode, but just a teaser.
Anyway, why learning English is like dancing? Well, we’ll talk about that in the episode. If you are tuning in for the first time, then consider subscribing to the podcast on whatever platform you’re listening to this on. Anyway, let’s get started with today’s episode.
Would you ever consider learning a dance move by simply watching the dancer dance? Or would you consider learning how to ride a bicycle by simply reading a book about how to ride a bicycle? Probably not, right? So why do you think that learning English without speaking and saying the words is going to help you become fluent?
Here’s the thing. When it comes to speaking another language, we are, basically, building new speaking habits. We move away from the old speaking habits that we’ve had, which is our native language, whether it’s sounds or words – even words are just utterances. And we are used to saying a certain word at a certain situation, and that is a habit. Right?
So, even learning new words, definitely when it comes to sounds, what you’re doing is your learning a new habit. You’re acquiring a new habit. And I have a full lesson coming up about habits and language learning, because there’s a lot that we need to unpack there.
But for today, I want you to understand that a habit is something that you do automatically. You don’t want to think about it, you don’t want to plan for it, you don’t want to be intentional about it. That is what makes it effortless. We have good habits. We have bad habits. That’s up for discussion.
But, you know, when you speak your own language, you don’t think about the words, they just come to you. Right? It’s automatic. And in English, sometimes that’s the case, and sometimes it is not. So, what I want to talk about today is how to bridge that gap from, you know, when it’s not habitual to making it your own and making it a habit.
Let me tell you a little story. When I was in acting school, we had dance classes. I’m not a dancer. I often say that I have like a movement dyslexia, because when people tell me to put the right elbow on the left knee, I would take my ear and put it on my shoulder. Because I just don’t get it. I get totally confused. Really. Like, in yoga classes, I’m the one who does the postures, and then looks at everyone else to see what they’re doing to make sure that I’m not messing up, and usually I am.
So, imagine me going into this dance hall with all these Broadway dancers to be, and they’ve been trained all their lives. And I’m like, maybe I had tap dancing of the age of six. And they’re all like, one, two, three, seven, five, ten, you know? And I’m like, uh, okay, what do I do with my body?
And the teacher would teach all these fancy dance moves, like Broadway dance moves. And I would be the last one to get it. Everyone would kinda like pick it up right away, and look awesome in the mirror. And I would feel so sluggish, and awkward, and weird.
So, what I had to do is, of course, I had to work a little harder. Because it was harder for me. I felt like, you know, if I have an obstacle, it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible, it just means that I need to tackle it differently. It’s not as natural as it is for my friends, who have been trained. Right? They’re natives in dancing. And I wasn’t.
So, what I did was, I got into the habit of learning all of the moves by repeating them again and again and again. Sometimes with the help of friends, because I couldn’t remember them. So, I had to take it slower. And I really had to get it into my body. And the same thing, I gave you that example of the beginning, is that when you ride on your bike and you don’t think about it. You don’t think about keeping your balance, you don’t think about paddling. It’s just something that happens, it’s automatic, that’s habit already. Your body knows what to do. But that wasn’t the case when you first started learning how to ride a bicycle, right? That wasn’t the case when you first started learning how to swim, and what to do with your body, and how to stay afloat.
So, all of these things that we now take for granted, were challenging for us at a certain point. But the way for us to make it our own and to develop the muscle memory was simply through practice. And this is the interesting part when it comes to English learning. Because I see it so often, and I used to teach it like that – “Okay, here’s a new thing, let’s learn it. Let’s solve a few questions. Great, let’s move on.”
It is really impossible. You really have to feel it in your mouth and in your body, and understand how you connect this – what you’ve just learned in perceived – to this, what comes out of your mouth. And this is a whole another practice that you need to take seriously.
Repetition is important. This is why I’ve developed the Pronunciation Confidence Technique, that I use in my teachings. Because it’s not just, you know, repeating it for the sake of repeating it. It’s intentional repetition, that allows you to get this new word, or sound, or grammatical structure into your body, right, like into your system. And you make it your own. And you say it again, and again, and again.
And a lot of people say, “Okay, I feel repetitive. It’s like robotic. What’s the point? I only need to use it in context.” But here is the thing. When you repeat something, like I do in the Sprints – and I’m going to link to my Sprints in the description, because I think it’s an effective way to put this idea into practice.
What you’re doing with repetition is that you’re telling yourself that it’s okay for you to use this word. You’re telling your brain and you’re telling your muscles how to use this structure. So, you leave out the analytical part of the brain, so you don’t need to think about, “I need this word”, or “This is how this word is structured.” And you simply do it again and again and again, until it becomes automatic, until you develop a muscle memory. Right?
So, it’s not just with dancing, or singing, or playing the piano, or swimming. It’s about speaking a second language, as well. And the sooner you understand that and surrender to it, and do the work necessary, the easier it’s going to be.
So many of my students report that after doing the Sprints for 10, 20, 30 days, the words just come out of their mouth. They use a certain structure without thinking about it. Why? Because it’s already in the muscle memory. Your body already knows how to use it. It’s just now connecting it in the right circumstances, or the right situations.
So, that’s what I wanted to share with you today, basically. That learning how to speak a language is exactly like learning how to dance, to play basketball, to play the piano. There’s like the understanding of how it all goes together. But there is also the recognition that small parts need repetitions. Because we don’t have the confidence using it in our speaking.
So, whatever you’re learning, whatever you’re learning – sounds, words, vocabulary structures, phrasal, verbs, idioms, expressions – whatever you’re learning, don’t leave it on the paper. Don’t say it once and move on. Say it again, and again, and again, and again. Just the act of saying that one phrase, and then use it in context, and then maybe think of yourself using it in certain situations, like associate an imagery or something that can connect this word to that visual thought or idea, right? And then you will see that you start using all of these things a lot more.
Okay. So, let me know in the comments, first of all, if that resonates with you. And if you have any questions for me, please, feel free to ask. And also, if you have any other ideas or suggestions of what our community can do while learning and practicing English, to move it from just content consumption to implementation, to putting in the work. Okay? Good.
So I’m going to link to a few other videos that are going to be relevant, if you’re interested, right here in the description. And in the meantime, thank you so much. You can find me at @hadar.accentsway on Instagram if you want to connect.
And have a beautiful day, and I’ll see you next week. Bye.
Here are some videos you could use to create your own pronunciation routine: