AE 532 – Interview: American vs Australian English and Learning English in 2019 with Stef the English Coach
AE 532 – Interview: American vs Australian English and Learning English in 2019 with Stef the English Coach
G’day, guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. I have an amazing episode for you guys today where I get to sit down with Stephanie, the English Coach. Now, you may have seen her on YouTube. She’s got an amazing channel on YouTube and you can also check her out at EnglishFullTime.com.
But today, we sit down and talk about her philosophy when teaching English and for students learning English. We talk about learning languages ourselves, as Stephanie is married to an Argentinean and speaks amazing Spanish, and obviously, I’m learning Portuguese and I’m married to a Brazilian. And, we also talk about cultural differences between America and Australia, and differences between the language, you know, how English differs between these two countries.
Anyway. Intro aside, let’s get into it. I give you Stephanie from EnglishFullTime.com, The English Coach. Thanks for joining us.
G’ day, guys! Welcome to this episode of the Aussie English podcast. Today our special guest for you guys Stefanie Klenner. I hope I said that right.
Yes. Is that German, Klenner?
Yeah, it is actually.
So, how do you introduce yourself when you’re like, you know, I’m an English teacher online, what do you normally say your business is or how do you sort of get that conversation going?
Depends who I’m talking with because a lot of people don’t understand what it even means to work online or run a website or offer courses or anything like that. So, if I’m introducing myself in a video, for example, I’m just like ”hey, what’s up? Stephanie, the English Coach here from Englishfulltime.com and then I go right into the content of my video, but if I am talking to someone who has no clue what I’m doing, it’s confusing it’s even hard for me to explain because they go so you teach English online, you offer one on one classes, right? And I’m like err…. no. I don’t know, how do you handle that? Because I think that’s something we both struggle with.
I try and avoid it, I think like you especially with family, right? I always get that around the dinner table because they’ll be like “so, Pete, still don’t have a job” and you’ll be like…. dude, I got a job. I just I work for myself.
Yeah. You know it’s hilarious? Is when I get comments like on Instagram and people are like ”wow you’re so passionate, you do all of this work like so, what do you work as? What’s your job?” and I’m like ” are you kidding me?” I do this 24/7, this is my job, like how can you think anybody would do this just because you have that much time in a day like we probably work more than normal people because it takes that much time to get something up and running.
Well that’s the feedback I tend to get from my family because quite often I’m chatting with my sister, her husband and my parents and they all have full time, you know, nine to five jobs and they’re they always give me the whole ”I could never do what you do” like it’s… ”you just work all the time and like you just can’t turn off” and I’m like it’s kind of true, but at the same time I kind like it because it’s sort of… I don’t, I feel like I’d never work because it’s just kind of me mumbling about and having fun and doing what I need to do when I do it and not quite up and take breaks and go for a walk or just bugger off and do something, how do you how do you find teaching online? Do you find it difficult to turn off at night? You know, when you want to go to bed.
Yeah, because since you have all this passion and all these things that you want to teach other people, it’s like you can’t stop thinking about it because you’re like ”oh my gosh…” Like, right before you and I started talking I started taking notes, you said, ”Hey, what’s the goss?” and I was like ‘what does that mean?” and you’re like ”oh that’s what, what’s the gossip, what’s going on, what’s up?” and I’m like okay I just learned something new in English I bet this is something my audience would want to know or hear about. So, I start taking notes. So, it is hard to turn off because you’re constantly thinking about sharing with other people, but at the same time, I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t want to turn it off it’s so fulfilling I think what I do and what you do that what’s like why would we want to turn it off? We have so much fun doing it, it’s hard but we also have fun.
Exactly, and that’s the difference I think. Like my parents and my sister always get home now like ”oh, thank, God, work is over!”, you know, and I just have never had it, at least with Aussie English, I’ve never had that attitude where, I mean, there’ll be bits and pieces that I’ll be working on that I’m like ”oh thank God that’s done!”, but it’s never ”oh my God, now I can turn on the Xbox and don’t have to think about work!” you know? I kind of enjoy the process because it’s that constant creativity, right?
Yeah, I know, actually speaking of Xbox I have a friend who we see quite frequently and he’s constantly playing video games and I’m like… I just…I just think of all the wasted energy. I’m like ”oh my gosh, if I had another version of me that I could just give tasks to or whatever” like, imagining all that time and energy that’s getting wasted, all the things he could do with that time and I’m like ”no, I can’t believe it!”. So, there’s lots of activities that I think people use as escape or fun or something like that, that I don’t even think to deal because in many ways my own work is fine. You know, imagine getting to talk with amazing people from all around the world all the time. Imagine getting to create things that you know is going to change someone’s life. Imagine getting to share stories that other people are going to love listening to. I think just the thought of that for me is enough to make me want to not do something like video games or computer games and say well that’s just a waste of time, I’d rather, you know, produce something or learn and hone in on my skills so I can get even better and get it to more people.
It becomes a bit obsessive compulsive, right? The self-improvement and generating an income from your time and I found the same thing, I used to love playing games, video games and even going to the gym quite a lot in training jujitsu and now like, nowadays I’m like… I want to do that stuff, but I have to remind myself it’s a hobby and that I can’t just dive in and do eight hours a day because there is no income from that and I could be better spending my time, you know, working on material that’s going to grow the business and everything so, do you think that’s just a business man, business woman kind of attitude that grows on you?
