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Effective Business English Learning Strategies for Busy Creative Professionals

In episode 22 of Think Big Podcast, I chat with Kira Bragg about learning strategies for language learners. Kira works with ´techies’ to help advance their English communication skills. In the past, she has worked with UX designers, software developers and software engineers.

We discussed the parallels between working with digital architects and architects who work in the physical world and importantly, we discuss the real practicalities of learning a language as a busy professional. This conversation is for creatives who learn languages and is ready to feel inspired.

In the episode, we discuss:

✨ Visual ways to break down and understand language using sentence trees and visual diagrams

✨ Cultural differences between language structures and meanings

✨ Effective language learning strategies

✨ How Kira works with her clients and how coaching is effective for her clients

Kira’s details:


Tara's details:

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull


Extended Show Notes



techie - slang for someone who works in the world of technology

normie friends - in this context, people who don’t work in technology and might not know all the technical jargon

Throwback - a person or thing having the characteristics of a former time.

Penny drop moment - a sudden realisation

Do something out of spite - If you do something cruel out of spite, you do it because you want to hurt or upset someone.

opening the hood of a car moment - to discover all the moving parts of something

Technologically adept - very skilled with technology

sentence trees - In a tree diagram, a sentence is divided into two parts: a subject and a predicate. It helps to break down a sentence into its main structure and to notice patterns.

UX Design - (user experience design) often associated with how easy websites and apps are for users to operate

Notion - an all-in-one workspace where you can write, plan, collaborate and get organized


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big episode 22 Hello big thinkers and welcome to episode 22 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host, Tara Cull, Australian language teacher, coach, and landscape architect. And I'm bringing all these things together to help you build more outstanding English communication skills. If English is your second language and you're an architect, a landscape architect, an interior designer, a student or you work in the built design profession, then you are definitely in the right place. To find out more about my coaching programmes, you can go to Aki I'm also very excited to say that the archy English community will finally be opening from this Friday, the fourth of January. At the moment if you go to archy English comm slash courses, you'll be able to sign up to the email and to be notified as soon as the community opens. Inside the community, you are going to find self guided courses. So we have one course in there at the moment, which is how to build your vocabulary and Grow your confidence. We will have speaking call events where you can practice your speaking in a safe and supportive environment and get feedback and learn more vocabulary. Try and express yourself in challenging situations. And then there are also some short vocabulary builder lessons. You can also network and connect with people in the community like minded learners just like yourself. So again, it's archy Now as always, you'll find the free transcript for today's episode with key vocabulary and slash podcast. Before we get started today, I can assure you that my croaky voice is only going to be for the introduction. This conversation was recorded a while ago. So although the last two weeks I've been sick, you will definitely have my normal speaking voice. But today I'm excited to share a conversation that I had last year with fellow English teacher and coach Kira Bragg about effective learning strategies. Our objective with the conversation was to talk about effective learning strategies when you're a busy professional, and how to overcome some of the challenges that you face. Kira and I talked a lot about some of the challenges that our clients face and how we try to help them to overcome these challenges. With more effective and more relevant learning strategies, we discuss ways to learn how cultural differences can have a big impact on your learning strategies, and how you can get the most out of English coaching sessions or mentoring with somebody. After the conversation, I felt ready to approach my own language learning with new eyes and new focus. And it inspired me to start making my French learning more focused on French for architecture.

I realised that eventually I would love to be able to talk more confidently about what I do in France, with architects landscape architects, so that I can explain more about different communication skills. We can talk about cultural differences. And so I want to make that my focus for my French learning. But firstly, who is Kira? Well, she's an English teacher and a language coach for what she describes as techies, UX designers, software designers, and web developers. She has a degree in language and literature and a master's in applied linguistics. She's been an English teacher for nine years, so she definitely knows her stuff. She's American, and she's great fun. She knows a lot about language learning effective learning strategies, and she absolutely loves using notion. So we talked a lot about notion and how good it is as a language learning tool. While she lives in the US, she's lived in Ecuador, so she's also a language learner herself. She hopes one day to move to Spain. She coaches one to one but she also does group training in her Tech Talk conversation Club, where they talk all things technology. She's really passionate about making her lessons for her learners highly relevant. She has a lot to say on the topic, especially when it comes to approaching preparing for job interviews, the challenges that learners face and effective communication strategies. She shares lots of good tips on LinkedIn. So if you're not already connected, you'll find the link to her profile in the show notes. So let's jump straight in to find out more about Kira and tackle the topic of effective English and language learning strategies. All right. So I guess we'll start in the way that every podcast begins, every podcast interview begins, can you tell me a little bit more about yourself. So for the listeners, they know a little bit more about you.

