6 Reasons You Should Learn English in a Community
1. The more people, the better
I’m a firm believer in the idea that you only need 1 quality language exchange partner to learn how to speak a foreign language. I learned how to speak Portuguese by talking to just 2 people on a daily basis. However, what I also believe to be true is that you can never have too many opportunities to practice a skill. The more, the better! The more opportunities you have to speak, the more you practice. And the more you practice, the better your English gets. Even in a community of just 10 people, you’ll have 9 more chances to interact and communicate when 1 of the other members is busy.
So the simple equation reads like this:
More people + more opportunities + more practice = better English
2. A community prepares you for real-world situations
I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, so I’ll make this point brief. In the real world, you’ll most likely be taking to English speakers from all over the world. A lot of English schools train you to focus on British or American English, but the reality is that English is becoming the international language of business and travel, and that means you’ll be talking with more than just the Brits and Americans.
There are millions of people in the U.S. alone who speak English as a second language, and you need to be able to understand them just as must as you need to understand a native speaker. By learning English in an international community, you’ll be exposed to all kinds of English. You’ll also start to notice and appreciate differences in cultural communication styles which, in some cases, are even more important than the language being spoken.
3. You're forced to grow as a person, not just a language learner
One of the coolest things about learning a new language is that you’re forced to improve crucial communication skills that will serve you for years to come. One of those skills is the ability to have healthy discussions and debates. In many cases, everyone has their own thoughts and opinions, and they’re typically different from yours.
When you’re doing a language exchange, you’ll most likely end up talking about something that you and your partner disagree on. What will you do then? Block them? Curse them out? End the conversation? Of course not! You’re gonna learn how to express your thoughts accurately, and you’re gonna learn to respect the thoughts and opinions of others. This is the only way you can sustain long-term communication with someone. And sustaining long-term communication with someone is how you become fluent in a language.
Once you master this skill, you give yourself an opportunity to see how diverse the world is. You get a chance to learn about different ways of life and ways of seeing the world. You get a chance to make friends in different countries, and trust me when I tell you, that is truly priceless.
4. Other members hold you accountable
Have you noticed that going to the gym is a lot easier when you have a partner to go with? Why is that?
It’s because you have someone who holds you accountable. You know you've got someone expecting you to show up. For some strange reason, it’s much harder for us to let other people down than it is for us to let ourselves down. That’s why multiple partners or friends that support you and your goals are priceless assets to have.
If you don’t have a partner and you decide to skip the gym today, no one will know about it. But if you flake on your partner, they will most likely expect an explanation. Simply knowing this fact can be enough to make you get up and go to the gym even when you don’t want to do it.
It's the same with language. I like to think that practicing your language skills is the same as going to the gym, except in this case, you’re exercising your mind. When you have partners holding you accountable and expecting you to show up, you’re much more motivated to show up and practice your English every day. Members of your community are a constant reminder that you need to practice and improve this particular skill.
They say that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. So if you don’t have people in your life that are holding you accountable and supporting you and your goals, you are at a distinct disadvantage.
5. Learning with real people is more fun
Going back to the example of athletics, could you imagine if basketball were a one player sport? What about soccer? Imagine LeBron James on the court all by himself just shooting the basketball and dribbling in circles. Imagine Messi on the field running back-and-forth and shooting the ball into an empty net. We'd probably see them do some amazing stuff by themselves, but after a while it would get pretty boring, right? Basketball and soccer are team sports. They're meant to be played and enjoyed with other people.
Well it’s the same with language. Communication is a team sport. When you learn a language in a community, you have more fun simply because you’re using the language the way it was intended to be used; with other people. We don’t learn languages so that we can talk to ourselves (although there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself). We learn languages to communicate with other people.
For some strange reason many English schools and even independent teachers focus on a learning methodology that isn’t practical for learning a language. They try to get you to learn how to express yourself by studying words and grammar rules the same way you would study mathematic equations. But math is a science, language and communication are forms of art.
So when you put down the grammar books and decide to start interacting with a Community of real people, I can guarantee that you’ll start to see better results in your ability to comprehend and speak the English language, and you’ll have a lot more fun doing it.
6. You get to share your growth and progress
It’s cool to see someone grow and develop overtime, and it's even cooler to be a part of their growth process. It’s also nice to share your growth with other people. It might sound cliche, but it’s great to be a part of something. I can’t think of any disadvantages of being a member of a community that exists to help you grow as a communicator and a person.
If you like the idea of learning English in a more interesting way and you'd like to join a growing community of English learners from around the world, then consider joining the Life in English Community. You'll get access to 150+ podcast episodes with transcripts and vocabulary guides, and our private English conversation group in which we have engaging group discussions every week. I look forward to meeting you soon!