I think it is because more and more I realise that normal people, in quotes, you know, don’t think the same way that I do and it’s like everything that I do, I’m not just thinking about today or this week or this month or even this year, I am literally thinking decades ahead of time, I’m asking myself ”hey, is what I’m doing today going to prepare me for where I want to be a decade from now? For how I want my career to go or for how I want my reputation to build or for how I want to be known twenty years from now? 30 years from now?”, it’s like I have all these ideas of what I could do based on the reputation that I’m creating for myself now and I just don’t think most people think in that way, does that even make sense?
Definitely, I feel the same, to some extent, maybe not 10 years or 20 years ahead, but I definitely have that idea now of ”what am I doing? Where am I going?” and I’m constantly trying to sort of assess that and I get this over impending sense of doom or gloom or guilt when I spend a lot of time not thinking about it, like relaxing, I can’t just take off an entire day like I feel like a holiday for a week would be a nightmare for me where if someone just said no computers, no thinking about Aussie English, no thinking about your business, nothing, I’d be like ”oh my God, I don’t know what to do”, I feel like I’m stressed out. I mean, can I vlog it? Can I make material? Can I make content while I’m doing that?
Oh, I think you’re a lot better at creating content than I am. Ok, what I do is I think a lot. I spend a lot of time thinking some people ask me like ”hey, how did you get your business to be so successful so fast?” and I’m like honestly, I think the truth is that I just think a lot and I analyse and I play situations out in my head before they even happened in 10 different ways so, I can assess before I even take an action, what is going to be the most successful, right? So, I don’t know, like I think a lot so, I do take a lot of downtime like I haven’t posted on Instagram in a few days and I am getting that guilty itch like ”oh, I should probably show up and post something”, but I also realise that sometimes the downtime is the most important because it’s like your brain really needs that time to come up with the best ideas.
And it feels less forced, right? If you can just sort of be ”I can’t think of anything right now, just give it a break”. I’ve done that with YouTube recently where I’m like…. I wasn’t feeling it, so I’ll just give it some time and I’ll come back to it when I have the inspiration, that spark, you know, just appear. So, how did you get started, Steph? What’s the original story? Everyone that teaches English especially as a sort of content creator online always has an interesting story that sort of… it came out of left field, right? where you’re just like “oh, I was just doing this thing and then boom, you know, now I teach online!”.
Yes, I think very few people get started… I don’t know, like intentionally, like knowing exactly where we want to go. I mean, if, you know, a year ago or two years ago I knew where I wanted to go, but it took me a while to get to that place so when I originally started online completely as a newbie, my whole thing was I married a foreigner, I married someone from Argentina and I was hit with this fear, I was like, “What are we going to do? Are we going to settle in the USA or in Argentina?” and that’s the question everyone was asking. So, I felt like I needed to give the answer. So, basically it was like settle in Argentina, ok? That’s nice. I love Argentina. I have family that lives there, my husband’s family lives there, but that would mean that I’d have to get a job there I’d be stuck in their economy, which if you know anything about Argentina is completely unstable and it would be very difficult to see my family. So, I was like ”that’s scary. I don’t want to do that!” and then I was like well, what if we settle in the USA, that means that we’re going to get jobs in the USA and my husband is rarely going to see his family and well, I don’t want to do that either. Plus, it was like my second international trip in my entire life that completely changed my life and my outlook on everything, business time etc. and I just decided, you know what, I don’t want to be stuck in something, like the same way other people are. I want to have the freedom to create, the freedom to earn money no matter what I’m doing throughout the day etc. So, I started thinking and asking myself ”how can I create this? What do I need to do in order to achieve that?” and then I started looking at how other people are doing it and I remember my first thought was ”I know people get paid for making blogs, I wonder if I could do that?”. I literally read two full books on blogging and how to get started, and then, I came to the conclusion, ”you know what, I don’t really like writing that much” so, maybe I shouldn’t be a blogger and basically over the course of a year, one thing led, actually two years, I think, one thing led to another. I did tons of research and I just started learning about the opportunities that are available to people working online and when I finally realised ”oh my Gosh, I could create an entire business and offer something and make money that way”, that’s when I was like ”ok, this is my golden ticket, this is what I have to do” and then I was like ”well, what am I going to offer? Who’s going to listen to me?” at that time I think I was like 22, 23 years old when you’re that young you feel like you have no credibility.
So, because I had worked in education for a few years, because I had learned a foreign language myself and because I had worked online as an English tutor for a while I was like ”I’ll just do English, I’ll just teach English!”. So, that’s how it came about, but it’s so funny because when I started my business a few years ago as The English Coach I realise I’ve changed completely, even in some the things that I teach, like I used to teach like don’t do that method, it’s not effective, and I’ve completely changed my philosophy because I learned from my students that actually it is effective, you know, or something like that. So, even as I have gone through this business I have evolved, but that’s pretty much how I got started.
That’s life, though, right? You know, you have to be open and changing and adapting. Going back to the start there, when you first went to Argentina, what was that like? And you know, culture shock, language wise, what was it like as an American or an outsider to some degree, going over there and sort of having to adapt?
