This week in our speaking club we’re talking about gratitude. I came across a great TED Talk, (which you can watch here), that describes one man’s journey in thanking everyone it took to make his morning cup of coffee. It’s an interesting exercise, and really makes you think about how many people it takes to do something so simple for you. Plus it’s about to be Thanksgiving here in the US, so it’s a good time to think about being grateful.
There’s only one way to really become fluent in English, and that’s by……speaking English. And there is no substitute for speaking with a native speaker. How can you do that? Have you every thought of using gratitude?
Gratitude is something that we should all practice no matter what. But did you ever think about using it to improve your English? The number one complain is always that English learners don’t have anyone to practice with. And whenever I give them suggestions on how they can meet native speakers they always say they are too shy, or no one will talk to them. The first thing that you should know is that most native speakers don’t care if you aren’t perfect or if you make a few grammar mistakes. As long as they know what you’re trying to say, they’re cool with it. Add the fact that you’re thanking them for something, and people will feel so good about what you’re saying, they won’t even notice your mistakes.
Thank Someone At A Place That You Frequent
Let’s talk about some ways that you can be grateful. First of all think about if there are any native speakers who live in your city. If you live in an English speaking country this should be very easy for you. Perhaps you live in a non- English speaking country and there’s an English speaker who has moved into town. If you live near the capital or a big city, then this is most likely the case. Do they work somewhere that you frequent? If they do anything for you….help you find something, ring up your purchases, then you should say thank you. It’s a great conversation starter. Say thank you and follow it up with one question. “Thank you for helping me with that, do you get a lot of people in here looking for this?” Thank you for ringing up my purchase, have you had a long day?” If you walk around thanking people you’ll be able to have a short conversion with just about anyone. Some of those conversations will be longer than others, and who knows, maybe you’ll even make a new friend.
Thank Someone Who Has Provided An Online Service That You Use
Even if you live somewhere, where there are no English speakers to be found, you can go online and find plenty. I’m guessing that you regularly use online resources to help you improve your English. So thank the people who make them. Send them a quick note thanking them for helping you improve. Don’t just give a general thank you, talk about something specific that has helped you. Tell them how it’s improved your life. People are more likely to respond if they feel an emotional connection to you. Keep it short. People get a lot of messages, so don’t write something that will take more than a minute or two to read. Ask them a question at the end. Keep it to just one question, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Ask an interesting question that you would ask in a conversation. Don’t ask something like, “how can I improve my English?” That’s a really long question to answer, and you’re less likely to get a response. Pretend you’re starting a conversation with someone, you’d never say how can I improve my IELTS score, so don’t do it for this either. Say something interesting about yourself, and then ask a related question. Everyone won’t respond (hey, you can’t respond to everyone all the time).
Get Crazy and Write A Thank You Note
Playing on the theme in this week’s speaking club, think about some of the simple things in your life that you enjoy. See if one of the people or companies involved speak English. If they do then thank them. Try the same technique of writing a heartfelt short note, and ask them a question. A great question to ask is, “what’s the hardest part of your job”. A lot of time companies will respond to you. The likelihood of you having a drawn out correspondence is slim, but you most likely will get a nice personalized response. If you reach out to a few companies, then you’ve had a few mini conversations. Hopefully this can help you feel more confidant with your English, and maybe you’ll pick up a new word or two.
Thank People On Social Media
There’s a huge opportunity to have a conversation with native speakers on social media. If you start with a heartfelt thank you then there’s a huge chance you’ll get a response. Most people on social media want to engage with others. You can try DMs or publicly thanking someone. Again be specific, and you’ll almost surely get a response. The benefit of social media is that you have a lot of information about what this person is interested in. You should go back through their old posts and learn a little about them. That way when you ask your question it can be about something that they care about, and not just you asking for something. This will also increase your ability to have a longer conversation with them.
I recommend reaching out to a few people. Don’t get upset if someone doesn’t respond. Gratitude is about giving not getting. No matter how this pans out, you should still be grateful to the people who have helped you learn English, or do anything else. This just gives you the opportunity to have a quick conversation while expressing gratitude.