Aly Williams, an English teacher running a YouTube channel – Learn English with Papa Teach Me. He runs English classes on Skype, helping students improve their language skills. He helps in preparing for the IELTS, TOEFL or TOEIC exams. Aly trains for talks, improves speaking skills through public speech techniques. He trains writing various forms of expression, as well as British accents (RP, Neutral English accent, Cockney). His YouTube channel with over 0.5 million subscribers is one of the most popular English language learning channels. Ally Williams, open, sociable and full of humour, answers questions frequently asked by people learning English.
Could you tell something about your experience in teaching English?
I’ve been teaching English for over 10 years, I’ve taught in Japan, Colombia, Korea, Jordan, Russia, and of course here in London.
What is your definition of fluency?
Fluency isn’t about speaking 100% correctly 100% of the time, it’s about communication. If you can understand the other person and they can understand you, then who cares if you haven’t got a perfect native British accent or you make grammar mistakes here and there. Everyone makes mistakes in their own languages anyway, so fluency shouldn’t be measured by how few mistakes someone makes or if the person has a few imperfections in their pronunciation.
Do you think that one has to live “in-country” in order to reach fluency in their target language?
It definitely helps, but I’ve had tons of students who have just arrived to England speaking perfect English, so it’s by no means a necessity.
What would you say are the most important factors that determine how quickly one can become fluent?
It’s not about being book-smart at ALL! The key is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. Have a English podcast playing on your way to work…
Fluency over accuracy – Do you agree? What do you think about the trap of perfectionism.
Totally! Case in point, take two students in an IELTS speaking exam. One speaks slowly, staggered, but more correctly. The other speaks more fluidly but makes more mistakes here and there, forgetting 3rd person s, occasionally missing a past tense verb, etc. The one who speaks more freely is most likely to get a higher score because, again, communication is key here and that’s the only thing that matters in the real world.
Destructive language learning excuses… and how to beat them!
How to overcome excuses like „I’m no good at languages”, „I don’t have the time”, „What if I fail?”, „I’m too old to learn a language”
For some people the fear of failing is often reason enough never to try. Fear pushes us into a very binary mode of „Should I do this? Yes or no?”, and as fear is the driving factor, „No” is usually the answer to that question. So you have to change this mindset! Speaking in another language or to new people can be scary. However, instead of thinking: „I’m scared, so I won’t do it”, reassure yourself, and remind yourself of this fact: „I will gain so much in self-esteem and confidence when I do this!”.
What tips do you have to help people overcome their fear of speaking a foreign language?
Just know that everyone is in the same boat (Hah! Idiom!) with you. Everyone is learning, or improving, or building towards something. While you’re worrying about your flaws, the person you’re interacting with is also worrying about theirs, I guarantee it! Personally for me, realising this made me feel way more confident in new situations and around new people.
What are your favourite tips for successfully studying a language on your own, without the structure of a traditional classroom?
Get a boy/girlfriend whose first language is the one you want to learn. If you love someone, you’re GONNA learn their language!
What do you believe is the biggest myth when it comes to language learning?
That people will laugh at you or think you’re stupid if you aren’t perfect. People will only laugh at you if you’re not wearing any pants in public. Trust me. I know.
What do you recommend for people who have just started with a new language?
Have fun with it and surround yourself in as much of that language as possible.
How to remember what you learn?
There’s a really cool memory trick which I heard about, if you associate something you have to remember with something silly/crazy/funny, then you’re much more likely to remember it. So for language learners, I always recommend writing their own examples using something strange or funny, it’s much easier to remember that way.
„I played football” – Boring and easy to forget
„I played football with a fish” – Strange! And the image of that makes it easy to remember!
Your YouTube channel has been mentioned as one of the best channel for English learners. Why have you decided to start it… and why „Papa Teach Me”?
It has? Were you speaking to my mum? She’d definitely say that! haha but that’s awesome! It’s a long story, but the short version is that I wanted to advertise myself so students could book me for Skype classes. Then the channel started to grow bigger and I started to make more videos, so it eventually just became my full time job.
What resources (books, online courses, abroad courses… etc.) do you recommend to people who are at intermediate level and want to get better in English?
If you’re at an intermediate level, you are in a great position for self study, and there are countless resources out there for you! If you’re not satisfied with the billions of different personalities on YouTube who can teach you English by video, then there are billions of other great resources waiting for you. I’d recommend going for a more natural approach of joining English speaking communities for a topic you’re interested in. For example if you’re really into a certain band, sport, or hobby, join an online chat community (in English) where you can talk about things you actually care about.