Learning a language? Speak it like you’re playing a video game | Marianna Pascal | TEDxPenangRoad
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Learning a language? Speak it like you’re playing a video game | Marianna Pascal | TEDxPenangRoad

March 11, 2020


Transcriber: Phuong Cao
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven For the past 20 years, I’ve been helping Malaysian
and other Southeast Asians to speak better English. And through training
thousands of Southeast Asians, I’ve discovered a very surprising truth. I’ve discovered that how well
somebody communicates in English actually has very little to do
with their English level. It has a lot to do
with their attitude towards English. There are people out there
who have a very low level of English, and they can communicate very, very well. One of them that I remember was a student,
a participant of mine named Faizal. He was a factory supervisor – English level very, very low – but this guy could just sit
and listen to anybody, very calmly, clearly, and then he could respond, absolutely express
his thoughts beautifully, at a very low level of English. So, today I want to share with you what is so different
about people like Faizal? How do they do it? And second of all, why is this so important not only to you, but to your children, to your community,
and to the future of Malaysia? And third of all, what’s one thing you can do,
starting today, if you want to speak
with that calm, clear confidence that people like Faizal have. First of all, what is so different? How do people like Faizal do it? To answer that question, I’m going to take you back
about 10 years, okay? I was training staff at that time, and my daughter, at that time,
was taking piano lessons. And I started to notice
two really strong similarities between my daughter’s attitude
or thinking towards playing the piano and a lot of Malaysians’ thinking
or attitude towards English. First of all, I should tell you my daughter absolutely hated piano, hated the lessons, hated practicing. This is my daughter
practicing piano, okay? This is as good as it got. This is the real thing. And she dreaded going to piano lessons because to my daughter,
going to piano lessons, she was filled with this sort of dread. Because it was all
about not screwing up, right? Because like a lot of piano students, to both my daughter and her teacher, her success in piano was measured
by how few mistakes she made. At the same time, I noticed that a lot of Malaysians
went into English conversations with the same sort of feeling of dread. This sort of feeling
that they were going to be judged by how many mistakes
they were going to make, and whether or not
they were going to screw up. Now, the second similarity
that I noticed was to do with self- image. My daughter, she knew
what good piano sounded like, right? Because we’ve all heard good piano. And she knew what her level was, and she knew how long
she’d have to play for to play like that. And a lot of Malaysians, I noticed, had this idea of what good proper English
is supposed to sound like, and what their – I see a lot of you nod – and what their English sounded like, and how far they
would have to go to get there. And they also felt like they were –
like my daughter – just bad, bad piano player,
bad English speaker, right? My English not so good, lah.
Cannot. Sorry, yah. Cannot. Ah – So I could see these similarities, but I still couldn’t figure out, okay, what is it about these people
like Faizal, that are so different, that can just do it smoothly,
calmly, with confidence? One day, I discovered that answer, and I discovered it quite by chance. It was a day when my computer broke down, and I had to go to a cybercafe. Okay, it was my first time, and I discovered cybercafes
are disgusting places, okay? They’re really gross. They’re smelly,
and they’re filled with boys. And they’re all playing noisy,
violent games. They’re just disgusting places. But I had to go there. So I sat down, and I started noticing this guy beside me. And I became very interested
in this guy next to me. Now, this guy is playing this game that is basically, it’s like
shooting people until they die. And that’s it.
(Laughter) That’s the game, right? And I’m noticing
that this guy is not very good. In fact, he’s terrible, right? Because I’m looking,
and I’m seeing, like, a lot of shooting and … not much dying, right? (Laughter) What really interested me was behind this lousy player
were three of his friends, sort of standing there watching him play. What I really noticed was even though this guy was terrible, even though his friends were watching him, there was no embarrassment. There was no feeling of being judged. There was no shyness. In fact, quite the opposite. This guy’s totally focused
on the bad guys, smile on his face. All he can think about
is killing these guys, right? And I’m watching him. And I suddenly realize: this is it. This is the same attitude that people like Faizal have
when they speak English, just like this guy. When Faizal goes
into an English conversation, he doesn’t feel judged. He is entirely focused
on the person that he’s speaking to and the result he wants to get. He’s got no self-awareness, no thoughts about his own mistakes. I want to share with you
a real, true example, to paint a picture, of somebody who speaks English
like they are playing piano and someone who speaks English
like they are playing a computer game. And this is a true story. It happened to me. A while ago, I was in a pharmacy. I had to buy omega; my doctor said I should get omega. And I go to the shelf, there’s tons of omega, there’s omega that’s high in DHA, omega that’s high in EPA, and I don’t know which one to buy. Now, the sales rep happened to be there. And I saw she’s like
this well-dressed, professional woman. I walk over to her,
and I see this look as she sees me, this sort of – it’s a look
I recognize very well. Her eyes go all wide. It’s sort of that panic: Oh my God! I’ve got to speak
to a native speaker; she’s going to judge me
and notice my mistakes. I go up to her,
