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

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

Translator: 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)

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

  1. We don't need to be worried about the Grammar and vocubulary .we just speak to convey our message and thought with others . In that mean , not to take English seriously but usually in our life

  2. She is absolutely right,and this problem is common. But I still think that we should treat any language: our first language or the foreign languages we start learning, no matter. We can’t speak as we want to, we should care about the ways we speak, the ways we write. Otherwise, all the studies in the field of Linguistics and Linguodidactics are so useless and unimportant..And the language is nothing, just a tool. But it’s false, the language is art as well

  3. Mariana Pascal…superb, Excellent and helpful. Now I feel confident of what I speak..and realised the real meaning of communication.. Thanks alot

  4. There's a person that exemplifies very well the confidence way with not so good english level: Jackie Chan. He speaks very confident, we can understand him very well, even though he makes some mistakes or talk in an uncommon way.

  5. Good indeed! I remember going to a bank branch in London to withdraw some cash and of course, I had already given the required notice. When I got there, no money could be taken due to an internal misunderstanding. I got so frustrated and disappointed that my mind shut down. I was not able to say anything until my mind cooled off again.

  6. My problem that i realize only recently is most of time, i tried to find other people's mistake when they speak english, even the natives. Not so i can be a grammar police and be a "hero" who help them correct it, but bcs "i want to learn from other's mistake so i don't do the same thing". It was like "oh, he was supposed to use past participle there. Okay, you (which was me bcs i was talking to myself) have to remember to use the correct participle when speaking". It came from the mindset that "when i understand something, i should be able to point a mistake and correct it".
    Unfortunately, the thing that comes along with when you like to observe someone else too much is that you feel like other people are focusing to find your mistake too. I imagine people are observing my grammar and vocabulary when they are being attentive. That's why i have so little confidence in speaking english.
    I have an additional homework now, which is to get rid of this habit. Such a bad bad habit..smh..

  7. And not only 'talk like playing videogames', but also 'singing' and 'imitating dubbing'). It helps me to be a little more confident

  8. I love this video and this woman so much. She really has changed my mind about learning languages (and even not only them, but everything you want to improve)!!! I always thought about grammar when I used foreign languages, but now I want not to focus on this. Speaking, listening, confidence are really much more important.

  9. This woman was speaking as if everybody would learn english just to be able to get a hamburger. A lot of people learn english because they have to go to an english speaking country and if they spoke it like those engineers did, they would be laugh at. You might also have to speak proper english for a certain job.

  10. Sometimes i want to speak english, but i dont have a friend who can speak english too. So maybe from there, i hard ever speaking english

  11. Don't afraid to speak english lah, I'm also still not too good to speak like english accent, bcoz I'm used to my manglish accent 😂
    Btw I'm from Malaysia

  12. كم هو منطقي تفسيرك لطريقة تعلّم اللٌغة الإنجليزيّة.. !! تتحدّثين بوعي كبير.. شكرا على معلوماتك… 🌷

  13. I am often told that my English is easier to understand compared with other native speakers. The trick is to speak slower, use simpler vocabulary, and even ignore some grammar rules when necessary. You would be surprised at how much this actually boosts people's confidence.

  14. I'm able to talk in English but my level isn't so high I'm struggling to change that I'm working to understand very well in some months in my country almost anybody speak English but to be employed in a good company usually needs to talk a very well English

  15. That's nice. I am a high shool student in Japan,and even though we learn English in my shool everyday, I cannot speak English well but I know some the grammar. I think the same thing like her that English is a tool to use to solve the problem ,not to understand correctly.

    I don't use some translation tool on this text , but you might understand what I think via English.

    Thank you from Japan🇯🇵


  16. I'm a TED university student in Turkey and I feel under pressure in school because of my teachers. They judge us a lot so I am afraid of to speak english but after this video, I'll try to speak more English. Thank you 💙

  17. This was huge for me but nonーnative should firstly try to learn about English to understand what she is saying.

  18. OMG it was really nice and useful 🙏 I learn English everyday but I am still like shy ☺️ when I speak but as of now I will do it with confidence so thank you so much 😊

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