hosted by: Rohit

EBGT Ep. 9: How to make English a habit

Today we’ll be talking about how we can make English a habit. Well, this actually works with anything you want to make a habit. Developing habits help you learn things quicker.

In today’s episode we’ll be talking about one of the key factors to make English something we remember and use whenever we need to.

We’ll talk about the five things you can do to make English a habit. These five steps are super simple to follow. Really! Very simple. Do them and let us know how you performed.

We have also included a talk that was given by Matt Cutts at a TED event a while ago. In this talk Matt Cutts tells us about his own experience while trying to break away from his rat-race kind of life. His way of doing it was none other than by developing habits. Listen to this part of the podcast, and have a great time learning about how to make English a habit.

If you want to listen to more podcasts, check out our podcast page to listen to more of our episodes of English Before Going to Bed.

Don’t hesitate to drop us a line at or in a comment below.

Hi and welcome to another episode of English before going to bed. My name’s Rohit and today I wanted to take you on my favourite journey of the year and that is the end of another year. The year is about to finish and I always like to recap on the things I’ve checked off my list, you know I love making lists, and the things I’ve yet to complete. We’ll be releasing a couple of podcasts related to this in the next couple of weeks, but in today’s episode I wanted to talk about one of the most common goals people set at the beginning of every year here in Spain. However, those who write it in their lists hardly ever get round to even trying it. You may have already guessed what I’m talking. And yes, it’s learning English.

So, today I want to tell you about what you can do to make English a habit and not just consider it a subject. Here we go, with another episode of English before going to bed. 

The most important thing that we need to keep in mind is that if we want to learn anything we have to make that knowledge last. If possible, we want to make it last forever. But for now, let’s try to focus on how we can develop the habit of practising English. According to a study carried out at Duke university 40% of our overall behaviour is actually based on habits. That means that almost half the things we do everyday are habits we have developed. So, we need to add one more thing to our list of habits, right?


Let’s take a look at a step-by-step guide that James Clear has put together so incredibly well. 


Step 1. Start with a really small habit. 

In fact it has to be so small that you can’t even say no. That’s actually the key to developing habits. Most people have trouble acquiring habits because they claim that their motivation is low or they have no willpower. This is simply a very wrong approach. You need to exercise your willpower. Some people are naturally born with it, but most of us need to work hard to maintain a high level of willpower to achieve our aims. Your willpower also tends to wear out as the day goes by so you need to build stamina. And you build stamina by exercising and resting. As far as motivation goes it’s like a wave. Sometimes it’s very high and sometimes it’s quite low. So, we need to find enough motivation to get to the finish line. 

So what can you do to avoid these highs and lows, well it’s quite simple, start with a super easy habit. A super easy habit to improve your English could be just using a word you like three times a day. If you recently heard or read the word ‘Ultimate’ try to make three sentences during the day using the word. Simple sentences like ‘I remember the ultimate warrior’ or ‘That’s the ultimate list of great songs’ something like that. If you need to, translate it, so it’s easier for you to find a context. Do it. It’ll work. Use a simple word three times a day. It’s such a small effort it will hardly take two minutes to complete. You can even do it before going to bed. 

At first don’t try to make super complex sentences. Go from really small and then move on to bigger longer sentences. 

It would be super advisable for you to have a list of 7 words in advance and just try to use them one by one at first.

Step 2. If you want to increase your habits, do it in baby steps.

Just 1%! 1% everyday. A 1% increase is just enough to keep learning faster and better, but it has to be done everyday. Let me elaborate: 

After using your word of the day three times on the same day. The following day you should take up another word and practise it three times as well, but you need to practise the previous word at least once. For example your new word is helpful. Your exercise should include three examples with the word helpful + 1 example with the word ultimate. On the following day, choose a new word and practise it three times, then practise helpful once and ultimate once as well, and so on. At the end of the week your vocabulary should have expanded in at least 7 words. But 7 words that you will be able use immediately. Those are 365 new words in a year. That’s actually more than enough to go from a level A2 to B1+. Incredible right?

Step 3 As you build up, break habits into chunks. 