Yeah, I think there’s things that you could never expect even if you watched all the videos possible on YouTube about what to expect. There’s just things that you’re going experience from your own perspective that will shock you and it’s funny looking back now I’ve lived there for six years so, it’s not… like sometimes we forget what even shock you in the beginning because it becomes your new normal, but I think one of the things that I was not expecting at all was the amount of overwhelm that I experienced from being immersed in the language itself and I don’t think people talk about this enough. When your goal is to learn and speak a language and then you go to a foreign country to immerse yourself in that language, that can actually like overwhelm your brain to the point where you start rejecting that language. That’s what happened to me with Spanish, I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to speak it. I didn’t want to learn it. I didn’t want to study it, at that point I had studied Spanish for years and then… and then the other frustration was ”hey, I studied this language for years and then you get to the country you’re like ”oh my Gosh, I don’t understand a damn thing! or ”I only understand half of what they’re talking to me” like, I studied this for years, it shouldn’t be like this and so your expectations you realize don’t match reality and that’s very frustrating. So, basically, you’re faced with all these situations you didn’t even expect and so for me that that overwhelm of the language, I wasn’t expecting that, nobody told me that would happen, I think people don’t even realize it or they don’t know even how to explain it if they realize it, but that was very hard to overcome.
What did you do in order to overcome that?
Honestly, I think it just took time and it took time for me to relax inside, internally and to be ok with my progress because you want to progress so quickly, right? You want to instantly be able to speak like the people around you and then just realizing that ”hey that’s not reality, that’s not how it’s going to happen” and being ok with that then you’re able to enjoy the journey and let your brain absorb the language at a natural rate. But now when I speak Spanish, you know, people go ”wow, are you from Argentina?” and it’s like ”no, not from Argentina, you know, I just let my brain absorb the language the way a child’s brain would absorb it” and then I just mimicked people and imitated them until I learned how to sound exactly like they sound.
Far out! So, did that give you… going through that process and, you know, moving abroad to a foreign country, learning the language and getting immersed in it, did that give you insight into how you now teach English? Because you’ve obviously gone through the process of what many of your students are going through or have gone through in the past.
Yeah, absolutely, I think I’m able to relate to them on a level that most English teachers aren’t because, first of all, most English teachers have never learned a foreign language and then, second of all….
That shocked me so much! When I was studying a lot of these guys and you realize that they’re teaching something that they haven’t done themselves, right? It’s a bit…
Yeah and so then they place the emphasis on English as if you were a native English speaker learning Literature or something like that and what you have to learn as a non-native speaker vs. a native speaker of that language it’s completely different, so anyways, that help me relate to my students a lot more. I understood their struggle, I understood were they were coming from, not only that, but a lot of I think English teachers maybe they dabble in a language, but they don’t reach fluency and the way I compare fluency is a lot different than the way other people do it. Like my standard is very high. I don’t consider conversational language skills to be fluency. I think fluency as when you can confidently handle yourself in almost any given situation, that you can naturally handle in your native language. So, if you’re an expert in sales and you can handle sales calls well in your native language, then you’re fluent in English when you can also do that and achieve that in English as well. That to me is fluency basically where your language skills are the same across different languages, naturally you’re going to have one language that’s a little bit more dominant than the other, but you should be able to get to that level like that’s fluency, anyways. So, being that, that’s my standard that’s also how I different from other, differ from other language teachers because I don’t think they have that standard, but the reason I have that standard is because I lived in a Spanish speaking country I worked in a Spanish speaking country and I know you can’t get by with conversational skills, if you’re going to work as a professional, you need to be able to be compelling when you talk, you know, right? In a certain way, speak in a certain way and you don’t just get that from conversational language skills. Does it make sense?
Yeah, absolutely. How did you go, though, when you when you first moved to Argentina and you obviously, you know, those conversational skills kind of arrive first, how do you ensure that you can keep pushing through that barrier of discomfort to keep evolving and learning as quickly as possible to get to that really high level of proficiency or fluency? Did you have to sort of keep a conscious check on yourself and be like ”ok, things are getting easy, I need to keep expanding my abilities”.
That’s a really, really good question and what I usually tell my students is there are things we have control over and there are things we don’t have control over. So, for example, you have control over what you do with your time. If you are consuming the language and if you are studying the vocabulary, for example, if I do a sales call in English then what do I need to do? I need to write down, you know, the common questions that people usually ask me, how I should respond etc. I need to translate that on paper or something and make sure I know how to answer those questions effectively. In the other language, right? And so, we have control over what we do with our time or study methods how we learn. We don’t have control over how long it takes our brain to insert that into our long term memory and not just words like ”oh I remember, I studied this yesterday” and you’re pulling it from your short term memory, but where it becomes an integral part of you, to the point where you can open your mouth and just talk as easily in that foreign language as you can in your native language and that takes time. The brain needs time to absorb that and sometimes, actually all the time, we don’t have control over how long it takes our brain to absorb that. All we can do is control the factors that we can control. Does that make sense?
Yeah. It’s funny for me I feel that in Portuguese right now like… I’m at a conversational fluency kind of level where I feel incredibly comfortable talking about stuff that I talk about all the time with my wife, but if she were to suddenly throw a curve ball and want to talk about politics or physics or something, I would just be like ”I’m out of my depth”. So, it feels almost like I’m a blind man in a house and this is my house and I know everywhere in the house, but you take me outside and put me down a side street and I’m lost. So, what do you recommend for students wanting to get better at those sorts of other topics that they may not necessarily have coming up in conversation every day? What would your advice be for how to sort of go out there and explore them? They just have to get online and start doing the research?