and I explain my situation: which omega do I get? And she starts explaining to me everything about DHA and EPA
you could possibly imagine. She speaks very quickly,
goes all around in circles. And when she finishes, no idea what to buy. (Laughter) So I turn to the girl behind the counter. Now, the girl behind the counter, I heard her before,
her English level is very low. But when I walk over to her, this girl, there’s no fear. In fact, she’s just looking at me. You know that look? Like…Yeah?
Okay…So, how? (Laughter) Yeah, I’ve been in Malaysia a long time. (Laughter) So, I go up to her and I explain
the problem, EPA and DHA. She looks at me, she says, “Okay, yeah. ” “Ah, EPA for heart.” “DHA for brain.” (Laughter) “Your heart okay or not?” (Laughter) So I said, “Yeah, yeah,” I said, “my heart is really,
I think it’s pretty good.” She says, “Your brain okay or not?” (Laughter) I said, “No. No, my brain
is not as good as it used to be.” She looks and says, “Okay lah, you take Omega DHA!” (Laughter) Problem solved, right? So we’ve got two different
kinds of communicators. We’ve got the one who’s got a high level, but totally focused on herself
and getting it right, and therefore, very ineffective. We’ve got another one, low-level, totally focused on the person
she’s talking to and getting a result. Effective. And therein lies the difference. Now, why is this distinction so important
not just to you, to your children, but to the future of Malaysia
and countries like Malaysia? And to answer that, let’s take a look at who actually is speaking English
in the world today, okay? So, if we looked at all of the English
conversations in the whole world, taking place right now on planet Earth, we would see that for every
native speaker, like me, there are five non-native speakers. And if we’d listen to every conversation
in English on planet Earth right now, we would notice
that 96% of those conversations involved non-native English speakers – only 4% of those conversations
are native speaker to native speaker. This is not my language anymore, this language belongs to you. It’s not an art to be mastered; it’s just a tool to use to get a result. And I want to give you a real-life example
of what English is today in the world, real English today. This is another true story. I was at a barbecue a little while ago – this was a barbecue for engineers, engineers from all over the world. And they were making hot dogs. Some of the hot dogs
were regular hot dogs, and some were these cheese hot dogs,
you know, with the cheese in the middle. A French engineer is cooking the hot dogs, and he turns to this Korean engineer, and he says, “Would you like a hot dog?” And the Korean guy says, “Yes, please!” He says, “Do you want the cheese?” And the Korean guy
looks around at the table, he says, “I no see cheese.” The French guy says,
“The hot dog is contains the cheese.” (Laughter) The Korean guy
doesn’t understand him, right? So the French engineer tries again. “The hot dog is … making
from … with the cheese.” Korean guy still doesn’t understand. He tries again, he says, “The hotdog is coming from – No, the cheese is coming
from the hot dog.” (Laughter) Korean guy cannot understand. Now there’s a Japanese engineer
who’s been listening to this conversation, turns to the Korean engineer and he says, “Ah! Cheese … integrator!” (Laughter) He understands, okay. (Laughter) Everybody understands. So, this is what English is today. It’s just a tool to play
around with to get a result, like a computer game. Now, the challenge is that we know
in schools all around the world, English is not really being taught
like it’s a tool to play with. It’s still being taught
like it’s an art to master. And students are judged
more on correctness than on clarity. Some of you might remember
the old comprehension exam in school. Does everybody remember in school when you’d get a question
about a text that you read, you’d have to read
through some text, right? And then answer a question
to show that you understood the text? And this may have happened to you
that you showed you understood the text, but you got a big X because you made
a little grammar mistake. Like this student. This student clearly
understood paragraph four. But no, not correct! Because he left the letter N
off the word “environment.” But in the real world, what would matter? In the real world, what would matter is
did you understand the email, or did you understand your customer
so that you can go ahead and take action? Now, the problem that I see here, over and over, is that people take the attitude
they developed about English in school, and they bring it into their adult life
and into their work. And if you’re in a stressful situation, and you’re having a conversation, and you’re trying to give a result
to someone and say it correctly, your brain multi-tasks,
it cannot do two things at once. And what I see is
the brain just shutting down. And you may recognize these three symptoms
of the brain shutting down. The first one is that your listening goes. Someone is talking to you,
and you’re so busy thinking about how you’re going to respond
and express yourself correctly, you don’t actually hear
what the other person said. And I can see a lot
of nodding in the audience. The second thing to go is your speaking. Your mind sort of shuts down, and that vocabulary you do know
just disappears, and the words don’t come out. The third thing to go is your confidence. The worst thing about this is you may only be [un]confident because
you cannot express yourself clearly, but to the person talking to you, they may misunderstand this as a lack of confidence
in your ability to do the job, to perform. So if you want to speak English
like Faizal with that great confidence, here’s the one thing that you can do. When you speak, don’t focus on yourself. Focus on the other person
and the result you want to achieve. Imagine a next generation of Malaysians, all with that wonderful confidence
in communication that Faizal has, at any level of English. Because let’s remember that English today
is not an art to be mastered, it’s just a tool to use to get a result. And that tool belongs to you. Thank you. (Applause)