Kira Bragg 05:14

Sure thing. My name is Kira, I am from the USA. And I've lived, you know, all over. And during that time, I've been teaching English. And more recently, I have started teaching English specifically to people in the tech world who want to improve their English for the sake of maybe getting international jobs or working for international companies. So I work with a lot of web developers, software developers and engineers, UX and UI designers, and mostly just helping them do their jobs and be who they are in English. That's kind of Well, it certainly comes through how much you love it. I love it. I love my job. With my with my Normie friends will I'll say, oh, have you heard of this software? And they'll say no, of course I haven't. And I'll say how do you not know about this software? So I need to recognise that, you know, a lot of people don't know how to use the things that are very normal to the people that I work with.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:09

And is technology and techy things. Are they? Is it something that you love as well?

Kira Bragg 06:15

Yes, I would say it's it started very young for me. When I was in my mid teens, I had a Zynga blog, throwback for anybody that remembers Zynga. And I remember the first time that I like kind of opened up the under the hood section of the of the blog, if you will, and got into the HTML and the CSS and recognise that I could just make these tiny little changes, and then the site would look different. And I was like, Whoa, this is so cool. And I've just been fascinated by it ever since I love web design. I love any new technology or software that can help people do things easier or better. I just really love that I love the innovation that comes along with

technology as well. Absolutely. It's all about making things easier. And I guess that's why I like architecture too. Because yeah, exactly. We work across lots of different disciplines we do we work with technology, we work in science, lots of different, different disciplines. One interesting parallel that I have been thinking about recently is that so much of our lives happen in our computers now and in our phones. And it's kind of like the tech field is full of architects, people that are building the digital world that we like, for example, this conversation, we're having this conversation digitally. And somebody built the possibility for us to do this. And I just really appreciate the architects that build the digital world around us. Wow, I just had like a penny drop moment. So you work with digital architects? Yeah, they're a digital world. Yeah. And I work with the architects who build the physical world. Exactly. That's a great parallel. I'm glad you made that parallel. Thank you. Yeah. Okay, so before we begin, I wanted to know something a little bit different about you. So could you explain one interesting fact about you? Yes. I think it is very interesting that I know how to juggle. It's a great party trick. Wow. Did you bring some juggling balls? I need to see this in action. You know what I'm really good at juggling is like oranges. Just round fruits, limes. I'm really good at juggling limes, avocados, chainsaws and not so much. But just the small, round things I can I can juggle really well. And I can do like the under the leg sort of situation. Kids love it

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 08:35

well done. Do you bring out your juggling balls? Or have you brought out your juggling balls

when you've been with kids and teaching kids?

Kira Bragg 08:43

Um, yes, actually, if there is a when I back when I was teaching more English to children, I would use that as a last resort for you know, if the kids having a really bad day, or if they're not focusing. I say, You know what, let's just pause for a second on the grammar and let's do something fun. And it kind of brings them back to life a little bit. And so yeah, that's my party trick for children. Oh, that sounds exciting.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:07

Do you bring it into your lessons as well?

Kira Bragg 09:09 Never.

I think people are gonna ask for the juggling balls now. That's for sure

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:19

I'm so glad that you mentioned juggling because I think it's kind of similar to language learning,

right? Yes, exactly.

Kira Bragg 09:25

Yeah. Um, the reason that I learned how to juggle was that I have two brothers. I have an older brother and a younger brother. And my younger brother learned how to juggle and I was like, He's not allowed to know things that I don't know. I'm older. And so I decided that I was going to learn how to juggle out of spite. And so I did that when I was about eight years old and I've been juggling ever since.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:48

Okay, so So apart from juggling, you actually do teach English as well. So we've also in the past, now we talked we have spoken a lot about language Learning and Teaching. So I'd love to know a little more about your background. So what did you study? You? We've talked about applied linguists wide linguistics. Yes. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about your background in education?