So, first of all what I usually tell people is think about what you actually talk about in any given day, for example, if you’re the kind of guy that talks about politics in your native language, then you’re going to have a pretty big vocabulary and you’re probably naturally going to be inclined to learn those words in a foreign language because when you’re looking for material to read, you’re going to go to political websites in Portuguese or whatever and you’ll end up picking up that vocabulary. If there’s a subject that you struggle to talk with in a foreign language a lot of times it’s because it’s not even something you really talk about in your native language. So, for example, for me if somebody wants to sit down and debate politics with me, they’re going to realise that my vocabulary is very general, my ideas are very general because I don’t have well defined ideas in politics because I don’t talk about politics and I don’t care about politics as much as some people care about politics.
Haven’t you been chatting about Trump recently, have you?
No, like, I’m like ”who is Trump?” honestly, for better or for worse, you know, my focus in my life is my business and what I’m doing, you know, and then politics is something completely unrelated. So, when someone talks me up about politics in English I might say, you know, well…for example I’m kind of like very skeptical about things. So, I say ”it’s is hard to know who to believe because everyone seems to be lying” that’s a sentence that I could translate into Spanish and it’s hard to know who to believe because everyone seems to be lying so, I can talk about politics in Spanish the same way I talk about them in English and I’m going to lack the same vocabulary that I lack in English because they don’t talk about politics in English so, I don’t have a lot of vocabulary in English. So, a lot of times people go I don’t know how to talk about astronomy or something I’m like geez! Neither do I! I’m like there’s a star, there’s the sun, there’s the moon, what else do you need to know? There’s the galaxy, it’s like five words and that’s all I can talk about related to that topic, but again naturally I think if you’re interested in something, you’re going to gravitate towards learning that vocabulary and if you have a reason, I know I’m going on and on, but I’m going explain one more thing. If you have a legitimate reason to talk about it, you will learn the vocabulary because as a necessity, I think when you try studying stuff that’s not a necessity, your brain is not going to remember it because your brain is more likely to remember essential information. So, marketing, I would know a lot about marketing, love marketing, love teaching it, love talking to people about it. I am going to struggle a little bit in Spanish when I talk about marketing because so far, I’ve been consuming all of my information in English and I haven’t had very many conversations with people in Spanish about marketing. I can still get by, but if someone invited me today to like the biggest marketing conference in South America and said we want it to give you a speech, I think hey, maybe that’s a really great opportunity. I’m going to prepare my speech and I’m going to make sure I’ll learn all the words that I would say in English because as far as grammatical structures and sentence structure are concerned, I have those in Spanish, but I’m just lacking a little bit of grammar. I’m sorry not grammar, vocabulary, I’ll go find those words, I’ll plug them in, you know give my speech to few people practice and then boom there you have it. Does it make sense?
Exactly, so you have to use that as an excuse to kind of, you know, quickly brush up on all those things and learn them because you have that necessity now. So, what are your thoughts on grammar and learning grammar? Because there’s often those students who are either grammar obsessed or never touch it all? Were you with Spanish when you at least landed in Argentina, were you at a level where you still had to worry about grammar? And if you did, did you specifically do anything or did you just let it happen passively?
Ok, so you’re asking really good questions. I just have to make this comment about that. This grammar question is a great question.
These are the questions I get asked by my students so, that’s why I’m sort of passing them on and letting someone else answer them.
Oh my gosh, I’m sure everyone has a different perspective on this, but I’ll just speak from experience. So, I had studied the grammar for years. I knew the grammar like the back of my hand. I was the student in Spanish class that I got all A’s that got everything right on a test I did not miss anything, my grammar, in many ways was perfect. What happened? I went Argentina and I realized ”Oh my gosh, people don’t talk like that!”. There were entire grammatical constructions in the Spanish language that I was required to learn that people didn’t even use on a daily basis, that were actually considered weird, like if you use this grammar, you’re going to sound like a robot, you’re going to sound weird because nobody actually says that in daily life. Ok, so, here’s how I feel about grammar. I feel like my grammar is important because if you’re supposed to say like, you know, she helps you want to add that S on the end, you know, third person singular or whatever. She helps. You don’t want to say she help because that’s wrong and it makes your English sound like a little less educated. So, you do want to have correct grammar and, in those instances, but personally the best way I think to learn grammar of a language is to learn through patterns and not policing such an emphasis on the name of the grammatical construction. Because when you start saying, you know, the third person this, that, past perfect, present, whatever for students who have never heard this in their life, you’re first causing them to all learn what these names are and then learn how they’re used, rather than just explaining ”hey this is this is the pattern, this is how it’s used. This is the pattern. This is how it is used. This is the pattern, this is how it’s used”.
This is one of the biggest things I have to juggle with when teaching on the podcast, in the classroom, on YouTube is always like how deep down the rabbit hole do I go with terms and you know, ’cause seems like there’s a lot of superfluous names they just don’t need to know this, it’s like guys just look for this construction, look for this pattern.
Do you think that that’s sort of the new direction that English teaching is going, where it’s more utility based and less focused on, you know, make sure you learn all these constructions that are never used in real life, you know?
Yeah. I mean I hope so, because at the end of the day do we want to help people speak a language or do we want to help them become linguists? I don’t think people are trying to become linguists and forcing them to learn all of this unnecessary information, it is possible to teach language and help people acquire language actually facilitate the acquiring of a language without forcing all of this jargon down their throat. That’s really difficult to understand because it’s so not just complex, but ambiguous, you know, like they just don’t get it. And I have so many students were like ”I’ve never studied grammar in my life” and you know what? I’ve discovered through holes with these students and studying their language skills is that the people who’ve never studied grammar are often the ones who sound the most natural.
