I’m not a fan of football. I grew up in a small village in central England, near the market town of Rugby. I was never really big enough to play the game of Rugby much but I have always found it more interesting than football, which we also played as kids, of course. Despite my lack of real enthusiasm for the game, it hasn’t escaped my notice that the English national team is just 2 games away from winning the world cup. Just 2 games, that’s all.

Nothing really to do with football, at first glance, I had a call from Moscow last week. It turned into quite a long chat covering football, business and what to do to keep improving communication skills in English.

Football (or probably any sport) is a really good analogy for language learning, or at least for what language learning should be. Although the England team are just 2 games away from the big objective, they actually have many more process steps to go through: training, selection, game plans, tactical discussions and who knows what else? Without all of that, the chances of success are greatly reduced. Just going out and playing the game is less effective than training and playing. Playing more games without doing the training is not a solution either. Training and playing the game are different and the team needs to do the one in order to improve the other.

Similarly, having more conversations and making more presentations in English doesn’t necessarily make your English better. In fact, it could just make you better at making the same mistakes. Training aims to provide a system for development and improvement of skills. It is the preparation that gets the results, not just the game itself.