Kira Bragg 10:13

Yeah, so I originally studied English literature during my bachelor's degree. And it was during that degree that I even found out that linguistics existed, I had no idea that it was a field. And I only studied literature because I thought, well, I can't major in grammar, because that doesn't exist. Turns out, it does exist, you can major in the study of language and how languages are developed, and how humans learn language in their infancy and how they can learn best as adults. And I think that learning about linguistics gave me a similar like, opening up the hood of a car moment that that working on a blog gave me it was like, figuring out what's going on behind the scenes of all of the things that we're saying and doing and communicating. And to me, it's kind of, I don't know, it's it's eye opening. And it helps me to understand the world better, it helps me understand brains better. And I just find a lot of comfort in it. And I think it's an incredibly interesting topic. I, in high school took a grammar class where we had to diagram sentences. And I just think that a diagram sentence is one of the most beautiful things. It's just really incredible. And I remember for our final exam, we had to diagram the preamble to the US Constitution, which is one sentence that's like miles long. And it took me this huge poster board to do it. And I was so proud of it. And I was like, this is the coolest thing I've ever done. Which is the mark of a true language nerd.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:44

Oh, yes. And it also sounds like you're somebody who enjoys analysing the structure of thing. Yeah. Before we start, let me show you all the tricks I can do.Oh, yes. And it also sounds like you're somebody who enjoys analysing the structure of thing. Yes, and pulling it apart. And so I'm really interested in, I'm really interested in what you're talking about with this with the diagramming? Because actually, it's something that I've been doing recently with drawing and sort of diagramming what I'm thinking and what is coming out. And so how, how has that sort of informed what you tell people to do? Or tell your students to do, I imagine, yeah, help them with their language learning.

Kira Bragg 12:18

I think that everybody is a different type of learner. I think for myself, personally, I'm a very visual person. And I react the most strongly to visual representations of things. And for me, a sentence diagram or later in my career, I use sentence trees, which I think are a bit more accurate. So using these visual representations helped me to understand what's going on inside my brain. Whenever I say a sentence. To me, it's it's kind of similar to how scientists have this desire, this overwhelming desire to figure out how the world works, to figure out how biological processes work, how chemical processes work. And for me, it's like, I love communicating with people so much that this is this is my science, like finding out the way things are and the way that they work. And why they work that way, to me is incredibly fascinating. And it helps me to be a better language teacher and a better language student. I imagine to that because you're working with people who are quite technologically adept. And they like systems, and they like using computer language, and things like that, that it works for them as well. You know, certain people are drawn to certain professions for a reason. And so I think that a lot of people within the tech community can understand English better by using these analytical tools and understanding what's going on in your brain. When you're speaking a sentence a word or trying to pronounce something, I think that understanding what's happening behind it can really help you perform a lot better.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 13:55

And so can you give us a practical example of how somebody who's learning the language, advanced learner hired high intermediate? How might they use diagramming or a sentence diagram to sort of improve their learning and make it more efficient and effective?

Kira Bragg 14:13

Yeah, I think that question forms in English are very confusing. We have different types of question forms. So we have object questions. And we have subjects questions. And I think that visually representing what is moving around, so if we have an affirmative sentence, let's say we have, like, I go to the store, and then we change that to a question, did you go to the store? There's something happening there that's different than, like a different type of question. So if you're learning question forms, you might be a little bit confused about why in some cases, you would use the do or did word and throw that in there and why in some cases, you don't and I think that again, a visual representation can bring clarity that explanation alone cannot bring.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 14:58

I think you've it's By now, too after this, yeah, to really kind of draw out what we're talking

about and draw. Yes.

Kira Bragg 15:08

I love sentence tree so much.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 15:10

Yeah, so I'll put the links in the show notes. And what we can do is, is really put some examples and pitches as well of what that means, and how that might look in a practical sense. So if you're struggling, and I think you're right, questions are quite difficult, in a way, because the structure might be different to the native to their native language learners native language. And so trying to really understand that structure, and see it visually, and so that you can make that comparison when you know, you have to ask those questions. Exactly. So I guess, because you did linguistics, you've studied a lot of practical things with the language, you've seen a lot of things. What are some of the things that your studies taught you about the practicalities of learning a language?