Why is that? Because they just pick it up through context, through patterns, they pick it up the way children pick it up, even a native English speaker, even an adult who’s educated, you know, they might not even be able to explain the grammar behind the way that they speak.
The majority won’t, right?
Yeah. So, why are we forcing language learners to be able to do something that native English speakers can’t even do?
Well, my sort of suggestion and what I sort of carry out is quite often if I notice myself doing the same mistake all the time and Kel will pick up on it if I’m chatting to him Portuguese, say for example, I’m trying to use the past subjunctive when talking about like if I do this or if I did this or whatever, I’ll go away and then practice that one specific thing and sort of get an idea of the patterns and then ignore it again and just try and use it. But I won’t just sit there and go through a book, you know, from start to finish because I realised that some of my grammar isn’t perfect, but the funny thing is when you when I sat down for example to chat with Kel, she would just be like ”yeah we don’t use that”, I’ll be like… but that’s what the grammar is that, right? And she be like ”yeah, yeah, but no one says that”.
And so, you think that there needs to be a lot more of a focus for English learners on learning how English is actually spoken, than actually worrying about the books because that’s something I’m always trying to tell them and it’s annoying that all materials, at least with regards to books and everything, seem to avoid teaching how English is actually spoken, which you would imagine is how people are going to spend the majority of their time using the language, they’re not going to be they are writing emails every day to everyone that they have any interaction with.
Yeah, well that’s one of the major problems I have with academics in general. It’s like it’s so academic, it’s unrealistic. You know, and I went to college, I paid for this awesome program to learn Spanish, supposedly, I thought hey, you know, if I study this for four years I’m going to become a Spanish speaker and then I found myself in classes studying like Don Quixote and I don’t know if you know who that guy is, but, or the book is, but basically ancient Literature. It’s like imagine forcing your students to study Shakespeare in order to learn English.
This is my story with French. I went to university and was like ”oh yes, I’ll do French” and I remember sitting there one day and they were making us read poetry from the 17th century and I’m like ”what the hell am I doing, man? I just want to be able to talk with people, I don’t want to learn this crap!”.
Yes, and I do think, I do think that there is value in both things like preserving history, valuing history, but we need to create a separation. You know, there needs to be real English that people can use, functional English that people can use and then there needs to be the, oh and by the way, if you’re interested in ancient literature, if you like history, you can also study this, but making sort of that what they call correct grammatical constructions and the other thing too, I just have to vent about this because it’s like who determines what is correct anyways? The grammar did not come first. The written form of the language did not come first, spoken language always existed before any written language existed and languages are in constant evolution and we know this. It’s obvious. I mean, just go look at election forms of English, you can’t even understand a dang thing that they say and then as people separated around the world and as languages evolve, I mean, you and I use phrases where sometimes we have to be like ”I’m sorry, what?”
We don’t even understand each other. So, like it just sucks that these people, these academic, I don’t know what they’re called, committees are creating this super unrealistic stupid standard. That’s not helping people with what their real goals are. Look, someone that wants to learn English, they want to get a good job, they want to make good money, they want to provide for their families and forcing them to read Shakespeare and learn grammatical constructions that nobody even uses is actually holding them back. It’s doing them a disservice and it makes me angry that that even happens.
Yes, it can be frustrating.
It’s not helping.
Well, I think it becomes one of those things where it’s like are you studying the language and how it’s used or are you studying how to use the language in a natural kind of way? Right? Because the majority of people I know, you know, there are plenty of Australians that make grammatical errors every time they speak, they’ll say, you know, ”I want them ones”, “Are yous going out later?” that sort of stuff and you’ll be like…like apart from the fact that it gives you this sort of cringe, but you be like they’re communicating. It doesn’t matter. They don’t need to be perfect.
Yeah. Another one that people are making more and more in English and I don’t know why this happens in Australia as much as I here in the US, but they say something like ”she had wrote it” , she had wrote, it should be she had written.
The Americans do that with the, what is called? With the present perfect and using the wrong past participle, that always gets me, I’m just like…
So, here’s the thing, though, and I have to be honest, I catch myself making this mistake, right? I’m like the English Coach, right? Shouldn’t be making mistakes or whatever, but what I what I realise and what people have to realise is that this is natural and if everyone is making these mistakes, it stops being a grammatical mistake or like a mark of a certain people from certain parts of society and, you know, sometimes they say less educated people will make more mistakes, right? it stops becoming that and it really becomes the language itself evolving in its natural process that it always does because this mistake I just mention, like she had wrote, she had ate that or whatever, guess what? I am hearing this mistake and I pay attention because this is my job, I’m hearing this mistake from people in all walks of American life from, you know, all levels of success, from the most successful, the most high up, to people at the bottom, for lack of a better way to say it. So, it’s not a lack of education because I’m hearing stuff like this from very educated people, it is the language.
So, do you have something sort of interesting happening in the US too with black culture, right? Where they’ll almost intentionally change the language, come up with their own words and slang and everything to kind of differentiate themselves. They even have their own sort of accent, right? With that African Americans.
