Success Story: Ola (Poland)

My name is Ola. I have been a teacher in a primary school for 20 years in a small town in Poland. 

I started learning English in high school (earlier I had to study Russian). I do not want to criticise the Polish system of education, but it is extremely difficult to teach a foreign language when you have a class with up to 35 students. So our lessons focused on grammar and reading exercises. The time for speaking practice, in such a huge group, was impossible. 

At my university, the situation didn’t change. My speaking and listening skills couldn’t improve in big groups and with just a few hours of English per week. As a result, I  had no confidence in my ability to speak. I avoided speaking English as much as possible. When I was abroad I never admitted that I knew a little English. I was too embarrassed to speak to anyone in English.

A few years ago the head teacher at my school recommended that I become qualified to teach a second subject and suggested I get a new qualification. The first subject that I taught was music and I wasn’t sure what subject I should add until I decided to study English. I knew that English is very useful these days. It was the window to the world for me. You can read English websites, watch English movies and videos, and listen to English songs.

It was hard. I spent many, many hours doing grammar exercises, listening tasks, learning vocabulary by heart. But I did not have any ideas on how to improve my speaking skills. I still could not say any words. I was still very shy and felt ashamed of my pronunciation and fluency. I always thought I wasn’t good enough to communicate. 

But when I became an English teacher, it was much much worse. I had many complexes about my speaking. I was still thinking to myself, “How can a person who teaches children English, still speak English so badly?” I knew that I needed practice. The only way to improve my speaking skills was to start speaking.

So, I started to have conversation lessons with Polish teachers of English. I live in a small town and I could not find a native speaker here. Then I came up with an idea to take some conversation lessons by Skype. I found a website, Let’s Talk! where I started to talk with Dani (now a Glish coach.) It was nice, but I was very nervous before every appointment because the lessons were not structured. At last, I gave up and stopped practicing my English. Probably there were some reasons: I didn’t have any interesting topics for conversations (I wasn’t using TED talks then). I didn’t make any steps forward. Talking about your family is not very stimulating. 

Two years later I came back to English speaking practice. I can’t count how many attempts I have made to get fluent in speaking, but now I can feel the difference. 

When I started using the Glish method I felt the difference. I began to listen to the TED talks with subtitles. My conversations touched on many interesting issues about health, food, new methods in education, amazing stories about nature. I expanded my vocabulary and built confidence at speaking. Now I know, a language is a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Here is my secret to English fluency. 

First, I make the commitment to have a Glish session every single week

Second, I stop complaining. I say “no” to the way I was thinking about myself. I don’t want to make myself a perfect person who has to be the best at speaking.  It’s better to say something than nothing. If my students have a teacher who is not perfect – so what? I have many, many other  positive features which help them to learn English. 

Third, repeat like a mantra “I am good enough!”

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