Kira Bragg 15:58

So early on, within this linguistics programme, I took a class called second language acquisition. So this is all about how people, typically adults learn a second language and how they can do it successfully. And I was really surprised to find out that we spent a lot of time talking about first languages. And I thought, well, this isn't what the class is about. We're talking about second languages, why are we talking about babies and how they learn to speak as children. And I think it's because in order to understand how to learn language, well, we have to understand how we did it so well in the first place. So babies come into this world with with no reference for any sort of language. And we it is our job as the people around them to kind of guide them towards fluency. And it's something that takes years there's a reason that children don't talk until they're two or three. It's because it's a lot to take in, and a lot to start to produce. And I think that babies acquire the native their native language in a way that starts so much earlier than we acknowledge. So for example, the intonation of your native language, the intonation of English is incredibly different than the intonation of Spanish or French, or whatever language is really different. And babies begin to pick up the intonation even within the womb of their of their biological parents. I did not know that. That's me. Yeah. So if you're if you imagine that you're a baby inside of a womb, surrounded by liquid, and then your mother is speaking, right, you're feeling the vibrations, you're feeling when it goes up, when it goes down, you're feeling lots of different things that you start to internalise before you even come out. And so I think that acknowledging the depth of what it actually requires to learn a language can help us recognise that when we are adults, it's actually a much bigger hurdle to overcome than anyone will teach us. And so I think that for me, personally, it gives, it allows me to give myself a little bit more empathy and patience when learning a second language. So when I make mistakes, or if I say the exact wrong word, or if I pronounce something bad, who cares, I'm still doing it. And that's crazy. Like, it's crazy that anybody can speak two languages. So if you can speak at a beginner level, or if you can speak in an advanced level, it doesn't matter. Give yourself a pat on the back, because you have done something like incredible and to me seemingly impossible.

about and draw. Yes.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 18:23

Amazing. Isn't it? Amazing? Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Kira Bragg 18:25

Um, okay, another note about the like practical illness, something that I hadn't really considered before going to graduate school was how cultural communication can influence so much of the language that we use every day. So my favourite example of this was in a, I think it was a grammar class, maybe it was, Oh, I think it was a reading and writing class with Don borkowsky, who is incredible. She's an absolute genius. She gave in small groups, she gave us a short essay that had been written in Japanese, and had been translated to English and she put us in small groups. And she said, Read this essay and tell me the main idea. And I said, Okay, that's easy. That's like, super easy, right? Like, it's like, too easy. Like, what do you think we're stupid? That's so easy. If you can believe it, we all got it exactly wrong. So in my, you know, American English brain, I believe, for some reason that the main idea should be at the beginning, it should be at the the final sentence of the first paragraph because that's what makes sense, right? It doesn't objectively make sense. I've just been taught that. And so we went, we read this essay, and we all discussed her ideas. And then we came back together in the in the larger class group and said, Okay, this is what we think the main idea is, we all got it wrong. And she said, The main idea is the very final sentence in this essay, and I was like, well, that's stupid.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 19:55

So you have it realised.

Kira Bragg 19:57

Yeah, exactly. And so I think that the The way that we organise and present ideas is so influenced by the culture of whatever country we're coming from. And I think that maybe this is, you know, kind of a signal that Americans might be more aggressive and direct. And so for me to believe that this is where it should go, is is very arrogant. You know, there's there's a whole world full of people, and all of those people express ideas and organise information in ways that are specific to their culture. And so I think that's something for me that has, I think, made me a better person recognising that my way of doing things isn't correct. It's just a way of doing things. And I think that there are a lot of internalised beliefs about communication and learning about how these beliefs differ by country can really be life changing, for you to figure out and to adjust the way that you communicate with other people.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 20:55

And I'm interested to know, because I do a lot of work with people about presentations. And I'm really glad you brought this up, because it's something that I think about a lot too, is that I will be giving somebody feedback based upon my experience, and what I believe is a great

presentation. And so I try to now give feedback in a way to say, well, this is how I perceive it exact and this is, and this is what I would expect. So if you were if you were doing a presentation to somebody like me, or somebody from Australia, for example, this is what they're going to expect. But at the same time, like you're saying, everyone does it differently. And we have to kind of adapt and know how different how people do things differently when they present it. And I think I think it's interesting, sometimes people are not really aware that, yes, this is how I should be presenting it or this is how people are perceiving it. So I think it's great that you're that you're making, making that bringing that up, because it's such an important aspect of what we do. Also as teachers

Kira Bragg 22:01

that carries so much weight in circumstances that could have a big hit, they could have big consequences. So for example, I have a, an Italian student that I'm working with right now. And he's interviewing for jobs. So the interviewers gave him the task of giving three examples of times where he had learned something in reference to his managerial skills, how did he improve or progress as a manager? And they told him to give these three examples in five minutes. He didn't do it. I mean, he talked for so long and gave so much detail. And they were a little impatient and maybe a little annoyed at him. And I asked him straight up. Do Italians talk a lot? Do they give a lot of detail? And he was like, oh, yeah, we talk a lot. Something good to acknowledge before you go into a scenario that might be very consequential. It doesn't really matter how you think that you are communicating, it matters, how people are receiving that communication, that's really going to affect you. So I think being aware of that is really important.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 23:08