I think it’s called Ebonics. Here’s the thing. My sister studied linguistics in college so, I would ask lots of questions about this. I am not necessarily qualified to speak on their way of speaking because I haven’t studied it enough, but from what my sister has studied and from what she has told me, it’s actually not just like, it’s not like these people agreed and said ”Hey, we’re going to talk like this.” It’s literally a derivative of English. It is considered a real dialect in and of itself. I don’t even, I don’t know another way of explaining this, but because of how you know segregation and slavery existed in the history, the way language was used among the blacks in the USA was different than it was used among the whites. And those differences, you know, happened because they were bringing people from foreign countries who were then forced to learn this other language and stuff and so, languages got mixed, accents got mixed and then through the generations it persisted. So, it is a legitimate dialect in and of itself.
And it’s almost a point of pride, though, right? Where people will actively pick this up. You see at least from my you know sort of naïve point of view in Australia in American TV shows and movies that the black culture tends to emphasize this to show off, you know, how they are part of this culture. You won’t hear Obama say using that kind of language, right? Because he’s, you know, gone through Harvard or whatever it was and is probably actively tried to avoid it, but when you see people in places like the Bronx they’ll be like speaking that way to show this is the group that I kind of belong to. So, it’s it’s really fascinating how it evolves and even in music, right? In music I hear it all the time. “She do”, instead of “she does” or “stay woke”, right? “Stay woke”, instead of “stay awake”. They just used the past participle, you’re just like what?
It’s kind of like a culture within a culture, if you can imagine that, right? And the same thing happens with Hispanics that come here, immigrate from Spanish speaking countries and it’s really interesting because let’s say that the great grandchildren of Mexican immigrants that came here, you know, couple generations ago. Let’s say they actually don’t speak Spanish, but they’re still going to carry an accent as if they did, many times, because they’re raised around people with accents and that is the culture the subculture that they identify with. Another thing people don’t realize is that people use language and their tone of voice, their way of speaking even how clear their words are as a way of identifying who they are and what group of people they identify with. You know, Obama isn’t going to use that kind of language probably mainly because it’s not socially accepted. If you’re going to work as a professional, you’re expected to have a certain type of English.
If you’re the president of the United States it’s a bit weird if every time you have a speech you start with “Yo, yo, yo what’s up?!”.
I mean, I think that might be pretty cool, like, very diverse.
I’d pay to see Trump do that, to be honest.
You probably would, oh my Gosh!
So, but, anyhow it’s interesting to see how culture and language, how they play a part together and in the U.K, for example, you have different kinds of accents that are considered like socially more acceptable than others. I’m not an expert on this, but I feel like the Cockney accent, right? Is kind of maybe like the black accent of the U.S.
Which ironically is the accent that underpins the Australian accent. That’s why we got a lot of con convicts that were Cockney or spoke with that accent and that’s why we pronounce things like water, instead of water or water, but I think you’re right and it’s funny even here in Australia we have a lot of immigrants after the Second World War we had a lot of Italians, Lebanese, Vietnamese who at the time were called “wogs” and it was an incredibly bad term, you know, for white Australians to refer to them as that, but they’ve kind of like the N word in America but a bit less. They’ve adopted that word and now you’ll just meet people and be like, yeah, I’m a wog”, you know my parents are Lebanese. But the funny thing is they have a completely different accent and you’ll hear from their kids who are third generation and have grown up in that suburb and they’ll be like ”Yo, what’s up? We’ll go out. The subwoofer! Sick, uleh” and you’ll be like…”man, you grew up in Melbourne. What are you doing?”.
Like, yeah, why are you trying to talk like that? But it’s because of the culture that they identify with and that’s another thing too, like you mentioned “wog” used to be a completely derogatory term and now it’s just like ”yo, what’s up? I’m a wog” and like there’s nothing, they feel no shame.
It’s adopted, right?
It’s adopted, it’s ok, and that’s another thing about language is that the connotation of words changes over time. A word, apart from its connotation or whatever it is, it’s literally just a sound that a mouth makes, but the meaning that a society gives to it can either create an offence or not, it can mean one thing or not.
There’s a lot of good examples of that, right? I think when I was growing up saying S H I T, saying the word shit, you know, alright, we’re going to put expletives on this episode when shit was a very sort of serious thing you didn’t just see it on TV shows that often without it being M rated, my parents wouldn’t say it, but nowadays it seems like it’s used everywhere and it’s a lot less, like people aren’t as offended as they used to be and the same with the word fag? right? Which is from a very bad word faggot, which I don’t really mean to use, but it’s for homosexual people, but gay people kind of took that word and now refer to themselves as fags quite often. And there was even that movement of people using that to refer to things they didn’t like, right? Where there was a South Park episode where the kids keep calling really annoying bikers who want attention. They keep using the word fag to refer to them and everyone gets upset because they think that the kids are being really homophobic and horrible and the kids are like ”no, no, no we just think they’re annoying” you know, and so, it’s funny that also there’s this movement not wanting the language to change when people do try to start using these words differently, away from their original offensive meanings, for example and say ”no, no, no you can’t use it that way because it is offensive”.
You know what’s funny? Because there’s always a resistance. The new generation is changing things and the older generation goes ”no, no, no that’s not how we use it”, what the older generation forgets as they did the exact same thing! This is how languages evolve and I find it I find it so fascinating and I’ve even gotten very curious and I’ve Googled articles about English words that we no longer use, that were used in the 1920s like if you Google English slang from the 1920s or the 1930s you’ll find all kinds of words and you’re like “oh my, this is what they used to call that?” and this is why it’s so weird.