Only registered users can comment.

  1. to sum up: be confident , how to be confident: when you realize that the main purpose is to let other understand you not focus on making it long, formal, and sophisticated

  2. Thank you!! This video helps me a lot in practicing speaking English as it makes me realize what's the purpose of using English nowadays. Thank you so much <3

  3. im finding a person who use native english language and want to learn korean. i really want to that person. im not good at english. but if you see my comment and want to learn korean,
    anybody recomment pls!

  4. I totally agree with you , learning any language in the world should not just take it as science to judge people speaking, what we want to learn any language is just speak whatever mistake you do it's like playing game for every mistake you do for more learning you will earn

  5. I'm brazilian.

    I started to study english since 2019, when i was 19. Now, althought i'm better than i am before, i think that i could improve myself more, and this video is a great opportunity to do this.

    Almost everyone in my age speak english, so its difficult to get a good intership, and that's why i'm trying to improve myself. My principal difficulties are speaking and listening, but i'm watching a lot of videos in english, and i hope be better in five months or less.

    Thx for the video 😀

  6. Hi, there! I need conversational partners to practise my English. Please feel free to reply my comment to get in touch with me. I'm an easy going person. Whatever is right, we can do together. D:

  7. I'm a Korean and I am studying for TOEFL for 3 years. I've always studied for tests, not for communication. After watching this video, now I want to learn English to communicate. I practiced speaking English a lot but whenever I speak with my English native teacher, I lose my confidence. I will study more and become confident speaking English. I really hope to accomplish my goal.

  8. Absolutely! When you speak don't focus on yourself, but you must to focus on other person and then you will be understanding what he says thank you so much for your advice 🌹🌹

    From 🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴

  9. I learn English with all my heart. Because I knew a whole new world when I can access international knowledge by English. So, learn it, because you love it, try to use English as much as you can such as : you want to find something, don't find in your mother language but English. That is will help you a lot in learning English.

  10. This is the opposite of how it works for me.
    I am SO TERRIFIED of making mistakes and being judged when I play video games.
    But speaking languages I only kind of understand? No fear, no shame, all goal-driven.