Absolutely. And I think like going back to what we were talking about diagramming and writing it out. It's I don't know if we have spoken about but I speak about this book with everyone about the Culture Map and knowing where you sit on the scale, in terms of what do you think is better for persuading? So for example, Italians, they can be more principles First, where they give all the facts, they they tell everything, and then at the end, they'll they'll give the information, and they need to give all the information. Whereas the US Australia were more low context, we like to explain what we're going to say how we're going to say it, what's the takeaway, all those sorts of things. So I think, knowing that when you know that information, and then you can kind of draw parallels, and you can diagram this out and say, Okay, what, what does a good presentation look like? In the culture that I'm doing it in?

Kira Bragg 24:03

Exactly, yes. Not what does it look like to me to be good? And presentation? Well, but what will

it look like to the people I'm presenting to? And how will they perceive that

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 24:12

something that I really wanted to talk about with you, because we've talked about this? So talked about this a lot. And we talk about setting goals. And I really, I feel like everyone needs talked about this a lot. And we talk about setting goals. And I really, I feel like everyone needs to hear what you have to say about goals, because I think you put it into such great words, and it's really well summarise. So firstly, I want to know how do you see people currently setting goals with their language learning? Or, you know, all sorts of learning but and then also, what do you think is more effective?

Kira Bragg 24:44

Yeah, I talked to a lot of people who tell me that they want to improve their English. And I think that that goal is much too general. Of course, we all want to improve on our second language. Maybe we want to increase our vocabulary. We want to be more confident want to speak without pausing so much without stopping to think so much? And when I asked people well, what are you doing right now to reach that goal, I hear a lot of the same thing. A lot of people will watch movies and English or watch a television series in English to listen to podcasts and English maybe once or twice a week, they'll read an article in English. And all of these methods to meet that goal of improving your English are incredibly passive, you're taking in information, but you're not really doing anything with it. I think that instead of setting the general goal of wanting to improve your English, it can be really helpful to write out the situations where you need to use English and ask yourself, what do I need to accomplish in this situation. So maybe you don't need to just improve your English, maybe you need to persuade your teammates on, you know, some idea that you have, maybe you need to convince a client to hire you, maybe you need to express your skills and your abilities in a job interview. So there's something you need to achieve in English. And that should always be your starting point is what do I want to achieve? And this can give you a good roadmap of where to direct your English learning. And I think that when we think about language learning, it is a really big project. And we need to become a project manager in order to do it successfully. And in order to do it efficiently.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 26:26

Great, that was a great succinct answer. Very good. Well done. I think yeah, yeah, absolutely. You're right. So for example, what would some of the situations that your clients would need to use English in,

Kira Bragg 26:40

um, a lot of my clients use English in meetings. So maybe they're having a design meeting with lots of people from different countries in and their shared languages, English, maybe they're having, um, I would say that most, most of the people that I work with require English for work. So a lot of it is very task and outcome based. So you need to be able to do a certain thing, or describe a certain thing, or discuss a certain thing in your second language. And so there's, there's a lot at stake, really. And I think that can add pressure to your language learning. That can, instead of giving you a way to guide your learning, it can just make you feel stressed, it can make you feel anxious about all the things that you can't do very well, when instead, all of these situations that you encounter where maybe you struggle, or you hesitate, or you pause a lot, or you can't think of the word, each of these situations can give you the information that you need to progress. Every mistake that you make is another mark on your roadmap telling you where to go next in your English learning.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 27:51

One example that we were talking about, which I love is, for example, in your sessions, you would get one of your clients to have a look at a website and explain yes, good about the UX about it.

Kira Bragg 28:02

Exactly. Yeah. So I had a student, one of one of my most favourite students in the whole world.

Her name is Angela. And I hope she listens to this. She She,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 28:12

Hello Angela.