We used to have rhyming slang in Australia, that was a big thing because they think the Cockney British used to use rhyming slang to refer to things so, we would have people calling tomato sauce dead horse or the cheese and biscuits for what was it? For your missus or something like that, but it’s so funny cause if you use that now it’s like…”dude, that is so lame!”, it sounds stupid, but you go back 40, 50 years and everyone was using these rhyming slang words so, it is funny that it changes. I wanted to ask you what do you think is going to happen with language in the future with the Internet and the amount of connectivity that we have today? Do you think it’s still going to evolve like it did in the past where, obviously, if it wasn’t written or you lived in a small tribe where you’re not, you know, mixing with everyone else, the language would have evolved a lot more quickly which is I would imagine why the UK has all those accents? They were, you know, small, integral towns for a long time. Do you think that language like English is going to evolve even faster because of connectivity or do you think it might go the opposite direction where it just won’t change that much at all?
Ok, so I think that, if it’s even possible, I think both things are true. Like with the invention of the Internet in the last what? 20 years, how many words do we now have in the English language that never used to exist?
Even things like LOL or whatever, all of that is new, a new form of communication.
Or Google something, just YouTube it, just YouTube it.
Yeah or an emoji or this or that. All of these are new words so, it is bringing new words into existence very, very quickly. There are there’s always going to be a portion of the population that doesn’t travel or doesn’t really it like connect with people from around the world. So, if you’re constantly with your click of people, you know, let’s say you grew up in New York and you’ve never really connected with anyone outside of your neighborhood, then that language in that section of town or a part of town or whatever is going to continue to evolve, I think the way languages have always evolved, and then when you go to that part of town, you know, people are going to say things and you’re going to be like ”oh, what does that mean?” oh well, around here it means X Y Z. So, I think there’s always going to be that element, but at the same time I do feel like we are reaching a point where language is, at least English, is going to in some way become standadised, like this is kind of like what everyone says like… there is going to be a way for you to speak where you know everyone that speaks English will understand me and I’ll understand them and I feel like this has even started happening to me because one of the comments I get on my YouTube channel is ”you’re so easy to understand! Why do we understand you?” I made an entire video about this and part of the reason is that I speak clearly and, you know, all these other things, but then I’m like, you know, maybe there’s more to it that I’m missing. I realize that you know the way I speak it is very expressive. You know, a lot of things, but I don’t think I use nearly as many idioms as most English speakers. I don’t think I use nearly as many expressions as most English speakers and I wonder is that because of my international audience and maybe, subconsciously, I’ve changed the way that I’ve spoken in order to cater more to them and I’m I’m wondering, I don’t have proof, I don’t know…
I think most people are like that, right? I notice myself, if I’m walking around the street, you have someone come up to you and ask for directions and you can tell like hey this person doesn’t speak English as a first language. My automatic reaction isn’t to be like ‘hey, how’s it going, mate? No worries” , you know, just rattle off everything as if they were a really proficient speaker of English, it would be you know, you slow it down, you don’t use as complicated phrases and you, you know, and I think most people have that in their language. So, it is interesting, but I wonder with English if you’re going to have the grammar kind of get stamped in time so, you have all the common words like I, do, you, went and everything that stays the same, but nouns change. So, things like Google or YouTube and expressions will change through time because it would be amazing to fast forward 500 years and see if we can understand English speakers because maybe they’ll be writing perfectly understandable English, but they’ll have completely different accents and be using nouns that way just like ”what the hell?”.
Well, I do think that the accent is going to change. I’ve even noticed that the way I pronounce certain words has been changing, the way my family pronounces it. It’s so weird because when you’re, when you’re a language teacher and you’re looking for these things and language to be able to explain them to other people, you find things that most people completely overlook. So, for example, for example the other day my sister was like ”oh my Gosh, I have a headache again” and I was like… ”a headache? Headache? Do you mean you have a headache? Llike an ache, ache, ache headache?” and she said ”I have a headache” and then for e-mail, you know we say e-mail, she said ”I need to send that ”e-mail, e-mail”, like Mel, some guy’s name, Mel, right? And I’m like ”e-mail, headache…”.
It’s Mel Gibson sending it through.
Yes, exactly and so, it’s funny because I even start catching myself and these small changes over a lifetime and then over two to three generations completely change and then I mean, we haven’t even talked about like vocal fry, you know a lot of celebrities speak with and stuff like that.
Can you give an example of that at all?
Well, do you know Kim Kardashian?
Yes. Not intimately, but I know of her.
All the Kardashians speak like this, I’m actually very terrible at imitating them because I make a conscious effort to not let that slide into my way of speaking because so many people talk like that and when I hear it greets my nerves and I feel like when I hear someone speaking like that to me it sounds lazy and it lacks confidence and I want to come across as a hardworking, confident person, because that’s what I am, hey! So, I am going to put that effort into my speech and my words and how I pronounce them so, that it comes across like that, but yeah, it’s like when you just sort let your… how do you describe that? Like…
Oh, is it when they do that ”you know what I mean…
Yeah. ”Today I was at the store and…” it’s like, because it just sounds like…
Because I know fry and singing is where you get that AHHHHHH, like that crispiness in the voice, far out! Finishing up…
Sorry, you go, go for it.
Finishing up, I was going to ask what is your sort of M.O. with teaching English? You come at it from a relatively unique way that you know it has exploded on YouTube. So, props to you which has been amazing. What was…did you have a certain method that you had in mind when you started because your channel took off or did you just keep doing what you were doing and it was just a natural process of how you like to teach? That is obviously really, really effective for a lot of people.