  11. Thank you. For me the most valuable thoughts were
    – English is not an art to be mastered. Only a tool.
    – Concentrate on your partner and the meaning of what you say.
    – Form does not matter that much in the real world.

    Ideas are of the most value. Always. Words should help us, but should not be the aim themselves.

  12. Only 0.5 B of people can speak english native . So don't worry . This problem is around the world and many of people want to speak english . I know my english is aweful but I try to write and speak english even bad
    In my country many people can't speak en and they think I'm so high level😎

  13. I'm disappointed actually, I was expecting an amazing engaging language TED talk but she just talks about English for like 20 mins, shame really I was expecting more

  14. omg SO TRUE (Chinese here)
    English is still taught like an art to master, instead of a tool.
    I think a large amount of the English skills we learn in school mainly deals with exams. Also maybe because of its difficulty to implement, the tests usually ignore oral English, which is the most important part of using English as a tool, i think. Typically there're reading, writing, and grammar on the tests but no speaking.

  15. I'm a Korean and this video is quite relatable in some countries like mine and Japan, where perfectionism is prevalent in educational system. We should try to get more adventurous in terms of getting courage to speak and think in other languages if we really want to learn.

  16. Im in a similar situation . My house. Is between two houses they used DEW Weapons and targeted me to make me look guilty. They sent false mental messages to my mind , so they input false information to prove they were correct. It was done in an illegal way, in a terroristic manner with real threats . Both sides were wrong . That cant be considered science nor research . Thats illegal cheating . 5514 1/2 S San Pedro st los angeles 90011
    A collection of illegaly obtained data through illegal and false pretenses . illegal science research and should be looked into .

  17. This is great. I haven't doubted when teacher from school teaching eng by forcing students to do many many annoying grammar ex. And that is not effective to me. My eng haven't been improved by this rubbish ex. This native speaker is great, she has been proved that, learning eng is not a hard thing, or we should not think it's a hard thing. Eng is just a tool for communication and no need to feel stressful when you are communicating using eng.

  18. Thank you so much for this video! In whole my life I am embaressed and afraid of speaking English. It's so hard for me to not focus on my mistakes and my strange pronunciation. But now I suppose I have enough courage to begin speak English thanks to this video!

  19. Really I watch over and over. When my desire to learn is broken immediatly, I am running this video and I am not giving up because of that video.

  20. This TED talk is astounding and I totally agree with what she says. Self confidence and clarity are everything you need to learn something new. Thumbs up!

  21. one of the best speech i ve ever listen to , marianna was perfectly to communicate her idea with us , languages are not an art to be mastered , they re just a tools to us em to get results .

  22. I guess if your native language isn't in any way (sound or grammar) similiar to the language you want to learn you can have a hard time learning it. So, I'm a native german speaker and I never had trouble with english, however, I especially have a hard time learning for example tonal languages or languages, where the grammar like doesn't resemble german/english grammar at all.

  23. "First of all" – meh…
    "Second of all" – huh?!?
    "Third of all" – I'm out of here!
    At least she didn't say: "speak English gooderly…" or "speak gooder English…"

  24. Learning English is probably a need.
    Learning to play the piano is a decision forced upon a minor by a tyrannical "parent".
    Bad comparison…

  25. I doubt it, but, perhaps, she's acting as what she's (supposed to, advertises to) act when you know nothing/"bad" at something – such as English and speaking (her)…

  26. The video is inspiring!It's very useful for daily communication but not professional or scholarly scenes where grammar is significant.

  27. I am Chinese, the same as most of other chinese students. We have learn English for more than 10 years. But we still can't speak or write Englisn. Because we are afaid of mistakes.

    Now because of the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, I can't go back to work. I have stay in hometown for 30 days. so I decided to catch this opportunity to improve my English reading and writing skills.

    Inspired by the Japanese friend, So I try to write down this words in English

  28. Really awesome and useful. Almost the symptoms in the video I have got so I learned a lot from this video. Thank you so^n much!

  29. In Vietnam, education wants students to learn much grammar and vocal but not focus on pronunciation and speaking. So almost students cannot communicate with foreign people.