Kira Bragg 28:14

I asked her one time to tell me her absolute favourite website. So she's a UX UI designer from Honduras. And I said, Give me send me a website that you really, really love. And we'll talk about why you love it. And then we did that. And it was really great. We, we got a lot of adjectives into the conversation that maybe she wouldn't have come up with before. But it's just like getting something practical and something relevant to your job and using it in that context in order to expand your vocabulary. And I did the same thing with a really terrible website. I said, Send me a website that you hate. And let's talk about why you hate it specifically. And I think it was a really a really fun couple of sessions. I love that. Yeah. And I think that's really great, because, well, one, you're empowering her to choose something that she likes and doesn't like. And then you're also giving her ideas for how she can be an independent learner later on. She doesn't necessarily need to have you there all the time, because she can be going, Okay, I really want to enhance my vocabulary, I'm going to look at another website and explain that.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 29:19

And that that's exactly what I would do with my clients as well. So the same thing, looking at projects on people's websites, not looking at the UX, but looking at the materials that they've used, or you know, what sorts of things are the values of this particular architect or just kind of like the UX of the building of a physical creation? Yeah, exactly. It's possible why or why not? Yeah. And then looking at things like, Okay, let's go and have a look at a supplier website and see, why would you choose this material over this one? And oh, that's great. Yeah. And I think it's so it's so it's such a better, more practical way because you really need to do that.

Kira Bragg 29:59

they're the sorts of things that you might need to explain to the client things. And so I'm

passionate about it just as passionate as you are about making it really relevant. And getting

passionate about it just as passionate as you are about making it really relevant. And getting

them to think actually, I do know this. Exactly, yes, vocabulary. And it's not just about getting a book and finding all the words in a book, and just learning the book, the the words in the book, and learning things that have no relevance to what it's about, Exactly, what do you need to do? What do you need to accomplish in English? And let's work on that together?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 30:34

Yeah. And what are some of the mistakes

Kira Bragg 30:36

biggest mistake is what I mentioned earlier, is that when I asked people what their study methods are, a lot of this is incredibly passive, and not very active. So language is necessarily based on having some some form of input, and creating some sort of output. And what I hear from a lot of learners is that they're getting so much input. And then they wait until the moment of truth to practice their output. And this is something that I say to a lot of people is that if you have something to do in English, that thing should not be the first time that you speak English in a day. And I think that's very relevant to learning new vocabulary, if you need to use vocabulary in a certain setting. Don't wait until that setting to do it, you should be practising your output your production much earlier. And I think that in order to engage the neurological processes that language really requires, there needs to be not just input, but you need to have some sort of production in relation to that input. This type of output can be lots of different things, it can be taking notes on an article, it could be having a conversation with a co worker after a meeting to reflect on it, it could be writing a summary of a movie that you watched, it could be commenting on someone's social media talking about something that interests you, as long as you're producing something as a result of the input. This is what's going to drive your language development forward.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 31:55

Yeah, absolutely. I think that's spot on, I couldn't have put it better myself. So make like producing the language. And, and also being okay with the possibility that you may make mistakes. Exactly. And that idea that you're going to develop a better relationship with mistakes, because they're going to help move you forward.

Kira Bragg 32:16

Oh, I love that phrase, a better relationship with mistakes. This I had a student from Brazil the other day, and he was he made some sort of mistake in English, and he felt so embarrassed about it. And he said, I don't know why I feel so embarrassed about it. I forget words in Portuguese all the time. But I don't think about I don't worry about it. And I don't care, because I'm just trying to communicate. And so that sort of energy, I just want people to transfer into their second language. If you make a mistake, who actually cares? Odds are nobody, nobody cares. And that's the thing like, how often are people thinking about other people? We're more interested in ourselves, right? Yeah, don't care. They're not judging you. They're not thinking about you. They're thinking about themselves. They're too busy worrying about themselves.

Exactly. Yes. You don't matter as much as your anxiety would lead you to believe that you do. Absolutely. And and I was actually thinking as you were talking, there's something that I think a lot of that I see a lot of learners do is make really big goals, or really unrealistic goals, or they set themselves this unsurmountable task that they're never going to be able to do to be like, the most fluent and be like a native speaker. But is that really realistic? And so I like to think of it as trying to make small priorities and reevaluating your priorities.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 33:37

Yeah. So yes, yes, yes. And that really goes back to what you're saying about making the language learning more, more practical, because you're all constantly evaluating all the time. Well, is that is that useful? Do I need the language for this? So you, you have been learning Spanish This is a really important aspect of being a teacher too. When you're learning a language. I think it really shows that you practice what you preach. Do you put a lot of what you teach into practice yourself with your own language learning?