I think it was a combination of luck and skill. To be honest, right? If I said ”oh that was all me, like in one year or less than a year we hit were over 3 hundred and 50 thousand and I’m just that amazing” I think that would be, you know, yeah, no… it was a combination of like luck, skill, well-timed things.
It’s so funny because there are certain things I did that ended up being like I never intended for them to turn out as well as they did. There were like three videos, for example, where I was like ”you know what? I literally don’t have time to record anything, I’m just going to look for something on my hard drive and I’m just going to post that” and those videos that were essentially practice videos or never meant to be shared in public or whatever ended up becoming my most popular videos on my channel. Ok, so that to me is a stroke of luck. But, at the same time, if I made a video like that it also shows that I was aware of problems and things people wanted to know about. I just had no idea they would appreciate it on YouTube. So, once I started uncovering, you have to be like a detective, right? You have to figure out what people even want to know? What do you want me to make videos about?
I was going say, this is part of the hardest, this is the hardest part about being a content creator, right? Because you’re like I want to help people and in order to help people I need to get to, you know, the computers of as many people as possible so, that they see it, but there’s so many like how do I go viral? And you can go down the trap of just overthinking it and then sometimes you won’t even, you’ll be like ”ah I just feel the creative urge to do this today, do it, put it up online and it goes nuts!” and you’re your dislike racking your brain, it’s like how, how do I repeat this? Because I want to be, you know, I want to be successful, how do you do that? So, what’s the process like for you? Do you find it frustrating or do you find it really rewarding because it’s almost like a strategy game where, you know, you have to try and come up with a method, give things a go, sometimes they go well, sometimes they don’t and you’re like oh… if it was easy all the time you’d probably be like, ah, bored! Next!
Exactly, ok, so you know me, I love marketing! I studied marketing, I studied psychology. So, if let’s say a lot of English teachers don’t even think that ”oh maybe I should study marketing”. I see all of social media as, I don’t know, like this the same way. How do I even explain this? Basically, I’m thinking strategically from the title of the video, to the thumbnail that I put, to the content that’s inside, to what I said at the beginning, middle and end to the feeling I want people to have when they’re watching my videos. I don’t think people realise how much I strategize this stuff. It is not an accident. Now, what is natural is that I am naturally very interested in my audience, I am naturally, I don’t know, if you see me make a mistake in my video and I laugh at myself. I laugh at myself all the time. That’s natural. So, those things are natural, I’m not like forcing that, and I think people can tell what’s forced and what’s not. So, I’m very authentic in front of a camera, but I’ve had to learn how to get good at being relaxed in front of the camera. I’ve had to… I’ve had to learn to like a lot of, a lot of different things, let me see… oh man, I feel like this, I could talk about this forever! But the other thing I was going to say is like teaching, I have a lot of experience teaching and it’s not like I just decided I’m going to teach on YouTube. It’s like no, I was teaching since I was 18 years old. So I had well over a decade. And when you have to teach in front of classrooms also, which is something that I have experience with, you and little kids and older kids, you realise what it’s like to hold someone’s attention span, what works and what doesn’t. You know, so by studying that and then by studying the, you know, psychology of storytelling and marketing and what works and what doesn’t, you learn how to hold people’s attention because if I really tie exactly what people wanted to know, it might be kind of boring! I can’t just teach what they want to know. I have to teach in a way that people also like consuming the information and that will impact their minds in such a way where they won’t forget me. You can’t be forgettable, you know because if you are, then they’re not going to remember what you taught or who you are. So, you know that’s one of the reasons why I incorporate lots of stories into what I teach because people aren’t likely to forget stories and they repeat stories. They say ”oh I heard that story the other day, where did I hear that? Oh yeah that was as you were I was listening to”. So, yeah combination I think of just experience, strategy and some good strokes of luck I think has really helped it grow. Help my channel grow at the rate that it’s been growing.
Far out! it has been amazing. It’s been a wild ride. Steph, I’ve almost robbed you of an hour of your day so, I might leave it there. Where can people find out more about you?
Oh ok, so, obviously on my YouTube channel it’s the English coach and on Instagram the English Coach, on Facebook Stefanie, the English Coach, with an F, and finally my website englishfulltime.com.
Yeah, brilliant, guys! Definitely go check out her YouTube channel and the videos are very compelling and you’ll have a good time listening to a lot of stories especially the most recent ones, right? Where you were walking around Argentina.
Yeah, that was interesting, there as a friend of mine who kind of pushed me to do something a little different and I was like alright, what the heck, I’ll just do it.
They looked really good, they were really good! It reminded me when I was watching it because you were walking through the streets and I had been watching some documentaries on Rome recently where the lady giving the documentary would just walk through the streets and I’m like that’s really, like, obviously you just need a camera and someone to talk about and it’s very compelling ’cause you can see the world going by.
You know it’s crazy is that those videos were done with almost zero prep on my enf and so, what I tell myself is, you know what, Steph? Good job! If you can get people to like your rough drafts, like imagine what is going to happened when you start producing your top-quality work because I feel like everything I’m doing, I’m so rushed, I’m always trying to produce or whatever. I always feel like everything I do is a rough draft and I’m like “damn it! Thank God, they like my rough drafts!” because sometimes you just don’t have time for absolute perfection.
It goes to show probably don’t overthink it too much.
Yeah. I guess so! Anyways, Pete, thank you so much. I think this interview is really great. You ask such great questions. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you and to your audience.
No worries, any time! I’ll have to do it again! Thanks, Steph.
No problem, take care!
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