If you continue adding one percent each day, then you’ll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish. this is a very important step because here’s where you’ll see your habit becoming permanent. It’s a crucial moment. If you’re able to break your chunks of words learnt into smaller bits, then you’ll never run out of things to learn and you’ll practise them often. 


Step 4 If you do slip, don’t think about your failure, keep going as if nothing happened. 

This something key to keep motivation up. As you keep doing your daily exercise, there might a day where you either forget to do your exercise or just can’t think of sentences for you words. Don’t worry! We all have our days. But don’t think that you failed, think that tomorrow you need to try harder. Don’t look back, just keep moving forward. If you make a mistake just quickly get back on track, don’t dwell a lot on your failure.

You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.

Step 5 Be patient

Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.

If you are learning a new word everyday, do so until you feel ready to learn two words a day. If you’re learning to use a grammar structure everyday, don’t move on to two unless you feel you have mastered the precious one. A good piece of advice is that you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain.

New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does.

So these are the five steps to make English learning a habit. Actually these five steps work in any scope. Let me recap:

  • First start so small it’s almost impossible to avoid doing your exercise
  • Second if you want to increase your habit do it bit by bit
  • Third once you have collected a lot words, make smaller groups of words, like putting them in a similar meaning word group. 
  • Fourth, if you miss a day, don’t worry continue, but don’t miss twice, otherwise your habit of learning English won’t stick and you’ll see yourself starting all over again. 
  • Fifth, be patient. That’s it. Be very patient. 

Try this 5-step guide and let us know how you do. We know it’ll work. Just do it!

Today I also wanted to bring the second part of our podcast because I love people who take on challenges. They are the ones who make themselves better, and therefore the world a better place.

I want to play a small talk that Matt Cutts an ex-Google employee delivered at TED a while ago. Matt Cutts was your average IT guy. He eating habits were not that great, he hardly ever exercised, he just felt like most of us at some point. He felt his life was just being stuck in an office. So one day he decided he wanted to do something different. Listen to his wonderful talk. I’m sure it’ll inspire you to keep learning English.

Here’s the transcript of the talk:

A few years ago, I felt like I was stuck in a rut, so I decided to follow in the footsteps of the great American philosopher, Morgan Spurlock, and try something new for 30 days. The idea is actually pretty simple. Think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days. It turns out 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit — like watching the news — from your life. 

There’s a few things I learned while doing these 30-day challenges. The first was, instead of the months flying by, forgotten, the time was much more memorable. This was part of a challenge I did to take a picture every day for a month. And I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day. I also noticed that as I started to do more and harder 30-day challenges, my self-confidence grew. I went from desk-dwelling computer nerd to the kind of guy who bikes to work. For fun! 

Even last year, I ended up hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. I would never have been that adventurous before I started my 30-day challenges. 

I also figured out that if you really want something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days. Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Every November, tens of thousands of people try to write their own 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in 30 days. It turns out, all you have to do is write 1,667 words a day for a month. So I did. By the way, the secret is not to go to sleep until you’ve written your words for the day. You might be sleep-deprived, but you’ll finish your novel. Now is my book the next great American novel? No. I wrote it in a month. It’s awful. 

But for the rest of my life, if I meet John Hodgman at a TED party, I don’t have to say, “I’m a computer scientist.” No, no, if I want to, I can say, “I’m a novelist.” 

So here’s one last thing I’d like to mention. I learned that when I made small, sustainable changes, things I could keep doing, they were more likely to stick. There’s nothing wrong with big, crazy challenges. In fact, they’re a ton of fun. But they’re less likely to stick. When I gave up sugar for 30 days, day 31 looked like this.

So here’s my question to you: What are you waiting for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot! For the next 30 days.

Amazing right? So, what are you waiting for? GO ahead, make English a habit. I’m sure it’ll help you in many ways. 

Don’t forget to pass by our web and find some great tips on how to make English an easy habit to take up everyday. 

Thanks so much for listening to our tiny little podcast, which is not so tiny any more. Thank you to all the listeners from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Canada, Italy and the United States. And of course to all the listeners in Spain. You are the motivation that keeps us moving forward. Thanks once again and catch you in another podcast soon. Don’t forget #beagogetter.

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