Kira Bragg 34:11

Definitely, yes, I lived in Ecuador for three years. And during that time, I decided to get braces, so I had to go to the orthodontist. And there are not a tonne of English speaking orthodontists in Ecuador, which is understandable. And so I feel like I can kind of learn on the fly. When I'm in the market or at the park or I'm in a taxi. I can kind of like work through conversations with with whoever I'm talking to. But I felt like communicating about dental problems was gonna be a bit more challenging. So that's when I exactly yeah, so when I went into this, this language situation, I asked myself, What do I actually need to do in this interaction with the orthodontist. So for this example, what I needed to do was explain my dental history and he said asked about what my options were for different treatments. And most importantly, I needed to understand what was going on. Because I mean, these are my teeth. This is my face I'm talking about, it's very consequential. If I don't do the things I need to do in Spanish at this moment. So what I did was I prepped by researching a tonne of dental vocabulary. And then I had Spanish class a few days before my first meeting with this orthodontist. And I talked about my teeth with my Spanish teacher. And I said, these are the things I kind of want to fix. And these, these are the goals that I have for my teeth. And this is what I would like to see. And she talked to me about, you know, maybe what the orthodontist might ask me what the prices might be like. And when I went into the orthodontist, I felt totally fine, because it wasn't a new conversation. So when you're going into these high stakes situations, if they shouldn't be new conversations, that's something I always stress is like, don't wait until the moment of truth to do something for the first time. So do it before, so you don't feel as nervous about it. And also, I would say in my, in my current Spanish classes, so right now, and I'm taking lessons with a teacher from Spain, because my my accent is a bit Ecuadorian, I'm hoping to move to Spain. So I want to recalibrate my accent and my vocabulary. And a lot of what we talk about is language teaching. We're both language teachers. And so we talk a lot about pedagogy. We talk a lot about, I guess, strategy for how to teach things best. And it's a very relevant topic to my life, and it's a very relevant topic to her life. So we talked a lot about methods, methodologies for teaching, and how we can both use them in our classrooms. And I think it's, it's really important to always use something relevant to your life to improve your language.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 36:42

Yeah, absolutely. I'm glad you were talking about that, too. Because I was thinking about my time at the dentist recently. I didn't. In French, I didn't. I didn't do what you didn't going to the dentist makes me stressed already. Yeah, imagine going into the dentist feeling even more stressed. And actually, the dentist was saying to me, open your mouth. And I was closing my mouth, saying it's really because he was putting something in my mouth. And he was saying, it's really important that you don't open your mouth right now. And I'm opening my mouth. But and on top of that he had a mask on his face. So I let him see his lips. Oh, that's his lips. It was very hard. So I actually learned from that situation. And with my with my French coach. Now what we do is a couple of weeks ago, we did I needed to go to the physio. So we were talking about how do you describe pain? And how do you describe where it is? And how do you how do you ask, well, what can I do or things like that. And that's the most useful language.

Kira Bragg 37:49

It's, it has a direct and immediate effect on your quality of life if you do it correctly. That's that's

relevance in a nutshell.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 37:58

Yeah. And so then bringing it back to in a work situation, then if you know you're going into a work situation, you have to explain what's the good UX design? Or what why is this material a good material to use? You do that, and you do that number of times. So you can extract that, that vocabulary. And you're going to notice patterns as well. And you're going to notice that certain words will repeat quite often. So I think that's it's the best way to learn in practice. Exactly. In a practical sense. Yeah. So yeah, I think that's super important. Thank you for mentioning that. So we've also spoken a lot about coaching before. And I think we've already just sort of touched on it. So how do you think that it empowers the learner? And what do you think? What does a typical session with you look like using that coaching myth? method?

Kira Bragg 38:53

So the question that I asked the most often and the most repeatedly is what do you need to do in English? Not what do you think you need to learn? What do you think? Are your weak spots? What are your what's your level of English? And I think that those questions can be relevant for some conversations. But my primary concern is figuring out what are the situations where you need to use English? And what do you need to feel accomplished in those situations, and let's work on that together. So the example that I had with the Italian client from earlier, what we needed, what he needed to do in English, was condense a story, and he needed to extract the most important bits of information from those stories, in order to make him seem like a good manager. So if an interviewer is asking you about a time where you learned something, what they're wanting to hear is how you reacted to adversity and what you learn from it. So we came up with a very simple structure and the structure is problem solution and lesson and we went from having a him telling a story that took you know, eight to 10 minutes to tell to him telling that same exact story in three sentences. So instead of all of the details that you need, what is the most important definition of this problem? What is the way that you developed a solution? And what was the lesson that you learned from this experience, and we spent the rest of the session condensing these stories, Problem Solution lesson. And by the end, he was doing it so easily. And that's the thing is, it gets easier as you do it more. So don't let the first time you do it be in a consequential situation, do it before so that it doesn't feel hard when you have to do it. So when when students come to me and they want to improve their English or their communication skills, in general, I really recommend that they think about the things they need to accomplish. Do you need to demonstrate how good of a manager you are? Do you need to defend your design choices? Do you need to speak up in a daily review meeting? So what is the setting that you're preparing for an English? And what is your desired outcome of that setting?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 40:55

