Steve and Alex – More English Proverbs and Language Learning (Part 1)

Study the transcript of this episode as a lesson on LingQ, saving the words and phrases you don’t know to your database. Here it is!

Steve and Alex continue their discussion on various English proverbs and how they relate to language learning. This is Part 1 of 2.

Steve: Hi Alex.

Alex: Hi Steve.

Steve: How are you today?

Alex: Doing well.

Steve: Good.

Alex: Yeah. We had some snow last night.

Steve: I can’t believe this weather.

I was driving home from dinner and we had this big…almost like a snowstorm around 10:00 o’clock.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: And it was around zero centigrade.

Alex: Zero degrees centigrade; yeah, so 32 degrees.

Steve: Fahrenheit.

Alex: Correct.

Steve: Today, what is it 10?

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: Sunny and you look up in the mountains it’s covered in snow.

It’s like someone, you know…it’s as if we dipped the mountains in whipping cream or something, you know?

Alex: Yeah.

I was coming over the bridge this morning on my way to the office and I was amazed at how much snow there was because yesterday there was hardly anything.

Steve: Yeah.

Well, no, the snow was up there, but it covered the whole mountain.

Alex: Yeah, right, right.

Steve: In fact, the snowline was very low all yesterday because it was cold and it was wet and so the snow was falling fairly low.

There were parts of town and, of course, towards the end of the day we had snow right down at the bottom here, but then today it’s sunny.

Alex: Yup.

Steve: What am I doing here?

I want to be up skiing, you know?

And it is pretty spectacular.

We should make people feel jealous, you know?

Alex: Right.

Steve: If you’re up there on a day like today when there’s not a cloud in the sky, maybe a few clouds rolling in now.

So, you’re skiing up there and you’re looking over the ocean and you’re looking over Vancouver.

So you have this beautiful view and you’re in the snow and it’s warm and you can come down here and go for a jog in your shorts.

Alex: Right.

Steve: All right.

Alex: Anyway, the topic of our conversation is not, in fact, snow.

Steve: No.

Alex: But it is more English proverbs.

Steve: Right.

Alex: We had a pretty good reaction last time, so we figured we would continue with this list.

Steve: And, of course, we don’t know where we were on the list.

Alex: Right.

Steve: But, you know, before we start on the list, while I think of it there’s one that I want to do to start us off.

Alex: Yes.

Steve: Okay?

Alex: Yes.

Steve: It’s called “Leave well enough alone.” Leave well enough alone.

One thing I find with language learners, some people are perfectionists and they can be perfectionists at different points in their language learning.

Some of them already speak very, very well and they want to work on making their accent like a native and I can’t understand that.

I know people who speak English very well, better than most native-speaking Canadians and who have a pronounced, you know, Swiss accent or even Chinese or some other accent, but they’re easy to understand.

So, as long as people can understand you and you communicate well and you feel comfortable, leave well enough alone.

You’re there, okay?

Some people do this at the very beginning.

They want to nail down everything in chapter two.

Well, it’s just not going to work.

They’re going to forget most things in chapter two.

So, first proverb is “Leave well enough alone.”

Alex: Aha.

Steve: Your turn.

Alex: Okay.

So we have one here “Don’t try to walk before you can crawl.” This one is actually pretty interesting.

I think this one in a traditional language environment would be absolutely the case, where there are a lot of obstacles that are put in front of you and you’re not allowed to approach ones that are too difficult.

But, I guess I think it’s kind of the opposite way in the natural process of language learning where pretty much everything is up for grabs.

Whether it be a podcast or a beginner lesson or a radio program or an article in a newspaper or something, everything is available and I think through that you develop that natural sense.

Steve: Well and, of course, it is true that, obviously, the fewer new words in the text the easier it’s going to be for you and so that’s why we have our new words count, of course, at LingQ.

Yeah, I mean I like to deal with content that has fewer new words in it and progress from there, but sometimes it’s not obvious what’s easy.

Like sometimes when you say crawl before you walk then people who write these easy texts will make sure that they’ve only got the present tense and not the past tense, but on the other hand they’ll give you five colors.

