Archive for June, 2008

Make a behavioral change to improve English

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

This can be applied to making any improvement in your life but here I’m going to use improving English as the example.

A lot of people tell me they want to improve their English. I ask them how they are going to do it. They tell me something like, “spend more time studying”. Their intentions are good but they are likely to fail. Their plan is not specific enough. They don’t have a plan for how they will study and when they will study. You need to know exactly what you will do and when you will do if you want to be successful.

Let’s look at this plan: “I’m going to read for 1 hour every night”. Is that a good plan? It’s better than the first one but still not good enough. You need to know what you are going to read and when exactly you will read it. If you say you will read at 8:00-9:00 every night then if it is 8:05, you know that you should be reading. If you just say you will read for an hour every night, what is likely to happen is you will keep delaying the reading until you are too tired, and then go to bed thinking that you will just start tomorrow.

Here is an an example of a good plan: “I will listen to one English podcast everyday starting at 8:00 pm. I will then go on the forum and ask any questions I have about the podcast, and if I have no questions, I’ll practice writing by answering one of the other questions, or writing my opinion on one of the topics”.

Now you have a good plan that you can put into action. Use this plan or make another one equally specific for your English study. Make sure you write down exactly what you will do and when you will do it. Try it for 30 days. See if you can do it everyday for 30 days. Once it becomes a habit it will be easier to maintain.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.


Mutually exclusive

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Mutually exclusive is a term that pops up all the time in books I read. This is a mathematical term with a very precise meaning, but in general English it is used to mean that two things can’t happen at the same time.

For example, being in a relationship and being single are mutually exclusive. In other words, you can’t be in a relationship and be single at the same time. (unless you are a good liar. haha).

Often this term is used by saying that two things are “not mutually exclusive”. This means that the two events can, at least in theory, happen together.

Doing well in school and having a fun social life are not mutually exclusive if you know how to manage your time well.

Knowing how to use this term well will impress native speakers. I even know some native speakers who don’t know what it means.