3 ways English learners shoot themselves in the foot!

Lesson Overview

English learners: Don’t shoot yourself in the foot! 😬

This curious English idiom is an interesting one to study! I’m sharing 3 ways that English learners shoot themselves in the foot (and will explain how to use this English idiom at the end of the video!)

Video Transcript

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot! Set yourself up for success!

I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and this video is for English learners, specifically, those who want to speak in English more, who want to perform better in English conversations.

Even if you’re not interested in the three ways to be a successful English speaker, you will definitely learn about this interesting idiom and how to use it at the end of this video.

#1 Don’t follow through

The first way that English learners shoot themselves in the foot is when they say that they’ll do something but then they don’t. They don’t follow through. And maybe you think Emma, that’s no big deal. But it is. You’re adding to this huge, potentially overwhelming pile of things that you have not done, that you haven’t ticked off and all of these little things are sitting there, they’re waiting for you to take action.

I know from personal experience that that huge pile of things creates guilt, it creates shame, it creates a whole lot of negative self-talk. See Emma, you never follow through. How will you succeed if you can’t even complete a course that you got for free?

To put this into context, think about learning English online. There is so much material out there that you can access. You can practise with online websites, you can download free worksheets, you can watch YouTube videos, you can sign up for free courses and challenges. You can even pay for courses. There is no shortage of information. In fact, everything that you need to learn grammar and vocabulary already exists online and a lot of it is completely free to access.

So how come you’re not fluent yet? The problem is that most students run around grabbing all of these free resources and stashing them away somewhere so that next week they can start but they’re not staying focused, they’re not getting it done and even more importantly, not putting those learnings into practice which is actually the hard part. You can collect as many resources as you like but unless you do something with them, complete the workbook, finish the course and even better, use what you were studying in real conversations so that you can make mistakes and you can get stuck and find your way out of trouble and try out all these new phrases and expressions that you’ve been memorising. Without all of that, well what’s the point?

#2 Set huge, general goals

Another way to shoot yourself in the foot, set yourself a huge, really general goal. If you do that, you will never notice your progress. You will never feel success.

What is your goal? To speak English better? If this is your goal, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Goals need clear time frames, measurable outcomes and they need to be achievable.

For example, speaking with someone in English once a week throughout October, November and December.

This is a fantastic, achievable, measurable goal. You can tick this off your list of things to do, right? It doesn’t matter if this conversation is for ten minutes or if it’s for an hour but to make sure this happens every week, you need to spend a little bit of time planning your English speaking practice, making sure it happens.

So if you’re lucky enough to be attending regular English classes, you might be thinking I don’t need to plan and organise anything, I’m just going to show up to my class. But you might still be shooting yourself in the foot.

Do you come to class with questions about your homework? Do you raise your hand and ask questions during the class and most importantly, how are you putting what you learn in those classes into practice, into speaking practice? And if you’re not going to regular English classes then where and how and when are you going to practise your speaking skills? You especially need to spend some time planning this ahead of time so that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

#3 Comparing yourself to others

Number three, comparing yourself to others. If you compare yourself to someone who has more time, has more money than you, has a quiet place to study from when you don’t, who doesn’t have kids when you do, someone who has the support of their manager at work when you don’t or someone who has a supportive group of friends who encourage them to speak in English.

If you’re comparing yourself to others, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Now if you do or you don’t have these things, it doesn’t mean that you can’t reach the same place as someone else. Absolutely you can! But you will probably need to take a slightly different path to get there. You need to spend time planning your journey marking out the path that you need to take to get there and you of course, need to be taking each of those steps.

Idiom explained

Okay, okay, so what does “shoot yourself in the foot” actually mean? Can you guess after I was using it to talk about all of those different situations? Can you guess the meaning from the context? Pause for a minute if you want to get your thoughts in order and think about your answer to this question and maybe write it down in the comments below.

To shoot oneself in the foot means to make a situation worse for oneself without meaning to, without intending to. In the examples that I gave you earlier in the video, what was the situation that I’m referring to? You wanting to improve your English, especially your spoken English.

When I use this idiom to talk about that situation, I’m suggesting that you are making your situation of wanting to speak more in English worse by not following through, not having specific goals or by comparing yourself to others.

So if any of these things sound like you or something that you sometimes or always do I hope that you’ve taken this video in the right way. It might seem a little like tough love, I know, but I hope that you know that my message to you today comes from a place of love, it comes from my heart. I do not want you to shoot yourself in the foot.

By the way, you can’t shoot anyone else in the foot. When you use this idiom, the subject can only make the situation worse for themselves.

  • We shot ourselves in the foot by bringing the dog on our road trip. Now we can’t get into any of the national parks.
  • Mary really shot herself in the foot when she lost her licence! Now she can’t work.
  • The Prime Minister shot himself in the foot by saying that healthcare was not going to be prioritised in this year’s budget.

Can you think of a time when you shot yourself in the foot? Tell me down in the comments, I’m keen to hear these stories.

And then come along and join me in the next lesson!

Links mentioned in the video

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