I find that I can deal with different tenses, but I can never remember colors.

So, you know, it’s not obvious what’s the crawling and what’s the walking.

Alex: Right.

Steve: So, anyway.

But, it is true.

I think insofar as vocabulary, if you can grow from content that has few new words or stay with content that has a lower percentage of new words it’s going to make it easier for you.

So, to that extent, I think crawl before you walk is a good idea.

Alex: Yes, especially when you’re skiing.

Steve: You don’t want to be crawling too much, no.

All right, so what else have we got?

Oh, here’s one.

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I used to hear this when I was a kid.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Wasn’t there something about “Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy but socially dead”?

Alex: I haven’t heard that one, but I like it.

Steve: Yeah, that was the counter.

So, yeah, I mean, obviously, if we ate nothing but very healthy food, never touched a drop of alcohol, went to bed at 9:00, woke up…basically, went to bed at sundown and woke up at sunrise and then went outside in the cold and threw snow on our bodies, you know, it’d be good.

Now how all of this relates to language learning, because we have to bring it all back to language learning.

Alex: Of course, of course.

Steve: I just think that routines are good.

So, I mean, if you have a routine, whether it’s a routine of going to bed late and waking up late or whatever, but if you can develop a habit of always devoting an hour a day, two hours a day, however many hours a day that you have and do it regularly and develop certain habits, it’s amazing how we get used to habits.

I mean all these people who go to these health clubs, if they fall out of the habit, if they don’t go to the health club for a week or two then they stop going, but once they’re in the routine of going daily and they feel good and they remember how good they feel then they keep going back, right?

So, I think the trick there is to develop good habits.

Alex: Yeah, interesting.

So, moving on, I see another one here.

It says “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” This one is actually quite interesting because, as we all know, chickens before they’re born, I guess chicks before they’re born, they’re still growing.

They’re still alive, but they’re developing and so in the same way you may not be able to see the progress that you’re making in a language, but if you put in the time, if you spend the time then those will eventually hatch.

You know, proverbial hatch and you’ll see the results and the fruits of those labors.

Steve: Exactly and I would even add to that.

That as long as you stay with the program those eggs will hatch, even in your darker moments.

I always feel, honestly, if I’m sitting there reading in, whatever, Korean, Spanish, Russian, I always know that I’m doing myself good or if I’m listening.

There is nothing particularly happening, but I know that I’m just loading my brain with experience, with experience.

I’m renewing connections between neurons.

I’m grooving them.

I know I’m doing that, so I’m happy.

I know it’s getting there, because I know that some days I won’t understand something or I will understand or I’ll communicate well or I won’t, but I know that all that exposure with the language is just grooving it.

So, I do count my chickens before they’re hatched.


Now, here is one.

“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Gees, that’s pretty grim, actually.

We’re not about to die tomorrow, but I think the message there is to take advantage of the day.

There’s another one there “Carpe diem”, right, which is the Latin version of that.

Alex: Yeah, which we discussed last time.

Steve: Oh, did we do carpe diem?

Alex: Yes, we did.

Steve: Oh, we’ll move on then.

Okay, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” All right, every cloud has a silver lining.

That is often true.

That is often true.

So, again, referring back to this experience that everyone has in language learning that gee, you know, I was with some people and I couldn’t express myself.

I felt like an idiot or I didn’t understand what they were saying.

If you were in that situation where you were with some native speakers and you had trouble, but you were trying to understand what they were saying and you were trying to express yourself you were in a cloud, but the silver lining is that that was probably doing you a lot of good.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: That was probably helping you improve and when you tried to say something and you couldn’t find the words that made you think about the fact that hey, you know, I’m missing those words or I don’t know how to do that construction.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: So then – I find I do this – when I go back then to my reading or my listening, I’m looking for those words.

I’m looking for that construction, trying to remind myself so that, eventually, the next time I’m in that situation or maybe not the next time, but the next, next, next time I’ll be able to perform.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: So, every cloud has a silver lining.

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