  30. I will try to write and drop a English coment now. In this morning, among the end of night and before the sunrise I decided to take any video of Ted talks to try to understand the english speech, but I cannot be able to understand english without a subtitle in english to follow, so I put a subtitle and going to follow the audio reading the subtitle, and with a notebook I've been note the words that I don't had understand and seeing the translation in a translator, it passing many time, but in the finish I felt proud by myself, It help me to do other step in my walking for my fluency, that is understand the english in speaking. It's a nice video and the host is very smart.

  31. Our older language….

    (Mu)=Bu= this
    (Tsu)=Şu= that (ts=~th)
    (Hou)=(Ou)=O= it (he /she)
    (Al)-/El=carrier (bearer)
    (Iz)- iz= S (old plural suffix)
    (Der)/ Dar= diger= other (nearest)
    (Eune)= Ön= (fore- first) =uno- one
    (Kendi= own)=(Ka-eune-de-u= which that is at fore)

    (this own)=This one= Mu-eune= (Men)= Ben= Me
    That one= Tsu-eune= (Tsen)/thien= Sen= You
    These ones= Mu-eune-iz=(miniz)=Biz = We
    Those ones=Tsu-eune-iz=(siniz)= Siz =You (Plural)
    Hou-al=Ol =O= it (he /she)
    Hou-al-dar= (Ouldar) =Onlar (The bearer and other-s nearest to it/him)
    Hou-eune-dar= (Ondar)=Onlar= They

    for other languages…
    (eune)- mu =ene…..ma…me…mo..bi..bo…wo..
    (eune) -tsu =eni…ente..anda..anata.. thu..tu…ti..you
    (eune)- hou= auwn…huve..he….

  32. It has been lots of times since this video was published, but I have Just seen this video and watched from beginning to the end. First of all, all the mistakes made by the instructors while teaching english to the students are being made in my country, turkey. Students are required to be good at grammar. And maybe students here know grammatical informations better than any native speakers. But when it comes to using the language effectively, nearly anyone can not be succesful. I am studying English Language Teaching currently and in future, when I teach my students english, I Will not use the method we use today. I Will be different and I teach them how to use the language effectively in our daily life. All in all, thank you for this wonderful video.

  33. I remember in 1997… I and another 4 co-worker, we agreed to communicate in English (not our native language) everytime we talk face to face or over the phone.

    Others always laughed at us but we keep going.

  34. I've been learning English by myself about 2 years ago. I'm living in brazil that is a country with a lot of issues. Today I can claim that less than 5% of the Brazilian people are fluent in English and the Brazilians have much fun about the pronunciation. It's very sad because it discourages me to try speak English. But, nowadays I'm starting focusing on communicating and the results of it. This video helped me a lot.

  35. I'm an Haitian i'm learning english you were great and you're right in everything..congra..🔥👍

  36. The most attractive part of English is that you can use a few single words to convey your thoughts and ideas clearly, but you can never do that in Chinese. BTW, I am a Chinese man

  37. What’s “integrator”?
    Ive searched for the meaning, but can’t understand it. Please anyone tell me🙏

  38. Really interesting talk! Thank you very much Marianna Pascal, now I will have in mind, every time I start to practice my English, to not focus on me but on the other person and my intention, my message. I stay wit this phrase: English is not an art, it is a tool to play!

  39. Hi everybody!
    I am studing English
    I learn words, word combinations, phrasel verbs, idioms, read books and so on
    But for me there is a little room for doubt that I can improve my skills just learing or reading
    Of course, these things are useful but one should use them in conversation.
    Unfortunately, there is a little chance to see and talk to foreigner in my country.
    So I need a practise and I would like to talk about interesting topics by skype, for example
    If you are interested in, please contact me😊
    By the way, you can also practice you Russian with me if you like😃

  40. I agree with her 100%!English is one of many languages. We use a language to communicate with people. We don't use it to be judged by someone.

  41. I loved that video. I finished learning English at language institute. But I also have problem in speaking English very fluently. I am watching some videos like this one to improve it, but it still not much that I want. I really don't know what to do. 🙁

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