Yeah, and I think that's the role of the coach too, isn't it? If somebody comes to you and says, Okay, I need to use English in a meeting. So well, what do you do in that meeting? What do you need to get out of that meeting? And really ask a lot more questions, then, okay, yes, you need to do it in meetings, because you will centre the activities that you do around with them around getting the really focused ways that they're going to use the language in a more practical sense.

Kira Bragg 41:23

Exactly. And I think it's very relevant to, to web designers and to architects. So if you're designing something new, if you're building something new, you don't just start creating a website, you don't just start building a building, you start with a plan. So you figure out what exactly that building or that website needs to be used for. And you create a plan that will help you meet those needs. And if you do the same thing with your language learning, it's going to really improve how efficiently you study.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 41:49

Well it’ iterative, isn't it? It's changing all the time,

Kira Bragg 41:52

Exactly. So iterative. Yeah, yeah. And so I think it's important to remember that, that it's, it's not like a linear trajectory, it's actually backwards and forwards and going all over the place. And it's not that sort of smooth line that everyone should imagine.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 42:10

Yeah. But yeah, I think that's super important to go into a first session, say, with a teacher or a coach, or even if you're doing it yourself, and to really think about breaking down, what do I want to do with my sessions? But what do I use the language for, and really trying to understand that so that you can make the most of the sessions, make them more efficient, make them more effective, we've covered a lot of things. I think we've talked about your journey in linguistics, we've talked about language as a system and being able to really break

that down diagramming. We've also talked about how people set goals. We've also talked about mistakes, and how people can learn from their mistakes as well. And I guess we've we've covered a lot.

Kira Bragg 42:58

And so the way that people historically have taught language might not necessarily reflect the way that our brains learn language. And so

give yourself a break. It's hard, it's so hard. And it's incredible that anybody can do it. So if like I said before, if you're at a beginner level, or an advanced level, congratulate yourself for doing something so difficult that it is, it's crazy. I want people to understand that that language is a very contextual process. And that thinking about the way babies learn can help influence the way that we guide our study practices. And also that, you know, language is kind of like this programme that's running in your brain. And when you're learning a second language, you're trying to instal a new programme. So making connections, mentally, cognitively, to your native language can help you internalise the new language patterns. And this, I think, can help drastically reduce the interference between those two programmes. So yeah, basically that language learning is super difficult, but also super interesting and scientific and fun. And there are, there are ways that we can do it more efficiently and more successfully.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 44:25

Well, I have had great time talking to you. We managed to keep it to only 40 minutes, less than an hour. I know that's pretty good for us, because normally we can talk about I can always Yeah, so I know that you can talk more and what I would love to do is to have you back on another episode. Oh, that would be incredible. We can talk about what what would you like to talk about next time?

Kira Bragg 44:48

Well, I am. I am such a notion fan girl. I would love to talk about how people could use notion to improve their language learning or really any sort of like software system that helps them I think that notion is the best in my subjective opinion. I agree talking about way we can use technologies to kind of assist ourselves in this language learning process.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 45:09

Well, that would be fantastic conversation, and I look forward to that conversation. So thank you very much for joining us. If anyone wants to reach out to have a chat to you, where can they find you?

Kira Bragg 45:20

So I would like to know, what are some things that you would like people to take away from this

conversation, I would say the most important thing that I want people to take away is the fact

that language is a process that is so much deeper and more involved than any of our

educational systems have taught us to believe.

Kira Bragg 45:20

I am very active on LinkedIn. You can check out my website at web dev English comm or shoot me a message on LinkedIn and and I am happy to chat with anyone who wants to learn more about how they can study English efficiently.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 45:33

Well that brings us to the end of the episode thanks again Kira for the fantastic conversation and for the inspiration of feeling very excited about making more focus with my French learning. And as always, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you enjoyed the show, make sure you subscribe for more English learning tips for architects and for creative language learners and share this episode with somebody who you think might find it helpful. Remember that you can find the free transcript with key vocabulary and expressions at archy And I look forward to sharing my next conversation. My next episode with you very soon.

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